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Nov 18, 2009 10:28 AM

What the heck is Jamie Oliver's red chili?

Jamie Oliver's newest cookbook is a great read so far but I'm puzzled. He uses a red chili in lots of his recipes (okay, about 75%, some would say overkill) and I would love to know which one he uses. Its the same shape as a jalapeño but skinny and red. And the fact that he uses it quite often (all the freakin' time) leads me to believe that its no too spicy.

I'm not that versed in chilies but I do get to see a pretty good selection at the likes of Verril Farm (in the summertime), Idylwilde and Russos and some of the Stop & Shops in the city.

Can someone shed some light. And this is a link to the chili he's using ...

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    1. re: Pete Lyons

      Whenever I've seen him cook with them, they are way too long to be bird's eye chilies. I would say they were cayenne chilies.

      1. re: Atahualpa

        Re bird's eye: there is unfortunately some confusion about this term, you get the short thin chilis in red and green that are 'Birds Eye Chilis'. These are very spicy and are used in Indonesia to give a big 'kick' to pastries - you eat one whole. E.g.: These chilis are sold in UK supermarkets, but Jamie is NOT using them.

        The longer chilis, usually red, but sometimes green, are less spicy and therefore impart more chili flavour relative to the mouth-burning factor, and are used for curries, soups, etc., which require chili flavour. These also seem to be called bird's eye by wikipedia, but are quite distinct: These are sold in the UK, but only in specialist Chinese and Thai grocers. Jamie will not be using these.

        In supermarkets you are somewhat more likely to find slightly fatter red chilis called Holland Chilis (a Cayenne derivative


        or the fatter still:

        I suspect these are jalapenos, but the stores don't sell them as such, they are just sold as 'red chili'. Serrano and habanero are not available in the UK generally.

          1. re: cielr

            I've come to the conclusion it's Fresno.

            1. re: yumyum

              We planted Fresno, thinking it was the ONE, wow, HOT. Do not think he uses that so freely and the shape is wrong.

    2. How strange ... I have ALWAYS wondered that too! He always cooks with these chiles and I would love to know what they are. Maybe it's a better question for the general chowhounding board though.

      1. You will notice that the picture has both orange and red chili peppers, although the recipe calls for only red.... I take this to mean that you can use whatever type you desire. The chilis pictured are probably cayenne, which are medium length and skinny, and not so hot (more than jalapenos, though). My general use chili is the serrano - widely available, medium hot, most often green, although carefull shopping can get you other colors. I keep a few habeneros in the freezer for days when I am only cooking for myself and want something really hot.

        1. Can't help much as, here in the UK, we'd generally just call these "red chillis". Green ones being "green chillis". Really the only ones that we give a specific name to are Scotch Bonnet and birdseye. Both of these are hotter than "red chillies".

          1. In a spicy pork recipe he calls for "red peppers" and down further in the ingredients he calls for mixed color peppers", then says "You’re after a balance of sweetness from the peppers". This is way too confusing.
            I can say that Serranos can be red when ripe.
            EDIT: See for yourself. From
            Spelling colour "color" was my Americanizing of the recipe...

            17 Replies
            1. re: Scargod

              In the UK "peppers" would not be chilli peppers. I think Americans might call them "bell peppers" ? Assuming that he's using British English then the reference to "mixed" probably means a mix of red/green'yellow/orange (bell) peppers.

              That said, your quote that he's spelling "color" and not "colour" suggests this is a book print for the American market so the usage might mean something else over there. Sorry, cant help further with the translation.

              1. re: Harters

                i agree with Harters. in the u.s. you often buy packages of these things, usually called "mixed baby sweet peppers" or something like that. often has orange, red, yellow, purple mini-peppers. they are not spicy at all and taste like the large, familiar, colored bell peppers. since they are smaller, the walls of the mini-peppers are thinner and they are arguably better for salads and garnishes than large bell peppers because of this. in most recipes, though, i should think that swapping out large bell peppers for the minis would be perfectly acceptable. (hope jamie lists ingredients by weight and not by each, for this purpose)

                good international cookbook editors are underrated.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  I hope this isnt going to turn into one those "size is important" discussions as I don't know how big American peppers might be. :-)

                  Size for a supermarket European one is usually about 10cm top to bottom.

                  For those of us living in the colder climates of northern Europe, most of our peppers are grown in large glasshouses in the Netherlands and usually disappointingly tasteless. I love visiting Spanish markets when they're in season.

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    While I appreciate and value your inciteful comment about baby peppers, the point I am trying to get at is that there is no distinction in the peppers in his recipe (if you follow the link). Sure, you could assume that the "coloured" ones are mild and sweet and the others are not, but how do you know which is which? That is on top of smcbride3's (the OP), original question about what peppers are used in the cookbook's pictures, that have the same shape as a jalapeño but skinny and red. That might describe one of a 100 peppers; some hot-some not. Then smcbride3 confuses the issue further by calling them chilis....(not chiles)!
                    There is no distinction or explanation given by Oliver, as I can see. What are we to think?

                2. re: Scargod

                  I think I've found the recipe now - and am assuming it's the spicy pork recipe from "Jamie at home". If so, then I can give an accurate translation.

                  He calls for "2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped" - these are the "chilli peppers" I mention upthread. Longish and thinnish, with a good kick but not as strong as habanero and not a birdseye. Use whatever you have where you are that suits.

                  "5 peppers - use a mixture of colours" - bell peppers.

                  He also mentions a jar of grilled peppers. These are also bell peppers.

