Looking for a good bell pepper substitute to use in a recipe? These replacements for well in a variety of cooked and cold dishes like salsas and stir fries.
Varieties of bell peppers
First let’s discuss the different varieties of bell peppers, because there are a few you will find at your typical grocery store. All varieties have a sweet flavor with thick walls and a crunchy texture. They are not spicy like some of their other pepper friends.
The most common varieties of bell peppers include green bell peppers, yellow bell peppers and red bell pepper. You may also be able to find orange bell peppers, which are a color in between the red and yellow varieties.
Green bell peppers are typically a bit cheaper than red, orange or yellow bell peppers and are less sweet and more bitter. They are the “immature” version of bell pepper, meaning they aren’t fully ripened.
Origins of the bell pepper
Bell peppers are native to South America and have been grown in Mexico since 2500 BC. They are a popular ingredient in various dishes in South American and Mexican cuisine.
They were introduced to places like Europe later in time, likely the 1500s. Now they are used in dishes all over the world, including Asia.
Recipes that use bell peppers
Bell peppers are used in a variety of dishes in various cultures. While they are mostly commonly found in South American and Mexican cuisine, they can also be found in European and Asian dishes.
Here are a few traditional dishes that include bell peppers:
- Stuffed Bell Peppers: rice-filled bell peppers
- Fajitas: sautéed bell peppers and onions
- Ratatouille: french vegetable stew
- Gazpacho: cold Spanish vegetable soup
- Jambalaya: rice dish with bell peppers
- Shakshuka: eggs in bell pepper sauce
- Frittata: baked Italian egg dish
- Chili con Carne: spicy meat and bean stew
- Keftedes: Greek meatballs with peppers
- Escabeche: marinated fish/meat with peppers
Where to find bell peppers
Luckily, bell peppers are a rather easy vegetable to find. Check your local grocery stores in the produce aisle and you will most definitely find at least 1-2 varieties of bell peppers.
If you are unable to find bell peppers at your typical grocery store, try a local international grocery store that sells Mexican groceries.
9 Best Bell Pepper Substitutes
Let’s go over the nine best substitutes for bell peppers in any recipe. These alternatives can be used in both raw and cooked recipes.
Lunchbox peppers or mini bell peppers are the best bell pepper substitute in my opinion. They are sweet peppers and are very similar in taste to bell peppers.
They have a sweet taste like bell peppers, but their walls are thinner and crunchier. They come in a variety of colors, typically yellow, orange and red.
Unfortunately they don’t come in a green variety, so you will need to use another substitute if you are trying to replace green bell peppers.
Scoville Heat Units: 0
Cubanelle peppers are another great substitute for bell peppers, especially if you are trying to replace green peppers, which they most closely resemble in taste and appearance.
They have a mild flavor and are considered a sweet pepper, which makes them a great replacement compared to spicy peppers.
That being said, they are a touch spicier than bell peppers, so if you are sensitive, maybe try another alternative.
Scoville Heat Units: 100-1000
Pimento peppers can be a great replacement for bell peppers, especially red bell peppers due to their vibrant red color.
They kind of look like smaller, rounder versions of red bell peppers. They have a mild taste, with a touch of heat.
As mentioned earlier with the cubanelle peppers, if you are sensitive to heat, this might not be the best option. Though they are mild, they may be too spicy for some.
Scoville Heat Units: 100-500
Anaheim peppers are another great option for a bell pepper replacement. They may work well as a replacement for green bell peppers specifically.
These peppers are long and slightly wrinkled on the surface. They taper inward into a point and have a vibrant color.
And they are spicy, though they are on the milder side of spicy. They are still less spicy than a jalapeño, but spicier than a cubanelle pepper.
Scoville Heat Units: 500-2500
Banana peppers are another good replacement for bell peppers. They may be a good replacement for yellow bell peppers due to their yellow color.
They are long and have a pale yellow tint to them. While they are typically served in pickled form, you can eat them by themselves.
They have a mild, tangy taste and aren’t too spicy, though they do have a bite to them.
Scoville Heat Units: 0-500
Pepperoncinis are another great substitute for bell peppers, specifically yellow bell peppers. They have a mild heat to them and taste great.
They are slightly wrinkled with a greenish-yellow tint. They are a mild bell pepper with a small bite to them.
While they are typically served pickled, they don’t need to be. That being said, they are delicious pickled, especially in Greek salads.
Scoville Heat Units: 100-500
Poblano peppers are another mild chili pepper that can be a good replacement for bell peppers, especially green bell peppers.
They are a dark green color and are wide with a tapered end. They have fairly thick walls (compared to the other replacements mentioned) and have a bit of a crunch to them.
While these are considered “mild” chili peppers, they aren’t zero spice. So be sure to try out a bite before adding it to a recipe.
Scoville Heat Units: 1000-2000
Jalapeño peppers are another good replacement for bell peppers, especially green bell peppers.
They being said, they are considered “moderately spicy” and are spicier than the previously mentioned peppers on this list.
Only use this pepper if you are okay with spiciness and know what to expect. Also, wash your hands thoroughly after cutting them up and don’t touch your eyes.
Scoville Heat Units: 2,500-8,000
Serrano peppers are another good substitute for bell peppers. These green chiles are good replacements for green bell pepper.
These chili peppers are considered “moderately spicy” and have a higher heat level than any pepper on this list
They are a vibrant green color and are thin with a tapered end. Some varieties of serrano peppers are red.
Scoville Heat Units: 10,000-23,000
If none of the above bell pepper substitutes work for you, don’t worry! There are a few other options you can try out that can be good replacements.
- Ancho Peppers: 1,000 to 2,000 SHU
- Guajillo Peppers: 2,500 to 5,000 SHU
- Cayenne Peppers: 30,000 to 50,000 SHU
- Red Chili Peppers: 30,000 to 100,000 SHU
- Sichuan Peppers: N/A
- Green Onions (Scallions): N/A
- White Onions: N/A
Frequently Asked Questions
Are bell peppers spicy?
No, bell peppers are 0 Scoville Heat Units, meaning they contain no spiciness whatsoever. They are perfectly safe if you are sensitive to heat.
Are bell peppers good for you?
Yes they are! Bell peppers are a good source of micronutrients including vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, fiber and potassium.
Do red and green peppers taste the same?
Green peppers are “immature” bell peppers meaning they aren’t fully ripened and are more bitter and less sweet than red bell peppers.
Are bell peppers nightshades?
Yes, bell peppers are part of the nightshade vegetable family which includes tomatoes, potatoes, chili peppers and eggplants.
Are nightshades inflammatory?
No. Despite recent controversy, nightshade vegetables are not inflammatory for most people. In fact, most nightshades contain anti-inflammatory compounds such as antioxidants such as vitamin C.