Lately, chili peppers are getting all of the heat (pun intended) when it comes to their outspoken fan base and passionate purveyors of homegrown spice bombs. However, sweet peppers can be just as varied and interesting to grow and eat! And without the chemical compound capsaicin (which is responsible for the heat in chili peppers) you can fully enjoy the flavor of these sweet peppers.
There are many different types of sweet peppers, from bell peppers, Italian frying peppers, snacking peppers, stuffing peppers, and paprika peppers. With a wide range of colors and culinary uses beyond the standard bell peppers that you can find in the grocery store, you might consider giving some of these a try in your garden and on your plate.
Peppers originated in Mexico and Central and South America and were brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus. Their use and cultivation have since spread around the world. India is now the largest producer of dried red chili peppers, and paprika has its roots in Hungary and Eastern Europe. Because of their mild flavor, sweet peppers can be used in a variety of dishes.
Growing sweet peppers can take a little bit of technical garden knowledge. They do have specific growing requirements. Pepper plants prefer to grow in warm but not too hot conditions. In extreme heat, they can drop their flowers, and peppers will fail to form.
Likewise, the seeds prefer warm soil to germinate. Since most varieties are ready for harvest around 75-100 days, gardeners often choose to start seeds indoors rather than direct sow. A heat mat is recommended for seed starting to give you the most reliable germination rates by mimicking their preferred conditions.
The most recognizable of the sweet pepper varieties are bell peppers, which are also the most commonly available. Bell peppers are easy to grow in the garden, and abundantly available in the produce section of your grocery store, generally in either green, red, yellow, or orange. But there is so much more variety than those four colors among bell peppers!
We’ll discuss several of the bell pepper varieties out there, and hone in on those you can find seed packets for. These are perfect for stuffing and pickling. They are probably lacking the most capsaicin out of all the peppers we touch on here.
The California Wonder is for you if you’re looking for a standard and reliable bell pepper. One plant produces two colors of bell pepper. These peppers will start green and can be harvested young and eaten at this stage, or you can leave them on the plant to fully ripen and turn red. These are very productive plants.
The variety was developed in (you guessed it) California, in the early 1800s. Grower, C.C. Marse carefully cultivated bell peppers to create this awesome variety that offers varying levels of crunch and sweetness in the kitchen. It became a reliable and reputable variety in 1928.
Golden California Wonder
This is similar to California Wonder, only this cultivar produces glowing yellow sweet peppers. These bell peppers are thick-walled, crisp, and flavorful. Instead of green or red, they’re green or golden. The pepper turns yellow on the plant as it matures. Some even take on a light tinge of orange.
This variety has all the same applications as the last we discussed. It also rose to popularity in the early 1900s as a reliable, standard pepper. With 10 weeks between seed and pepper, you’re going to want to start these indoors and get them out into the warm summer heat ASAP.
This variety produces large, premium quality orange bell peppers that can add color to your salads, fajitas, and kabobs, not to mention the color that it will add to your garden. Orange bell peppers also pack a punch when it comes to beta-carotene, which is what gives them their hue.
You can leave your less mature, green peppers on the plant, or pick them to add dimension to your pepper dishes with splashes of both orange and green. The thick walls of this pepper are sure to be perfect in higher heat situations, and in instances where you just need to eat a stuffed pepper.
These compact and sturdy plants produce purple bell peppers with a lime green interior. Purple colors do not hold up to cooking, so they are most stunning when eaten fresh! Their color can range from slight purple to a purple so dark it is almost black. These are some of my favorites!
Because the skin remains green, they make any fresh salad look appealing. The plants are compact, and perfect for container-growing. This is also an adaptable pepper that can handle a little more heat than others.
This variety gets its name from the beak-like point at the blossom end of the red bell pepper. Plants are small and compact and perfect for growing in containers on a deck or patio. These are sweet and delicious peppers when eaten fresh, but cooking them unlocks even more sweetness.
The plants don’t grow taller than 2.5 feet, and they would be perfect container plants. Companion plant them with your tomatoes in raised beds, or throw them in a grow bag with your salsa herbs. Better yet, grow them with your kids to spark their interest in gardening!
