Cooking with Bell Peppers
To add color, crunch and sweetness to almost any recipe, try all varieties of bell peppers. Peppers add color, crunch and sweetness to almost every recipe. Learn how to store, cut, cook, roast and freeze peppers
Where once only green bell peppers were available, there is now a delicious and colorful variety, from dusty chocolate to fiery red and even creamy ivory. Bell peppers are mildly flavored compared to their more heat-intense cousin, the chili pepper. Although not hot, these vegetables can add color, crunch and sweetness to almost every dish.
Whether you’re cooking stuffed peppers, or preparing a pepper appetizer for guests, follow our helpful tips:
How to Choose Peppers
Peppers should be bright, shiny and firm. They should not have wrinkled skin, soft spots, cuts or moldy stems. The green pepper is available year-round. Other colors peak from July to October, so watch the produce aisle for the colorful varieties.
How to Store Peppers
Refrigerate unwashed bell peppers in a plastic bag; store green peppers for up to one week and colored peppers for several days. Colored peppers have higher sugar content, so they will not last as long. Wash before using.
How to Cut Peppers
Starting at the stem, cut vertically all the way around the bell pepper. Break the halves apart, and the seeds will pop out and be easy to remove. Be sure to also remove the thick membranes, which can be bitter. It’s easiest to cut peppers from the flesh side, with the skin side on the cutting board.
How to Freeze Peppers
Bell peppers can be halved, chopped or cut into strips before freezing. If you like, freeze in single-portion amounts in freezer bags or containers up to six months. Frozen peppers will lose their crisp texture when thawed, so they’re best used in soups, stew, stir-fries and casseroles.
Bell Pepper Varieties
The green pepper is the most common and widely used bell pepper. But as interest in the vegetable continues to increase, so do the colors and varieties available.
Green peppers are unripe; they have not yet turned into another color. They have a sharp, strong pepper taste. Left to fully ripen, that same green pepper will turn red or another color, the sugar content will increase, and the flavor will mellow and become increasingly sweet. Some varieties like ivory and yellow peppers, however, are never green, and their color develops in the unripe vegetable.
- Chocolate-hued peppers are brown on the outside and green on the inside, and they will turn green when cooked.
- Purple peppers when fully ripe are a deep purple color. Depending on the variety, they may start out green or white and change to purple. If not harvested when purple, they will change to red. These are terrific raw, and they’ll also turn green when cooked.
- As a rule, the more colorful, sweeter peppers are better for eating raw; the green pepper, with its less sweet taste, is better for cooking.
How to Roast Peppers
Roast peppers in the broiler or over a gas stovetop. Use whichever method works best for you. After roasting, place peppers in a paper or plastic bag and close tightly. Allow to steam about 20 minutes or until skins are easy to remove.
Using a Broiler:
- Cut peppers into halves or fourths; remove stem, seeds and membranes.
- Place skin sides up on a rack in a broiler pan or on a cookie sheet.
- Broil peppers 5 to 6 inches from the heat about 5 to 10 minutes until the skin is blistered and evenly browned (some spots may blacken).
Using the Gas Stovetop:
- Spear a whole pepper on a long-handled metal fork with a heatproof handle (a grilling fork works well), and hold it about 5 inches from the gas flame.
- Turn the pepper frequently so it roasts evenly.
- Roast about 5 minutes until the skin is blistered and evenly browned (some spots may blacken).
- Remove the skin, stem, seeds and membranes, and cut pepper as desired.