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Bell peppers happen to be a delicious addition to your recipes. In fact, there are several dishes based around this widely popular spice. However, you might be unable to use bell peppers in your cooking because of the unavailability of the ingredient in the market or maybe you are allergic to it. In that case, you will have to select a suitable bell pepper substitute.
The good news is that there are multiple alternatives available for bell pepper, and each one has its own taste and texture. So, you can whip up the finest delicacies even without bell peppers in your kitchen.
What does bell pepper taste like?
The other name for bell peppers is sweet peppers. Though the common notion is that they are a kind of vegetable, they are actually a fruit. In fact, bells are from the capsicum species. Bell peppers are the only type of capsicum that does not have capsaicin, which is the chemical that leads to the spiciness. Thus, bell peppers have earned the name ‘sweet peppers’ as they aren’t spicy, but sweet.
It is also important to mention in this regard that the taste of bell peppers tends to differ slightly due to their color. For instance, green bell peppers have a tinge of bitterness to their taste, which is why people prefer to use it in their cooking rather than eating it raw. On the other hand, yellow peppers have a sweet and fruity taste that makes them perfect for both cooking and eating plain. Orange peppers are less sweet than yellow peppers. Finally, there are red peppers that are the sweetest and juiciest of them all. Since these are fully ripened peppers, they are full of nutrition.
If you are not having the peppers plain with a vegetable dip, you can include it in a dish. A common and popular recipe is stuffing bell peppers with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and ground beef. You can also take a slice of bell pepper on the stovetop and break an egg inside it to make a nutritious and unique breakfast.
The best bell pepper substitutes in the kitchen
If you are unable to use bell peppers in the recipe for any reason, there are ten other options that you can try out.
Poblano peppers should be the first thing you choose when you are searching for a suitable bell pepper substitute. They have many similar features, like thick and meaty walls that retain the structure even after being completely cooked. They have big internal cavities that make them ideal to put stuffing inside while cooking, which is a popular way to use bell peppers.
However, poblanos do not have the kind of grassy taste that the green bell peppers offer. They are also not as sweet as red or yellow bell peppers. But these differences are not necessarily worrying because many of you would actually love these qualities in any case.
Poblano peppers are mildly spicy that most people can easily deal with. If you compare it with a red bell pepper, poblanos are spicier but they are milder than jalapenos. In the United States of America, these are not too difficult to find. In fact, many supermarkets keep them right next to the bell peppers.
Anaheim peppers have a bit of a peppery and fruity flavor, along with a delicious and crunchy texture when eaten raw. They become sweeter once you cook them. Gradually, they get a tangy and smoky undertone. A lot like those poblano peppers, their thick walls make them the perfect choice for stuffing.
Though Anaheim peppers are a lot spicier than bell peppers, they are not intolerable in their heat content. Even if you get the spiciest Anaheim, it will still be like a mild jalapeno. So, the heat of the ingredient will not be an issue.
Cubanelle peppers tend to be a bit crunchy, sweet, and contain very light heat. You can consider using them as pizza toppings, and in salads and casseroles. In fact, if you are making a mirepoix, dice up some cubanelle peppers and add them. Though it does not have as thick a wall as a bell pepper, you can still use it to stuff veggies, spices, and meat.
These peppers are midway between a poblano and a bell pepper in terms of spiciness. As such, they are milder than the former and hotter than the latter. You might find light green cubanelles in the market but they are just the ones that are yet to get completely ripened. It is better to go for cubanelle peppers if you are trying to steer clear of red bell pepper’s sweetness and green bell pepper’s grassiness.
If you want something that has more of a spice kick to it minus the sweetness, you can opt for jalapenos as bell pepper substitutes. In case you are someone who has low spice tolerance, you might not enjoy jalapenos too much because they have medium level of heat.
You will notice that the grassy flavors of jalapenos are the same as the green bell pepper when you can move past the spice. Apart from the heat quotient, the size is another major difference. Though it is not like you cannot stuff a big jalapeno, you will find poblanos more suitable for that purpose.
Fifth on this list is another pepper that is tangy, sweet, and mild. You can easily identify them from their bulbous shape, wrinkled skin, and yellowish-green shade. Though you can put stuffing in them, the walls do not hold up that well. Thus, Anaheim or poblano is a better bet for stuffing.
Also, keep in mind that pepperoncini and banana peppers look a lot similar. So, be careful when you shop as the latter tends to be a lot spicier.
Zucchini is the alternative that you can go for if you are okay with something that is a lot different in taste and looks. It is a good choice that goes for most dishes that can accommodate all colors of bell peppers. If you want a subtler flavor, you can include it in your dishes.
It is a versatile element that you can cook in almost any possible way you want. They taste amazing when you stuff them. Rather than putting an herbaceous and sweet taste to the food, it starts taking the flavors of other ingredients. It is also able to put some color to your stir-fries and add texture to all savory dishes, baked goodies, and casseroles.
Pimento or pimiento are heart-shaped and sweet in flavor and contain the same shade of red as ripe bell peppers. It is smaller than bell peppers. Thus, it is not the best fit for stuffing. But they are brilliantly sliced up and put in different dishes for flavors and colors, such as casseroles, chili beans, and stir-fries, or anywhere you need bell peppers for.
They are bought fresh but they are also found in jars. In case you select the preserved pimiento, you will not get the exact crunchy texture or vibrant color.
Many people complain about bell peppers that the texture gets slimy and soft after cooking. In case you are looking for healthy veggies that can hold their shape and feel crispy after cooking, broccoli might be a good idea. Being a member of the cabbage family, the vegetable can hold up well under high heat, such as stir-fries.
You can scatter a few florets in the baked dishes or blanch broccolis as a side dish. It has a slightly bitter, earthy taste that you would find similar to bell peppers.
Onions are a good idea as a bell pepper substitute, especially if you are planning to fry the peppers. The fried onions tend to taste sweeter, and they lose their typical taste to become more pepper-like. Onions will also get your dish the kind of crunch that is characteristic of bell peppers. However, there are different kinds of onions available in the market so it is important to know which one to choose for which dish.
- Pearl onions are good as a side dish and also as an addition to different recipes.
- Shallots come with a sweetened flavor and they are highly versatile. You can fry and roast the shallots to make them crunchier in taste.
- Red onions will add an intense kick to fresh salads and sauces.
- White onions are best to be had raw in tacos and salads.
- Yellow onions are the perfect balance between the sweet and red onions.
- Cipollini onions are good to be had with meat dishes and as side dishes
Even if you can find bell peppers in a supermarket near you, it is fun trying out a few alternatives in your dishes from time to time. It will jazz up your recipes more and give you a chance to experiment in your kitchen.