Candy Apple Hybrid
This early maturing bell pepper is ready to pick in about 70 days from transplant. Plants produce large 5-inch long bell peppers that are deep red and sugary sweet. They’re excellent when eaten fresh in salads or roasted on an open flame. The redness of the peppers increases as they mature on the plant.
While some bell pepper varieties get a bad wrap for being less-than-productive, you’ll have the opposite problem here. That’s why this one is great for those who love and eat a lot of bell peppers. Along the same lines, if you love to can and pickle your peppers, go for Candy Apple.
Carnival Blend Hybrid
This blend of bell pepper seeds contains plants that produce red, green, yellow, orange, purple, or ivory peppers. Choose this mix if you can’t bear to just choose one variety and want to be surprised! This is a great cultivar for those who can’t pick just one kind.
The seeds for this variety are a blend of California Wonder, Diamond, Golden California Wonder, Orange Sun, and Purple Beauty. You’ll produce tons of mini bell peppers that are packed with flavor for any occasion when you grow these.
Great Stuff Hybrid
This variety produces very large peppers that grow up to 7 inches long and 5 inches wide! The peppers ripen from green to dark red. Plants are very productive and disease resistant. Their width and depth makes them excellent candidates for stuffing.
This is a mid-sized plant that can grow up to 2 feet tall and wide. It is suited to container-growing, and gardeners report it’s an early and prolific producer. Those growing in raised beds may want to provide some support from a tomato cage or stake, as the amount of peppers on the plant might require it.
This variety was bred at the USDA and introduced in 1963 to the general public. It produces large green bell peppers over a long period, which makes it a great choice for growers in the South with longer seasons. It’s not as suited to container growing as the last couple of varieties we’ve mentioned, but it is just as productive.
You can expect juicy, substantial peppers that grow somewhat square. Use them raw in salads, chop them up for casseroles and sauces, or stuff them full of your favorite grains or protein. You will definitely enjoy the result of growing the seeds of Emerald Giant.
Bull Nose Bell
Thomas Jefferson recorded Bull Nose Bell peppers in his garden calendar at Monticello. These productive plants produce crisp fruits that ripen from green to red, and develop an excellent flavor. They can begin producing in as little as 55 days.
As an earlier producer, the plants are highly suited to those areas where spring and summer are short, and truncated by cold weather. Those in the south can get multiple harvests from these plants. Grow them in large containers or in beds where they can reach their full height, at around 3 feet.
This Polish pepper forms on compact plants that grow to about 2 feet tall. The peppers are sweet when harvested green but can be left to ripen and turn red for even sweeter peppers. The Bulan variety does well in dry areas, but it’s adapted to both arid and wet conditions.
The peppers that grow on this plant are about 4 inches long, and they take roughly 3 months to get to a harvest point. In cooler areas, gardeners should allow them to spend as much time as they need indoors away from cold. This is a great variety for temperate weather gardeners in that regard.
These heirloom bell peppers ripen from green to chocolate brown. They have a deep, sweet flavor when fully ripe but can also be harvested green for that fresh green bell pepper flavor. As a very productive variety, you can expect lots of peppers over the course of a season.
You won’t need to stake these as they grow, and you can grow them in containers. They’re resistant to tobacco mosaic virus, which means you don’t have to worry about the other nightshades in its vicinity. The texture of the peppers makes them excellent for fresh or cooked dishes.
These plants produce bell peppers that capture all of the colors of sunshine! The peppers start yellow, then slowly ripen to orange, and then finally turn red. They can be picked at any stage. However, they are best used when yellow or orange. This variety was developed and released in 1982 by UC Davis.
This is a dwarf pepper plant, growing no more than 16 inches tall. Therefore, pop these into containers, or in between your tomato plants for a combo harvest of all your favorite nightshades. Containers should be at least 3 gallons to adequately support Garden Sunshine pepper development.
King of The North
This is the best red bell pepper for Northern gardeners since it does exceptionally well in cool and short growing seasons. The blocky red peppers are sweet and ready to harvest in 70 days. The fruity notes it brings to dishes can be enjoyed in fresh and cooked formats.
