two red bell peppers with a yellow bell pepper in between

Bell pepper spice level and Scoville (SHU)

Bell peppers are the most popular pepper in the United States and can be used in many dishes and recipes. They are a great way to add flavor, color, and crunch to any meal. While some may love their mild flavor, others crave the heat of hot peppers instead. While usually considered a mild pepper, this post will look at the different heat levels and characteristics of bell peppers, as well as provide some tips on how to make the most of the spice level you choose.

How spicy are bell peppers?

Bell peppers are known for being completely mild, without any hint of spiciness. They are one of the few peppers that you can feel completely confident sharing with children and people who are very sensitive to spice.

Rather than being spicy, bell peppers taste a little bit sweet and have light fruity notes. They are great to dice and saute in sauces and soups, char and grill, or sautee them. They can also be eaten raw as a veggie stick or dipped in a dressing, and provide a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals.

Do bell peppers have capsaicin? What is their SHU?

Capsaicin is a naturally occurring active component of chili peppers that gives them their characteristic heat and pungency. Bell peppers are unique because they are the only known pepper that has no capsaicin at all, which also means that they are 0 SHU on the Scoville scale. That means that they have no detectable spiciness to the human tongue.

While bell peppers are considered to be mild vegetables, they are still a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also contain a variety of phytonutrients, including lutein, beta-carotene, and quercetin, which is the pigment that gives them their bold and distinct color.

Are red bell pepper spicy?

Bell peppers commonly come in four different colors: green, orange, yellow, and red. The coloring depends on the maturity of the fruit, with green fruit ripening to a red, orange, or yellow color. None of the colors of bell peppers has any capsaicin, including red bell peppers, which means that they will have no detectable heat or spiciness.

Perhaps surprisingly, red bell peppers often taste the sweetest rather than spiciest because the fruit can become sweeter as it matures on the vine.

Why would a bell pepper taste spicy?

Bell peppers are not at all spicy — but if you have purchased a bell pepper trusting that it is mild, only to find that it is spicy, you are not alone, and your experience is valid!

The most likely explanation is that the pepper that you got looks like a bell pepper but is actually a different type of pepper in disguise. While heirloom bell peppers have zero capsaicin and therefore are not spicy, bell peppers that are hybrids crossed with another type of pepper may be slightly spicy, or you may have a lookalike on your hands. A couple of common types of hybrid bells that are at least slightly spicy include Mexibell and Cajun Belle peppers.

Bell pepper lookalikes

Sometimes peppers at the grocery store may be mislabeled, so you might find yourself with something other than a bell pepper that looks similar but packs some heat.

Poblanos are another very common pepper to find at the grocery store, and they can be mistaken for bell peppers or accidentally mislabeled as bell peppers. Rather than being large, round, and smooth, poblano peppers tend to be longer and narrower and may have a sharp peak at the bottom. They are sold when they are green and tend to be a darker green than most bell peppers. Poblanos are generally considered mild peppers, but they do have detectable heat levels, so they may be too spicy for children or people who are extremely sensitive to spicy food.

If you got a bell pepper that was extremely spicy, it might actually be a rocoto pepper. Rocoto peppers can be similar in appearance to bell peppers, but they are usually significantly smaller. They range from 30,000 – 100,000 SHU, which is very noticeably spicy, which would be a big surprise if you thought you were biting into a sweet bell. If you live in the US, it is unlikely that your regular grocery store would be selling rocoto peppers, but it is commonly used in Mexican, Central, and South American cuisines so you may find them in an international market.

In conclusion, bell peppers are unique in the fact that they are not at all spicy. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t bite into something thinking that it is a bell pepper, only to find that it is spicy!

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