So you just got home from work, the kids are hungry, and you’ve got a recipe that you’re ready to whip up for dinner. As you scan the ingredient list, your stomach drops. You forgot to pick up your bell peppers on the way home from work!
I’m sure we’ve all been in this exact same scenario at one time or another. As tempting as it may be to throw in the towel and order take-out, don’t let a lack of peppers deter you from creating a delicious meal!
In this article, we’re going to outline the best substitutions for bell peppers for everything ranging from fajitas fillings, pizza toppings, dipping in hummus, and even for stuffed peppers.
So, what are the best substitutes for bell peppers? The best substitutes for bell peppers will depend on the recipe. Think about whether you need a substitute for flavor, texture, or the integrity of the dish and find a replacement that fills this role.
Once you’ve figured out how the peppers are being used you can pick vegetables that have similar tastes, structures, or textures so that you can become a food substitution wizard!
Stick with us to learn more about what foods make for the best bell pepper alternatives.
How to Substitute Peppers in Fajitas
There’s nothing quite as delicious as a sizzling, flavor-packed fajita that you get to build yourself.
While the most common fillings for fajitas are onions and bell peppers of all colors, there are lots of different vegetables you can use to replicate the delicious taste and texture of a sweet pepper!
Maybe you love bell peppers, but you’re looking for something a little more adventurous to fill your fajitas and wake up your taste buds. The following options might be perfect for you.
1. Anaheim Peppers
These long, green peppers are relatively mild in terms of heat, but provide more of a punch than your standard bell pepper, which probably never took karate lessons.
When it comes to measuring pepper spiciness, we use something called the Scoville Scale, with each pepper ranking differently depending on its heat level.
While bell peppers measure between 0-100 on the Scoville Scale, Anaheim peppers have a rating of 500-1,500 SHU, making them a slightly spicier option for your fajita that won’t blow out your taste buds or have you reaching for the milk.
2. Banana Peppers
A beautiful light yellow color, banana peppers are a sweet and spicy choice.
Some varieties are going to be a little sweeter, while the spicy ones can pack quite a punch, so make sure you read the label at the store!
Their Scoville rating is about a 500, so not too bad for those sensitive to heat.
3. Poblano Peppers
These deep green peppers are one of the spicier options here, ranking about 2,000 on the Scoville scale.
Of course, if you really want something to amp up the heat factor, we’ve got an article on the best habanero hot sauces waiting for you.
Substitutes for a Non-Traditional Twist
Check out this section if you don’t enjoy bell peppers, don’t have any on hand, or just want some inspiration on how to you can be more creative with your tried-and-true fajita recipe!
Like peppers, there are many varieties of mushrooms available, all of which have great textures and can soak up flavors well.
These characteristics make mushrooms a great substitute option for bell peppers in fajitas. Common options include portabellos or creminis. They add a lovely bit of earthiness and umami flavor to your fajitas.
If you want to get adventurous, enoki, oyster, or shiitake mushrooms are a great option too! Don’t be afraid to get creative and pick up something you’ve never tried before.
2. Green Beans
Green beans have a mild flavor, but can give a really nice crunch to a dish like fajitas. They also taste amazing when they’re a little charred and roasted, which makes them a perfect substitute.
You may not be familiar with this option, but jicama is a potato-like root vegetable with a brown peel and a really mild, crunchy interior.
They don’t have a ton of flavor, so they’re a great vehicle for the different sauces, spices, and seasonings that you’ll add to your fajitas.
This summer squash has a delicate flavor and soft texture that tastes great when subjected to high heat cooking. It soaks up sauces and can add an interesting component to your dish.
The world falls into two camps: those who love broccoli and those who don’t. Many people are in the love category and enjoy the crunchy texture of cooked broccoli any way they can get it.
If you want a softer texture, cut the broccoli into small florets and blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes prior to using it in your fajita recipe.
6. Julienned Carrots or Sweet Potatoes
These orange root vegetables can add a great crunch and sweetness to your fajitas. I like to cook them with the onions, so they soften and get some caramelization.
7. Corn Kernels
For a pop of texture and sweetness, coat your corn on the cob with olive oil and some chili powder. Lightly grill or roast your corn and shave off the kernels. Add to your fajita and enjoy!
8. Sliced Eggplant
Using eggplant in place of bell peppers in your fajita is a great opportunity to play with marinading. Cut the ends off your eggplant, then slice it into thin strips.
Make a mix of lime juice, olive oil, chili powder, a little sugar, and some salt. Coat the eggplant and then use it as you would use your bell peppers in the recipe!
Substitutes for a Vegetable Dip Platter
One of the quickest and easiest snacks to enjoy during a busy day is your favorite dip, like hummus or baba ganoush, and sticks of bell peppers.
There are lots of options you can choose to use instead that will give you a good crunch and fill you up!
1. Carrot Sticks
These are a classic choice for dipping, as they offer a crisp crunch and sweet taste that complements most dips.
2. Broccoli or Cauliflower Florets
Their tree-like shape gives lots of space for dips to soak into, making them a perfect vehicle for snack time.
3. Snap Peas
The sweet flavor and satisfying “snap” of these peas make them a great go-to. They also have a lot of surface area, which means more dip per bite!
4. Jicama Sticks
You may have tried jicama cooked up in your fajita, but it’s just as good raw! It has a neutral flavor and high crunch factor – exactly what you want to let your dip sing.
While not as commonly used as a vehicle for hummus, fresh asparagus has a lovely sweetness and perfect texture to replace your bell peppers.
