Served raw as crunchy crudités or cooked until sweet and tender, vibrant bell peppers are some of summer and fall’s most colorful and versatile gems. Read on to learn how to choose, prep, store and use them, thanks to tips from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen—plus find new ideas to add to your recipe box.
Bell Peppers: Everything You Need to Know
What to Look For
Regardless of what variety you choose, be sure to buy bell peppers that are firm, smooth and unblemished, with a shiny surface and a secure stem. They should be free of wrinkles and feel heavy for their size. Avoid any with bruises, soft spots or pocks.
Bell peppers may be green, yellow, orange, red, brown or even purple. Green peppers—typically the most inexpensive variety—are actually red bell peppers that have ben picked at an unripe stage, and therefore taste more vegetal and astringent in flavor. Red bell peppers, the more mature stage of green bell peppers, are sweeter and fruitier. Other bell pepper colors are separate varieties of peppers.
To prep bell peppers, cut the pepper in half at the equator or lengthwise. Using your hands or a knife, remove the stem. Then trim away the seeds and white membranes; remaining seeds can be rinsed away. Cut the pepper to the desired size and shape.
Refrigerate the vegetables as soon as you get them home, storing them loosely in a perforated plastic bag. Green peppers keep for at least one week; use red, yellow orange and purple peppers within five or six days.
Your Pepper Toolkit
- Nonstick Covered Fry Pan, to saute peppers without sticking
- Chef’s Knife, to slice and prep peppers easily
- Glass Mixing Bowls, for clean, organized prep work
- Stainless-Steel Tongs, for handling peppers when broiling or grilling
Peppers can be sliced and enjoyed raw in salads, diced and sauteed until silken in texture and even sweeter in flavor, roasted or grilling for antipasti platters and sandwiches, or baked whole and filled with savory stuffings.
Sausage & Peppers: Saute red onion slices and green and yellow bell pepper strips until softened and slightly browned. Meanwhile, grill sausages until well marked and cooked through. Slice sausages in half lengthwise. Place sausage halves on split rolls and top with onion and peppers. Serve with whole grain mustard.
Romesco: In a food processor, pulse roasted red bell peppers with minced garlic, toasted almonds, sherry vinegar, seeded tomatoes, smoked paprika and salt until combined. With the motor running, drizzle in olive oil until the mixture forms a chunky puree. Serve alongside grilled steak and green onions.
Tricolor Pepper Salad: Toss strips of red, yellow and orange bell peppers with sherry vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mound the peppers on salad plates and sprinkle with chopped fresh basil, sliced Kalamata olives and crumbled feta. Serve as a starter or an accompaniment to grilled meat or fish.
Preserved Peppers: Toss red bell peppers with olive oil, salt and pepper. Broil or grill, turning occasionally, until charred all over. Let cool, then peel off charred skin. Cut each pepper into 4 pieces and remove seeds. Transfer to a glass jar and fill jar with chopped herbs, red pepper flakes and olive oil to cover. Use within 1 week.
Stuffed Peppers: Halve green bell peppers lengthwise and remove seeds. Toss with olive oil and salt and arrange cut side up in a baking dish. Combine cooked rice and black beans with sauteed onion and garlic, ground cumin, chili powder, chopped cilantro, sliced green onions and salt. Mound mixture in pepper halves. Cover and bake at 350°F until tender, about 1 hour. Remove foil, top with cheese and bake 15 minutes more.
Roasted Pepper Crostini: Toss orange bell peppers with olive oil, salt and pepper. Broil or grill, turning occasionally, until charred all over. Let cool, then peel off charred skin. Remove seeds and cut into strips. Spread goat cheese on crostini and top with pepper strips. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with flake salt.
This luscious Spanish soup is an excellent way to use up less-than-perfect peppers and tomatoes. Often eaten as a starter, the soup also makes an excellent vegetarian main dish when served with a salad and a wedge of good bread.
Piperade is a Basque saute of sweet onions and colorful peppers. Here, the mixture is topped with a soft poached egg and chopped parsley for a vibrant brunch dish. It can be just as satisfying for dinner, too—just serve with some crusty bread on the side.
In Italy, this deceptively simple but highly flavorful ribeye dish is called straccetti, meaning “little rags”—a reference to the thinness of the pounded meat slices and the unevenness of the edges. Topped with blistered sweet cherry peppers and fresh herbs, it makes a colorful and special main course.