Are Peppers Fruits or Vegetables? (What Science Says)

Peppers are typically found in the vegetable section of supermarkets, but what do botanists and scientists say? Is this spicy plant a vegetable? Or is it actually a fruit? Allow me to explain!

Peppers are botanically classified as fruits because they are fleshy produce that comes from flowers and contain seeds. However, because peppers are often eaten in savory meals, they are also culinarily labeled and commonly recognized as vegetables.

You’re probably thinking, there’s no way peppers are a fruit. Most of them are spicy, eaten in chili, tacos, and other savory dishes. But what if they are? Let’s discuss this in detail and at the end of the day, you’ll have a new plant fact to pepper into your conversations!

Are Peppers Classified as Fruits or Vegetables?

Peppers are botanically recognized as fruits because they’re harvested from the plant’s flowers. This fruit development occurs after the plant ovaries in the flowers receive pollen.

Peppers are part of the plant family known as Solanaceae. After about 2–3 months, most pepper plants are ready to form peppers. The serrano pepper, for example, only needs at least 60 days to mature.

Growing peppers time lapse - flower to fruit in 60 days
YouTube Video – Growing Peppers Time Lapse

But to grow peppers, the plant must first develop multiple flowers. After these flowers are pollinated, the ovaries of the flowers will begin to swell and form fruits.

These fruits are later harvested and eaten and are known as peppers. Because the peppers are grown from flowers, they are botanically known as fruits rather than vegetables.

Peppers are Fruits
Peppers are Fruits

If you initially thought peppers were a vegetable, you’re not alone!

A scientific journal from Cambridge University revealed about 80% of their respondents from three different studies misidentified peppers as vegetables.

But if this is the case, why are peppers typically found in the vegetable section of groceries? I’ll be explaining this in the section below, so let’s continue.

The 2 Categorical Differences Between Fruit and Vegetables

There are 2 main categorical differences between fruits and vegetables: 1) botanical differences and 2) culinary differences.

There are many differences between fruits and vegetables. However, although peppers are botanically identified as fruits, they can also be classified as vegetables in other categories.

It might be confusing, but let me discuss how this works in each of these groups, and you’ll have a better understanding of why peppers can be considered both a fruit and a vegetable!

1. Botanical Difference

Fruits are botanically classified as the seed-bearing produce of pollinated flowers while vegetables are harvested from the stems, roots, and leaves of the plant.

Edible plant parts are usually put into two separate sections: fruits and vegetables.

When it comes to botany, the identification system relies on where the edible plant part comes from.

Fruits, for example, are different from vegetables because they typically come from fertilized flowers. They are also usually fleshy and contain seeds.

However, if you harvest the roots, stems, or leaves, these are considered vegetables.

As such, peppers are botanically categorized as fruits because they come from flowers and have seeds inside their fleshy, edible bodies.

2. Culinary Difference

When it comes to cooking, vegetables are typically used in savory dishes and eaten in main meals while fruits are sweet and eaten in desserts.

In the culinary world, fruits and vegetables are separated by taste and function.

Fruits are usually sweet and used in desserts, while vegetables are savory and used in soups and salads.

Since peppers are usually eaten for their spiciness and cooked along with vegetables, they are culinarily known as vegetables.

Even the pepper leaves, which are sometimes eaten in Asia, are used in soups and savory dishes.

5 Fruits and Vegetables Related to Peppers

The 5 fruits and vegetables that are related to peppers are 1) tomatoes, 2) tomatillos, 3) eggplants, 4) potatoes, and 5) ground cherries.

While peppers might sound like an odd and unique case, many of their other plant relatives are actually considered to fruits as well. Here’s a list of the fruits and vegetables that are related to peppers and a quick review of whether or not they can be grown together!

1. Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)

Tomatoes are related to peppers and are found in the same plant family. They have similar growing needs and also require structural support for their stems.

This fruit is part of the Solanacae family, the same family as peppers, and its is a close relative to them.

It might be a surprise, but capsaicin, the spicy gene in tomatoes, can also be found in tomatoes. Some scientists are even toying with the idea of creating spicy tomatoes since they have all the needed genes to produce more capsaicinoids.

But unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon as there is no need for spicy tomatoes.

The growth requirements of tomatoes are very similar to peppers So these two plants can be grown in the same area, both with stakes to hold their fruit-bearing stems up.

Find out The 12 Highest-Yield Tomato Varieties (For More Tomatoes!) 

