Are Peppers Fruits or Vegetables?

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Growing up, we are usually told that peppers and tomatoes are vegetables. Fruits, on the other hand, include apples, pears, peaches and other, sweeter foods that are mostly eaten fresh, as a snack.

But what would you say if a botanist asked you whether a pepper is a fruit or a vegetable? Today, you’ll have a clear answer to settle the disputes once and for all: Are peppers fruits or vegetables?

Bulgarian Carrot peppers on plant
Peppers growing on plant.

To a botanist…

Whether peppers are fruits or vegetables comes down to who you are hanging out with. Are you chatting with a trained botanist? If so, your definition will differ from that of the casual gardener or home cook.

In short, peppers are technically fruits from a botanical standpoint, as they are the seed-bearing fruiting body of a flowering plant. This same logic applies to tomatoes, eggplants, and many other foods typically thought of as vegetables.

Jalapeño pepper half ripe
“It’s a fruit,” said botanist Joe Schmo.

However, in the casual home kitchen, these foods are considered vegetables, mostly due to their historical use in cuisine.

To the rest of us…

Of course I’m not suggesting you go and start casually calling peppers and tomatoes ‘fruits.’ Just because they are technically fruits to a botanist doesn’t mean the rest of us have to call them that.

Peppers and tomatoes, although they are technically seed-bearing fruits, are vegetables when used in a culinary setting. They are distinguished from fruits simply through a historical use as veggies.

Hot pepper in hand
“It’s a vegetable,” said Sally Bobally.

You could say fruits are “sweet” and veggies are “savory,” but that is not always true, even in a culinary sense. Tomatoes have plenty of sugar, and even some peppers are full of sugars, especially when ripe.

The difference mainly comes down to how the crops are used in the kitchen. Vegetables are rarely eaten whole, being added as a chopped or prepared ingredient instead.

Fruits are commonly eaten whole or as a snack, and usually have a higher sugar content. Ultimately, whether you call peppers fruits or vegetables is up to you. Just try not to sound too condescending when you explain the facts to your friends.

To sum it up

  • Peppers are fruits (to a botanist)
  • Peppers are vegetables (to a cook)
  • Peppers are awesome (to us)

Read Next: How to grow peppers from seed

Calvin Thumbnail


One of the original Pepper Geeks! When Calvin isn’t gardening or learning more about peppers and botany, he might be traveling new places or playing some music.

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