A Banana Pepper Guide: Colors, Uses, Origins, and More


If you have ever had a Banana pepper, you know that they do not taste anything like bananas. Banana peppers are one of the sweetest, mildest peppers, and they make a great addition to almost any dish.

Banana peppers are mild, sweet yellow chili peppers that make excellent additions to sandwiches, pizza, salads, and much more. Banana peppers are among the mildest peppers out there, making them a perfect choice for anyone who loves the tangy taste of peppers but not the spice.

In this post, we’ll discuss the Scoville heat units, origins, and properties of these sweet peppers, and we’ll also reveal the best ways to grow your own Banana peppers at home. We’ll also cover some great ways to enjoy these peppers, so read on!

Photo of 3 yellowish green banana peppers against a white backdrop
Photo by Rahul Dsilva

Basic Facts About Banana Peppers

Banana peppers are medium-sized chili peppers with a mild, sweet taste. But you may know them better as Yellow Wax peppers or Banana chilis, named after their yellow, tapered shape with glossy skin that looks much like a banana. Although, Banana peppers are usually yellow, they can become red, green, or orange as they mature.

Banana peppers range from 0 to 500 on the Scoville scale, which makes them one of the mildest peppers around. This is why the Banana pepper is an excellent option for people who like the taste of peppers without the intense heat. They are most common in salads, on pizza, on sandwiches, and with meat and cheese.

Like all other chili peppers, Banana peppers are native to South America, although they are now grown worldwide.

Banana peppers are a smaller variety of peppers, usually measuring between 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cms) in length when fully mature. Generally, Banana peppers weigh one ounce (28.3 gms) per inch in length. For example, a 4-inch (10-cm) long Banana pepper usually weighs around 4 ounces (113 gms).

Where do Banana Peppers Come from?

Banana peppers are native to South America. Before Europeans colonized the continent, Banana peppers were just called ‘chili’ by the Native peoples. There was no specific name for Banana peppers at that time, but their yellow color and short size made them recognizable.

When Europeans came to North and South America, they tasted chilis, and they mistakenly called the new plants ‘peppers’ because they had the spicy taste of a black pepper or piper nigrum.

The colonizers brought back the peppers and spices to Europe and Europeans started to grow chili peppers such as banana peppers. Eventually, peppers became a prestige item that people traded all over the continent and around the world.

Banana peppers are grown worldwide, from India and China to South and North America and everywhere else in between. Banana peppers are easy to grow in any warm climate, making them a great plant for gardeners and farmers to maintain.

Why are they Called Banana Peppers?

Banana peppers are a smaller variety of peppers with a long, tapered shape (similar to a banana). They are often yellow, although they can turn red, orange, and green as they mature. Because of their shape and yellow color, they look like bananas, which is where the name comes from.

Banana peppers are one of the mildest of all chili peppers. Other peppers in the chili family include Bell, Cayenne, Jalapeño, Poblano, and Serrano peppers. Banana peppers have a sweet, peppery taste without packing much heat, which can make your eating experience nice and crunchy without burning your taste buds or tongue.

Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4) x
Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)

What do Banana Peppers Taste Like?

All Banana peppers start out as a light green color, but they often turn bright yellow or develop colorful streaks of orange or red as they mature and ripen. Since the color of Banana peppers changes as the pepper grows, each color can indicate a different flavor and heat level.

Yellow

Yellow Banana peppers are the mildest. When they first grow off the plant, most Banana peppers are bright yellow, which means that yellow Banana peppers are the most immature pepper form.

They are usually sweet but still have a distinct peppery taste. Their skin is generally thinner than green, orange, or red Banana peppers.

Green

As yellow Banana peppers mature, they often turn green. Green Banana peppers are slightly spicier than yellow versions, although they still have a sweet taste. Green Banana peppers tend to be larger than yellow ones, and they usually have a thicker, juicier flesh.

Orange

By the time a Banana pepper turns orange, it has accumulated a bit of spice. Orange Banana peppers also have thicker, juicier flesh than green and yellow Banana peppers, and they start to develop a hard crunch since the skin thickens as the pepper matures.

Red

Red Banana peppers are the fully ripe, mature version of the fruit, which also makes them the spiciest. They are usually a lot juicier than their green, yellow, and orange counterparts since they have had enough time to develop thicker flesh and skin than the younger varieties.

How Hot are Banana Peppers?

