Skip to Content

7 Substitutes That You’ll Love To Try If You Don’t Have Sport Peppers

Sport peppers are a staple ingredient for making things like Chicago-style hot dogs, and anyone who is a fan of those hot dogs is likely no stranger to them.

However, they are unique and peculiar to Chicago. So, they are not easily available in many parts of the U.S., Which is why it’s essential to have a substitute on hand to replace them.

Up ahead, you’ll find the best substitutes for sport peppers.

What Are Sport Peppers?

Sport peppers are a type of hot pepper famous for being a key component of Chicago hot dogs. These pickled peppers are characterized by their light green and short sizes. 

In their fresh form, sport peppers are a species of pepper from the capsicum annuum family that were cultivated in the 1950s as an alternative crop to tabasco peppers.

They are very similar in appearance to jalapenos and pepperoncini, although they are much hotter.  

Sport peppers are within the 10,000 to 23,000 range on the Scoville scale. So, they offer a medium level of heat and also bring a tangy acidic flavor that comes from the vinegar.  They also have a nice crunch and juicy taste.

Although they are commonly added to hot dogs, sport peppers can actually be used for many other dishes.

For example, you can use them as a pizza topping, tuck them into sandwiches, or toss them into slow cooker beef stews. You can even add them to salads or eat them plain if you’re a fan of hot food.

Now, as great as sport peppers are, they are quite hard to find outside of Illinois and the midwest. So, Let’s find some good substitutes.

Nutritional Value Table

Pickled Jalapenos38
Serrano Peppers32
Turkish Pickled Peppers38
Pickled Green Chiles38
Pepper Relish100
Pickled Banana Peppers27

1. Pickled Jalapenos

Jalapeno peppers are a great substitute to use in place of sport peppers if you want something with a very similar look.

This is because they are from the same capsicum annum species of sport peppers and tend to have a similar crunch. 

They are milder in terms of heat, with their Scoville unit ranging from 2,000 to 8,000. So, they won’t deliver the same spicy taste. However, their earthy flavor will surely elevate the taste of hot dogs. 

While you can use raw jalapeno peppers, it is best to use them when they are pickled in vinegar. That way, you can get a tangy and acidic flavor similar to that of sport peppers.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing sport peppers with pickled jalapenos.

Although you can easily find pickled jalapenos sold in many grocery stores, you can save yourself the trip and cost of going to buy it by making it at home. Here is a video to show you how.

2. Peperoncini

Peperoncini is another great option to use in place of sport peppers. They are a variety of chili pepper commonly used in Mediterranean and Italian cooking.

Their yellow to light green color gives them a similar appearance to sport peppers. 

Peperoncini are considerably milder than most varieties of chili peppers and usually have a Scoville heat unit ranging between 100 and 500. 

However, when they are pickled, they impart a sweet and tangy taste with a tingle of heat, making them a great condiment for things like hot dogs.  

You can typically find pickled pepperoncini at most grocery stores, but they are also very easy to make.

All you need are freshly sliced pepperoncini combined with a boiled mixture of water, apple cider vinegar, salt, and sugar.

Then you store it in the fridge, and in a couple of days, you have your own pickled pepperoncini. 

How To Substitute

Use a 2:1 ratio when replacing sport peppers with pepperoncini.

Here is a video to show you how flawless a Chicago-style hotdog with pepperoncini can turn out.

3. Serrano Peppers

If you’re looking for a substitute that will give you a very similar taste and heat level to sports peppers, serrano peppers are the perfect option to try. 

They are very versatile peppers from the capsicum annuum family originating from Mexico. Serranos are mildly hot and are within the same range as sport peppers on the Scoville scale. 

They come in different color varieties that include yellow, green, and red, but the green ones are the most commonly sold.

You can use any type of serrano peppers you prefer, and you can either use them raw as a garnish or pickle them to get a similar flavor profile to sports peppers.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting sport peppers with serrano peppers.

4. Turkish Pickled Peppers

Turkish pickled peppers are another great substitute for sport peppers. These peppers are typically made from a variety of thin green chiles peppers that are a common accompaniment to most Turkish dishes. 

They are mildly spicy and mimic the flavor of sport peppers really well. You can add these Turkish pickled peppers to hot dogs and sandwiches or eat them plain. 

You can also easily find them in most grocery stores. So, they are an ideal option to try when you want something easy that doesn’t require additional cooking.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing sport peppers with Turkish pickled peppers.

If you can’t find Turkish pickle peppers where you are, you can also make them from scratch. Here is a video to show you how it’s done.

5. Hatch Green Chiles

Hatch green chiles are a variety of chili peppers grown in the hatch valley region of New Mexico. These peppers have an earthy and grassy taste many often describe as being similar to anaheim peppers. 

However, they make a lovely substitute for sport peppers.

They are very mild in terms of heat and are usually within the range of 1,500 to 2,500 on the Scoville scale, but they mimic the taste of sports peppers really well, especially when pickled.

Hatch green chiles can be eaten raw for a crisp and crunchy taste or pickled and used as a condiment for hotdogs and tasty sandwiches.  You can even roast them to get a smoky and spicy flavor. 

Hatch green chiles are also nutrient-rich and contain high amounts of vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, and other essential vitamins.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing sport peppers with pickled green chiles.

