In this article, I will answer the question: “Can you eat pepper seeds?” I’ll also tell you whether or not you should remove the seeds before eating the peppers.
Can you eat pepper seeds?
Yes, you can eat pepper seeds safely.
Pepper seeds are not poisonous, although they can be unpleasant to eat in excessive quantities, especially bell pepper seeds.
If you’re concerned about the spiciness of your chilies, keep in mind that the seeds do not contain capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers hot. The whitish pithy pepper innards, the placenta, contain capsaicin, which can be removed to make the pepper milder in most situations. Because part of the oils in this pith are coated on pepper seeds, whatever heat you feel will come from the pith rather than the seeds themselves.
Studies showed that hot pepper seeds can be used as an inexpensive and effective dietary supplement for improving human health. They contain 23.65 g/100 g fat, 21.29 g/100 g protein and 38.76 g/100 g fiber, and eighteen detectable amino acids. The fatty acid profile of pepper seeds showed that linoleic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid, stearic acid and linolenic acid as the most abundant fatty acid followed lauric acid, arachidic acid, gondoic acid and behenic acid. Analyses of mineral content indicated that the most abundant mineral in hot pepper seeds was potassium, followed by magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, sodium and manganese (1).
Why are peppers spicy?
Peppers varieties all come from genus Capsicum species. It includes both: hot varieties (such as chili pepper) and sweet ones (such as bell pepper). The genus Capsicum encompasses 30 species (2).
Capsaicin (C18H27NO3), a colorless, odorless oil-like molecule found in fruits (like tomato) is responsible for the heat in hot peppers. The membrane that holds the seeds contains the most capsaicin. Capsaicin is the most pungent of 23 members of the alkaloid group called “capsaicinoid”. Capsaicin is a medicinally important phytochemical. Analgesic activity of capsaicin is well-known and its topical use for pain management has been well demonstrated. Recently, capsaicin and capsaicin-rich diets have been reported to attenuate the cognitive impairments in middle-aged and elderly populations, indicating its potential for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Apart from that, its favorable effect on cardiovascular diseases, obesity, hypertension and inflammatory diseases is known (2).
Other spices, such as oregano, cinnamon, and cilantro, contain minor levels of capsaicin.
Scoville units are used to measure the heat of a pepper: The scale goes from zero (as in bell peppers) to three million (as in the spiciest chili in the world).
The Scoville scale is a useful starting point for determining how hot your chiles are, but keep in mind that heat levels will vary depending on temperature and vegetation.
What are the most popular peppers?
- Bell peppers:
Bell peppers have a sweet, mild flavor and come in a variety of colors including green, red, yellow, orange, purple, and brown. Green peppers have a more grassy flavor. The orange type has a milder flavor than the red variety. Bell peppers have a thick flesh, crunchy texture, and rich flavor. They are commonly eaten raw, sauteed, roasted, or stuffed. The content of vitamin C in bell pepper is 1350–1780 μg/g. The level of this vitamin varies during ripening due to the activity of ascorbate oxidase. Antioxidant activity of bell peppers is lower than of pungent species (3). Bell peppers have a Scoville unit of zero, while the hottest peppers have a Scoville unit greater than 1,000,000 (4).
- Cayenne pepper:
Cayenne pepper is a spicy pepper called after the Cayenne region in French Guiana, where it is said to have originated. Peppers are now grown in Mexico, the United States, India, and East Africa. The powder is commonly used in soups, sauces, pizzas, and over meat and seafood. Plants are compact and vigorous and produce wrinkled and pungent fruit. The 8- to 9-inch-long fruit has a great aroma (4).
Cayenne peppers, like serrano peppers, have a Scoville heat rating of 30,000 to 50,000. These peppers, interestingly, have been used as medicine for ages since they have a number of cardiovascular benefits. The content of carotenoids and vitamin C in cayenne peppers is higher at the ripe stage than at the unripe stage while the antioxidant activity followed an opposite trend (3).
- Jalapeño pepper:
Jalapeno is a Mexican pepper that is currently grown all over the world due to its unique flavor and modest level of heat (ranging from 2,500 to 8,000 Scovilles). The name comes from the Spanish word Jalapa or Xalapa, which refers to the capital of Veracruz, where these peppers were first grown.
