Easy Stuffed Pepper Tapas at Home

One of my favorite foods is the Piquillo Pepper.  I almost always have a jar (or two) on hand in the refrigerator.   They are the perfect combination of flavor, color and size. Piquillo peppers lend themselves to an endless string of uses in my kitchen.  Straight from the jar, they are a great quick snack. Around the kitchen, I slice them as a salad topper and I dice them as garnish for soups. I have even used them to make a quick roasted red pepper pesto. Of course, they make a great little vessel for stuffed pepper tapas!  

Small, triangular shaped and bright red, piquillo peppers are from Spain. They are sweet, with ever so much a hint of heat

Even in Spain you will almost always find piquillo pepper in tins or jars and seldom fresh. Hand picked peppers get smoked, peeled and packed in water or olive oil to preserve them. When you open a jar of piquillo peppers you find a versatile little packet of flavor and color. I get mine at my local supermarket. I find them in the “European food” section (not the “Latin American food” section). They come in a 10 oz jar, and have 10 – 12 peppers in each jar.

Stuffed Pepper Tapas

Smaller than a traditional roasted red pepper, the piquillo pepper is ideal for tapas. There are almost an infinite number of ways to serve them.  One common way is to stuff the pepper, creating a bite (or two) sized treat. It offers an easy way to create a tasty and elegant tapa or an appetizer. Today, we’ll explore three ways that I often stuff piquillo peppers for a gathering.  These three tapas are my variations on several traditional varieties. Tuna, deviled egg, and chorizo and manchego stuffed peppers. You will find there is a good bit of similarity between the ingredients. As such, it is relatively easy to prep the ingredients once, but end up with three different tapas.  

Start with good tuna

The tuna stuffed peppers is not made with an “American” style tuna salad loaded with mayo. Rather it uses a much leaner Spanish/Mediterranean style tuna salad. I first had this version of tuna in a small cafe in Arta on the island of Majorca. It has completely changed how I prepare tuna now. The salad is heavy on tuna, adds some flavor enhancers, and is held together with a good quality olive oil. The “Majorcan Tuna” is great on a sandwich, in pitas, or as a filling for piquillo peppers. Oil packed tuna works better here that water packed tuna. You wont’t find most tuna in a North American grocery store packed with olive oil though. Instead, ‘oil packed tuna’ uses a vegetable oil. Take the time to seek out olive oil packed tuna. It is the best way to go.

If you can get it, I recommend using a tuna from the Mediterranean. A good one is the Ortiz Bonito del Norte, pictured below.   

Tuna and Piquillo for Stuffed Pepper Tapas
Allioli

A light garlic allioli tops all three tapas here. Allioli is a Spanish style garlic mayonnaise used primarily as a topping or dip. In fact, Allioli is the Catalan spelling of aioli, which is used throughout the region. A “true” allioli is a fair bit of effort to make from scratch. It is worth making, and someday I’ll post a recipe. But for time sake, I have included a recipe below for a ‘mock’ style allioli which is quite convincing. Making the mock allioli first so the flavors have time to meld together while the pepper tapas are made.

Ingredients for stuffed pepper tapas

Of course you can come up with your own variations on stuffing the piquillo pepper.  Other common fillings include crab meat, goat cheese, flavored rice, pulled pork, and shredded beef.  However you choose to stuff them I hope that you take the time to discover piquillo peppers. I’m confident you will enjoy them and they could change your kitchen forever!

Stuffed pepper tapas three ways

Piquillo Peppers Three Ways

Small, triangular shaped, bright red and sweet, with just ever so much a hint of heat, piquillo peppers are the perfect vessel for a variety of stuffings to make great tapas. Here are three.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time0 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Appetizer, Tapas
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Spanish
Keyword: Chorizo, Egg, Tapas, Tuna
Servings: 6 tapas of each variety
Ingredients

Mock Allioli

  • 2 cloves garlic minced and mashed to a paste like consistency
  • ¼ cup good quality mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

Spanish Tuna Salad

  • 2 3.24 3.24 oz cans Ortiz Bonito del Norte Tuna drained
  • 2 tsp Red Onion finely diced
  • 1 tsp Capers roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp Fresh Tomato roughly chopped
  • 1 – 3 tsp Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Spanish Deviled Egg

  • 6 Hard Boiled Eggs yolks only plus ½ of 1 white, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp Red Onion finely diced
  • 1 tsp Capers roughly chopped
  • 5 -6 green or kalamata olives roughly chopped
  • 1 – 2 tsp olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Chorizo and Manchego

  • 2 tsp Red Onion finely diced
  • ½ tsp garlic finely chopped
  • 1 Spanish Chorizo sausage skin removed
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp Parsley roughly chopped
  • ½ cup Manchego cheese shredded
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

Allioli

  • Add all the ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together to combine. It will be the consistency of very creamy mayonnaise.
  • Set aside

Tapas

  • I start these tapas by dicing up my red onion and capers and putting each on in small cups on the counter. They each get used in more than one of these tapas, so it is easiest to have them on hand for all up front. There is a total of about 2 TBS of red onion (about ¼ large onion) and 1 TBS of capers

Tuna:

  • Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Use just enough olive oil so that the tuna will loosely hold together. This will not bind quite the same way as a mayo based tuna, but will hold loosely together.

Deviled Egg

  • Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, and using the back of a fork, gently mash together.
  • You want the egg to be broken up completely.
  • The juices from the onion, capers, and olives will add creaminess and binding. If not enough, add olive oil, ½ tsp at a time until the mixture is relatively creamy.
  • Again, this will not be as creamy as a mayo based deviled egg, but it will come together.
  • If you would rather, you can add a teaspoon of the mock allioli for a creamier texture and subtly garlic flavor.

Chorizo and Manchego

  • Heat a small pan over medium high heat and add approx 1 – 2 tsp of olive oil
  • Saute the onion and garlic until just fragrant — about 3 – 4 minutes
  • Add the chorizo meat (removed from casing) and allow to brown completely mixing occasionally with the onion mixture.
  • Turn off heat and add breadcrumbs, manchego cheese, and parsley and stir to combine.
  • Residual heat from the pan and sausage mixture will melt the cheese

Stuffing peppers

  • Take a single pepper in one hand and hold like an ice cream cone.
  • Using a spoon, gently open the top of the pepper
  • With a small spoon, scoop the filling into the pepper, gently pressing down to ensure it fills the pepper.
  • Depending on the size of the pepper, it should take 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of filling to fill the pepper.
  • Lay on a platter or plate to serve
  • Top with a small amount of allioli
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