6. Cucumber Rounds
I like to use cucumbers when I’m feeling a little fancier because you can cut them into rounds, top them with some dip and a sprinkle of parsley, and it looks like you’ve made an elaborate low-calorie canapé.
7. Celery Sticks
If you’re on the go, you can actually stuff the center of your celery sticks with your hummus or dip and pop them into a container, making them a great one-handed, one-dish snack.
8. Endive or Radicchio Leaves
If you want to replace your bell peppers with a vegetable that has a bit more zing, endive and radicchio have a sharper, slightly bitter taste. That can make them a great balance for a creamy or rich dip!
Bonus: Any of the Above Veggies, but Pickled!
There is nothing like the satisfying sourness of a pickled veggie and many of the above choices make excellent choices for dipping. A couple of our favorites are pickled spicy asparagus or green beans and pickled carrots.
Substitutes for Stuffed Bell Peppers
Stuffed peppers are a great dinner choice because you can get creative with the fillings.
I love a simple combination of rice or quinoa with either ground beef, chicken, or lentils and fresh herbs such as cilantro and green onion. Add some chili powder to kick it up a notch!
Below are some delicious alternatives to try incorporating into your meal plans.
1. Poblano or Anaheim Peppers
As I mentioned above, these peppers make great substitutes if you’re looking for something with a little more spice.
The walls of these peppers also hold up well to stuffing, so they won’t fall apart on you. Poblanos are larger than anaheims and may be easier to fill.
2. Acorn Squash
Squashes of all varieties are lovely, but acorn squashes have a larger center, making them better to stuff with your fillings. They are sweet, like bell peppers, but are more substantial to help fill you up.
To prepare your squash for roasting, you will want to cut it in half, remove the seeds, and then coat it with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Place it cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast for about 20-30 minutes at 400°F. Once softened, you can add your filling and roast until heated through.
3. Loaded Russet or Sweet Potatoes
I love using these potatoes as vehicles for creative fillings. You will want to bake them first and scoop out some of the middle before stuffing.
Russet potatoes have a neutral flavor, while sweet potatoes are going to give more sweetness to the recipe.
Once roasted, eggplant has a deliciously creamy texture and its peel is great for holding in your fillings. Again, you may want to scoop out some of the center (maybe use it to make your own eggplant dip) before you fill it.
If you’re going to stuff tomatoes, make sure you remove all the seeds and liquid from the center first. They’ve got a great, sweet taste that compliments loads of fillings and they hold up well to being roasted and stuffed.
Like eggplants, zucchinis have a lovely soft texture once roasted, and a neutral taste, so they will soak up the flavor of whatever you fill them with. Make sure you cut them lengthwise and remove the seeds before filling.
This veggie might take a little more work, but cabbage rolls and stuffed cabbage leaves are a classic for a reason. You can get creative with your fillings or use a classic recipe.
You’re going to have to soften the leaves before peeling them off the cabbage and then roll the filling into a little parcel. Top with a sauce (I like a basic tomato sauce), some cheese, and bake until bubbling hot.
Substitutes for Bell Peppers on Pizza
There are few more classic pizza toppings than the green pepper. Let’s take a look at some substitution options.
This underrated leafy green is wonderful on pizza and adds a tangy herbaceous flavor that can cut through rich toppings like meats and cheeses.
I like to add it to the top of the pizza for the last 3-5 minutes of cooking so it doesn’t get too charred.
2. Any Spicy Pepper
The spicy pepper options available for your heat preference are virtually limitless. Some that we love for pizza are fresh jalapenos or pickled chili peppers.
If you want to try something new, see what options you can find in the produce section of your grocery store.
White or button mushrooms are the most common pizza mushrooms, but if you’re looking to substitute bell peppers, you likely want something with a little more flavor.
We suggest trying sliced portabello mushrooms marinated in some balsamic vinegar, basil, and a touch of sugar.
Let them sit in the marinade for a few minutes, then add them to the pizza. They will have a great texture and add a little sweetness to your creation.
Does the Color of Bell Peppers Make a Difference?
This question is common because it seems almost like each color of bell pepper would denote a different subspecies of pepper.
The interesting thing about the multi-colored peppers is that they are all the same variety! The only difference between them is that they are at different levels of ripeness.
The least-ripe is the green bell pepper. It hasn’t had time to mature on the vine and has the most bitter flavor of all the colors.
As the peppers ripen they change color, moving from green to yellow and orange. These varieties are slightly sweeter than the green ones.
Red peppers are ripest and have the sweetest flavor. That makes them great for pairing with spicy, salty, or sour dishes to help balance out the flavor profile of your dish.
What Seasonings and Foods Compliment Bell Peppers?
Sweet bell peppers pair well with so many foods to create endless meal options. Whether you’re using them for an extra crunch of texture or for a fresh and slightly sweet flavor, there are always other flavors to compliment them.
- Chili powder
- Paprika- try smoked paprika for an extra layer of flavor!
- Garlic powder
- Balsamic vinegar
- Goat cheese
- Buffalo mozzarella
- Ground beef
- Tofu- try smoked tofu for an extra kick!
- Basmati Rice
As you can see, there are lots of bell pepper substitutions that you can use in any recipe. Don’t be afraid to get creative in your kitchen. You can even try using more than one option at a time to jazz up your final creation.
Cooking is all about having fun and creating something new. While we’ve offered you lots of options to try, don’t let this list limit you!
If you see something interesting and think “maybe I could use this instead,” go for it! And then come back here and let us know in the comments how you used it and how it turned out.
Thanks for reading and happy cooking!