How To Save Pepper Seeds

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When the growing season comes to an end and peppers are ripening, you may wonder how to save pepper seeds for next year. Saving pepper seeds is simple, and can save you some money if you want to grow the same pepper varieties each year.

Our pepper seed saving method is easy, but there are some important tips you should know about. In this article, I’ll explain how we save pepper seeds for growing next year.

How To Store Pepper Seeds

Watch Video:

In this article (skip ahead):


Choose Ripe Peppers

The first and most important step to saving pepper seeds is to choose fully ripened peppers. The reason for this is to ensure that the seeds inside are fully developed and mature.

Saving seeds from fully ripe peppers increases germination rates when you are planting them next season.

For example, if you are storing jalapeño seeds, you’ll want to choose a bright red pepper rather than a younger, green pepper. This is because red peppers are at the final stage of ripening.

How to know when peppers are fully ripe

A fully ripened pepper will almost always change color. Jalapeños turn from green to red when fully ripe. Green bell peppers will eventually turn orange, yellow or red (red bell peppers are in fact just fully ripened green bell peppers). Even banana peppers will eventually turn red.

Not all peppers turn red, for example, the lemon spice jalapeño pepper ripen to a bright yellow color.

Another characteristic of fully ripened peppers is a slightly softer texture. Under-ripe peppers are typically very firm. After ripening, the pepper’s flesh will soften, and a simple *squeeze* will not cause the peppers to crack.

Under-ripe peppers will usually make an audible cracking sound when squeezed. This is especially the case for thicker-skinned peppers, like jalapeños, bell peppers, and banana peppers.

Ripe Lemon Spice Jalapeno
Color change of ripe lemon spice jalapeno.

Tip: Avoid saving seeds from hybrid peppers, such as store bought peppers. Seeds from hybrids will not grow exactly true to the original pepper, so it is best to buy them fresh. Unless you are open to some variation in your plant size, shape, color, and flavor, only save seeds from heirlooms.

To put it simply, look for these signs that a pepper is fully ripe:

  • Change in color
  • Softer skin (when squeezed)
  • Easier to pick

Learn more about harvesting peppers here.


Remove The Seeds

The first step is to remove seeds from your peppers. Remember to wear gloves if you are dealing with hot peppers, even jalapeños! This will avoid the dreaded pepper skin burn.

How you remove the seeds is up to you, but I prefer to keep it simple. Slice the peppers open, and scrape out the seeds onto a ceramic or paper plate.

Tip: Don’t dry your seeds on a paper towel – the seeds will become stuck to the towel as they dry, making it difficult to remove them.

How to remove pepper seeds for storage

  1. Slice peppers open.

    Slice the peppers in half lengthwise to reveal the seeds. Alternatively, you can try cutting the bottom off and rolling the peppers to release the seeds.Habanero Sliced Lengthwise

  2. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon.

    Removing pepper seeds

  3. Clean up the seeds.

    Some pepper seeds will remain attached to the white pith inside the pepper. You can manually remove this to clean up the seeds, or leave it in place (it really doesn’t affect germination or storage if you leave it).Pepper Anatomy: Cross section of jalapeno pepper, showing seeds and placenta

  4. Spread seeds and allow to dry.

    Spread the seeds out evenly on a plate. Keep your seeds in a well-ventilated area for 5-7 days. You can also use a small fan for better airflow and faster drying.

Tip: Be organized! If you are saving seeds from multiple pepper varieties, be sure to dry them on separate, labeled containers to avoid mixing up seeds.


How To Dry Pepper Seeds

Allowing seeds to dry takes a while. Just keep them in a well-ventilated room. Airflow and dryness are key! Jostle the seeds around every day to make sure both sides of the seeds are getting dried out.

In a typical climate with around 40% humidity, seeds should be adequately dried within 1 week. If the humidity is higher where you live, you may need to wait a bit longer or provide some additional airflow with a fan.

