Why You Should Have a Jar of Portuguese Pimenta Moida

It's sweet, spicy, salty, and versatile.

Published Sept. 29, 2021.

In Portuguese American cooking, pimenta moida—pureed, salted, and fermented red peppers—is a vital ingredient. Go to any Portuguese/Azorean immigrant enclave (such as where I live in East Providence, Rhode Island) and you’ll find pimenta moida (also called pimenta picada) in huge jars not only at specialty markets, but also on the shelves of big-name grocery stores. It’s that important. 

Often made with juicy and slightly sweet Shepherd peppers (though some versions use hot peppers, so be sure to check the label), it adds a wonderful fresh and piquant pepper flavor to traditional dishes such as shrimp Mozambique and Portuguese beef stew

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But even if you’re not cooking Portuguese food on a regular basis, it deserves a spot in your refrigerator door as a versatile condiment and ingredient. Here are five ways I use pimenta moida in my everyday cooking.

  1. Swirl it into pasta sauces: Add a few tablespoons to alfredo or tomato sauce for a hint of sweet pepper flavor. 
  2. Use it to make a quick harissa: While harissa is traditionally made from ground dried chili, adding a bit of pimenta moida gives it a nice fresh flavor and thick texture. 
  3. Rub it on meats, fish, and vegetables: Blending pimenta moida with garlic, spices, and herbs makes for a flavorful, peri peri–esque rub for grilled meats, fish, and vegetables. 
  4. Add it to pesto or chimichurri: Make red pesto and chimichurri with a tablespoon or two of pimenta moida; it adds a layer of unexpected but lovely sweet, clean flavor. 
  5. Mix it with mayo and spread it on a sandwich or burger: Mixed with mayo, this makes a killer condiment for sandwiches and burgers, though I particularly love it on an Argentine-inspired choripan sandwich (i.e. chorizo, provolone, and chimichurri on bread).

An important note: Pimenta moida is made from pureed, fermented, salted peppers, and as such it can be quite briny, so adjust the salt in whatever you're cooking accordingly.

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