Do Peppers Go Bad? What To Look For And How To Slow It

Peppers come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. You can use them to add heat and texture to many kinds of dishes. Like many other forms of produce, they will go bad quickly if you fail to store them correctly. Even when stored properly, peppers will eventually go bad over a long enough time frame. How long they last will depend on what steps you take to extend their shelf life.

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What happens to peppers as they age?

The first part of the aging process begins as the pepper dries out. The first signs of this will be that it loses its crispness and softens. You may also see wrinkles appearing in the skin as the pepper shrivels. Around this time, the fruit may also lose its sheen. Shriveled peppers are not spoiled and can still be used, but they may not be great in raw applications. You can chop them up and use them in soups, stews, and stir-fries.

Red bells that have begun to shrivel, showing signs of spoilage (but could potentially still be used)
Red bell peppers that have shriveled, but can potentially still be used

The next stage of spoilage may occur in the form of spots or mold caused by bacterial and fungal activity. This is the result of the bacteria and fungi consuming the walls of the fruit and causing it to decay. The pepper may also begin to smell spoiled or moldy at this point.

How quickly does a pepper go bad?

It depends on factors like freshness when you bought it and whether it has been cut or left whole. A fresher whole pepper will last the longest. When stored under ideal conditions (see below), they will typically remain usable for about 10 days. Fresh green peppers may last two or three days longer. If they are cut, they will usually have a maximum shelf life of about five days.

What does a spoiled pepper look like?

When a pepper is fully spoiled, its walls will be at least partially discolored and dissolved by bacteria and fungi. It will have a mushy texture and there may be signs of fuzzy mold.

Chilies with major mold growing on them, a sure sign of spoilage
Chilies with major mold growing on them, a sure sign of spoilage

How can you keep them from going bad too quickly?

The easiest way to keep your peppers from going bad before you can use them is to purchase only the amount that you need for a meal. Also, choose the freshest options by checking firmness and the color of the stem — bright green is best for the longest potential freshness.

If you do wind up with more peppers than you need right away (or fruits in less-than-stellar condition) refrigeration keeps them fresher for longer. You should store peppers at temperatures no higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit in an airtight container. The ideal temperature is around 40 degrees.

Avoid washing peppers before storing them in the fridge. If you do wash them, it is suggested that you dry them off thoroughly, as moisture is one of the major factors in spoilage. Storing them in the humid environment of the crisper drawer can prevent the short-term problem of shriveling but not mold, since the crisper is intended to provide humidity and mold thrives in high moisture.

Protecting your peppers from ethylene gas can also keep them usable for longer. Certain fruits and vegetables emit ethylene gas as they ripen. It causes peppers to ripen and spoil faster than they would without exposure to it. Keep them away from ethylene producers like apples, mangoes, and cantaloupes.

Freezing is an effective way to preserve peppers’ flavor and nutrition for the long term. Freeze pepper slices as a single layer on a baking sheet (or cookie sheet) then place them in airtight resealable bags being careful to remove all the air to prevent freezer burn. Date the bags and return them to the freezer.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on July 11, 2023 to include new content.
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