Even though this is a particularly suitable pepper for those with cold spring and fall seasons, it can also handle intense heat. That means it will produce in the north and south regions of the US. The plants develop early, and continue to produce until it gets too cold.
These prolific plants bear fruit early and continue to produce right up until the first frost. The peppers start green but will ripen to red. They grow up to 8 inches long, and are best used when green, or as they’re just beginning to turn red.
Eat them fresh, stuff them, or saute them — whatever you do, you’re going to love them. This one is highly recommended by southern gardeners as a plant that will produce through the heat of the summer. It’s a reliable heirloom that has been in cultivation since the 1920s, so you know you can trust its capabilities.
Quadrato Asti Giallo
This large blocky bell pepper from Italy starts green and slowly ripens to a golden yellow. They have thick, crisp flesh and a deliciously sweet-spicy flavor. They can be harvested when either green or yellow for stuffing, cooking, or eating raw.
If you want large, substantial peppers that reach 6 inches long and 4.5 inches wide, Quadrato Asti Giallo is for you! The green coloring will sometimes remain in between lobes, giving your peppers a really cool look while they are on the plant, and in your kitchen.
This pepper, also known as Choco, starts green and ripens to a chocolate brown exterior, and when sliced, reveals a brick red interior. The peppers can be harvested in just 60 days from transplant, which makes them a great choice for short-season growers.
The pepper was introduced by the University of New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station. It was initially bred by Elwyn Meader in the 1960s. Meader was a famous botanist who developed over 50 varieties of popular annual veggies. Two of those were delicious and currently beloved peppers.
This red bell pepper was developed at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in the 1950s. It produces reliable yields of thick-walled red bell peppers. They can handle the cold weather that’s present in much of the Wisconsin spring. The early maturing peppers start out green, and slowly turn red on the vine.
You may have to prepare for just how productive these plants are, especially near the end of the season. Not only is it perfect for those near the Great Lakes, northern US gardeners can expect a good harvest as well.
Italian Frying Peppers
This group of sweet peppers is often referred to as Italian frying peppers. Not all of the varieties are Italian, but the Italian Marconi pepper is what popularized this category of sweet pepper and led to even more varieties.
In the grocery store, you may be able to find cubanelle or banana peppers that fall into this group. These peppers are great for fresh eating but even better when pan-fried in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. They’re perfect for roasting and grilling too, which brings out their sweetness.
This traditional Italian sweet pepper has a remarkable flavor. It can be eaten in the early stage while it’s still green, or left to fully ripen and turn golden yellow to get even sweeter. These peppers are delicious fresh, but even more so when roasted.
If you want to avoid potato virus, this is a great choice. You’ll have disease-free peppers within 90 days. The plant grows up to 3 feet tall, and 2 feet wide, making it good for container growing in larger pots and grow bags. Gardeners report a 100% germination rate from the Botanical Interests Golden Marconi seeds they grew.
The sweet and rich flavor of this pepper is said to taste like apples. Its unique flavor profile makes for a delicious addition to salsas. It is excellent for frying as well. These peppers are an heirloom from 1887, named after the gardener of the Nardello family, Jimmy.
The family emigrated to Connecticut from southern Italy at that time, and Jimmy was instilled with a love for gardening by his mother. Jimmy and his family cultivated the pepper, and he gave the seeds to the Seed Saver’s Exchange in 1983. Now we can all enjoy this carefully developed pepper.
This is the classic, long, yellow sweet pepper that you often find pickled, as this was the traditional way to enjoy them. It is also deliciously sweet when eaten fresh and adds a great flavor when used in cooked dishes. This is a Hungarian heirloom, brought to North America in 1941.
If you leave these on the plant beyond their pale green-yellow period, they’ll turn lightly orange. But don’t worry. They maintain their flavor even as they mature beyond the preferred coloring. 2 foot tall Sweet Banana pepper plants are great for interplanting, and for container-growing too.
Big Daddy Hybrid
This variety produces large 8 to 10 inch long Marconi peppers that are golden-yellow. The peppers are thick-walled and sweet. Their crisp makes them great for eating fresh, or enjoying lightly cooked. They are also perfect straight off the grill.