How To Dry Pepper Seeds

Drying pepper seeds is as simple as allowing the seeds to sit for several days at room temperature. You can also use a dehydrator, but be sure that the temperature does not exceed 100°F.

Steps:

  • Spread pepper seeds out in an even layer on a plate
  • If humidity is hight, aim a small fan at the seeds
  • Jostle the seeds daily, careful not to mix up different seed varieties
  • Test for dryness after 7 days
Saving seeds from hot peppers
Pepper seeds drying for storage.

How do I know when pepper seeds are dry?

If you store your pepper seeds before they are properly dried, you may end up with mold growth or bacteria. This is bad news and can ruin your seeds or infect future plants. To make sure you have a fully dried pepper seed, use this simple method:

  • Break test – Test for dryness by breaking a seed in half, or cutting it with a knife. Properly dried pepper seeds should *crack* in half rather than squashing or bending. If they are not 100% firm, they are not yet dry enough to be stored.

Once they are properly dried out, you are ready to store your pepper seeds for several months (or even years!) until it is time to plant.


Save Seeds in a Sealed Container

When your pepper seeds are dried, they must be kept dry and cool. Label your seeds and store them in a sealed container. You can use plastic bags, paper envelopes, or even a ball jar. Ideally, keep your dried pepper seeds sealed in the refrigerator at around 40°F.

If you plan to store your seeds for an extended period of time, keeping a food-grade desiccant packet inside can help keep the seeds fully dry.

Labeled and Stored Seeds
Seeds stored in ball jar.

Tip: Always label your seeds! Even if you are only storing one pepper variety, it is best to record the date and type of seed to make things easier later on.

After you have packed away your dried seeds, don’t forget to use the remaining fresh pepper flesh for drying, or one of the many other alternatives for preserving peppers! Don’t let your hard work go to waste.

Next year, use our pepper growing guide to use your saved pepper seeds!

How can I tell if old pepper seeds are still good?

Over years of gardening, you may accumulate old seeds. Pepper seeds can remain viable for many years if properly stored. However, you can run a simple test to determine which seeds are more likely to sprout.

The viability water test – To check old seeds for viability, place them in a glass of water. Wait 24 hours, those that have sunk are viable and will more likely germinate.

Note: Only run this test when you are ready to plant your pepper seeds. After soaking the seeds, they should be planted right away, as the moisture may initiate germination.


Avoiding Disease When Saving Pepper Seeds

One important thing to consider when saving pepper seeds is the possibility of viruses or bacteria. Some diseases are seed-borne, meaning they can be spread from a seed into the plant. Here are a few things to consider before saving pepper seeds.

Never save seeds from a diseased plant. If you suspect that your pepper plant was infected with a disease, whether it be viral or bacterial, don’t save those seeds! Many viruses, including the prevalent mosaic virus, can be seed borne. This puts you at risk of spreading the virus to next year’s plants through this year’s seeds.

Learn more about pepper plant diseases & issues here.

Sterilize seeds if you suspect infection. Depending on where your pepper seeds came from, you may worry that they carry infection. There are many methods to sterilizing seeds, some more intense than others.

While this is not usually necessary, if you are trying your hardest to avoid disease, this can help mitigate the risk. Note: Sterilization should be done at the time of planting, not during the pepper seed saving process.

How To Dry Cayenne Peppers

I hope this article helped you learn how to save pepper seeds for planting next year. Almost nothing is more satisfying than growing a new plant from your very own pepper seeds!

Good luck, and let us know if you have any other recommendations for keeping pepper seeds.


Calvin Thumbnail

Calvin

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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64 Comments

  1. After properly drying out the seeds, can you store them in the freezer like most other seeds? I wasn’t sure considering peppers have such a strong affinity for heat. I plan on keeping them in a sealed container with desiccant packs in the containers, in the freezer.

    1. The freezer should be okay if they are completely dried. I prefer the fridge as I don’t want the seeds to go into any sort of deeper hibernation. Haven’t tested this though, and freezing is probably better for very long term storage.

