Bell Peppers: Differences and How to Cook Them

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In this Complete Cooking Guide discover fun facts about all the colors of bell peppers and get ideas for cooking each type to maximize their flavor

a pile of bell peppers in various colors

Have you noticed how gorgeous bell peppers are around this time of year? Grocery stores and farmers markets are full of their vibrant colors.

Here you’ll find everything you could need to know about the differences in bell peppers plus suggestions on how to cook them and fun delicious recipes to help inspire you! Are you excited yet?

What are Bell Peppers?

Peppers and chilies are both a part of the capsicum family, and come in a seriously huge variety ranging in size, flavor, and spice.

Bell peppers are a sweet pepper, only ranging to the high 500’s in Scoville units (jalapenos are between 2500 and 10000). They’re distinguished from their other sweet cousins and the spicier chilies by the typical bell shape that you are all familiar with. They’re also botanically classified as a fruit – not a vegetable.

But not all bell peppers come in that shape. A good example is the La Rogue Royale pepper – a longer, slimmer version of a red bell pepper.

I’d also like to note that there is no such thing as male and female bell peppers, three bumps versus four simply implies a different variety of the plant. And, it’s not the shape or size that determines flavor.

Number of bumps, short or long, thin or fat, flavor is determined by the varietal and the color of the final fruit.

Differences in Bell Peppers

Now let’s dive into what the differences are in the most common bell peppers that we’re all eating during the summer months.

Sweetness by Color

Since color determines flavor, and more so, sweetness, it’s pretty important to know what you’re looking for before you pick a nice green or orange bell pepper. What you prefer can be a personal preference, but here are a few tips on the different colors.

Red, orange, & Yellow Bell Peppers

These are your common color choices this time of year at any grocery store. They’re often more expensive than green ones, and with good reason. Red, orange, and yellow bell peppers are the sweetest varieties, going from sweetest to less sweet in that order.

My personal favorites are red and orange, but any of the three will work when you’re looking for a sweetness in your recipe. They all take well to most preparation methods from roasting to raw.

Purple, White, and Green Bell Peppers

Once you pass yellow and fade into cooler colors, the sweetness fades as well. Green, white, and purple bell peppers aren’t as sweet as the other colors.

Instead they have a grassy, fresh flavor profile that has a pleasant bite of crisp bitterness. Green is the least so, while purple has a noticeable bitter bite.

While these again can be used for most bell pepper applications, it’s going to make a difference if you substitute green when a red pepper is called for.

There are certain recipes that were made for the crisp bite. These varieties are perfect for stuffing, pickling, or pairing with sweet glazed proteins. They’re also great raw in a slaw or salad, especially purple bell peppers which tend to loose their color when cooked.

Having trouble finding white and purple bell peppers? It’s often the farmers market where I find the less commercially popular colors like those.

From Green to Red…

a green pepper, a green pepper turning red, and a red pepper on a table

As a quick aside, have you ever noticed that green bell peppers always seem to be in abundance? There’s a reason! They’re actually red peppers that aren’t fully ripe.

No way, right?! It’s true! Green peppers have been picked before they’ve reached full maturity, one reason for their more bitter flavor, the sweetness simply hasn’t developed fully.

It also makes them cheaper. Without such a long growing time farmers and producers can supply them easier.

Yellow and orange peppers are not unripe red peppers. They’re different varieties of bell pepper. All peppers start out as green however, including those jalapenos we all know and love…yup they’d turn red!

The Health Benefits of Bell Pepper

Beyond the flavor, there are some added health benefits to eating the sweet bell peppers – tons of vitamins. They’re high in vitamin C, like really high, and full of other vitamins and nutrients like E, B6, K1, potassium, folate, iron, and in red bell peppers Vitamin A.

Allowing the fruit to ripen increases the nutrient levels when consumed, so in addition to a sweeter flavor, picking red over green bell peppers is going to increase the health benefits you receive.

How & When to Pick Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are available year around nowadays, green bells especially, but the peak season for the best flavor is July through September.

When picking your pepper, be sure to look for a glossy, smooth exterior and a green stem. Avoid the wrinkles or brown spots. They should be firm to the touch, with no damp or soft areas. Store them in the bottom of your fridge and they’ll keep for a few days.