This is another small pepper plant that works well in a container garden, or tucked into small openings among tomatoes, cilantro, and nasturtium. The peppers start off green on the vine, and eventually mature to the lovely golden orange you see here.
Long Tall Sally
These plants produce thin-walled, glossy, light green, 8-inch cubanelle-style peppers. They’re perfect for blistering in a pan or for pickling. You can grill them or eat them fresh, too! The plant is an early-maturing variety that’s ready in just 60 days from transplant.
Northern gardeners can get a lot out of just one plant, but you do need lots of room for these. They can tower up to 4 feet each. This makes sense when you consider the size of the peppers. You’ll have tons of them until the first frost, so growing Long Tall Sally is worth the effort!
These extra-large Marconi peppers can grow up to 13 inches long. The peppers start green and ripen to red when they are ready to pick. This variety is resistant to tomato spotted wilt virus and tobacco mosaic virus.
This is another pepper that you may not have much luck with if you’re solely a container gardener. If you have an extra large container, you’ll likely get a good harvest! But the 4 foot tall plants do appreciate having lots of room to spread out.
This large red pepper is perfect for roasting. It is seedless, which is a con if you like to collect your pepper seeds for next season, but it’s a pro if you hate spending extra time in the kitchen de-seeding your peppers! Culinary gardeners who like to pickle will love this one.
They will need to be grown away from other peppers in your garden to achieve a 100% seedless result. Avoid cross pollination if at all possible. You can roast these for a delectable sweetness, or eat them whole as a snack.
Costa Rican Sweet Hybrid
This 6-inch long red Marconi-type pepper is best picked when fully red. The plants are compact and container friendly. But raised bed gardeners can glean just as much from these peppers. These are a little shorter, and wider than your typical Marconi, making them good for stuffing.
Grill them or roast them after harvesting too. You’ll only have to wait 9 weeks for these. They’re adapted to hot summers and mild ones, making it possible for all regions to grow a healthy crop. If you know you won’t be harvesting until later, give the pepper plant a little support so it doesn’t crack under the weight of the harvest.
This Italian variety produces 9-inch long golden yellow-orange peppers. They are excellent for frying, roasting, or fresh eating. They are sweet with medium-thick flesh and tender skin. These peppers are so beautiful, they’ve been included in floral arrangements.
Gardeners report tons of peppers at harvest time. Some have even had success growing them indoors with grow lights through winter. This, like other Marconi peppers, was probably brought to the US from Italy, and developed here for hardiness.
This is a corno-di-toro (“horn of the bull”) type of frying pepper. The curved tapered fruits mature from green to red when fully ripe. They have thin-walled flesh and taste very sweet. They are probably one of the first Italian pepper types to gain popularity in North America.
The peppers themselves are about 8 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. You can begin harvesting at 55 days when they are still green. In 75 days, they’ll turn their characteristic red color. It’s at this point their flavor is best.
Marconi red is another old and beloved Italian variety that produces large 12-inch long red fruits. The plants are prolific, and the peppers are perfect for fresh eating or frying. The flavor of the red peppers is sweet, and more peppery than orange and yellow Marconi types.
Those in tropical climates can expect that the plants will hold up to pest feeding. 2.5 foot tall plants can be grown in containers or in beds. The peppers themselves are amenable to stuffing as well as eaten fresh or fried.
These Japanese peppers form on compact and bushy plants. They are generally eaten when they are light green but can be left to fully ripen and turn red. When eaten green, they are crunchy and crisp. They lose some crispness as they redden. Blister them and eat them and you’ll fall in love.
The green peppers offer just a hint of spice, but when left to turn red, about 1 in 10 of these peppers can turn hot. Those with sensitivity to spice should stay on top of harvesting! Overall, Shishito is perfect for frying and pickling.
This variety is sometimes grown as a completely ornamental pepper, but it is also edible. Plants produce 5-inch long carrot-shaped yellow-orange peppers. They have a firm, crunchy flesh that is mildly peppery and great fried or eaten fresh.
