Peppers are a beautiful fruit in that they come in a variety of colors. Peppers change color as they ripen, but how long does it take? Do all peppers change color similarly? And do they need to stay on the vine to change color, or do they change even when picked? Let’s discuss the different stages of pepper ripening so you can better understand what to expect.
Table of Contents
- How long does it take peppers to ripen and change color?
- What colors do peppers turn?
- Do all peppers change color when ripe?
- Do peppers need to stay on the vine to ripen and turn color?
- Are there ways to speed up the ripening process while the pepper is on the vine?
- Do pepper colors mean something to flavor and heat?
- Must-read related posts
How long does it take peppers to ripen and change color?
This depends on the type of pepper. Sweet peppers can take anywhere from two weeks to three months to change color. Hot peppers usually take about six weeks, but some can take up to three months as well.
What colors do peppers turn?
Most peppers start green and turn red (most common), orange, or yellow when ripe. This is true of bell peppers, common jalapeño chilies, habaneros, ghost peppers, and many more. In fact, ripe bell peppers come in many of these common colors, not only one.
–> Learn More: Green Jalapeno Vs. Red Jalapeno – How Do They Compare?
However, some varieties start green and end with a surprising hue when ripe, like purple, brown, white, and more. They don’t age from green to red. These include purple jalapeño peppers, chocolate habaneros (and other “chocolate” brown chili types), Peruvian white habaneros, and multi-hued beauties like Bolivian rainbow peppers.
And there are even some that don’t start green at all. Many of these are ornamental chilies, like the Pretty in Purple pepper that starts purple and ages to red.
These are nowhere near as common, but it’s best to read your seed packet or research the specific type of pepper you’re growing to know what color it will turn.
Want to learn more about the unique colors of chilies? Read our chili color guides to discover chilies matching the color you’ll like (and when in their ripening cycle that you’ll find each color):
Do all peppers change color when ripe?
No, not all peppers change color, but most do. Some hybrids have been developed that stay green (often a slightly different shade) when mature. These are often labeled “evergreen” or “green,” like the 7 Pot Evergreen or the Trinidad Scorpion Green.
Do peppers need to stay on the vine to ripen and turn color?
Yes, it’s best to leave your peppers on the vine if you want to enjoy the beautiful colors they’ll become. And there’s science behind it.
The main reason peppers change color is due to the carotenoids in the pepper. These are pigments that (along with providing many health benefits) give peppers their red, yellow, and orange colors. As the pepper ripens on the vine, the carotenoids become more concentrated, causing the pepper to change color.
When a pepper (sweet or hot) is picked green, it has not had a chance to produce enough carotenoids, so it will not easily change color (and even if it does, it won’t be to the same vibrancy.)
Are there ways to speed up the ripening process while the pepper is on the vine?
Yes, there are a few ways you can speed up the ripening process. One is to place the peppers in a sunny spot, as they need sunlight to produce carotenoids. Another is to increase the temperature around the peppers, which will also help them produce carotenoids more quickly. Finally, you can try using ethylene gas, a ripening agent found in some fruit and vegetable ripening products.
If you want to learn more about how to potentially ripen a pepper that’s already been picked (store-bought or homegrown), read our article on how to get chilies to ripen when already off the vine.
Do pepper colors mean something to flavor and heat?
The color of a pepper typically indicates its maturity, and that does impact flavor and heat. As peppers ripen, they tend to become sweeter. For instance, green bell peppers will be more grassy and bitter in flavor than red bell peppers. And the same is true between green and red jalapeños and any other chilies. Red peppers will typically have a sweeter flavor.
The same is true for heat. A hot pepper’s spiciness gains as it ages, as the chili’s level of capsaicin increases (the compound that delivers a chili’s heat.) If you want to maximize spiciness, then waiting for your pepper to ripen is recommended.
Must-read related posts
- Ornamental Peppers Guide: Many of the most interesting ripening color patterns come from ornamentals. See some of the most popular types.
- Our Hot Pepper List: We profile over 150 chilies. Search our list by heat, flavor, origin, and more.
- Green Sriracha Sauce Recipe: As an example on how flavors change based on when picked, see this unique take on sriracha that uses your green chilies.