Lately, chile 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 chile 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, from stir fries, stuffed peppers, pickled, and eaten fresh.
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 harvestable 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!
California Wonder is a classic bell pepper with a mild and sweet flavor.
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—very productive plants.
Golden California Wonder
Golden Cal Wonder is similar to California Wonder but with a vibrant golden color.
Similar to California Wonder, only this cultivar produces glowing yellow sweet peppers. These bell peppers are thick-walled, crisp, and flavorful.
Orange Sun is a bright and zesty pepper with a sweet and citrusy taste.
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 orange hue.
Purple Beauty is a striking purple pepper with a mild and slightly sweet flavor.
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.
Jungle Parrot is a colorful pepper that combines green, yellow, and red hues with a medium heat level.
This variety gets its name from the beak-like point at the blossom end of this red bell pepper. Plants are small and compact and perfect for growing in containers on a deck or patio.
Peppers are sweet and delicious when eaten fresh.
Candy Apple Hybrid
Candy Apple Hybrid is a sweet and crunchy pepper with a taste reminiscent of candy apples.
Early maturing bell pepper ready to pick in about 70 days from transplant. Plants produce large 5-inch long bell peppers that are deep red and sugary sweet.
Excellent when eaten fresh in salads or roasted on an open flame to produce roasted red peppers.
Carnival Blend Hybrid
Carnival Blend Hybrid is a mix of colorful peppers that offers a delightful range of flavors, from sweet to mildly spicy.
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!
Great Stuff Hybrid
Great Stuff Hybrid is a versatile pepper with a thick flesh, perfect for stuffing and grilling.
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.
Emerald Giant is a large and vibrant green pepper with a crisp texture and a mild taste.
This variety was bred at the USDA and introduced in 1963. It produces large green bell peppers over a long period which makes it a great choice for growers in the South with longer seasons.
Bull Nose Bell
Bull Nose Bell is a traditional heirloom pepper with a bold and robust flavor.
Thomas Jefferson recorded Bull Nose Bell peppers in his garden calendar at Monticello. Productive plants produce crisp fruits that ripen from green to red with an excellent flavor. These can begin producing in as little as 55 days.
Buran is a variety with a tangy and slightly spicy taste, commonly used in pickling.
This Polish pepper forms on compact plants that grow to about 2 feet tall. These peppers are sweet when harvested green but can be left to ripen and turn red for even sweeter peppers. This variety does well in dry areas.
Chocolate Beauty is a rich and sweet pepper with a deep chocolate-colored skin.
These 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. A very productive variety.
Garden Sunshine is a yellow pepper that brings a bright and sunny flavor to 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 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.
King of The North
King of The North is a cold-hardy pepper variety known for its ability to thrive in cooler climates.
This is the best red bell pepper for Northern gardeners since it does exceptionally well in cool and short growing seasons. These blocky red peppers are sweet and ready to harvest in 70 days.
Napoleon Sweet is a sweet and juicy pepper with thick walls, ideal for fresh eating.
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 are best used when green or just beginning to turn red.
Quadrato Asti Giallo
Quadrato Asti Giallo is an Italian pepper with a distinctive square shape, offering a mild and fruity flavor.
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.
Quadrato Asti Giallo is an Italian pepper with a distinctive square shape, offering a mild and fruity flavor.
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 are harvestable in just 60 days from transplant, which makes them a great choice for short-season growers.
Wisconsin Lakes is a locally adapted pepper that flourishes in Wisconsin’s climate, known for its crisp texture and medium heat.
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.
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.
Golden Marconi is a long, slender pepper with a sweet, fruity flavor and a beautiful golden color.
This traditional Italian sweet pepper has a remarkable flavor. They can be eaten in the early stage while they are still green or left to fully ripen and turn golden yellow and even sweeter. They are delicious fresh, but even more so when roasted.
Jimmy Nardello is an Italian heirloom pepper with a thin skin, a sweet taste, and a hint of smokiness when cooked.
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.
Sweet Banana is a popular pepper variety with a mild and sweet flavor, resembling the shape of a banana.
This is the classic, long, yellow sweet pepper that you often find pickled. It is also deliciously sweet when eaten fresh and adds a great flavor when used in cooked dishes.
Big Daddy Hybrid
Big Daddy Hybrid is a large-sized pepper with thick walls, perfect for stuffing, grilling, or using in salads.
This variety produces large 8-10 inch long Marconi peppers that are golden-yellow. The peppers are thick-walled, crispy, and sweet.
Long Tall Sally
Long Tall Sally is a slim and elongated pepper variety with a mild to medium heat level, great for roasting.