  2. Good read, I have a quick question though.

    My wife and I have a food dehydrator we use for the peppers we harvest.

    It can go as low as 90 deg. Fahrenheit. Have you used a food dehydrator for drying out seeds or have you ever known/heard of someone using one?

    1. We haven’t done it personally, but there shouldn’t be any issue as long as you stay below 120°F or so. I would keep the seeds on the far side (away from the heating element) to be on the safe side.

  3. Hi Calvin,
    I want to save seeds from my favorite hot peppers, Italian Long Hots. After using your method to dry the seeds, I am hoping next year I can plant them and have my own plants. How many seeds per container?
    I only use organic soil and your recommended organic fertilizers. Due to space issues I plant them in 5 gallon buckets. With that being said how many seeds per small container to get to the point of hardening them off and finally into my 5 gallon buckets? Thanks for all that you do and your awesome website, you are so inspriring!

  4. Cool to find You! . . . does refrigerating ripe peppers before you harvest the seeds harm the seed?

  5. Thanks for the article and the video. Looking for the link to the little plastic seed baggies you used in the video. How did I miss it? Thanks.

  6. Hi there! I’m a newbie to pepper growing and love your articles. I started off with Asian grocery peppers this year and plenty of my seeds sprouted.

    I’m excited to expand the varieties for next season so looking for different peppers.

    Which peppers are easy to grow with less hassel?

    Cheers!

  7. Question about sanitizing: doesn’t soaking in a hot water bath encourage the seeds to germinate?

    I am going to try to grow from seeds of a sweet red bell bought from Walmart. I’m too late to buy FerryMorse seeds (sold out everywhere) and the pepper I got seemed a bit under ripe (deep red on one side but orange and yellowy on the other side) so drying and saving seeds is my best bet. If I can get these to germinate of course. I am resting with 8 seeds in water.

    If I want to save them and sanitize I am worried I will start germination by hot water soaking.

    Thanks for the great article and tips. I’m in central NC (so have to start plants in March to be done before the heat kills them) and have grown from ferry morse seeds but never my
    Own. So exciting indeed!

  8. If I plan to sell my pepper seeds, what should I use as a container? Will a simple paper envelope work?

    1. Most seeds we receive come in paper envelopes, small plastic baggies, or sometimes wax coated envelopes. As long as the seeds are properly dried, any of them work!

  9. Can I go ahead and plant seeds from freshly picked peppers, or do they need to be dried first? I live in Florida, so can grow peppers pretty much year round.

  10. I purchased dried Arbol and generic chilis from an Asian grocery store and have had great luck planting the seeds. The Arbols retain their bright red color when dried, so are a super source for red pepper flakes/powder.

  11. Jason a couple months ago I purchased some beautiful red peppers from WAL-MART and I decided to save some of the seeds . Do you think these seeds will reproduce more peppers or are my efforts futile

    1. They will likely grow, but you may not get the same type of peppers. Most supermarket varieties are hybrids, and the seeds are therefore very unstable.

  12. Thank you so much. This was SO helpful! I just went to my local farmer’s market and got a bunch of different peppers (and tomatoes) to save seeds for next year.

  13. Can seeds get saved from a Mad Hatter pepper?

    Also, I had been trying to pick which seeds to save, based on the float test (saving ones that sink); upon “floating” the seeds from a couple of my Mad Hatters, I found that only maybe 15-20% of them sunk!

    If it IS possible to save these seeds, do you think I should only save the seeds that sink?

    Thank you!

    1. @Jason, I think you should reread the article. “The viability water test – To check old seeds for viability, place them in a glass of water. Wait 24 hours, those that have sunk are viable and will more likely germinate.

      Note: Only run this test when you are ready to plant your pepper seeds. After soaking the seeds, they should be planted right away, as the moisture may initiate germination.”

