12 of Our Favorite Pepper Varieties (Sweet, Bell, and Chili Peppers)
One of the great joys of gardening is getting to try out new-to-you varieties that you won’t find at your local grocery store. Purple bell peppers, sweet banana peppers, red-hot Thai chili peppers—with well over one hundred different varieties of peppers at Seeds ‘N Such, the opportunities for your salsa garden are endless.
Even if you’re not a fan of hot peppers, we know you’ll love these flavorful sweet peppers. And after you see how beautiful some of these chili peppers are, you might even consider growing a few plants as ornamentals, if nothing else.
We love these pepper varieties for their productivity, superior taste, disease resistance, and ease of growing. Once you’ve made your selections, be sure to check out this post for our best tips on starting peppers from seed.
These featured varieties are the most popular with our customers and staff. We’ve grown (and eaten) quite a few peppers in our trials, and these cultivars are without a doubt the best-tasting peppers on the market. Enjoy this list of our favorite sweet, bell, and chili peppers!
Peppers are generally categorized as either hot or sweet, based on their flavor profile. Bell peppers fall under the sweet category—even if the peppers aren’t necessarily sweet, the distinguishing factor is that they are not spicy like chili peppers. Other types of sweet peppers include mini peppers and banana peppers.
Beautiful bell peppers
Bell peppers are the classic garden favorite—they are easy to grow and quite flavorful. Widely cultivated to represent a diverse range of colors, bell peppers can be green, yellow, orange, red, white, purple, and even brown. Most bell peppers are bred to have thick walls and blocky fruits, as these are the types with the best storage, but you can also find thinner-skinned and more slender bell peppers as well.
Green bell peppers tend to be a little more bitter, yellow peppers are sweet and red peppers are the sweetest. All green peppers will eventually ripen to yellow or red—depending on the variety—if left on the vine.
This yellow bell pepper is one of our earliest, yielding a good-sized green pepper at 55 days and maturing to a glorious golden hue at 75 days. The thick-walled, blocky 3.5-inch fruits have a crisp crunch and subtle sweetness. Trailblazer is an ideal variety for stuffing or grilling. This hybrid variety boasts improved germination and some resistance to Bacterial Leaf Spot.
Formerly Known as ‘Fat ‘n Sassy,’ this beautiful early bell pepper certainly has a regal flair. The compact plants are one of our most productive, producing extra-large fruits in as little as 62 days. The glossy green peppers are super sweet, making them a favorite for kids and adults alike.
This Seeds ‘N Such exclusive is a real gem. A late bloomer that matures to its rich orange hue in 86 days, the large, sugary bells are worth the wait. A hybrid variety with a compact growth habit and excellent disease resistance, Goliath Sweet Orange is sure to become a staple in your garden.
Sweet snacking peppers
These sweet peppers may not be as popular as bell peppers or chili peppers but are certainly worth adding to your garden.
We bet you’ve never seen anything like this variety before. Framed by variegated foliage, glossy green three-inch bells give way to showy striped fruit that’s almost too cute to eat! But we assure you, these mini snacking peppers are as sweet as they come.
We’re obsessed with this All-America Selections winner—the tangerine-colored mini bells are unparalleled in terms of sweetness. The compact plants are harvestable in 65 days, and we love to use the three-inch fruits in salads.
Another All-America Selections winner, this productive hybrid variety has everything you love about sweet banana peppers, in a compact plant. The container-friendly, hardy plants produce beautiful, tapered fruits that mature from yellow to orange to red in 85 days.
You may also hear hot peppers called chiles, but these peppers fall into the same category and are defined by one characteristic—heat. Chiles are thought to have originated in Central and South America and Mexico. Over the years, cultures around the world have adopted hot peppers as an integral part of their cuisines and medicinal practices.
Chili peppers contain one critical compound that differentiates them from bell peppers—the chemical compound, capsaicin. Some sweet peppers have very small amounts of capsaicin, but the irritant is much more prevalent in hot peppers.
