How Do I Choose the Best Hungarian Wax Peppers?

Andrea Cross

Hungarian wax peppers are a popular medium-hot pepper. Yellow, tapered peppers, approximately 4-8 inches (10-20 centimeters) in length, they are typically available in grocery stores and markets. When choosing the best wax peppers, consider the desired heat, quality, and intended use.

Hungarian wax peppers.
Hungarian wax peppers.

You should choose Hungarian wax peppers based on how hot you like them. Most of these peppers are sold when they are yellow. The peppers are immature in terms of growth but have a moderately hot and sweet taste that is generally more preferred. At this stage, the peppers are still tender but also have a crunchy texture. If you want to buy the peppers at this stage, make sure they are bright yellow-green in color.

Hungarian wax peppers can be diced and added to a robust tomato salsa.
Hungarian wax peppers can be diced and added to a robust tomato salsa.

Left on the vine, Hungarian wax peppers eventually turn from yellow to orange and then to a shiny crimson. This indicates that they are fully ripe. They are still sweet at this stage, but their heat level has also increased exponentially. If you like the sweet taste of these peppers but want a lot more heat, it is best to choose them at this stage.

It can often be difficult to find fully ripe, red Hungarian wax peppers in the grocery store because the majority of the peppers are picked when they are still immature due to both the overall preference and because they often need to be transported. Hungarian wax peppers continue to ripen once they have been removed from the vine, so if you want the mature, red pepper but cannot find it in any of the stores, you can place the immature peppers on the windowsill, where they will ripen. Make sure that they are dry; otherwise, they can develop soft spots and become moldy. Eat them as soon as they reach the desired color because they can quickly begin to shrivel.

When choosing peppers at the store, look for ones that are brightly colored, glossy, and firm to the touch. Hungarian wax peppers that have become soft or wrinkled are usually spoiled. Spoilage can also be indicated by the color of the stem, so choose a pepper with a firm, bright-green stem as opposed to one that is brown or black. Choose those with smooth, unbroken skin. Superficial marks are fine, but cracks or other damage make the fruit spoil faster and can also let in bacteria.

Hungarian wax peppers are excellent in fresh dishes such as salsa, salads, and stuffed peppers. If you are eating them raw, it is best to choose peppers that are in the yellow, immature stage because they will still be tender and not overly hot. When you are using the peppers in pickling, you should choose fruits that are of a uniform size. Finally, these peppers are also excellent dried and will keep for a long time. You can choose either red or yellow peppers for this as they will continue to ripen before they dry.

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