  14. The peppers you buy at the grocery store are usually hybrid. The seeds saved from grocery bought peppers will not produce the same pepper you purchased or may not produce at all. Save only Heirloom seeds and pass them along to other people or a local seed bank. My library has one.

  15. Thanks Calvin. I harvested a huge Jalapeño on a bush whilst all the others area nice size. It was still green, can I use the seeds or did I cut it off too soon

  16. How likely is it that if I grow from seeds that I harvest from ripe pepper that I grew among many others that I will get that same one and there won’t be some type of hybrid or a different variety? I grew a dozen varieties in my garden last year and have saved seeds from a couple different plants.

    1. I am not sure what exact percentage chance there is, but it is definitely a possibility. If you want to be certain, you’d have to isolate flowers before they open to make sure each plant is only able to self-pollinate. Once the pod starts to form, you can remove the isolating fabric (paint strainer/cheese cloth). We don’t really bother with this unless it is a new hybrid, etc.

  17. Can you use the seeds of a dried pepper? I pull it off a month ago and let it natural dry. Some of the seeds are brown others are a nice yellow.

  18. Next year I want to make my own crushed red pepper. What different variety of peppers should I consider planting?

  19. Thanks for your article! I was looking up “how to know when to pick”. This is my first time growing peppers. I learned so much more!

  20. Hello, I grew Mammoth Jalapeno this year and still bearing fruits Oct. 17th, a great season for them they have reached for the stars at 6ft+ on all but one plant is 4ft+ and one of the 12 plants died early on. I ferment pickle them and bake some sliced long ways with cheeses. I do want to save seeds and have done so with basic Jalapeno. Is Mammoth a hybrid that will revert back to another variety and if so which ones? I grew only these and 6 normal Jalapeno pepper plants this year all spaced out and with their own kind. Zone 7B, Alabama, Thanks, Stephen

  21. Hi, I live in Salem,MA. This is my first jalepeno pepper plant. I’m going to stuff them to make poppers. My question; Can I cut the pepper lengthwise and still be able to save seeds? I appreciate your time.

    1. Definitely! For many varieties that are not circular, we will slice lengthwise. It should be easy to just remove the whole placenta + seeds with a spoon.

  22. Live in Tennessee, first time gardener this year. Grew poblanos from nursery bought plants. I’m wanting to save some of the seeds to grow next year but I’m not sure when I should put them in the ground. Some stuff I’ve read says wait til it’s consistently 70+ outside. Is that a hard cutoff or more just a recommendation for best growth chance? I’d like to try to grow a couple seeds now to check the viability but our nights are getting down in the low 50s. Don’t want to waste seed if they won’t grow guaranteed. Thanks!

    1. This is not the time of year to be planting seeds, but sprouting a few just to ensure viability is fine, you should have plenty of seeds from poblanos! For you, you should start the seeds indoors around March next year and move them outdoors when the nighttime temps are consistently above 50°F.

  23. Question for you. We Saved seeds last year from an orange habanero pepper. The plant grown this year, from the saved seeds has red habanero pods instead of the original orange. Curious to know what happened.
    Thanks for your help

    1. This can happen if the original variety you grew was a hybrid of some kind. The first round of plants will be highly consistent. Saved seeds from those plants will have very high phenotypic variation – it is basically just how genetics work. So the peppers may taste different, look different, come in different colors, shapes, etc. OR, if your orange plant was next to another pepper type (especially another chinense), it could have been unintentionally cross pollinated.

      1. ohhhh, it happens to be directly beside a ghost pepper plant.
        Thanks for the reply, it was bugging me that the habaneros are red this year. So much to learn!

    2. @peppergeek,

      Question:
      When to save seeds and when not do save seeds?

      I have different pepper varieties planted within close proximity (Habanero, ghost, cayenne, jalapeño, shishito, sweet banana and others) and for sure they have been crossed pollinated.

      If I save these seeds could my habanero be as hot as a ghost pepper?
      Could my habanero loose its aroma? Could the sweet peppers become spicy?