Capsaicin is concentrated in the inner ribs and seeds of hot peppers—so, if you want to dial down the heat, simply remove the ribs and seeds before using chilis. Cooking also tends to reduce the intensity of hot peppers.
Capsaicin has numerous health benefits—as an anti-inflammatory agent that has been linked to heart health, and the compound may also have anticancer and antimicrobial properties, according to WebMD.
The amount of capsaicin is measured in chilis via the Scoville scale.
The Scoville Scale
Hot peppers have varying levels of heat, so a metric was created to rank chili peppers based on perceived spiciness. The Smithsonian explains that this metric, called the Scoville scale, is based on a 1912 experiment by a pharmacist, Wilbur Scoville.
In the Scoville organoleptic test, Scoville dissolved dried chilis in alcohol and had people taste the solution. The solution was continually diluted until the tasters no longer identified the solution as “hot.” The degree to which each solution was diluted was labeled as Scoville heat units, or SHUs.
For example, a pepper that ranks at 5,000 SHU would have to be diluted 5,000 times to remove any taste of heat.
The spiciest chili peppers
Chilies are primarily known for their heat, but each variety has its own distinct flavor profile as well. Tastes can range from bright and citrusy to earthy and smoky, depending on the variety. Don’t hesitate to experiment with different hot peppers to find out what flavor notes you like best.
This fun blend comes to us from a pepper breeding program at New Mexico State University and contains a mix of the most sought-after cultivars: Lemon Spice, Orange Spice, and Pumpkin Spice. The green, yellow, orange and red peppers range from mildly hot to very hot, with Orange Spice taking the win for the most heat. The mix matures in about 65 days from transplanting, and the peppers make a colorful addition to salsas.
Another of our favorite jalapenos, Goliath can’t be beaten in terms of size or versatility. The four-inch-long fruits are excellent grilled, stuffed, or sliced, and their average heat makes it easy to customize recipes to fit your needs. Japenos rank between 2,500 and 5,000 SHUs on the Scoville scale.
This classic cayenne pepper is hot—perfect for recipes that require a fair amount of heat. The average cayenne pepper ranks between 30,000 and 50,000 SHUs on the Scoville scale. Slender, tapered fruits mature to a rich red color at 72 days. Cayenne Long Red Slim is an excellent variety to dry and grind into a fine powder for the spice rack.
The hottest pepper in the world has humble roots in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The Carolina Reaper claimed the Guinness Book of World Record’s lofty title of ‘Hottest Chilli Pepper’ in 2017 after testing revealed the average heat of the pepper to be 1,641,183 SHUs. Easily recognizable for its cherry-red fruits and wrinkled, warty skin, the Carolina Reaper is a type of ghost pepper.
Perfect peppers for pots
If you want to grow peppers but don’t have a ton of space, these compact plants are just perfect.
This jalapeno variety is an All-America Selections winner for its early maturity and gorgeous peppers with average heat. The uniform, three to four-inch tapered fruits are green at 48 days, and red at 65 days. The mounded and trailing growth habit makes Pot-a-Peno an ideal variety for containers and hanging baskets.
Taquito tops out at four inches tall, so it’s an ideal variety for containers and windowsill gardens. The upright fruits have medium heat, and even if you don’t harvest the peppers to eat, Taquito makes a fun houseplant! Peppers begin showing their true color after 105 days.
No matter what type of pepper you’re looking to grow, we have the perfect option for you. Sweet peppers come in a range of colors and sizes and are ideal for a variety of recipes. Hot peppers can be especially rewarding to grow, whether or not you make your own hot sauces and salsas. But be careful when handling chili peppers and remember that they can vary from barely-there heat to scorching hot!
The key is to understand your goals for growing peppers, and then do the research on the varieties that fit that description best. With proper care and attention, you’ll have a beautiful pepper garden bursting with color and flavor.