Why Are Bell Peppers Different Colors?

Bell peppers come in a variety of colors, with each color being sold at a different price point. The most common bell pepper colors are green, red, orange, and yellow. Green bell peppers are the least expensive of the bunch, and red bell peppers tend to be the most expensive. Yellow and orange bell peppers fall somewhere in the middle (but can cost as much or more than red at times). They all have the same basic shape and a similar flavor, but is there more to the difference? The answer is yes, a lot more. 

Why are bell peppers different colors
Some of the common colors of bell peppers

Why do bell peppers come in different colors?

In some cases, bell peppers differ in color based on their degree of ripeness, which has to do with how long the peppers have spent maturing on the plant. In other words, color can represent a particular stage of ripeness. This is most typically seen in green bell peppers aging on the vine to their mature red form (and often the multiple hues created in the transition).

In other cases, it’s the variety of the bell pepper that’s in play. Some bell pepper types age from green to yellow or orange in maturity. Others can stay green their entire time on the vine.

So bell pepper color is not all about fruit maturity and it’s not all about type. It’s a mix of both together that makes the fun hues of this plant.

Does color impact the nutritional value of bell peppers?

It can, when you consider an unripened (green) vs. a fully ripe (red) pepper. Green bell peppers typically offer the lowest nutritional value because they’ve spent less time on the vine. It’s also part of why green bell peppers cost less than other color options. Because they are harvested and shipped off at an immature stage, less work is involved in caring for them. That said, green bell peppers are still very nutritious and contain large amounts of vitamin C. 

Red bell peppers (or other fully ripened colors) have spent the most time on the vine. Their nutritional value is considerably more than that of the green bell pepper; they can have twice as much vitamin C as green bell peppers and more than 10 times the vitamin A. The premium price is mainly the result of the time spent on the pepper plant and the extra care that they require before harvest. 

Does each bell pepper color have a different taste?

As with most edible fruit, the taste of a bell pepper changes significantly depending on its stage of ripeness. Green bell peppers have a more grassy, bright, and slightly bitter flavor compared to mature pepper colors. The flavor changes as the pepper grows riper. Red bell peppers (and other colors of a fully matured bell) will typically be sweeter and significantly less bitter in flavor.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on October 9, 2022 to include new content.
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I wonder why some seed packets you buy say they are red peppers and some say green? False advertising?

Carl (Travelbetter Dad)

Something I have always wondered. What a fascinating and informative post.