How to Cook bell peppers – 6 methods

You’ve decided the colors you love, next is how to cook bell peppers. It’s a tough decision! Whether you want to learn how to roast bell peppers for a creamy soup, or you want to do a quick chop for a simple summer salad, there are over a dozen delicious bell pepper recipes below organized by how you cook them.

Pro Tip: To reduce the bitterness of ANY color bell pepper, use a vegetable peeler to remove as much skin as possible before cooking or eating raw.

1. RAW

This is one of my favorite ways to eat them. They’re an excellent addition to salads, spring rolls, coleslaw or just to snack on plain with a fresh dip.

When I prep them for raw use, my usual method is to hold the pepper stem up, and slice from top to bottom on each side, making 4 cuts. This will avoid most of the seeds and result in 4 flat slices of pepper.

fork with raw bell peppers and onions stabbed on the tongs

To inspire your raw bell pepper cooking, here are two delicious recipes that feature uncooked bell peppers:

2. ROASTED

This may be the most well known form of cooking sweet red peppers. Roasted red peppers are delicious, no arguments there, but you can also roast the many other colors too! I encourage you to try them out as well.

You could purchase pre-roasted peppers, but it’s actually easy to do yourself with a few simple steps. Check out my How To Roast Peppers guide for step by step instructions.

A jar of red aioli on a wooden cutting board with parsley leaves

They can be used in a myriad of ways. Puree them in a sauce, marinade, aioli, or veggie dip. Serve them sliced on sandwiches, pastas, and more. The uses are as endless as your creativity!

3. SAUTEED

This is likely one of the most common ways to utilize bell peppers. With a few simple knife cuts you can add color and freshness into many different dishes. Here are just a few of MANY suggestions:

white plate with sausage and peppers piled in the middle on top of rice
  • Sauteed Bell Pepper Salad from Babaganosh – Nothing like appreciating the beauty of peppers than a salad that features them as the primary ingredient. This is a winner!
  • Sweet and Spicy Sausage with Peppers and Onions from Bowl of Delicious (pictured above) – Sweet, smoky, spicy this quick and easy dinner has it all, sweet fresh bell peppers included!
  • Crispy Chicken Sandwiches from here at The Flour Handprint – One of the big flavors that makes this sandwich special is the sauté of orange bell pepper and onions!
  • Red Pepper, Corn and Bacon Risotto from Crumb – Creamy and full of summer flavors this is perfect for bell pepper season, who doesn’t love risotto!
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken – a classic Chinese takeout dish that features both red and green bell peppers sautéed to tender sweet perfection.

4. GRILLED

There is something about that smoky, grilled flavor that’s irresistible. Grill peppers whole or slice them open and grill the pepper ‘steaks’ to get those beautiful grill marks.

three skewers of beef and multicolored peppers
  • Shish Kebabs from Low Carb Africa (pictured above) – This yummy recipe features not one but four bell peppers, red, orange, yellow, and green! This is a grilling recipe you’re gonna love.
  • Grilled Vegetable Marinade with Lemon and Thyme from What a Girl Eats – Make a fantastic platter of grilled vegetables (bell peppers included!) with a lemony herb marinade to baste and dip!

5. STUFFED

Stuffed is definitely a popular method when it comes to cooking bell peppers. It’s great way to make them a star of the plate. The possibilities for what they’re stuffed with, and how they’re cooked, is extremely varied.

I could list dozens and dozens of stuffed bell pepper recipes. Heck do a whole post on just this! But instead, here are a few of my favorites from my fellow bloggers:

  • Stuffed Peppers from Kristine’s Kitchen – this recipe is exactly what I think of when I want a classic stuffed pepper. Cheese, ground turkey, rice, all in a nice soft pepper.
  • Breakfast Stuffed Peppers from Slow the Cook Down – These egg, cheese, and sausage stuffed peppers are just what you need to spice up boring breakfast.
  • Spanish Stuffed Peppers from The Anthony Kitchen – A twist on a classic, with paprika, almonds, and manchego cheese, this recipe is full of spanish flavors you’ll enjoy.
  • Stuffed Pasta Bell Peppers from Homemade Food Junkie – Cheese, pasta, all gooey in a sweet orange bell pepper, do I even need to say more?

