How Long Do Bell Peppers Last?

Have some bell peppers and you aren’t sure of their freshness? How long do bell peppers last, really? Bell peppers have a limited shelf life, like all fresh produce. While the type of pepper can affect shelf life, how they are stored can have an even greater effect. Other factors that affect how long bell peppers last include whether they are whole or have been cut and whether they are being stored at room temperature, in the refrigerator, or in the freezer. Let’s break down the scenarios.

How long do bell peppers last when at room temperature?

Bell peppers last for a relatively short time if they were left out at room temperature. Typically, whole fresh bell peppers will not last more than five days. That time can be considerably shorter depending on how long has passed since it was harvested. Fresher bell peppers will last longer than those that have spent more time in shipping and storage.

Cutting a bell pepper reduces how long it will last without refrigeration. Spoilage is a result of bacterial growth, among other things. Chopping the bell peppers exposes the inner flesh of the bell pepper to the microbes from the air and the surface of the fruit, thus speeding up the rate at which it spoils. Enzymes within the fruit that are activated during harvest will also begin the spoiling process.

Placing a cut bell pepper out on the counter for a short time probably won’t cause it to spoil instantly, but it can dramatically shorten its usable life. Experts recommend cutting bell peppers only when you intend to eat them immediately. As with any other food, bell peppers have the potential to host microbes that can make you sick.

The most conservative estimates for how long cut bell peppers can last on your counter aren’t longer than a couple of hours. Bottom line: You should consider tossing your cut bell pepper if it has been out on the counter for longer than two hours.

How long do bell peppers last when refrigerated?

Like most fruits and vegetables, bell peppers will last the longest when they are refrigerated. Whole bell peppers can last for up to two weeks in the fridge. The actual shelf life can vary based on time spent in transit and on grocery store shelves.

Cutting bell peppers will greatly shorten their shelf life even in the refrigerator. The bacteria will still cause it to spoil but at a slower rate since the lower temperature makes them less active. You will get three days at most from cut bell peppers in the refrigerator.

To maximize their shelf life, you should take steps to store bell peppers correctly. Store your cut bell peppers in a sealable airtight container or plastic bags meant for freezing. Freezer bags are widely available at stores. Or you can wrap them in a single layer in a paper towel to keep them dry (make sure there is no moisture on the peppers before wrapping) and place them in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.

How long do bell peppers last in the freezer?

Whole bell peppers will last the longest in the freezer. When properly frozen, they can last more than a year. They can remain safe to eat indefinitely, but you should try to eat them within the first year, which is when they are at their best in terms of flavor and appearance. The freezer’s ultra-low temperatures (along with the lack of airflow) slow the enzymatic and bacterial reactions that cause spoilage even more than storing foods in the refrigerator.

Cut bell peppers will last about the same length of time as whole bell peppers when they are frozen. For more information on freezing bell peppers, take a look at our post here.

Using refrigerated or frozen bell peppers in recipes

You may find over time that the bell peppers lose some color and crispness, and they can take on a slightly shriveled appearance. They may still be fine to eat, just a different texture. This can impact how you may want to use them. Using them in a cooked dish or soups are likely the best choices here.

In cooked foods, soups, and stews the texture is less important than usage in something like a fresh crisp salad or sandwich topper. Using them for fajitas is another good choice as the vegetables are cooked.

How to know if you have bad bell peppers, even after storing properly

Sure, you’re storing your bells for later use, but sometimes “later” turns into long-term storage. When you’re finally ready to use your bell peppers, keep these instructions in mind:

  • Check for any discoloration or dark spots on the peppers, as this could indicate freezer burn or spoilage.
  • Check for mold growth. Any sign of mold is a sure sign that your peppers are no longer fit for use.
  • Check the texture of the peppers. If they are mushy or limp (or show sunken spots or soft spots), they may have thawed and refrozen, which can affect their quality.
  • Use your sense of smell. If the peppers smell sour or off, it is likely that they have gone bad.

–> Learn More: Do Peppers Go Bad?

It is always better to err on the side of caution and discard any frozen bell peppers that appear to be no longer good.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 17, 2023 to include new content.
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