The peppers are thick-fleshed and come in green or red varieties, with the red variant being milder and sweeter than the green. The flavors are spicy, fresh, and grassy in nature. When jalapenos are roasted, they become richer, earthier, and somewhat smokey. Jalapeños can be used as an ingredient in cooked or raw sauces or charred and peeled to be stuffed with cheese, meat, or fish. Chipotle is the term used for jalapeños that are allowed to ripen on the plant to a deep red color and are then dried. The US demand for jalapeño and other hot peppers rises every year due to the growing popularity of ethnic cuisine (4).
- Serrano pepper:
Serrano peppers are the hotter cousins of jalapenos and are sometimes substituted for jalapenos when greater heat is needed. Green is the most prevalent color, but others include red, brown, orange, and yellow. The vitamin C content in green Serrano is 1714 μg/g and it increases during ripening. In a study, raw serrano peppers showed the highest antiradical activity among all tested peppers (3).
Serrano peppers have a Scoville Heat Index of 10,000 to 25,000! Serrano peppers are usually spicier when they are smaller. Its name refers to the Sierra Mountains of the regions from where it originates – Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo. Serrano peppers are generally eaten raw and often used in pico de gallo and salsa.
- Poblano pepper:
The Poblano pepper is known as a “chile ancho” when dried. It comes from Puebla, Mexico, and is one of the most widely used peppers in the country. It has a Scoville Heat Index of 1,000-1,5000 and is used in a wide range of dishes, particularly after drying. Plants produce fruit 7.5 × 3 inches. The dark green, extra large, and high quality fruit has two smooth veins that are flat and uniform in shape (4).
- Habañero Pepper
This chile is small and bulbous and one of the hottest on the Scoville scale. Habaneros have a delicious flavor if you can get beyond the heat. They’re popular in the Caribbean and in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where they’re used to make hot sauces. Plants are strong and produce an excellent fruit set. Fruit matures from green to orange and measures approximately 2 × 1 inches (4). Vitamin C content in Green and Yellow Habanero peppers are 1830 and 2467 μg/g, respectively. Exceptionally, the vitamin C of this species decreases during ripening, differently from other species of peppers (3).
Should you remove seeds from peppers before eating?
Even if seeds are safe to eat, you may prefer to remove them before cooking for the following reasons :
Texture is the most important reason to remove pepper seeds before cooking. You’ll notice the seeds float throughout your liquid whether preparing a pepper sauce, hot sauce, or anything else with a thin or creamy texture. The seeds themselves can easily evade processing, causing your smooth texture to become unbalanced. Tomato skins, for example, are frequently removed before preparing a smooth tomato sauce.
If you want a smooth sauce, either strain the final cooked product after processing to remove the leftover solids, which will contain the seeds, or remove the seeds before cooking.
Some pepper seeds may have a bitter taste, and they might emit subtle flavors that can interfere with your recipes.
For instance, bell pepper seeds have a bitter taste and you may need to de-seed them depending on your taste preferences.
As you gain experience cooking with peppers and realize how subtle they can be, you may find that omitting the seeds may improve the overall flavor.
When you remove the pith from the peppers, it will help you to lower the heat, you’ll also get rid of the seeds. Some myths claim that removing the pepper seeds reduces the spiciness of the finished dish, but this is untrue. The pith, which contains the seeds, holds the pepper’s heat.
Other FAQs about Pepper that you may be interested in.
In this essay, I answered the question: “Can you eat pepper seeds?” and I explained the reasons why some pepper types are spicy and why we should remove the seeds before cooking with pepper to have better texture and organoleptic characteristics of some dishes.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions on this topic.
- Zou, Yu, Kun Ma, and Mixia Tian. Chemical composition and nutritive value of hot pepper seed (Capsicum annuum) grown in Northeast Region of China. Food sci technol, 2015, 35: 659-663.
- Bora, Pranjit Kumar, et al. A sensitive 1H NMR spectroscopic method for the quantification of capsaicin and capsaicinoid: morpho‐chemical characterisation of chili land races from northeast India. Phytochem Anal, 2021, 32, 91-103.
- de Jesús Ornelas-Paz, José, et al. Effect of heat treatment on the content of some bioactive compounds and free radical-scavenging activity in pungent and non-pungent peppers. Food Res Inter, 2013, 50, 519-525.
- Ozores-Hampton, Monica, and Gene McAvoy. Jalapeño and other hot pepper varieties for florida. Serie HS1241, Department of Horticultural Science, UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla, 2014.
- Cvetković, Tanja, Jasmina Ranilović, and Stela Jokić. Quality of Pepper Seed By-Products: A Review. Foods, 2022, 11, 748.