Most people think that color is the only difference between red, green, orange, and yellow bell peppers. We have even pondered that it may even be an evil ploy to sell more bell peppers. But, if you peel back the layers of the pepper, you will find that there are plenty of differences between the different colored bell peppers.
The difference between red, green, orange, and yellow bell peppers
Despite their varied color, from a scientific standpoint, all bell peppers originate from the same genus and species of plant, scientifically known as Capsicum annuum. The difference in color that you see in bell peppers is due the use of different cultivars. This means that cultivars, which is a fancy word for cultivated varieties are plants that have come from removing them from an existing plant rather than from seeds. So on any given bell pepper plant there may exist an array of colored peppers dependent upon many factors. The seed source of all the bell peppers are the same, which in this case is Capsicum annuum, but they have different characteristics depending upon the special variety of the plant.
The two major factors responsible for the difference in a bell pepper’s color is its time of harvesting and degree of ripening. Although it’s true that in most cases a green bell pepper usually matures into a yellow/orange bell pepper and then grows on to gain red color, but this is not always the case. However, it’s a fact that yellow, orange, and red bell peppers are always more ripe than green ones. This is why yellow, orange, and red bell peppers are costlier than green bell peppers, because they require more time in the ground before they can be harvested.
Therefore, it’s important to note that all of the bell peppers come from the same species of plant, and their different colors are achieved by following a natural process, not by any artificial method. However, apart from their unique colors, each differently colored bell pepper has a unique array of nutritional benefits.
1. Green bell pepper
Green bell peppers are picked before they have fully matured and therefore these peppers are often classified as “unripened” among all other peppers. Because they’re prematurely harvested, they have a slightly bitter flavor and will never have the sweet taste of their red, yellow and orange counterparts.
Despite being harvested at an immature stage, green bell peppers have several vital nutrients. This bell pepper has plenty of potassium, which is important for promoting muscle contraction apart from regulating blood pressure. Green bell pepper is also well-known to have vitamin C, which aids in the growth and repair of tissue, improves immunity, guards against infections, and helps in prevention of cancer. The vitamin A you get from this bell pepper enhances your lung function, improves your eyesight, and strengthens your immune system.
2. Red bell pepper
Red bell peppers are considered “fully ripened” or matured bell peppers, because they are picked at the later stages of maturity. They often have a sweet, almost fruity taste. While the nutrients in red bell peppers are same as that in green bell peppers, the quantity of nutrients is higher because these peppers get more time on the plant before harvesting.
In addition to other nutrients the red bell pepper has lycopene, which is an antioxidant pigment known for preventing certain types of cancer such as breast and prostate cancer. Nutrients such as zeaxanthin and lutein present in red bell pepper is known to help prevent cataracts and muscular degeneration. Red bell peppers also have eleven times more beta-carotene, one and a half times more vitamin C, and ten times more vitamin A than green bell peppers.
3. Yellow/Orange bell pepper
Orange and yellow peppers are harvested at the midpoint of maturity and therefore fall in between green and red bell peppers on the “ripeness” spectrum. These bell peppers lack the bitterness often associated with green peppers. Although they contain same type of nutrients as that in red and green bell pepper, their quantities are different.
The amount of nutrients in yellow/orange bell pepper are more than that in green peppers, but less than that found in red peppers. That’s because green peppers are less mature and red peppers are more mature than their yellow/orange pepper counterparts. The amount of vitamin C is nearly double in yellow/orange bell pepper when compared to green bell pepper. However, the quantity of beta-carotene and vitamin A is one-third as that of green bell pepper.
Bell peppers, like most other vegetables, retain highest nutritional value when they are consumed in raw form. And all bell peppers, of all colors, are suitable for raw consumption. Now that you know the difference between red, green, orange, and yellow bell peppers, it’s time for you to grab yourself some of these crunchy rainbow veggies and make them a vital part of your favorite dishes to get a proper nutritional boost. Did reading this change your color preference for bell peppers? Tell us about it in the comments!
17 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between Red, Yellow, and Green Bell Pepper?”
Thank you for so clearly differentiating between the members of this glorious genus and species. Your article was a valuable read. Just to clarify, are you saying that green peppers actually have more Vit A and more BETA-CAROTENE than yellow or orange peppers? Isn’t BETA-CAROTENE the yellow-orange pigment present in mostly yellow and orange vegetables, as opposed to green onesOr is it still present in high quantity in green vegetables before they ripen? Not trying to be cocky, just would like to know. Thanks a “bunch”!
I think this has to be a mistake in the article. It reads that a red pepper has eleven times the beta carotene of a green pepper, which has one-third the beta carotene of an orange pepper, yet they are all the same species picked at different times. I am no expert, but I have trouble believing that the beta carotene drops by a factor of three when a pepper turns orange, then increases by a factor of thirty-three when it turns red. Something is not right.