2. Tomatillos (Physalis philadelphica)

Tomatillos are a unique member of the Solanaceae family that look like small, green tomatoes. Since they are related to peppers, they can be planted together and given the same amount of water.

This interesting fruit, which is also related to peppers, is frequently grown and eaten in Poland and Mexico.

Etymologically speaking, “tomatillo” means little tomato, which makes sense when you see it.

Tomatillos will grow very well with peppers and require regular water to produce their fruits. You can tell the fruits are ready when the tomatillos burst from their papery husks.

3. Eggplants (Solanum melongena)

Eggplants are part of the nightshade family and are related to peppers. However, eggplants are best grown away from peppers as they require more space for their large fruit.

Another beloved fruit of the Solanaceae family is eggplant or aubergine. Their origin is unknown, but they’re believed to be native to Africa, India, and South Asia.

After looking at an eggplant, you’ll find that they have the same elongated shape as most peppers. However, since their fruit is bigger than most peppers, they’re much more susceptible to pests.

For optimal growth, I suggest planting them at least 2 feet away from your peppers to ensure they don’t attract insects to your pepper plants.

Unlike peppers, eggplants cannot be eaten raw as they may cause nausea and vomiting.

Instead of peppers, consider growing eggplants with thyme, an excellent herb to use when you want to cook your eggplants to perfection.

What are the Best and Worst Companion Plants for Thyme? Find out here! 

4. Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)

Although they seem entirely different, potatoes are related to peppers and are a perennial member of the Solanaceae family. If grown together, each plant must be provided generous nutrients to avoid competition.

It might be surprising, but potatoes are indeed related to peppers. Unlike its other family members, however, potatoes grow underground.

Because of this, they’re also a little hardier and can handle frost better than peppers.

However, if you plan to grow potatoes with peppers, you’ll need to provide plenty of nutrients with compost and fertilizer.

These plants could compete for the same nutrients and attempt to fight each other for them, so be careful!

5. Ground Cherries (Physalis)

Ground cherries are part of the Solanaceae family and are therefore related to peppers. Due to their potentially aggressive nature, however, it is best to grow them 3 feet away from pepper plants to prevent the peppers from being smothered.

A unique and curious fruit, and a close relative to tomatillos, is the ground cherry. You may also know it as cape gooseberries—and yes, they are also in the same family as peppers.

Like tomatillos, ground cherries come with a papery husk, often known as a lantern, that helps protect the fruit until it matures.

The Plants Related to Peppers
The Plants Related to Peppers

Ground cherries are best grown away from peppers. This is because ground cherries can be very aggressive and could smother pepper plants.

They tend to sprawl on the ground. So give them at least 3 feet of space and keep them away from your valuable pepper plants.

Are Peppercorns Fruits or Vegetables?

Peppercorns are harvested from Piper nigrum berries and classified as fruits. However, they are not related to peppers from the nightshade family. Peppercorns belong to a different plant family named Piperaceae.

Although it is often used as a spice similar to peppers, black pepper or peppercorn is not part of the Solanaceae family.

Instead, peppercorns are part of a different family known as Piperaceae.

Peppercorns Are Fruits

What they do have in common with regular peppers, however, is that they are also botanically classified as fruits.

The peppercorns are harvested by drying the berries of Piper nigrum plants and extracting the peppercorns inside.

Since these fruits and berries come from flowers, peppercorns are still considered to be the part of a fruit—albeit dry.


How often do peppers fruit?

It depends on the pepper variety, but peppers will usually bear fruit at least once or twice per year before dying in the fall. But if the plant is kept in a warm climate all year, the pepper plant could last longer and grow more flowers to produce more pepper fruits.

Can peppers be eaten like fruit?

Peppers are typically eaten as a spice and are found with vegetables and used in savory dishes. Bell peppers, however, are not as spicy as regular peppers and can be eaten raw or cooked with food to bring sweetness.

Summary of Are Peppers Fruits or Vegetables

Despite being commonly seen as a vegetable, peppers are botanically seen as fruits. This is because peppers come from flowers and encase seeds in a fleshy, edible apex, they are botanically classified as fruits.

However, since peppers are typically used in savory dishes and eaten with other vegetables, they are culinarily known as vegetables and are commonly sold as such.

Some other fruits and vegetables related to peppers include tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplants, potatoes, and ground cherries. Despite the similar name, peppercorns are from a separate plant and are not part of the same family.


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