Sweet on Peppers

February 07th 2017

Sweet on Peppers

Spicy remains a very appealing flavour for Canadians, according to Technomic Inc.  However, the love for spicy flavour has shifted from simple heat to multidimensional flavour with complexity.  The interest is in combining spicy and other primary flavours such as sweet.

McCormick highlights Sweet on Peppers as a trend to watch for in 2017 and beyond. The sweet with heat flavour profile has evolved to embrace sophisticated ingredients to elevate the well-loved combination, such as peppercorns paired with natural sweeteners including honey, piloncillo and sorghum syrup. Pepper’s tongue-tingling, bold edge can also be tempered by naturally sweet ingredients such as exotic fruits and root vegetables.

After hiding in plain sight for so many years, pepper is finally capturing the spotlight. Its up-front bite and lingering sensation offer the next wave of spicy flavour.

Types of Peppercorns


  • Picked long before maturity in the green stage
  • Aromatic with a fresh flavour, but are not pungent

Pink / Rose

  • Not a true pepper however, flavour is most similar to that of Black Pepper, but milder and more acidic with a hint of sweetness


  • Fully mature berries that have been picked partially ripe and had their outer skin removed
  • Aroma is earthy and taste is hot and creamy but not pungent or aromatic


  • Extremely rare
  • Aroma is complex with little pungency, and the flavour is hot


  • Most common, several types
  • Moderately hot, pungent and aromatic


  • Not a true pepper at all, but berries from the Prickly Ash tree native to China
  • Aromatic and resinous flavour that leaves the lips tingly and slightly numb 

Interest in eating well consists of both additive and subtractive behaviours, as per Mintel.  The report, Attitudes Toward Healthy Eating in Canada, was released by Mintel Group early this year citing that consumers are placing vegetables on the additive list and processed sugar on the subtractive list.  Consumers will look to naturally sweet ingredients and less refined sweeteners.

Types of Sweet Ingredients

Dragon Fruit

  • Dragon fruit is native to Central and South America -  now cultivated in Asia as well.
  • The fruit is compared to the kiwi based on the texture of the flesh.
  • Dragon fruit is sweet and crunchy, with a flavour that's like a cross between kiwi and pear

Jack Fruit

  • Jackfruit is a large fruit that is native to South and Southeast Asia.
  • It can be identified by its striking green, spiny exterior and yellow (or white when unripe), seedy interior.
  • When ripe, flavour is described as a combination of banana and pineapple, and the texture of the pods can range from chewy to juicy


  • Ube is a purple yam that’s native to Southeast Asia
  • With its vibrant colour and subtle sweet taste makes it a versatile ingredient


  • A thick, sweet liquid made by bees from flower nectar
  • The rise of the health-conscious consumer has revitalized interest in honey as an alternative to sugar


  • Popular in Mexican cooking, piloncillo is unrefined cane sugar 
  • It ranges in colour from light to mahogany brown—the darker the colour, the stronger the molasses flavour

Sorghum Syrup

  • Made by extracting juice from stalks of sweet sorghum
  • This natural sweetener is experiencing renewed interests due to its association with Southern cuisine and is used by adventurous chefs and mixologists as an alternative sweetener in food and mixed drinks

Discover the next level sweet with heat…

Moving beyond Thai-style sweet chili, our McCormick global Chefs have created two recipes inspired by Sweet on Peppers trend. 

Dragon Fruit and Strawberry Poke with Pepper Syrup

Pepper’s tongue-tingling boldness is tempered by naturally sweet dragon fruit in this creative take on poke. Serve fresh strawberry and diced dragon fruit salad (mock poke) atop a dollop of peppered whipped cream and crispy wonton triangles. Drizzle with a balsamic-pepper syrup for an assertive spice sensation that’s here to stay.

Pulled Jackfruit Tacos

Authentic vegetarian tacos become reality with canned jackfruit. This large tropical fruit is deceptively meat-like in texture, with a sweet, impressionable flavour. It takes on a warm, smoky taco taste in this recipe. Grill it. Shred it. And pile it into tortillas to be topped with onion, cilantro, sour cream and the upfront heat of a Cider Pepper Syrup.