Bell peppers are a tasty addition to your meals and there are many recipes based around this very much loved type of non-spicy pepper. However, if you’re unable to use bell peppers for whatever reason, you may be looking for an alternative.
There are many substitutes for bell peppers to choose from and each one has its own special taste, so it’s up to you to have fun experimenting in the kitchen and find the right substitute for bell peppers that works for you.
The best substitutes for bell peppers
When you want a substitute for bell pepper in a recipe, you should first look for other types of peppers that share similar characteristics. Sometimes, a good green bell pepper substitute can be just a red or yellow bell pepper, for example.
You may not like the bell pepper flavors as they are, but they can actually improve the taste of many recipes and make a delightful addition even to your tomato sauce, so it would be a waste to renounce it.
If you don’t have the bell peppers you need at hand or if you have a bell pepper allergy, good alternatives include not only other peppers but also other types of vegetables and spices.
1. Poblanos peppers
Poblano peppers are often considered the best alternative to bell peppers. They resemble a large bell pepper in both aspect and taste, with minor changes.
In fact, poblanos have a rich and earthy flavor that makes them a perfect substitute for green bell peppers but is less sweet than colored bell peppers. Many people prefer poblanos exactly for these characteristics.
Different from bell peppers, poblanos are slightly spicy, but it’s usually a heat that most people can handle without problems, as it’s way less than a jalapeno.
Poblanos have thick walls and large cavities just like their bell-shaped cousins, which makes them perfect for stuffing and therefore replicate well-known recipes that feature bell peppers.
They are gaining popularity, which makes it easier to find them in supermarkets, usually next to bell peppers.
2. Anaheim peppers
Like Poblanos, Anaheim peppers have thick walls which makes them perfect for stuffing, but also for roasting, as they’re crunchy just like bell peppers, but have a slightly fruity flavor.
This pepper is named after the city that made it popular, Anaheim in California. It is often referred to as the “California chili” even though it originates from New Mexico.
This kind of pepper is very versatile and featured in a large range of recipes. You will obtain more or less the same results you would get when using bell peppers.
In fact, the Anaheim pepper is a good red bell pepper substitute but it is spicier than the latter. However, its spiciness can be compared to an extremely mild jalapeno, so it shouldn’t be a problem for most people.
Jalapenos is where things get really spicy, in fact, they can be considered medium heat chilies.
Apart from the spiciness, however, they share many similarities with bell peppers, including the possibility of stuffing, provided that you have a large enough jalapeno.
Many people do not handle the heat of jalapenos that well, so if you want to tone down the spiciness, remember to remove pith and ribs before cooking them.
Contrary to popular belief, the seeds aren’t what make jalapenos spicy, so you can leave them.
4. Sichuan peppers
Some people suffer from bell pepper indigestion so they get nauseous or have a mild stomach ache after eating bell peppers, while others may be allergic to most types of peppers.
If you belong to one of these categories and you can handle the heat, Sichuan pepper can be the right solution for you. This Chinese pepper is described as the combination of black pepper and chili pepper, but it’s actually neither of those.
Its original name huājiāo means flower pepper and indeed this spice looks like flower seeds. It has been used in China for centuries, both in and outside the kitchen. In fact, it was used as a medical remedy for abdominal pain.
Sichuan pepper has a citrus-like flavor and provokes a tingling sensation due to its spiciness. It can be an interesting addition to your meal as it’s guaranteed to make it full of flavor.
Pimientos are large heart-shaped peppers that resemble red bell peppers in their sweet flavor, despite it being more aromatic and not at all spicy.
They’re not ideal for stuffing, but if you have a recipe that features a chopped bell pepper, the pimiento pepper is a perfect substitute.
They’re easily found in jars, while they may be harder to find fresh. Those sold in jars won’t have the same crunchy texture as the fresh ones, so when you can, do prefer fresh pimiento peppers.
Cubanelle peppers are a good substitute for red bell pepper and will make the happiness of those who despise the grassy flavor of green bell peppers.
They’re a perfect addition to your salad or as topping for your pizza, but they’re also excellent when sliced and added to your recipes.
Cubanelle peppers do not have particularly thick walls but can be stuffed with meat and other vegetables. They can be a little spicy, but definitely less than a poblano pepper.
When fully ripe, these peppers have a bright red color, while when they’re yet to ripe their shade goes from green to yellow.
Onions are a good replacement for bell peppers, especially if you need to fry the peppers. Fried onions will become sweeter, while at the same time losing some of the typical ‘onion flavor’, hence becoming very similar to bell peppers.
Onions will also give you that crunchy feeling of bell peppers and they always add flavor to every dish, so they’re hardly ever a bad choice.
