When comparing peppers (whether sweet peppers or chilies) to other vegetables, they are slightly acidic foods. Acidity is measured on a scale from 0 to 14, with lower scores being the most acidic and higher scores more alkaline.
There is a wide range of pH levels between chili pepper varieties. Most varieties of peppers fall into a pH range below 7 (4.65 to 6.17 pH). The full range lies between 4.65 and 8.5 with cayenne pepper being the most alkaline pepper (having the highest pH.)
When compared to a few other fruits and vegetables, you can see why we call peppers slightly acidic:
- Limes: 2.00 to 2.80 pH
- Grapes: 2.90 to 3.82
- Tomatoes: 4.30 to 4.90
- Mushrooms: 6.00 to 6.70
- Broccoli: 6.30 to 6.85
They aren’t as acidic as most fruits (and peppers are fruits), but not quite as alkaline as some other vegetables as a whole.
Here are the pH levels of some of the more common peppers and chilies:
- Bell peppers: 4.8 to 5.2 pH
- Jalapeños: 4.8 to 6.0
- Habaneros: 5.0 to 6.0
- Serranos: 5.5 to 7.0
- Cayennes: Roughly 8.5 (above the neutral line into the slightly alkaline zone)
So why does this matter? Below, we will look at the meaning of acidity and alkalinity and how those things relate to peppers.
Table of Contents
- What do acidic and alkaline mean?
- Why should you care?
- Are chili peppers more acidic than bell peppers?
- Do different color bell peppers have different acidity levels?
What do acidic and alkaline mean?
The pH scale is used to measure a substance’s acidity or alkalinity; the scale goes from 0 to 14 with the midpoint — 7 — being neutral. Distilled water is an example of a neutral substance. An acid is defined as a chemical with a pH below 7 that can be neutralized by a base — the lower the substance’s pH value, the stronger the acid. An alkaline solution is a substance with a pH above 7 that can be neutralized by an acid.
Acidic foods include tomatoes. A ripe tomato has a pH level of about 4.6 while lemon juice has an acidity of about 3. In comparison, ripe olives and corn can measure 7.5 on the same scale thus placing them well above the neutral point and into alkaline territory.
Why should you care?
The question of whether peppers are acidic or alkaline might be important if you are planning to pickle peppers. An understanding of the pH level is needed since low-acid foods must be processed differently from acidic foods to prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The spores of Clostridium botulinum cannot survive in acidic environments but can grow in low-acid ones. Clostridium bacteria cause botulism, which is a potentially fatal illness.
More reasons to learn about the pH values of peppers include researching stomach problems like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). People who believe that it is possible to keep their bodies in an alkaline state may also be interested in peppers’ acidity or lack thereof. For the most part, peppers are slightly acidic, but some are better than others when it comes to acidity. Examples of moderately acidic peppers include common varieties like jalapeños, habaneros, and especially cayenne peppers. Cayennes technically fall under the slightly alkaline label.
Are chili peppers more acidic than bell peppers?
Hot peppers are not more acidic than bell peppers. While the acidity of pepper varieties is not well documented, the available resources suggest that the most acidic chili peppers are still less acidic than the most acidic bell peppers.
In other words, the most acidic peppers appear to be in the bell pepper category. Bell peppers have a fairly wide range of acidity with some relatively acidic examples having pH levels of 4.65. The less acidic bell peppers have pH levels as high as 5.45. Studies have shown that pepper maturity and exposure to ethylene have no appreciable effect on a bell pepper’s acidity levels.
Do different color bell peppers have different acidity levels?
The color of a bell pepper appears to have no relationship to its pH level. Red bell peppers have the same pH level as green and yellow bell peppers. While red bell peppers are sweeter than the other colors, the sweetness of a pepper appears to have no connection to its pH level.