Banana peppers are one of the mildest peppers, and they are five times less spicy than Jalapeños. The pungency, or the pepper’s spiciness, is measured on a scale called the Scoville scale, which is based on the capsaicinoids present in the peppers, which are the chemical compounds that make peppers spicy.

Banana peppers have a Scoville heat unit score between 0 and 500, which makes them very mild. If you are curious about the Scoville heat units of some of the most popular peppers, check out this handy chart:

PepperScoville Heat Units (SHU)
Banana Peppers0 to 500 SHU
Pepperoncini100 to 500 SHU
Jalapeños2,000 to 8,000 SHU
Serranos5,000 to 15,000 SHU
Habaneros100,000 to 350,000 SHU
Carolina Reaper2,000,000 SHU

Are Pepperoncini and Banana Peppers the Same?

Pepperoncini and Banana peppers have many things in common, but they are not the same at all. Banana peppers and Pepperoncinis are both chili peppers, and they both have yellowish-green, waxy skin.

Both peppers are pretty mild, but Pepperoncinis are usually hotter than banana peppers, with an SHU between 100 and 500. Banana peppers can reach this heat level, but only green, red, and orange Banana peppers have Scoville heat units above 100.

Pepperoncinis also have a different shape than Banana peppers. While a Banana pepper has a long, slender figure, a Pepperoncini pepper is usually broader and shorter, and looks like a small Bell pepper. Pepperoncinis also have thicker and more wrinkly skins, while Banana peppers have smooth, thin skins.

Pepperoncinis and Banana peppers have a similar, sweet, tangy taste that causes many people to confuse the two. Still, Pepperoncini peppers usually have a little more of a bitter taste, and they are also much juicier than Banana peppers.

Can You Eat Banana Peppers Raw?

You can eat banana peppers raw, and they make a great, crunchy snack. Since Banana peppers are so mild, you can eat them raw without overwhelming your taste buds. You might want to consider pairing your raw Banana peppers with cheese and crackers or put them on top of your salads.

Raw Banana peppers add plenty of flavor to all kinds of dishes, and they can add a crunchy texture as well.

Are Banana Peppers Good for You?

Banana peppers are nutritious, and they can add a lot of great flavors to your dishes without adding too much spice to them.

Beyond the many uses of Banana peppers, they are also highly nutritious. Banana peppers contain plenty of fiber, but few calories, making them a great snack if you are trying to consume fewer calories. Banana peppers also have more vitamin C in them than the daily recommended amount, making them a great way to control blood pressure and boost your immune system.

Banana peppers can also speed up your metabolism, and they can help you with stomach problems such as ulcers and acid reflux. Banana peppers are also a fantastic source of vitamin B6, which helps with brain function and can help you sleep. They also contain a lot of potassium, calcium, and folate.

One of the most popular ways to eat Banana peppers is by pickling them. Pickled Banana peppers usually last much longer than fresh ones, and the pickling process adds a saltiness to the peppers that makes them perfect for salads, sandwiches, and pizza.

You can also eat raw Banana peppers for a fresher taste, and they are a popular additive in salsas, tacos, and dips. Banana peppers are also great for charcuterie boards or with cheese and crackers since they add an abundance of tangy taste without too much spice.

Banana peppers are also a great way to make a recipe that requires mild peppers. If you do not like spicy foods or are preparing a dish for children, Banana peppers are an excellent substitute for other more pungent peppers. They are a popular ingredient in marinades and other meat dishes since they add tons of flavor without adding too much spice.

Photo of many banana peppers to the left of a plastic chop board with a sliced up banana pepper on top of it
Photo by Norgal

What Can You do with Banana Peppers?

Banana peppers are a popular ingredient in sandwiches and pizza, but they are also delicious in Mexican dishes such as tacos, burritos, salsa, and enchiladas.

Banana peppers are an excellent salad topping and addition to charcuterie boards. These peppers are fantastic when pickled, especially because pickled Banana peppers can last for months in the fridge.

Banana peppers are also great for pepper jellies since they are sweet and relatively mild. They also make great stuffed peppers, especially when combined with onions and cheese. Banana peppers are also fantastic to add to your marinades and meat seasonings.

What are Good Substitutions for Banana Peppers?

Pepperoncinis are one of the best substitutions for Banana peppers since they also have a low spice level and have a similar sweet flavor. Pepperoncinis also come in a pickled form quite often, one of the most popular ways to eat Banana peppers.