6. Pepper Relish

Pepper relish is another great condiment that can replace sport peppers. It is often made from a mix of chiles, bell peppers, and even habaneros. 

This combination of peppers imparts a bold, spicy taste while also delivering a sweet and tangy flavor similar to sport peppers.

Like sport peppers, you can add them to hotdogs, sandwiches, and burgers. Most pepper relish sold in stores will typically come in different varieties ranging from spicy to sweet and very mild.

So, you can choose the one that most suits your preference.

How To Substitute

Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing sport peppers with pepper relish.

Although you can easily find pepper relish sold in the condiment section of most grocery stores, You can also make it on your own. Here is a video to guide you through the steps of making pepper relish.

7. Pickled Banana Peppers

Banana peppers are another great substitute for sports peppers. This range of peppers are mild and medium-sized chilis named for their bright yellow color and curved banana shape. 

Compared to sport peppers, they are very mild and offer very little heat, with most of them falling between 500 SHU on the Scoville scale.

However, Banana peppers have a tangy and slightly sweet taste that makes them a popular addition to many dishes. 

They are very versatile and can be eaten raw in salads, sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, or even salsa, but you can also toss them into sauces.

However, to get the pronounced vinegar taste of sport peppers, it is best to use pickled banana peppers.

How To Substitute

Use a 2:1 ratio when replacing sport peppers with banana peppers.

You may not be able to find pickled banana peppers sold at the grocery store, but you can easily make them on your own. Here is a video to show you how.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Sport Peppers Just Serrano Pepper?

Sport peppers are somewhat similar to serrano peppers since the two have a similar level of heat ranging between 10,000 to 23,000 Scoville units. 

However, the two are actually different.  Sport peppers are pickled green peppers, and they are hot and tangy. Meanwhile, serrano peppers are a hot variety of chili peppers.

What Type Of Pepper Is A Sport Pepper?

Sport peppers are a variety of pepper in the capsicum annum family. However, the specific variety of pepper used still remains a bit of a mystery to many. They look very similar to green tabasco chilis. 

They are also very similar to pepperoncini, although there are some who believe they are just serrano peppers that have been pickled.

The main thing to note is that they are a specie of peppers from the capsicum annuum species, and their seeds are sold separately.

Why Are They Called Sport Peppers? 

There are two sources which sport peppers likely got their names from. Firstly, the term sport is a botanical term used to describe a sort of genetic mutation which can often be used to cultivate a new species.

Since sport peppers were originally cultivated as backup species to the tabasco peppers, they likely got the name sport peppers as a result.

Secondly, the name sport likely became associated with them because they gained their popularity as a condiment sold with hotdogs at sports games like baseballs.

Are Sport Peppers And Pepperoncinis The Same Thing? 

Although the two look quite similar, sport peppers and pepperoncini are not the same things. They are different species of peppers, and sport peppers are up to ten times hotter than pepperoncini.

Do Sport Peppers Need To Be Refrigerated? 

Sport peppers should be refrigerated once you open the jar to keep them from spoiling.

How Long Do Sport Peppers Last After Opening? 

Sport peppers can last for several months after the jar is opened. However, you’ll need to store it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh for that long.

Where Can You Find Sport Peppers? 

Sport peppers are pretty hard to find outside of Illinois. However, you can sometimes find them in the condiment section of some grocery stores. Other than that, your best bet would be to order them online.

Are Sport Peppers Hotter Than Jalapenos?

Sport peppers are much hotter than jalapeno peppers. They have a Scoville unit ranging between  15,000 to 23,000. Meanwhile, jalapeno peppers usually fall between the 2000 to 8,000 range.

What Can I Use Instead Of Sport Peppers?

Any pickled pepper would work as a substitute for sport peppers. Some great options include serrano peppers, jalapenos, and pickled green chiles.

Can I Make A Chicago Hot Dog Without Sport Peppers?

While it isn’t the traditional thing to do, you can make a Chicago hotdog without sport peppers. You can either replace the sport peppers with another pickled variety of pepper or skip them entirely.

The other ingredients, like the bright green relish and pickle spears, will still give you shine through the hotdog and enhance the taste.

7 Substitutes That You’ll Love To Try If You Don’t Have Sport Peppers

Prep Time


Cooking Time


Total Time



Don’t let Pepper seasonings overwhelm your dish. Here are some great substitutes to keep the flavor while cutting down on the heat.


  • Pickled Jalapenos

  • Peperoncini

  • Serrano Peppers

  • Turkish Pickled Peppers

  • Pickled Green Chiles

  • Pepper Relish

  • Pickled Banana Peppers


  • Pick any substitute you prefer from the lists above.
  • Follow the recipe instructions for your preferred substitute and use the proper ratio required while cooking.

Recipe Video

Jess Smith

Skapa ett gratis konto

Saturday 17th of February 2024

Your article helped me a lot, is there any more related content? Thanks!

Monday 5th of June 2023

I have read your article carefully and I agree with you very much. This has provided a great help for my thesis writing, and I will seriously improve it. However, I don't know much about a certain place. Can you help me?

gate io türkiye

Saturday 6th of May 2023

After reading your article, it reminded me of some things about gate io that I studied before. The content is similar to yours, but your thinking is very special, which gave me a different idea. Thank you. But I still have some questions I want to ask you, I will always pay attention. Thanks.