Hangry waits for no one. Especially not Kendra Vaculin, our associate food editor. In Speedy Does It, her monthly column, she’s sharing whoa-worthy dinners you can get on the table like *snaps fingers* that.
I became a roasted red pepper devotee when I worked in the test kitchen of a meal kit company. We only had so many ingredients to play with, so reusing the same staples was the name of the game. I spent months waltzing past the peppers in the pantry and toward ingredients I was more excited about—but pretty soon, I’d exhausted all other options and had to integrate them into my recipe development. I haven’t looked back since.
Jarred roasted red peppers are exactly what they sound like: red bell peppers that are roasted until charred and blistered on the outside, then peeled to reveal the vegetable’s tender flesh. The peppers are shelf-stable because they’re packed in saltwater, which maintains their malleable texture but doesn’t impart too much salinity. Some bits of char may make it into the final jar, and the smoky flavor is certainly present. But the primary notes are of vegetal sweetness.
Their best quality, in my opinion, is that they act as a culinary time-saver. To cook fresh bell peppers down to the same level of tenderness would take over 30 minutes on the stove or in the oven—not including the messy steps of deseeding and peeling them. By beginning with the jarred version, you shave major time off dinner.
I buy whole-roasted red peppers rather than the presliced stuff—for versatility and also quality. Jarred strips can be a little stringy and slimy, while the whole peppers maintain their texture and shape even after I slice them myself. Additionally, when you start with a whole pepper, you can prep them however you want. By finely chopping them, you’ll create a paste that readily melts into sauces like this creamy vegan number or quick braises like these flavorful black beans. Cut into strips, as in this sheet-pan dinner, you breeze past any sautéing or roasting steps, straight to tender pieces. And whole peppers can be plopped right into a blender or food processor to blitz up a robust condiment, like spiced harissa or creamy labneh.
I tapped jarred roasted red peppers for this month’s Speedy Does It recipe: a one-skillet chicken dish that can move straight from the stove to the oven to the table. The peppers make up the base of a quick peperonata—a take on the stewy Italian condiment of peppers and onions that usually requires a longer sauté to break down the crunchy vegetables into a sweet, wilted tangle. Starting with the jarred peppers zooms you to the finish line. When the mixture is done, you’ll nestle in seared chicken and top the whole thing with Parmesan and basil. If roasted red peppers aren’t a pantry staple for you now, I promise, after this one, you’ll change your tune.