Yellow Bell peppers are also an excellent substitute for Banana peppers, since they have a similar sweetness, skin thickness, and crunch.

Can You Eat Banana Pepper Plant Leaves?

Banana pepper leaves are safe to eat, and they contain more vitamins A and C than the pepper itself. Because Banana peppers, like all chili peppers, are part of the nightshade family (which includes eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes), you might want to boil or steam Banana pepper leaves before eating them. That way, the heat will break up the potentially poisonous agents in the leaves.

Still, pepper leaves only contain trace amounts of potentially toxic chemicals, so you should not be worried about eating them. Banana pepper leaves make great additions to salads, collard greens, spinach dips, and sandwiches. Pepper leaves also make wonderful wraps for tacos, tamales, and other dishes since they have a peppery taste.

Can You Eat Banana Pepper Seeds?

You can eat Banana pepper seeds, but they are often bitter tasting, so you might want to remove them before you eat your pepper. However, nothing bad will happen if you eat pepper seeds, and some people even enjoy their peppery, biting taste.

Are Banana Pepper Plants Easy to Grow? Where do They Grow Best?

Banana pepper plants are incredibly hearty, and they require little maintenance to grow well.

Since Banana peppers, like all chili pepper plants, naturally grow in warm, semi-tropical climates, they grow best in warmer weather. Banana peppers grow best in full sunlight, where the temperature is always higher than 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius). If Banana peppers get too cold, they will not produce as many peppers, and they may even die from the cold. If you live in a location that is often colder than 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius), you may need to grow your pepper plant indoors or in a greenhouse.

How Long do Banana Peppers Take to Grow?

It takes Banana peppers around 40 – 70 days to fully germinate, after which you can put them outside or transplant them. After you have transplanted your seedlings, it will be at least three months before your peppers are ready to harvest. Once a baby pepper forms on your plant, you can expect it to ripen within 60 or 70 days.

Are Banana Pepper Plants Annual or Perennial?

Banana pepper plants are perennial, although it takes a suitable climate to keep them alive throughout the winter. If you live in a warmer climate where the temperature rarely gets below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) in the cold months, your plant may be able to stay alive all year round.

Although Banana pepper plants can survive all year in warm temperatures, they are not productive during the winters. So, even if you can keep your pepper plant alive over the winter months, it will not produce peppers until summer.

What is the Best Time to Grow Banana Peppers?

Since Banana peppers produce their fruit during the hot summer months, you should start your seeds indoors during early spring. Generally, you should start your seeds in February so that they are ready to transplant by April if you love in the Northern Hemisphere.

Still, the time that you transplant your seedlings depends on the temperature outside. You can move your pepper plants outdoors as soon as the temperature rises above 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) at night.

Are Banana Pepper Plants Self-Pollinating?

Banana peppers are self-pollinating, which is one reason why they are so easy to grow. Self-pollinating plants do not require bees or other pollinators to fertilize their flowers. Since they pollinate themselves on their own, they produce more fruits than other plants, ensuring that you will get a large harvest every season.

Will Banana Peppers Ripen off the Plant? How Long Does it Take for Banana Peppers to Ripen?

Peppers continue to ripen when off of their stem, so you should not be worried if you have a bunch of unripe Banana peppers. Usually, it takes a few days to a couple of weeks for your pepper to ripen. There are a few ways to speed up the ripening process and using these methods will ensure that your peppers do not go bad or grow mold before they ripen.

One way to speed up the ripening process is to put your peppers on a windowsill where they can get plenty of sunlight. The sunlight will ripen the peppers over a couple of weeks, depending on how ripe your pepper is.

One of the fastest ways to ripen your peppers is to put them in a brown paper bag with an apple, tomato, banana, or other fruits. Your peppers should ripen within three days using this method. Still, you should make sure that you check on them daily to ensure that the tomato or apple does not become too ripe or spoil.

If your pepper is still attached to its branch or stem, you can hang it upside down, which will help it ripen quickly. The best option is to place your pepper in a window or other space with plenty of direct sunlight to ensure that it does not grow mold.

Can Banana Peppers Be Grown in Pots?

Banana pepper plants can be grown in pots or containers, but they still need plenty of space to grow. Your pepper plant’s pot or container should be at least 12 inches (30.5 cms) deep and 18 inches (46 cms) in diameter for the best results.

One of the best containers for pepper plants is a tote or grow bag since they allow the plant enough space to grow the roots it needs to produce peppers.

