Male And Female Peppers: Fact Or Fiction?

Do bell peppers have a gender? Some say they do. The idea has been around for a while but only recently has it caught traction. According to the theory, there are distinct male and female peppers and the gender indicates whether a bell pepper has more seeds or whether it is better for cooking or eating raw. Interesting theory, but is it fact or fiction? The short of it: Total fiction. There’s no such thing as bell pepper genders. But let’s break the urban legend down to make things clear.

Male and Female Pepper
Is there such a thing as male and female peppers? Do the amount of lobes matter?

The bell pepper gender theory

The theory states that the lobes or bumps on the bottom of the fruit are the indicators of the bell pepper’s gender. So, you can tell, then, the fruit’s gender by counting them. Male bell peppers, according to the theory, have only three lobes while female bell peppers have four. These genders point to their best use case: Male bell peppers, the theory states, are better for cooking while female bell peppers are sweeter, contain more seeds, and are better eaten raw.

The lobe fallacy – What does the number of lobes actually show in a bell pepper?

Absolutely nothing in terms of gender. Bell peppers can have anywhere between two and five lobes, not just the three or four listed in this urban legend.

The number of lobes that a bell pepper has is related to the variety of bell pepper. There are different varieties that produce different numbers of lobes. Some produce two, while others may produce between three and five lobes. The most popular variety of bell pepper in the U.S. produces four lobes so many plants have been bred for this characteristic.

Do four-lobe bell peppers have more seeds?

They may, but only because they have more lobes, meaning more cavity space in which seeds can be grown. But even this is not 100% true all the time. Peppers can have a single chamber or multiple chambers containing the white pithy tissue with the seeds. Exactly how many chambers does not always indicate the number of seeds of the bell pepper, but more lobes is a better guess if you are hunting for bell pepper seeds.

Are these “female peppers” sweeter?

Sweetness has nothing to do with the number of lobes on your pepper. It has everything to do with your cultivated variety, the soil you’ve grown your peppers in, the weather, and, especially, how long you’ve left the fruits on the vine. Bell peppers that have aged from green to their mature red will be sweeter, no matter if they have three lobes or four.

So is there anything interesting about gender in relation to bell peppers?

There is: the pepper plant creates “perfect flowers” also called hermaphroditic or unisex flowers. All plants of the nightshade family follow suit (tomatoes, eggplants, sweet peppers, chili peppers, etc); their flowers contain both stamens and carpels – they have reproductive systems that are both male and female.

Some other types of plants have male flowers as well as female flowers. Sometimes these flowers are on the same plant and sometimes they grow on separate plants.

So the real truth here is that not only are bell peppers genderless, the flowers of the bell pepper plant themselves are – simplistically – all genders. This is a pepper that breaks down all barriers.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on March 23, 2022 to include new content.
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Alaskan house pirate

As a former Senior Journeyman Produce clerk I can say that I have heard this before, but as a frugal shopper let me point out that bell peppers are most often sold by the each. This means buy the biggest ones getting more for your money, and the four lobed ones should have more edible flesh than those with less lobes. I’m sure this varies ,but this should hold true in relation to the the stock with which it was picked.

Walt Grzyb jr

I heard this, don’t know about the sex thing, but I like my green peppers with my scrambled cheese eggs. So, I saute some 4 bumps and 3 bumps in a skillet, The 4’s stayed firm, 3’s were to soft… Put some of each in a salad and 4’s were to firm, 3’s were sweet and tender..


Thanks very much for the info. This makes so much sense especially since some cites say one thing and others say the opposite thing. My husband & I were checking which amount of bumps was for eating & which for cooking since he was going to the store to buy for both uses.
Thanks again for solving our dilemma.