Growing your own fresh chillies is easy, but chilli peppers have a short harvest season in the UK, so to use your homegrown chillies in your cooking throughout the year you’ll need to learn some basics of presevation. In this article we cover 4 different methods of preserving chillies – from drying, to freezing, to pickling, so you can work out how to store chillies in the best way for your needs.
Why do you need to know how to store Chillies?
The harvest window for Chillies is short, and during the summer months, so unless you’re using them all fresh it’s a great idea to learn when to harvest them and how to preserve and store chillies for use throughout the rest of the year. Fresh chillies will only keep for a maximum of around 3 weeks, so you’ll either only eat your homegrown chillies for a short window of time, or you can learn how to store chillies and enjoy them all year round!
When to Harvest Chillies
The best time to harvest chillies is when the seeds inside have matured. This isn’t necessarily when the chillies have changed colour. The easiest way to check is to split one fruit and check. You’re looking for the seeds to be more of a creamy colour rather than white. Chillies, however, can be eaten at any stage. You do not need to wait for the fruit to change colour. Chillies take between 2 and 4 months to ripen. While there are some chillies that never change colour, like the green japaleno, many chillies tend to be a little more bitter when they are green. They tend to sweeten when they turn to yellow or red.
Chillies will continue to ripen a little after you’ve harvested them too. The riper the chilli the easier it is to take off the plant – and the more you pic, the more it will encourage the plant to keep growing and producing fruit. So, if you want more, pick more!
We recommend that you use gloves to harvest chillies, it’s the chillies capsaicin that makes them spicy and an absentminded rub of the eye really, really does sting!
How Long Can you Store Chillies
If you simply harvest your chillies and store them in a cool dry place, then they’ll keep for 2-3 weeks. If the chilli has a thicker wall to the fruit then it will last longer than a thin-walled fruit. A chilli that is whole will last longer than one which has been cut or sliced.
If your harvested chillies have wrinkles or discolourations then they are not going to store well.
4 Ways to Store Chillies
The most popular way to store chillies is to dry them and you’ll do this from fresh. Regardless of which method of storing chillies you decide on it’s best to try and begin the process as soon after harvest as possible – so don’t harvest them, and leave them for 3 weeks before you begin the process.
If you simply wish to store fresh chillies for a short period of time, then the best way to do this for their longevity is:
How to Store Fresh Chillies
Fresh chillies will last longest if you store them well. There are two schools of thought on this, the first is to store them in a paper bag in a cool dry place (if you have a pantry this is great for it). The second way is in a zip lock bag inside a fridge. To increase the length of time that they will store for, you can remove the stem part of the chill before you but it in the bag. Chopping or slicing the fresh chilli will reduce its life.
We tend to store chillies for the short term in a ziplock bag in the fridge, as our kitchen doesn’t have a cold pantry space (maybe next time eh?)
How to Dry Chillies
Chillies have thin walls, which makes them quick and easy to dry. This makes drying chillies as one of the best ways to preserve chillies. Dried chillies are very similar to use to fresh chillies and you can use them virtually exactly the same in recipes as you would do fresh ones. Once dried chillies can be used in recipes, ground to powder and used in recipes, in pastes and even in oil or vinegar to add flavour!
There are several ways in which you can dry chillies. The easiest way is by using a dehydrator, which works best with the fleshier chillies. If you’re looking at a dehydrator, then here are two that we recommend – they’re not too expensive (between £30 to £65)
Dehydrators are a great way to preserve vegetables and meats and for a small outlay, you can make your vegetable harvest go a long way! You can read how we dehydrate beetroots and other preserving methods that we use here.
If you want to go the natural route, then read on.
To dry chillies naturally, you’ll need a sunny well-ventilated location for them. Its too hot, then your chilli is likely to become brittle. If there is not enough ventilation, then your chilli will remain moist and potentially go mouldy.
Start by rinsing your chilli harvest in lightly salted water, which should prevent mould form, and then find your well-ventilated spot in the sun for them. Try to lay them out so that they’re not touching, so if you do get a mouldy chilli it doesn’t pass it on to its neighbours. You can also dry chillies by leaving a little more stalk on, and by threading them onto a fishing line to hang. It’s a great way of decorating and drying at the same time. Be sure not to try drying them in a steamy kitchen though!
Chillies dried naturally should be dry in around 3 weeks. Then you can transfer them, if you’d like, to an airtight container.
How to Freeze Chillies
You’ll need to make sure, in any form of preservation that all the chillies that you select show no wrinkles or any signs of rot at all. Wash the chillies and make sure that they’re completely dry. Slice open the chillies, remove the stems. You can either freeze whole like this or you can chop them. Chopped chillies store just as well as whole chillies when it comes to freezing.
When it comes to freezing chillies you can freeze fresh chillies from fresh. Frozen chillies will last for months. The simplest method is to slice them, pop them on a chopping board or baking tray and then pop them in the freezer. When they’re frozen to firmness, put them into ziplock bags, seal and return to the freezer. Freezing is one of the best ways of preserving fresh chillies.
How to Pickle Chillies
The easiest way to pickle chillies is to clean it first. Wash in salty water. Then start your brine to store it in. A basic pickling juice can be made form white wine, cider vinegar and sugar (more here ). Boil the pickling juice while you are prepping the chillies. You’ll want to create a small hole in the top of each chilli so that they pickle juice permeates completely. Pop your chillies in the jars in which you want to store them, top up with pickling juice and wait until the mixture is completely cool before sealing the jars. They must be completely cold before sealing. Wait at least 2 weeks before tasting!
In the beginning, you might start with a basic pickling juice, but there are a heap of variety of spices and herbs that you can add to the mix depending on your tastes! If you’re planning on preserving, then our jam and preserve making kit article is essential.
FAQs on How to Preserve Chillies
Here’s our most frequently asked questions about preserving chillis. If you have a question that we haven’t answered, then drop us an email, or ask in the comments!
What is the best way to store chillies?
When it comes to how to preserve chillies at home we think that the best way to store chillies is to dry them.
Can you freeze chillies?
Yes you can freeze chillies. The best time to freeze chillies is just before they are ripe. Cut the stalkes and place in a bag then into the freezer. You can also chop the chillies and store them in the freezer and ready to use. They are more likely to get frost damaged if they are chopped though.
Can you freeze whole chillies?
Yes. You can store whole chillies by freezing them. When you are freezing fresh chillies all you need o do is cut the stalks and pop the chillies in a sealed bag and then in the freezer
How long can you keep fresh chillies in the fridge?
You can usually keep fresh chillies for 7 days in the fridge. To store chillies properly in the fridge, keep them in the salad chiller in a bag or plastic container. If any of the chillies have damage marks on them remove them, or you wil reduce the life of those you are storing next to them.
Final words on How to Store Chillies
We love fresh chillies and use them when we can, however, we also cook a lot of food with dried chillies, due to a lack of space for storing fresh chillies. We haven’t touched on it, but you’ll also find that preserving chillies in oil is a great way to transfer the heat of the chillie to the oil! Frozen chillies are used in Vietnamese dishes, and dried Kashmiri chillies in one of my favourite, a fiery but seriously tasty Goan vindaloo! And I just love the taste of a chilli infused oil to add to a tomato-based pasta sauce. Mmmm.LetsGrowCook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates..