Chinese Pickled Peppers (Quick Pickled Pao Jiao)

This quick and easy version of Chinese pickled peppers, also known as pao jiao, gives you a mildly salty and sour flavor to top off your favorite recipes. {Vegan, Gluten-Free adaptable}

Chinese quick pickled peppers

Pao Jiao (泡椒), known as Sichuan pickled chili peppers, are a small, sour, and spicy pickled pepper commonly used in cooking Sichuan dishes to add a salty sour flavor. In Sichuan province, people use the locally grown Er Jing Tiao chilis (二荆条, or Two Golden Strips) and ferment them to make pao jiao. Traditionally, they ferment them in a cool place for a long period of time. 

But it’s summer right now, and few of us have a place to leave our pickled peppers out like that. Plus, why wait all that time, when you can use a quick pickle recipe for pao jiao instead?

A modernized Pao Jiao recipe

Since Er Jing Tiao chilis are hard to find in the US, I’ve made my quick pickle pao jiao recipe with jalapeno peppers. Those are much easier to find here in the States. We tested the recipe with a few different types of peppers and found that jalapenos have the right spice level and a nice texture. But do feel free to experiment with other types of peppers as long as they are not too spicy (avoid Thai bird eye chili and serrano chilis). With my simple method, you’ll be able to enjoy these in just 24 hours! 

Homemade pao jiao

Ingredients

Vinegar

I used Chinese white rice vinegar because it adds a sharp and bright flavor. It’s somewhere between the fruity mild Japanese rice vinegar (the pale yellow-colored type) and the pungent distilled vinegar. If you do not have Chinese white rice vinegar, do feel free to use distilled vinegar or Japanese rice vinegar (or a combination of both) instead. The result will have a different note but taste delicious nonetheless.

Chinese white rice vinegar

Liquor

The traditional way to make Chinese pickled peppers is to use baijiu (白酒). It’s a clear and potent Chinese liquor that is usually distilled from fermented sorghum and/or other grains. It is similar to vodka though it comes off even stronger, running between 80 and 120 proof. It helps to preserve the peppers better and it adds a rich umami to the brine. 

You may not be able to find baijiu easily depending on where you live, so you can use your favorite non-flavored vodka instead. 

Baijiu

How to cut the peppers

In the recipe below I included two cutting methods. Although my personal favorite is the one that cuts the peppers into long strips. It makes it easier to deseed the peppers and pack them together better so you can pickle more peppers in a jar, and it yields a crisper texture. 

On the other hand, you can slice the jalapenos into circles if you like how that looks. 

NOTE, it’s very important to deseed the peppers, no matter what cutting method you choose. Otherwise the brine will end up extremely spicy and produces a pickle that’s too spicy for regular snacking. 

To cut the peppers into strips:

  • Slice off the stems and halve the peppers
  • Further cut them into quarters
  • Lay the pepper pieces flat and remove the seeds
How to cut jalapeno for pickling

If you cut the peppers into rounds, you will need to slice off the stems and then fish out the seeds using a small knife or your fingers. You can further remove the seeds after you slice the peppers.

I made a batch without deseeding the peppers. They ended up so spicy that I could only use one piece at a time and dice them very tiny to add to my noodles!

Chinese pickled jalapeno peppers

Cooking process

To get the quick pickle going:

  • Pack the peppers into a jar and add the aromatics and seasonings
  • Bring the vinegar and water to a boil
  • Pour the hot liquid over the peppers until submerged
  • Once cooled, seal the jar and store it in the fridge overnight
How to make Chinese pickled peppers

Simply make them in small batches like this and you can enjoy them after a day, any way you like. 

Note on container and brine quantity

I used a 16-oz (473 ml) Ball Jar and the recipe made a batch using 8 jalapeno peppers. If you don’t have a heat-proof jar, you can use any sealable container for this recipe. Simply pack the peppers as tightly as possible and pour the brine over them for marinating.

When they’re ready, you’ll enjoy a balance of flavors with a mild saltiness, sourness, and fragrance that harmonize the spiciness of those jalapeno peppers. It gives you an interesting taste with far less sodium than in the jarred pickled jalapenos you’ll see on the shelves at the grocery store.

Quick pickled pao jiao

How to use Chinese pickled peppers

Try them on tacos, sandwiches, noodle soups, and rice. I love chopping them up to use in stir-fry sauces for extra spice. They are delightful to enjoy by themselves, or you can simply use them as a condiment to season steamed rice or plain congee. When you use the peppers as a topping, you might want to further slice them into small bits for a better texture.

Chinese pickled peppers in plates

Try to use the peppers in these recipes below:

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This quick and easy version of Sichuan pickled peppers, also known as pao jiao, gives you a mildly salty and sour flavor to top off your favorite recipes. {Vegan, Gluten-Free adaptable}

Chinese Pickled Peppers (Quick Pickled Pao Jiao)

This quick and easy version of Sichuan pickled peppers, also known as pao jiao, gives you a mildly salty and sour flavor to top off your favorite recipes. {Vegan, Gluten-Free adaptable}
To make the dish gluten-free, use a gluten-free vodka to replace the baijiu.
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: home style
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Pickle Time: 1 day
Total Time: 1 day 7 minutes
Servings: 16 servings
Calories: 4kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

  • 8 to 10 jalapenos , quartered and deseeded, or sliced and deseeded (*Footnote 1)
  • 1 clove garlic , lightly crushed
  • 3 slices ginger

Pickling brine (*Footnote 2)

  • 2 teaspoons Baijiu (or vodka)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup Chinese white rice vinegar (or regular rice vinegar, or distilled vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

  • Place the jalapenos, garlic, and ginger in a heat proof 16-oz (473 ml) jar or a container, they should be well packed together. Sprinkle over the salt, sugar, and pour in baijiu.
  • Combine the water and rice vinegar in a small pot and bring to a boil. Pour over the jalapenos.
  • Cover the pickles and allow them to cool. Seal and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours before serving. The pickles should be able to stay well for at least a month in the refrigerator. Always use a clean pair of chopsticks to serve them, to prevent contamination.

Notes

  1. I highly recommend slicing the peppers into quarters lengthwise and deseeding them, instead of slicing them into the round-shaped pieces. Read the blog post above for more info on cutting methods.
  2. Depending on the way you slice the peppers and the container you use, the amount of brine varies. If you use the sliced round peppers, you will need to double the brine so it will fill up the jar (because the peppers will not be packed as tightly as the quartered type).

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 4kcal | Carbohydrates: 0.5g | Protein: 0.1g | Sodium: 35mg | Potassium: 15mg | Fiber: 0.2g | Sugar: 0.3g | Calcium: 1mg

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

More delicious pickle recipes

Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

This quick and easy version of Chinese pickled peppers, also known as pao jiao, gives you a mildly salty and sour flavor to top off your favorite recipes. {Vegan, Gluten-Free adaptable}

Disclosure

Omnivore's Cookbook 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.
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Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my New York kitchen.

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2 thoughts on “Chinese Pickled Peppers (Quick Pickled Pao Jiao)

  1. Rohit

    Dear Meggie,

    Could we use Sichaun Peppers as pickling spice just like other standard pickling spices such as pepper, all spice, corrander seeds,
    dill seeds, cinnamon etc ? Would be interested to learn more regarding various uses ( as spice and also as medicinalh erb ) regarding green or pinkis red sichuan peppers in multitude ways…

    Rohit
    Canada

    Reply