The most popular sweet pepper in the United States is the bell pepper, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the domestic pepper crop.
While chili peppers are primarily used in small amounts to season foods, sweet peppers are treated like a vegetable, and they can make a significant nutritional contribution to your diet. Here are some types of sweet pepper that you may find in the market.
Banana peppers: These mild yellow peppers, resembling bananas in shape and color, are available fresh or pickled in jars. It’s important to taste one before using it in a recipe because it looks like the hot pepper called Hungarian wax. Both banana and Hungarian wax peppers may be labeled “yellow wax” in stores, with no indication of their heat level.
Bell peppers: With three to four lobes, these sweet bell-shaped peppers can be green, red, yellow, orange, purple, or brown (known as chocolate peppers), depending on the variety and the stage of ripeness. Most are picked and sold in the mature green stage—fully developed, but not ripe. As they ripen on the vine, most bell peppers turn red and become sweeter. Bell peppers have no “bite” at all because they contain a recessive gene that eliminates capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their hotness. Instead, they have a mild tang and a crunchy texture that makes them suitable for eating raw. Their size, shape, and firmness also allow them to be stuffed whole and baked.
Cubanelle peppers: This long, tapered pepper, about 4 inches long, is either light green or yellow. Occasionally, you will find fully mature cubanelles, which are red. Cubanelles are more flavorful than bell peppers and are perfect for sautéing.
Italian frying peppers: This is a marketplace name for cubanelles and sometimes for banana peppers.
Mexi-Bells: These are a cross between a bell pepper and a chili pepper. They look like small bell peppers, but have a hotter bite.
Pimiento peppers: Large and rather heart-shaped, pimientos (sometimes spelled “pimentos”) are generally sold in jars, but every so often you can find them fresh—fully ripe and red—in specialty food markets. These sweet peppers are mild yet flavorful; their thick, meaty flesh makes them good candidates for roasting. In fact, the pimientos sold in jars are usually roasted and peeled. Large red bell peppers are sometimes packaged as pimientos. You can tell the difference by the shade of red. True pimientos will have an orange cast, while bells are bright red.