Pop these guys into your garden in beds or large containers, and you’ll have 3 foot tall plants producing so many peppers before that first fall frost arrives. You may only have to wait 2 months for these too.
Tolli’s Sweet Italian
This sweet Italian variety produces 5-inch-long scarlet red peppers. Each one is great for fresh eating, frying, and even canning. Peppers can be added to salsas and tomato sauces, or used for making your sweet paprika.
The Seed Saver’s Exchange adopted this variety in 1979. It’s named by the cultivator, Phil Tolli. This is a dependable variety for those with long and short temperate seasons. You’re not going to be lacking in peppers with Tolli’s Sweet.
These peppers are generally handheld-sized and perfect for fresh eating. Mini bell peppers are now widely available in stores and make the perfect snack or addition to a crudité platter. Even in this slightly specialized category of peppers, there are multiple to choose from!
Whether they’re squat or long, you’re not going to want to miss out on these. They aren’t exclusive to snacking either. You can cook them up, blister them, stuff them, or slice them, and throw them on a kabob too.
Mocha Swirl Hybrid
These striped peppers start green with white stripes and slowly turn red with brown stripes. The result is tons of multicolored striped peppers that have a lovely flavor. The 4-inch fruits form on compact and bushy plants that are perfect for containers on a deck or patio.
This is definitely a plant for adding interest to your annual vegetable garden. The foliage of these 2 foot tall plants is variegated, mimicking the pattern of the fruit. The plants are able to tolerate heat, and cooler weather alike.
These petite 2 oz peppers form on plants that are just as beautiful as their fruits. The variegated foliage grows alongside peppers that start green-striped and slowly turn solid red when fully mature. These compact plants are ideal for containers or small spaces, and this is an early maturing variety ready to harvest in 55 days from transplant.
All of the above makes them great for first time gardeners, who want to grow cool-looking plants. They’re also great for kids! Watching them change color over the season is a great way to teach about concepts of how fruit develop and mature.
These highly prolific plants are compact and do well in containers. The peppers start light green and slowly ripen to a pale yellow. These peppers can get up to 6 inches long but can also be harvested small as snacking peppers.
The plants don’t reach much taller than 2 feet at most. If you leave the peppers on the plant longer, you’ll have a gorgeous orange hue added to the skin. In areas where the weather is subtropical or tropical, this pepper overwinters easily!
These exceptionally sweet snacking peppers are mature when they reach about 4 inches long. The plants produce red and yellow seedless peppers. They start green and turn either an orangey-yellow or deep crimson depending on which variety you grow.
You can bite right into them without worrying about the seeds! Like other seedless types, keep them well away from other peppers to avoid seed production via cross-pollination. It is not recommended to harvest these when they are green, as their flavor doesn’t develop until they begin to take on their final hue.
This small bush only reaches a height of about 18 inches which makes it a great option for a containers, grow bags, or other small spaces. The 3-inch fruits are sweet with a hint of heat and they turn orange-red when fully ripe.
The rocket shape should give you some indication of the flavor of this pepper. Expect some spice, and lots of sweetness from the clusters. You’re going to have lots to harvest too, as Tangerine Dream is a prolific producer.
These 4-inch-long fruits ripen from yellow-green to orange, and then red. This variety is resistant to disease and rotting. Peppers will ripen even with bouts of cloudy weather. This variety was developed at the Institute of Vegetable Breeding and Seed Production on the western edge of Moscow.
The plants are mid-sized, and grow to full maturity in about 9 to 10 weeks. They’ll top out at 30 inches, and can be grown in large containers. People in cooler weather and higher elevation report tons of success with the Healthy sweet pepper.
When you think of stuffed peppers, you may think of a pepper filled with ground meat, rice, and tomato sauce. This old standby recipe helped make these peppers popular.
Sure, you can stuff garden-variety bell peppers, but peppers in this category are usually round, wide, and stout, which makes them ideal for stuffing and standing upright in the oven. They’re also generally on the smaller side too. Cherry bells are the most popular in this category.