6. STEWED

Finally, but not least flavorful, is a stewed preparation. A little less common perhaps, but worth your time. Stewing simply means to cooking slowly in liquid in an enclosed vessel, usually a pot or pan with a lid.

stewed peppers on a piece of bread
  • Peperonata: Stewed Bell Peppers from Cilantro & Citronella – A classic stewed pepper dish that turns into a silky, sweet amazing dish that’s incredibly versatile.

I hope I’ve inspired you to explore the world of bell pepper recipes, while they’re still in peak season. Do you have your own favorites? I’d love to hear from you so feel free to comment below, or message me directly to chat!

Until next time, Happy Eating! (And don’t forget to PIN THIS POST for later!)

Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.

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50 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thanks so much for including my Bell Pepper Salad recipe in this post! I also love that you showed some of the lesser-known peppers, such as the white and purple ones. They are so pretty!

  2. 5 stars
    A great post indeed, informative and so useful. I love peppers and I do eat these every day. They are delicious, versatile and so good for us too.

  3. 5 stars
    We love bell peppers (actually all peppers!) in my house. I honestly can’t decide if I like them raw or roasted better, but its rare that we make something savory and don’t add a few. This is a great overview of bell peppers. I particularly appreciated that you included the purple and white peppers to this as I see those so rarely at the market, but they are really fun to use in certain dishes that need a grassier, bitter bite.

    1. Thanks Jenni! It seems purple and white are the dark horses among bell peppers, but I’m glad I could show them off to people here, they are so useful for exactly that purpose!

  4. Ooooh, we never really see purple or white bell peppers in the UK. I’d love to try them.

    I love raw peppers, they’re so sweet and delicious.

    Katie xoxo

  5. 5 stars
    This is brilliant – so informative! I always forget that stuffing peppers is an option. Will come back to this page every time I have leftover peppers!

  6. 5 stars
    Bell peppers can easily make any dish stand out. They look great and taste even better! Really excited to explore these six different methods to cook bell peppers!

  7. 5 stars
    I am so happy I came across this! I love, love bell peppers. I live in a second world country where the peppers are absolutely the yellowest yellow, the reddest red, and the greenest green! Can wait to try these.

  8. 5 stars
    I cook with bell peppers all the time, but this was still such an informative post. I’ve never even heard of purple peppers, let alone cook with them! Next time I post a recipe with peppers, I’ll be sure to link to your post!

  9. 5 stars
    Wow, what a fantastic guide to bell peppers! I used to not like sauteed bell peppers, but it has grown on me. Bell peppers are just so versatile!

  10. Nice to know about the different types of bell peppers here. I have not seen purple one here. Love all such colorful veggies. Thanks for sharing a wonderful info.

  11. 5 stars
    Oh wow, this is very informative! Love learning about bell peppers and how to cook this properly. I like mine grilled and can’t wait to try different methods to enjoy bell peppers.

    1. It’s interesting how they all have such distinctive taste right? Orange is probably my favorite! If you’re not a fan of green, purple probably won’t be your favorite, but white bell peppers have more sweetness than the other two! Have fun testing them out!

  12. 5 stars
    I did and in fact I always try to make as many dishes that involve bell peppers as possible. 𝑺𝒐 π’ˆπ’π’‚π’… I’ve stumbled upon your post – so much fun!

  13. 5 stars
    What a wonderful article on peppers! I found some lovely purple ones at the farmer’s market last year. My favorites are the red ones, though. Thanks for all of the info!

    1. Purple peppers were a farmer’s market find for me too, and I love snagging them when I can! Red and orange are up there for me too πŸ™‚ I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

  14. 5 stars
    This is such a useful and informative read. I am loving the recipe ideas you have mentioned too. Will give them a try.

  15. I love bell peppers. I roasted and purΓ©ed some for on of my baby’s first foods, not that he was a fan at the time.
    I also feel like I should’ve known this about green & red bells. I’ve never seen a purple one, I’ll have to keep an eye out and try it.
    Great post!

    1. Thank you! The purple ones are harder to find – I usually find them hanging out in the farmers markets πŸ™‚