                  1. re: Harters

                    I will accept your interpretation, yet I have to say, I also seed my sweet peppers. I guess the distinction is chilli (or here in the majority of the US, "chile"), versus pepper. Is it English to say a pepper is without heat?
                    Technically they are all chilli/chiles as far as I know. Wikipedia says" Capsicum annuum, which includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, wax, cayenne, jalapeños, and the chiltepin.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      I'm not sure I understand the distinction your making.

                      Am I wrong in thinking that an American "bell pepper" is what we Brits would call a pepper? If so, then my apologies and mty regrets that I'm not able to help further. You'll just have to make best guess as to what he means by "pepper". Good luck.

                      1. re: Harters

                        I don't think you're wrong, John. In the "The US and the UK: Divided by a Common (Culinary) Language" thread on Not About Food, it was said by UK folks that what are known as bell pepper in the US is simply peppers in the UK (and capsicums in Australia), though in the US we often will say red peppers or green peppers, and it is understood to mean bells.

                        I think the peppers vs. chilis/chillis/chiles distinction Scargod addresses is simply nomenclature - we make the same distinction in the US, even though all are botanically "chile peppers" with heat varying from none to stratospheric.

                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                          Thanks Caitlin - I thought I recalled a similar conversation somewhere (it was a fun thread).

                          We'll also usually say "red pepper"/"green pepper" - although rarely yellow or orange, unless there's a particular reason to include them for colour rather than taste.

                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                            I hope I'm not taken for a moron. I'm trying to suggest, "what we have here is a failure to communicate!" My SO refers to words like chili, chilli, chile and pepper as "loose words" that are not universally accepted or understood. But there are some generally accepted conventions that could provide clarity if everyone agreed on them. I doubt I will change anything because this is an international forum.
                            I hope I'm not the only one left guessing occasionally when colloquial words and spellings are used outside of norms (and whose norms?), abbreviated or unintentionally misspelled in recipes and elsewhere.
                            Mild and hot chiles come in all colors and shapes. My fog started when I went to this thread, because of the title, thinking it was about a bowl of "Texas Red" (chili). I find that smcbride3 is asking about a "chili" used in a recipe. I have no idea where smcbride3 is from or did they accidentally misspell chili/chile? I may have seen Jamie Oliver on TV, but I didn't know about him or where he's from.
                            I think it is almost cliquish for Oliver to say chilli and not name a pepper and then say pepper and not say "sweet pepper". My education has me saying jalapeno pepper, not jalapeno chile. It's even a local problem in Texas. I am annoyed when chili is used for anything other than the name for "chile and meat stew". Again, for me, a sweet pepper is usually referred to as a green, red, etc. "bell" pepper.
                            Now, surely everyone knows what "green pepper sauce" or just "pepper sauce" is don't they? Hint: It's a Southern US thing...

                            1. re: Scargod

                              "Now, surely everyone knows what "green pepper sauce" or just "pepper sauce" is don't they?"

                              No, I have no idea what that is. Perhaps we call it something different in Britain, or it is not available here.

                              And, as for suggesting Oliver is "almost cliquish", I have to say that is just plain silly. He is British and the book was written for the British market. When he says "pepper", we know exactly what he means. When he says "chilli pepper" or "red chilli", we know exactly what he means. If he said "sweet pepper", we would not know what he meant. If he specified a particular chill pepper, we would be unlikely to be able to follow the recipe as they are not generally named in British supermarkets, other than as "red chilli".

                              If his American publishers have chosen not to translate his recipe into words that Americans can understand, then I suggest Americans take it up with the publisher, so that they can make corrections in future editions (and future books)

                              1. re: Harters


                                "But there are some generally accepted conventions that could provide clarity if everyone agreed on them. " Though true, I really think that is unrealistic. There are a huge number of food-related words that are used differently in the U.S. vs. the U.K., as is seen in the thread mentioned by Caitlin above:


                                For me, part of the richness of the experience of cooking from cookbooks from other countries or cuisines is learning the terminology. This holds just as true for me with respect to English cookbooks, as it does for Vietnamese, Chinese, etc.

                              2. re: Scargod

                                I understand what you are saying regarding chili/chile, but you will never satisfied because right here in the US, chili is a conventional spelling (and pronunciation) for the pepper as well as the dish. Seriously, most cookbooks and cooking magazines that are not focused on Southwestern or one of the Latin American cuisines use the spelling chili when referring to the peppers, so probably better to simply accept it.

                                1. re: Scargod

                                  To me, a chile is a pepper with some slight amount of heat to it, or rather capsaicin.
                                  Chili is a dish made using chiles
                                  Chilli appears to be british and I'm not sure what-all it means.
                                  I think it's tough to try to decode what every country means, it's obviously different. I live in Arizona, so (to me) I know whereof I speak. LOL

                              3. re: Harters

                                Yes, it's quite simple:

                                'peppers' are members of the capsicum family that are not spicy. Typically what you might call 'bell peppers', but something like this: would also qualify.
                                'chilis' are the spicy members of the capsicum family.
                                'pepper' refers to (ground) (black) peppercorns

                          2. re: Scargod

                            In the recipe you link to, he refers first to "red chillies" and then to "peppers". I'm not so sure what is way too confusing about this.

                            When I see "peppers" in an recipe, be it English or American, I assume bell peppers unless otherwise specified in the recipe, or another kind of pepper is specified in the book to be used when the recipe says "peppers". When I see chillies/chiles, I assume a chili pepper with some degree of heat, unless it says otherwise.

                            I cook a great deal from English cookbooks, and it's just a matter of learning what is meant by an English cookbook writer.

                            1. re: Scargod

                              This recipe calls for 2 red chillies and mixed color peppers.

                              Chilli peppers are chillis, and bell peppers and peppers. Chilli peppers are just referred to as chillies in many places other than the US.