Eating Pepper Seeds: The Fact And Fiction

Pepper seeds have a bad reputation, at least when it comes to hot peppers. Many believe that the seeds can make a dish too hot, for example. As we will find out below, that is not necessarily the case. We will also look at a few other common questions about pepper seeds and whether they are safe to eat.

Is it safe to eat pepper seeds or should you remove them before eating?

In other words, are pepper seeds toxic? No, pepper seeds are not toxic but you may still want to remove them before eating. Pepper seeds are slightly bitter, but not so bitter that they will ruin a dish in most cases; however, you may want to remove them if you are using a large number of peppers. A lot of seeds may have an unpleasant effect on the taste of the dish. Aside from the bitterness issue, pepper seeds don’t really add anything to a dish so most cooks take them out.

Something that you should consider is the mouthfeel. Aside from the flavor and toxicity angle, it may be annoying to have small, hard bits in a dish. That’s especially true if that dish should have a smooth mouthfeel. You may want to take them out for improved texture. You can either take them out when getting your peppers ready to cook or strain them out of the finished dish in the case of a soup or sauce.

Does keeping pepper seeds in a chili make the dish hotter?

Pepper seeds on their own won’t make your chili hotter but you might not know that if all your cookbooks are older. The reason is that for a long time, people were convinced that the seeds were the source of the hot pepper’s heat. They believed that the seed kernel held the highest concentration of capsaicin. Many older recipes advised cooks to remove seeds to lower hot pepper heat.

The idea that pepper seeds are full of capsaicin has long been debunked. These days, we know that capsaicin is concentrated in the pale membrane (also called the pith) that connects the seeds to the walls of the pepper. If you want to lessen the heat of your chili, you should — while wearing gloves or using a pepper corer — cut the whitish membrane out of the pepper and discard it. Use only the colored walls of the pepper pod.

Even when preparing mild peppers like bell peppers, you should consider removing the membrane as it can be bitter and has a cottony texture.

Pepper seeds do contain a little capsaicin and can deliver a small spark as you can tell if you chew one separate from the pepper itself, but the heat level is low.

Do pepper seeds provide any benefits?

There is not a lot of information on the nutritional value of pepper seeds, but there is at least one study on bell pepper seeds stating that they are loaded with nutrients. The study found that pepper seeds are rich minerals like potassium and also provide protein and linoleic acid. Beyond that, they are also sources of fiber.

Unfortunately, they also contain antinutritional compounds like phytic acid and tannins.

Why do some hot sauces (and other chili products) keep the pepper seeds?

Some products like sambal oelek and crushed red pepper flakes contain the seeds, but this is mostly for enhancing the condiment’s appearance. It gives the spicy pepper product the appearance of garden freshness (or being freshly ground.) There are no benefits to the flavor of these products.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on June 29, 2022 to include new content.
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