Fresh fruits and vegetables are among the most perishable food items, so do peppers need to be refrigerated to keep them at their peak? No, they don’t, within reason. Peppers (both chilies and sweet) are relatively durable, so you can sometimes keep them at room temperature as long as you don’t overdo it.
The skin of the pepper fruit protects the softer interior, ensuring that under the right circumstances, you can store a pepper at room temperature without it going bad right away. That said, storing peppers at room temperature isn’t always ideal. You will need to refrigerate peppers in some cases, and we will take a look at those situations below.
Table of Contents
- How long will unrefrigerated peppers keep?
- How long will refrigerated peppers keep?
- Does refrigeration impact a pepper’s flavor, crunchiness, or spiciness?
- Does refrigeration slow down a pepper’s ripening process?
- Tips for Refrigerating Peppers
How long will unrefrigerated peppers keep?
A fresh, ripe pepper should be able to last at room temperature for up to a week; however, numerous factors can result in shorter shelf life. Factors in how long your unrefrigerated peppers will keep include their color (or ripeness), whether they are whole or cut, and whether they are cooked or raw.
The fact that the air in your kitchen is probably not as humid as the air in your refrigerator will also impact shelf life, since peppers need a certain amount of humidity. Green peppers will last the longest unrefrigerated. Uncut peppers will last longer than peppers that have been cut, and cooked peppers have the shortest shelf life — a few hours — if they are not kept in the refrigerator.
Aside from the factors above, there are several other areas beyond your control that affect how long peppers last. These include how long the pepper has spent in transit and storage after harvest. Also important to its shelf life are the conditions in which it has been stored. For example, was it refrigerated in the grocery store when you bought it?
If you want to maximize our peppers’ shelf life without refrigerating them, you can take steps like choosing only the firmest ones at the grocery store. Also, you should keep the stems attached and store the peppers in a paper bag to keep them from drying out. You should also keep the paper bag with your peppers in the coolest part of your home.
How long will refrigerated peppers keep?
Peppers will last longer in the refrigerator, since the lower temperatures slow the growth of bacteria that cause spoilage. The ideal temperature range for peppers in a refrigerator will be between 40 degrees and 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
The factors that shorten shelf life for peppers stored at room temperature will still affect their shelf life in the refrigerator, but they don’t cause spoilage quite as quickly. An uncut green bell pepper can last as long as two weeks with little change in its condition, and about five days if it has been cut. A whole red or yellow pepper will only last about one week. If the red or yellow peppers have been cut, their shelf life drops to about three days. All cooked peppers last about five days in the fridge, regardless of ripeness.
Does refrigeration impact a pepper’s flavor, crunchiness, or spiciness?
Refrigeration will only impact a pepper’s flavor, crunch, or spiciness in the sense that it can delay spoilage and preserve those qualities for longer. If peppers are improperly stored in a refrigerator, they can start to dry out just as they would if they were stored at room temperatures. Dehydrated peppers will lose their crunch. You will still be able to use them in cooked dishes for a while, but you may want to avoid using them in salads and other raw applications because of their texture.
Does refrigeration slow down a pepper’s ripening process?
It does. A green pepper in a paper bag stored at 70 degrees Fahrenheit can ripen within two weeks. Lowering the temperatures to the mid-fifties with refrigeration slows ripening so that the same process may take up to a month.
Tips for Refrigerating Peppers
Don’t wash your peppers
Moisture is the enemy when it comes to getting your peppers to keep for as long as possible. You need to keep your peppers away from extra moisture as a way to extend shelf life. You don’t need to wash your peppers until you are about to use them. If there is dirt on your peppers, you can brush it off or wipe it off with a dry paper towel before storing it in the crisper. If you do wash your peppers, try to dry them off as thoroughly as possible before refrigerating them.
Keep your peppers whole for as long as possible
Cutting peppers increases the surfaces from which it can lose moisture, thus accelerating the drying out process. In addition, it offers increased opportunities for bacteria and mold to start the process of breaking the pepper down.
Consider your pepper size
Some pepper varieties such as bell peppers are considerably larger than others. Think about the amount of room that your peppers will take up before you decide to store them in the refrigerator. If you have large peppers that you plan to use relatively soon, it may not be necessary to fill up your refrigerator, since they can last at room temperature for a week or more.
Store whole peppers in a humid part of the refrigerator
The best location in the refrigerator for storing peppers is in the crisper drawer, since it is the most humid area in the appliance. Without moist air, peppers will start to dry out. As peppers dry out, they will begin to shrivel in addition to growing softer. Both green and ripe peppers will shrivel without sufficiently moist air.
Remove peppers from plastic bags
Avoid storing whole or cut peppers in plastic bags since these can trap moisture. If a bag traps moisture against the pepper, this can promote mold growth and rot.
Store cut peppers in an airtight container
Storing cut peppers in an airtight container can help to slow the rate at which they dry out and protect them from spoilage-causing bacteria. Add damp paper towels to increase the humidity inside the container and lessen the potential for your peppers to dry out. Since the cut peppers will have a source of humidity and be shielded from dry air, you can store the container anywhere in the refrigerator.
Store peppers away from ethylene producers
Ethylene is a gas emitted by certain fruits, including apples and peaches. Exposure to ethylene is known to cause peppers and other fruits to ripen and rot sooner than they would without being exposed. You can keep peppers from ripening prematurely by separating them from fruits that produce ethylene. Alternatively, you can purchase ethylene granules to absorb the ethylene and thus protect your peppers and other produce items from it. Ethylene granules can come in small packets or as loose granules that you can keep in your refrigerator.