Since there are different types of onions, you should know how to choose the right onion for your dish:
– Shallots have a sweet flavor when uncooked and are incredibly versatile: in fact, they can be fried and roasted, which would turn them into a crunchy addition to your meal
– Pearl onions can make their own side dish but are also excellent when added to any sauce
– Sweet onions don’t have a strong flavor, so they will enrich your recipe without overwhelming it
– Red onions are the onion-to-go if you’re looking to add a strong kick to your sauce or to a fresh salad
– Yellow onions are the ideal onions for those recipes that impose long cooking times and their flavor is a good balance between the red and the sweet onions
– White onions are best used raw, for example in your taco or salad. They’re the perfect addition to your Mexican dishes because they have an interesting flavor that doesn’t overpower the other ingredients
– Cipollini onions are for those who look for the umami taste in their dishes. They’re best when cooked and can stand alone as a side dish, but they’re also good with meat dishes.
8. Bok Choy
Bok Choy stems have a sweet and crunchy taste that resembles red bell peppers, so you can use them as a substitute for a large variety of recipes that require bell peppers, or you can also make a side dish of only bok choy.
This Chinese white cabbage is present in many Asian recipes. The dark green leaves are tender and have a bitter taste, so you should rip them off before cooking bok choy if you don’t fancy the bitterness. The white stalks are the crunchy part and can be chopped into small pieces.
Bok Choy can be cooked in many ways, including steaming, simmering, and braising in clay pots. It’s important not to overcook it because the stems can become mushy.
Add green onions, fresh ginger, or other sauces and aromatics to enhance the flavor of your side dish.
If you can’t use bell peppers, you don’t necessarily need to replace them with another type of pepper or vegetable. It’s not uncommon for people who don’t like bell peppers to avoid other types of pepper and even other vegetables such as onions.
When that’s the case, you can obviate the need for bell peppers by using more spices in your recipe. There are many spices to choose from that can give your dish a similar kick to those of bell peppers.
Some spices that can be good bell peppers substitutes include:
– Mustard powder
Of course, the spices won’t give you the crunchy texture that vegetables can provide, but you can always include some crunchy addition along with the spices.
The choice of the right spice is completely personal, so you should try recipes with the spices you love the most. Remember that experimenting is a fundamental part of cooking!
10. Bell peppers
Not all bell peppers taste the same. In fact, green bell peppers taste quite different from colored bell peppers, which are generally sweeter. Some people prefer the grassy and less sweet flavor of green bell peppers, while others can’t stand it.
If your problem with bell peppers is limited to a single variety of these peppers, you can simply try switching to another kind of bell pepper.
Usually, bell peppers that are not yet ripe are the green ones, then they slowly become colored as they ripe, turning into yellow, orange, and red peppers, which are featured in a large variety of recipes.
You can also fix the taste of bell peppers by adding spices and creating your own bell pepper seasoning to add to your sauce or as the finishing touch to your omelet.
How to choose a bell pepper substitute.
In order to get the best out of our recipes, the quality of the raw ingredients is fundamental. When it comes to peppers, we can usually judge a book by its cover, so it’s important to be careful when choosing our bell peppers replacement.
Take your time examining the peppers before making your choice. As it often happens with food, and especially with vegetables and meat, we need to study them from different points of view to understand their quality.
Here are some tips on choosing the best bell peppers substitutes and on how to store them properly:
– Peppers’ skin should be smooth, without wrinkles or spots, and glossy. Any other condition may indicate improper storage or non-fresh products.
– For the same reason, the stems should look healthy and green.
– They should be well-shaped and feel firm and consistent to the touch. Peppers that feel too soft or even spongy are definitely not fresh. Healthy peppers will also feel heavy.
– If you’re growing your own peppers, be aware that their sweetness or spiciness increases the longer they remain on the plant.
– When you’re not using them, store your peppers in the fridge or in a dark and dry cabinet with a stable temperature so that it’s not too cold or hot. Remember that if you bought peppers in a jar, once it’s opened it is better to store them in the fridge in order to preserve them longer.
– Do not keep peppers in the same cabinet as fruits, because fruits release ethylene that will make vegetables rot quickly.
– How to know if your pepper is still good: touch their skin — if it feels smooth and firm, the pepper is still good.
– If you chopped too many peppers and you stored the leftovers, consume them quickly. Chopped peppers should be discarded after 3 days when not used.
– If you see mold, throw everything out, even if you bought them not long before. Do not try to remove the mold from the vegetable or to cook the part that isn’t affected. Mold can run really deep into foods and we can’t always see how deeply it has affected the pepper.
– Do not wait too long to consume your peppers: cook them within 4-5 days for the best results.