Different Colors of Bell Peppers

by Elizabeth Skipper | July 28th, 2015 | Ask the Chef

bell peppers (400x400)Bell peppers come in many different colors. I find the orange, red, and yellow to be more enjoyable than green, as they have a sweeter flavor. Is there any difference between the yellow, red, and orange that I’m missing?

Red bell peppers are sweeter than green ones because they’re mature. The more bitter green ones do have their uses, and I’d never abandon them in the kitchen. The “holy trinity” of Cajun and Creole cooking calls for them, and their sweeter brethren are no substitute. Fried with onions and paired with Italian sausages, they’re exactly what’s called for. And a pepper and cheese egg sub (or hero, depending on where you hail from) wouldn’t taste right made with a sweeter pepper.

Raw, though, they’re not everyone’s favorite. Put them on a crudité platter and they’ll be left behind while the other veggies are consumed. Even red peppers aren’t that popular; I don’t know why. Red peppers are certainly tastier raw than green ones.

There seems to be a prevailing notion that all colored peppers start out life as green ones and that their color depends on when they’re picked. ‘Tain’t so. All immature peppers start out green, but different cultivars turn to red, orange, or yellow when they ripen. The red are the sweetest of the lot; and for taste, are my favorite. I find orange and yellow peppers to have a somewhat medicinal flavor. Other folks feel there’s little taste difference among the three, and use them interchangeably.

For roasted pepper strips, I like red peppers. For something like a stir-fry or a mixed grill, where the flavors will be mingled with other ingredients, a mix of the different colors is striking and will liven up the appearance of a dish. Unless you consciously make an effort, though, any differences in flavor you try to discern will be virtually undetectable. You might want to line up one of each and do a raw taste test. If you don’t taste any difference, use whatever you have. If you do, choose accordingly.

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