Can Banana Peppers be Grown Indoors?

With the right amount of care and cultivation, you can grow Banana pepper plants indoors. One of the most important factors when considering whether you want to grow your pepper plant indoors is sunlight exposure. Pepper plants should get eight or more hours of full sunlight every day.

To keep your plant at the correct moisture level, make sure that the container or pot that you plant it in has proper drainage. You should also water your pepper plant any time that the soil feels dry to the touch.

To test the soil, put your finger an inch (2.5 cms) into the soil. If the dirt feels dry and not moist, you should water your pepper plant. Make sure that you do not overwater your plant since Banana peppers grow best in moist soil but do not like muddy dirt.

Do Banana Pepper Plants Need Support Stakes or Cages?

Banana pepper plants do not need stakes or cages, but they can help the plant grow better and produce more peppers. Stakes and cages can also protect the plant from the wind, which can break and kill unsupported plants.

Supports can help your plant grow faster since the stakes will make it so that your plant does not have to grow stalks that are strong enough to stand up against the wind. Since plants with stakes and cages do not have to focus all their energy on developing solid stems and stalks, they can focus on growing more peppers.

How Much Sun do Banana Pepper Plants Need?

Banana pepper plants need full sun to grow and produce peppers. Full sun means that your pepper plant will need at least eight hours of sunlight a day, but 12 is the optimal amount of light exposure that your Banana pepper plant will need daily.

To ensure that your plant gets enough sun, you should place it in a spot with northern or southern exposure, which will ensure that it gets sun all day long.

How Big do Banana Pepper Plants Get?

Typically, Banana pepper plants will only grow to be 1 or 2 feet (30.5 or 61 cms) tall. Usually, Banana pepper plants grow better if they get plenty of direct sunlight, so if you want to help your pepper plant grow tall, you should place it in a spot with plenty of exposure to sunlight.

A bunch of banana peppers sitting in a small dark wooden bowl
Photo by Norgal

How Many Peppers Do You Get per Banana Pepper Plant?

If your plant grows well and gets as much sunlight as it needs, you can expect to get 25 to 30 pepper pods per plant per season. But if you prune your plant correctly, you might get more from a second harvest.

When to Harvest Banana Peppers

Banana peppers are usually ready to harvest as soon as they reach their full size, which is 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cms) long. You can harvest banana peppers at different points in their maturity to get either a hotter or milder pepper.

Usually, yellow Banana peppers are the mildest. Green is the next mildest stage in a Banana pepper’s maturity, and red and orange Banana peppers are the spiciest that a Banana pepper can get.

How to Pick Banana Peppers off the Plant When Harvesting

When you are harvesting Banana peppers, always pick them in the morning after the dew has dried off the plants. If you gather them while they are still covered in morning dew, you could spread pathogens to your pepper plant through the water, which could lead to your pepper plant getting a disease.

Hold the pepper in one hand, and then use your fingernail, gardening shears or knife to cut the stem right above the pepper. Generally, the pepper stems are not very tasty, and you will have to remove them from your pepper, so make sure that you pick off as little of the stem as possible when harvesting your fresh peppers.

How Long do Banana Peppers Stay Fresh?

Without any preservation, fresh Banana peppers will keep for one week in the fridge. However, there are many ways to increase Banana peppers’ shelf-lives, such as pickling, dehydrating, freezing, and making jelly out of them.

Usually, pickled or canned Banana peppers last up to four months. Frozen banana peppers can last up to six months without losing any of their taste and crunch.

What is the Best Way to Store Banana Peppers for Longevity?

The longest-lasting way to store Banana peppers is to dehydrate them. Dehydrated Banana peppers make great pepper flakes and dry kitchen spices.

Freezing Banana peppers is a great way to preserve the whole pepper without sacrificing any of its taste and texture. Pickling is another popular way to store Banana peppers since they last for months in the fridge.

Closing Thoughts

Banana peppers are one of the most versatile peppers out there, and they are a real people-pleaser with their sweet, tangy taste and low heat level.

Banana peppers are easy to grow, and they have many uses in the kitchen, making them an excellent pepper for all kinds of gardeners. Banana peppers are one of the most popular peppers globally and keeping them in your house is sure to be a rewarding experience.

Supriya

Hi! I'm Supriya. I'm a home cook, bulldog mom, spicy food lover, and founder of The Spicy Trio. I have been a home cook for about 15 years and have been growing plants for the past six years.

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