To Pick a Pepper

Fresh Gourmet Crispy Red Peppers and Crispy Jalapeños

Fresh Gourmet Crispy Red Peppers and Crispy Jalapeños

I Paid: $2.79 per 3.5-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 3 stars

Marketing: 3 stars

Here’s a garnish you probably haven’t considered: lightly floured and fried bits of hot red peppers or jalapeños. Fresh Gourmet, working with a pleasingly short list of ingredients (just peppers, flour, salt, and a bit of oil), has introduced a new product designed to gussy up … well, whatever it is that you think could be a bit more crispy and/or peppery. The suggested uses are varied: The peppers could replace the potato chips in a hearty home-style casserole, give a bit of crunch to a salad, top a burger, and—as the bag suggests—“more!” (According to a bit of Internet research, more apparently means pizza.)

The bags promise “a burst of flavor,” but what the small, colorful shards of fried produce actually deliver is more of a burst of texture—the Crispy Red Peppers are pleasant but muted (although there’s a little kick of flavor at the end), and the mild jalapeños are not going to take the place of your favorite hot sauce. Sampled on burgers, both varieties did provide a robust little bit of somethin’ on the texture front, but in order to fight against a strong main flavor—let alone other elbow-throwing condiments—Crispy Red Peppers and Crispy Jalapeños would need to pack a little more oomph. In their defense, they didn’t take the easy way out: Neither variety is spiked with artificial flavors or excessive salt.

In short, if you’re playing around with your salads or burgers and love texture contrasts, there’s no reason not to give these things a shot. But don’t be startled if you wish you could crank up the flavor volume a bit.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.