Not sure how I came across your site, but I was reading your explanation of the difference between peppers, and I felt the need to interject! I work for a seed company that breeds many types of sweet peppers, and I can tell you that yellow and orange peppers are every bit as mature as red peppers!!! They do not come from the same plants, and they are not some intermediate stage of ripeness between green and red. They are just different varieties that ripen into different colors. Here’s how it breaks down:
Virtually all bell peppers start out green. What color they become when fully ripe depends on the variety of the pepper – its genetics. Some varieties mature to yellow, some to red, and some to orange. On the way to maturity, peppers will fade from green into their final color, but a red-when-ripe pepper will NOT exhibit any yellow or orange color at any time (and vice versa)!
Farmers will harvest green peppers (immature reds, yellows, or oranges, it really doesn’t matter) for a quicker crop. They are generally ready about 20 days before full ripeness. If the farmer waits a few more weeks, though, she can get a much higher market price for reds, yellows, and oranges.
As for the differences, there is some information to be found on the varying nutrient content between greens, reds, oranges, and yellows. The bottom line is that they are all very healthy, but fully ripe peppers (all colors) will be richer in many nutrients than green peppers. But for the sake of cooking, it’s most important to know the differences in flavor:
Greens bring a cool, crisp, garden-fresh and, well, “peppery”, taste to a salad, They are somewhat bland when cooked, because they have not developed much sugar yet.
Reds are probably the sweetest overall, with rich pepper flavor, especially when roasted. This is likely due to the fact that they have been around the longest, and have thus breeders have been improving their flavor over many generations. Oranges are generally a tiny bit less sweet, but they make up for it with a distinct flowery taste and aroma – like the background flavor of an habanero pepper. It is a unique flavor that creative chefs really enjoy playing with. Yellows are usually pretty bland – not as sweet and without any added depth or intrigue like the reds and oranges. I skip them.
So I hope this clears things up. I would recommend visiting a local vegetable farm and seeing some different pepper varieties up close. And it’s always a great idea to get to know where your food comes from!
Thank you for this information! Greatly appreciated!
Beg to differ on your rating of sweetness /for the yellows! They are BY FAR the sweetest of all the peppers.the reds are sweet but have a different FLAVOUR to yellows,you’re missing out on just heavenly swee t ness in a salad without yellow peppers!
I always wondered if the different colored peppered had different nutritional value. Now I know. I put them all in my salads and have a very colorful dish to eat. I eat all my veggies raw 99.5% of the time and the rest are steamed (never in the microwave).
I am an avid cook and in fact have a healthy recipe blog. (www.mealsalone.com) I love red peppers and do not mind paying more for them. With that said I often use green peppers as well depending on what flavor profile I am going for in my recipes. Thank you for the informative article although I do tend to agree with the commenter that stated “yellow and orange peppers are every bit as mature as red peppers!!! They do not come from the same plants, and they are not some intermediate stage of ripeness between green and red. They are just different varieties that ripen into different colors. “
I just ate a yellow bell pepper with hummus and it was delicious and quite filling! I could see that this is a great vegetable to eat if you are trying to lose weight! I guess it is actually a fruit and not a vegetable.
I just heard the “garden editor” on WTOP news radio (I believe his name is Mike McGrath) announce that green peppers have “no nutritional value.” Clearly, he hasn’t done his homework!
Thanks for the article but I understood that green peppers were harvested too early and that they would eventually turn the colors like yellow, orange and red. It appears they have a stronger and more pungent taste as they also have some beneficial nutrients, however, if one doesn’t enjoy that taste over the sweetness of the yellow, red and orange peppers the green is less preferred. I probably would only include it at this point for the variety of color in the meals I prepare.
Very useful information,particularly from the point of view of the concentration of different enzymes/ pigment. I was under the wrong idea that the colour is due to the presence of a diifferent gene and not due to the aging.
I’ve been growing green bell peppers for years in my garden. There are obviously different varieties that have different colors once ripe. It doesn’t matter how long I wait for my green peppers to ripe, they stay green. If I let them hang too long, they’ll either rot or fall off the bush and rot….but they’ll still be green. Because they are green bell peppers.
If I bought a variety that is meant to change color upon ripeness that’s a different story. And you have to buy these particular varieties. Typically at the big box stores all they sell are the green varieties.
I enjoyed reading about the Bell peppers. We had a number of different colours (mostly Red and Yellow) for dinner and over some casual conversation decided on investigating the differences and the nutritional value of eating them ( we love them and eat the a lot– raw only) Thank you for explaining the differences and why the colors!
We grow a few bell peppers every year in our small garden. We select different varieties specifically for their different colors at maturity, but it’s true they all improve flavor-wise with full maturity. Thanks for the info about the added value of extra nutritional value of waiting for full maturity. Plus, it helps us learn patience.
Why do I get indigestion when I eat green peppers? I don’t from the other colors.
This article was very helpful. I had no idea about this different colors of the peppers. I always used the green peppers for spaghetti sauce because that”s what they did and that’s what I had learned to do. No one said the green peppers weren’t ripened yet. Thanks for your clarification. I will try all of the in different dishes and see what I come up with. Thank a lot.