      1. Yes, through saving seeds, the resulting plants may be hybrids. There is no way to know for sure until you grow the plant out, but we don’t mind the occasional surprise cross!

  24. Thanks for the info.
    However, I am confused. You state that a pepper shall be ripe e.g. for a jalapeno it should be red, but your photo shows a green jalapeno.
    Is it OK to use green jalapenos?

    1. It can be, but there is a chance the seeds won’t be fully formed and viable. If you have a plant, wait for it to be fully ripe before plucking and harvesting the seeds.

  25. They are calling for a freeze here tonight and I have several bell pepper varieties with no ripened peppers that I want to save. If I bring in some that are green will the pepper and the seeds continue to ripen and be viable? Or should I try to save them from green peppers? They are very large OP varieties just not colored up yet! Thanks

    1. The seeds will likely grow just fine from green peppers, as long as they aren’t super under mature. I hope you didn’t lose the peppers to the cold!

    1. You can try it, however some dried peppers are cooked slightly during dehydration. This may render the seeds unviable. You could try germinating a few now to see if they will be reliable when the time comes to plant next year!

      -Calvin

  26. The seeds i took out of my jalepenos turned black within hours after Removing them and putting them on a plate to dry. I was harvesting sunflower seeds from sunflawer before starting on the jalepenos and wondering if that had anything to do with them turning black

    1. Hi Jody,

      It is likely that your jalapeno seeds did not develop properly or died. They may not be viable when you attempt to grow them next year. Healthy seeds will remain off-white when fully dried. It is unlikely that it had anything to do with the sunflower seeds.

      Best of luck,
      -Calvin

  27. Is it possible to take seeds from a pickled pepper and save them? I have found these Italian pepper i love, but can’t determine the exact variety. They are delallo “pepper drops”. Small red pepper that are preserved (in water, sugar, vinegar, sale, ascorbicacid, and calcium cholride).

    1. Hi,

      This would be an experiment worth trying. However, it is unlikely that pickled pepper seeds will germinate for 2 reasons:

      – Vinegar can damage seeds
      – Most store bought pickled foods are cooked at high temperatures

      This shouldn’t stop you from trying, but don’t be too optimistic!

      I will say, after looking up those peppers, they look similar to the Biquinho pepper (spicy pepper) – You can get some seeds for them here.

      Good luck!
      -Calvin

  28. Hi!
    I don’t have an Habanero pepper plant, and the only habaneros i can get are orange in color, do you think they would work since they are not as ripper/rippen as they could be?
    I also have a question about putting the seeds on a glass of water after you dried them out to see if they sink, so that means you would take them out after 24hrs of being in water and dried them again? and would soaking them in water for 24hrs not affect them somehow? I understand you said this was just a suggestion and we don’t have to do it, and I wouldn’t mind doing it if it gives me better chances of germinating next year, i just wanted to make sure i understood what you were saying.
    Thankx!

    1. Hi Alejandra,

      Habaneros are ripe when they are orange – some varieties will turn red, but the most common varieties are orange. They should be good!

      Not sure where you read about putting seeds in water after they are dried. We don’t usually do this, we simply plant multiple seeds per seed tray cell to ensure high germination rate.

      As long as the peppers are ripe (which it sound like they are) the seeds should be mostly viable.

      Learn more about germinating seeds in our article here.

      Thanks,
      -Calvin

      1. Yes, I was wondering the same thing. It’s states in the article to place your dried seeds in water to determine which float or not.

        Was this written in error?

        1. Ah – my mistake, this is simply a viability test. It is usually done just before planting, not after drying fresh seeds.

          We don’t typically use this method unless we are trying to grow very old seeds.

          We have updated the article to clear up any confusion. Thanks for reaching out!

  29. Thanks for the detailed instructions. I haven’t saved seeds for about 10 years but I want to do it again this year. Thanks for sharing.

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