They may be one of the least-fruity types of fruit – but they’re definitely the most fruity type of pepper!
In fact, bell peppers walk that culinary fine line so well, they’re one of the most popular types of produce anywhere. And there are any number of ways to enjoy the many varieties of these kitchen chameleons.
Bell peppers are also called sweet peppers, and indeed, these types of capsicum have more sugar (mostly in the form of carbohydrates) than many of their chili pepper cousins.
But that’s not the only nutritional quirk belonging to these members of the nightshade family.
In fact, bell peppers are a bit of a health food powerhouse, with one medium-sized pepper alone accounting for 169% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
They’re also rich sources of vitamin B6, which helps with blood cell heath; the relatively rare vitamin K1 – another bone and blood health booster; heart-healthy potassium; and the knockout antioxidant trio of folate, vitamin E and beta carotene, AKA vitamin A.
And somehow, bell peppers stuffed even more nutritional goodness into their delicious veggie-like crunch, including the appearance of antioxidants like capsanthin, violaxanthin, lutein, quercetin and luteolin. Whew!
Of course, nutrients aren’t the only thing bell peppers are usually stuffed with.
Their hollow shape and sturdy walls make bell peppers the perfect vehicle for filling with everything from beans and cheese to Ranch dressing to bread crumbs. Indeed, stuffed bell pepper recipes are some of the most popular – and easy! – home menu items out there.
But it’s far from the capsicum’s only trick. Their perfect pallet marriage of grassy and sweet means they play well with both fruits and veggies, and as such, bell peppers find themselves everywhere from Italian sub sandwiches to Asian stir-frys.
They’re also a particular mainstay in the cuisine of their native Central and South America, where sweet peppers first started sprouting up outside the Amazon and under the Andes thousands of years ago.
But as European explorers carried them off the Americas and across both the Atlantic and Pacific, these capsicums charmed nearly everyone they encountered, inspiring intrepid gardeners everywhere to develop a number of specialized cultivars along the way.
Today, there are nearly a dozen different types of bell peppers to love – coming in nearly every color of the rainbow and with a wide arch of flavor profiles to match.
Some of the most popular types of sweet peppers include:
Possibly the most popular bell pepper of all is also the least like its bell pepper siblings. Green bell peppers are picked before they ripen, while the plants are still rocking their namesake premature color and before they really develop the bell pepper’s signature sweetness.
The least mature sweet peppers at the farmer’s market, green bell peppers rock an almost bitter tanginess all their own, but their perfect crunch makes them an especially satisfying fresh snack.
From the most bitter to the most agreeable, red bell peppers balance green bell peppers out on the sugar spectrum, with one of the sweetest flavor profiles in the bell pepper world.
That’s because these babies are left the longest on the vine, allowing them to fully ripen, and reaping all the benefits – including their vibrant hues, sugary bites and outsized amount of nutrients like vitamin C and beta carotene. Their sweetness also makes them a popular choice in the kitchen, in everything from grilled pepper recipes to salads and even to smoothies!
Like their zippy color, these types of bell peppers add a bit of zing to their taste. Yellow bell peppers are signature sweet with almost a hint of citrus in their bite. And the versatile pepper can be found adding their input nearly anywhere a fruit, veggie or lemon would.
That they’re also left to ripen on the vine to full maturity means these bell peppers are packed with the fruit’s full suite of nutritional benefits – and can stand up well to the tough test of the grill.
Sweeter than green bell peppers and tangier than their red or yellow siblings, these types of bell peppers walk a true middle line.
Orange bell peppers have a uniquely fruity tang to match their sensational color, and also deliver on many of the bell pepper’s biggest nutritional promises, including folic acid, iron, fiber, and a number of antioxidants. The combination of quirky color and taste also makes them a popular additive to sauces, salads, dips and smoothies.
Proving that big things come in small packages, mini bell peppers may in fact be the sweetest sweet peppers of all!
The varietal comes in the full range of bell pepper colors, including green, yellow, red and orange, but with a more consistent crunch and taste across the board. And with all the same types of nutritional goodness as their larger cousins, they make for truly amazing finger food.
The name doesn’t lie: These peppers are much longer than their bell pepper brethren, making a stuffed pepper boat recipe more like a stuffed pepper canoe.
Still, long bell peppers remain a popular produce option, due primarily to their lovely long shapes. Taste-wise, they rock a similar sweetness to their red and yellow cousins, and they’re just as nutritionally dense, but their skins are a bit thinner than other bell peppers, making them a great option for anyone who wants a grilled pepper but doesn’t quite have the time.
But no matter which delicious variety you go with, you’ll be hanging with the belle of the pepper ball.