Sweet Stuff Hybrid
These peppers have a plump tomato-like shape and generally reach a size of 3 inches by 3 inches. Plenty of room inside for stuffing and roasting. This is another container-friendly variety with an excellent sweet flavor.
Expect plants that are no taller than 28 inches at full maturity. You’ll see peppers begin to develop, fruiting green and then turning red on the plant. You can harvest anywhere from 50 to 70 days, and the plant will produce early for short season gardeners.
Cherry Stuffer Hybrid
This hybrid variety is a take on the Cherry Bomb but without the heat. These plants produce 2-inch sweet, snacking peppers that can also be stuffed for the cutest and most delicious appetizer you’ve ever seen. They’re truly adorable.
Even though the peppers are small, the plants can grow to almost 3 feet tall. That means you should grow them in large containers or give them some space in beds. You can expect a huge harvest of these in about 10 to 11 weeks.
Miniature Chocolate Bell
This sweet mini bell pepper will turn a purplish brown when fully ripe and mature. The short, stocky 2-inch-long fruits are perfect for stuffing as finger food or appetizers.
They can also be eaten fresh and make lovely additions to summer salads. This variety made its first appearance in the garden of Lucina Cress during the 1980s. She saved seeds from the smallest fruits in her Ohio garden.
Miniature Red Bell
Another variety introduced by Lucina Cress, this pepper is similar in appearance and flavor to the above-mentioned Miniature Chocolate Bell, except red! Lucina stuffed these peppers with cabbage and canned them to sell at her church bazaar.
They’re not just for stuffing, though. They also make excellent snacking peppers! You can eat the seeds with no issue, and you can expect to harvest at 75 days. Although they’re typically ready in mid-summer, they can handle cooler climates than other peppers.
Miniature Yellow Bell
Again, this is another variety that comes from the Ohio garden of Lucina Cress. These plants produce mini yellow bell peppers that are small and round. They are great eaten fresh but are also delicious when pickled whole.
The tiny sweet bell peppers produced by this plant are 1 to 1.5 inches wide. They’re great for stuffing, yes, but also for snacking. Throw them in stir fries, casseroles, and sautes too. You can grow these bite-sized peppers in just 55 days!
This is another Ohio heirloom variety from the garden of Nick and Alice Rini, dating back to at least 1940. These tomato-shaped peppers are sweet with juicy and meaty flesh. They are good for canning, and will keep for an extended period in the refrigerator (though you’ll likely eat them right away).
In 70 days you’ll have tons of little red peppers to eat. You can grow these in cooler climates, or indoors over winter. They may take some time to get going, but they’ll produce until they’re exposed to frost. You won’t be mad about the wait, either!
Have you ever wondered where paprika comes from? Well, it’s just dehydrated and ground-up bell peppers! You could indeed use virtually any variety of bell pepper to make a product similar to paprika.
But the following varieties were specifically bred to be dehydrated and produce the perfectly sweet and slightly fruity paprika that seasons many Hungarian and Eastern European dishes.
Also known as Chervena Chujski, this Bulgarian pepper is traditionally used for roasting. However, its sugary sweet flesh makes it the perfect pepper for producing paprika. Fruits ripen from green to brown to bright red when fully mature.
The variety is not just loved for its flavor. It’s an early producer for short season growers. It’s also an heirloom that grows well in higher elevations and can produce a ton. Market gardeners and self-sufficient growers alike love this one.
Feher Ozon Paprika
This variety originated in Hungary and is known as an excellent paprika pepper. Extremely productive plants produce 4 to 5 inch long fruits with sweet flesh. Peppers start yellow-green and slowly turn orange, and then red when fully mature. They sometimes take on a pale yellow visage too!
The relatively compact plants top out at 2 feet, making them adaptable to both containers and beds. You may have to wait a little longer at 80 to 85 days, but it’s worth it. Each plant produces at least 12 peppers each. Consider this when you plant your seeds.
Now that you’ve looked at almost every type of sweet pepper you can imagine, the only thing left to do is to get out and start planting! Keep in mind that each of these peppers will typically perform best in warmer climates, and performance may vary depending on your local microclimate.
However, chances are you’re going to grow some delicious sweet peppers no matter which you choose.