These plants produce thin-walled, glossy, light green, 8-inch cubanelle-style peppers. Perfect for blistering in a pan or pickling. Early maturing in just 60 days from transplant.
Thunderbolt Hybrid is a high-yielding pepper variety that produces large, blocky fruits with a sweet and crisp taste.
These extra-large Marconi peppers can grow up to 13 inches long. Peppers will 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.
PeppiGrande Hybrid is a versatile pepper with a long and tapered shape, offering a mild and sweet flavor.
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!
They will need to be grown away from other peppers in your garden to achieve a 100% seedless result.
Costa Rican Sweet Hybrid
Costa Rican Sweet Hybrid is a tropical pepper variety with a sweet and fruity flavor.
This 6-inch long red Marconi-type pepper is best picked when fully red. Plants are compact and container friendly.
Golden Treasure is a small, golden pepper with a sweet taste and a crispy texture, ideal for snacking.
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.
Italia is a large and elongated pepper variety with a thick flesh and a sweet flavor, often used in Mediterranean dishes.
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.
Marconi Red is a red version of the Marconi pepper, characterized by its long, curved shape and a sweet and tangy taste.
Another Italian variety that produces large 12-inch long red fruits. The plants are prolific, and the peppers are perfect for fresh eating or frying.
Shishito is a popular Japanese pepper variety known for its wrinkled appearance, mild heat, and slightly smoky flavor.
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 when they turn red. 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. Perfect for frying and pickling.
Tequila Sunrise is a colorful pepper variety, offering a sweet and tangy taste.
This variety is sometimes grown as an ornamental pepper, but they are 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.
Tolli’s Sweet Italian
Tolli’s Sweet Italian is a sweet Italian pepper with a blocky shape, thick walls, and a rich flavor.
This sweet Italian variety produces 5-inch-long scarlet red peppers. It is great for fresh eating, frying, and even canning. It can be added to salsas and tomato sauces or used for making your sweet paprika.
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 is a variety to choose from!
Mocha Swirl Hybrid
Mocha Swirl Hybrid is a visually stunning pepper with swirls of dark and light colors, offering a sweet and tangy flavor.
These striped peppers started green with white stripes and slowly turn red with brown stripes. The 4-inch fruits form on compact and bushy plants that are perfect for containers on a deck or patio.
Confetti Hybrid is a vibrant mix of small, colorful peppers that adds a pop of flavor and visual appeal to dishes.
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.
Slovana is a specific sweet pepper variety with a thin skin, sweet taste, and a touch of heat.
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.
Nibbler Hybrid is a petite snacking pepper that is perfect for enjoying raw, with a sweet and crunchy texture.
These exceptionally sweet snacking peppers are mature when they reach about 4 inches long. Plants produce red and yellow seedless peppers.
This means you can bite right into them without worrying about the seeds! 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.
Tangerine Dream is a pepper with a bright orange color, delivering a sweet and citrusy flavor.
This small bush only reaches a height of about 18 inches which makes it a great option for a container, grow bag, or other small space. The 3-inch fruits are sweet with a hint of heat and turn orange-red when fully ripe.
Healthy is a pepper variety bred specifically for its high vitamin and nutrient content, promoting a healthy diet.
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.
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 perfect 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
Sweet Stuff Hybrid is a bell pepper variety that is ideal for stuffing, offering a sweet and flavorful taste.
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.
Cherry Stuffer Hybrid
Cherry Stuffer Hybrid is a small-sized pepper that is perfect for stuffing and has a sweet and juicy flavor.
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.
Miniature Chocolate Bell
Miniature Chocolate Bell is a tiny bell pepper with a rich chocolate-brown color and a sweet taste.
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
Miniature Red Bell is a small-sized red bell pepper with a crisp texture and a sweet and slightly tangy flavor.
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.
Miniature Yellow Bell
Miniature Yellow Bell is a petite yellow bell pepper that delivers a sweet and mellow taste.
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.
Sheepnose Pimento is a unique heirloom pepper with a distinctive shape resembling a sheep’s nose.
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).
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.
Chervena Chushka is a Bulgarian pepper variety known for its bright red color, thick flesh, and sweet taste.
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.
Feher Ozon Paprika
Feher Ozon Paprika is a Hungarian pepper variety that ripens to a creamy white color.
This variety originated in Hungary and is known as an excellent paprika pepper. Extremely productive plants produce 4-5 inch long fruits with sweet flesh. Peppers start yellow-green and slowly turn orange and then red when fully mature.
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 seeds! Keep in mind that each of these peppers will typically perform best in warmer climates, and performance may vary depending on your local microclimate.