What can liven up my food the way bell peppers do, without being bell peppers?

I. Love. Bell peppers.

All colors.

I want to explain how weird my love for bell peppers is. I will, occasionally, slice open a red one, literally cover my nose with it like it’s medical equipment and just----breeeeeathe. I swear to you, I do not lie: This gets me some kind of actual buzz. I love the scent that much.


I’m the only person in my household of six who likes them. Everyone else in the house doesn’t just not like them, the peppers are actively hated by all. The barest hint of bell pepper in any food we eat means, no one will eat it but me.

But I’ve had, for example, homemade spaghetti sauce with bell peppers, and without, and I have to say. Without the bell peppers, it’s like the food has… no… life. It’s like bell pepper is the soul of the dish and taking it out just leaves something… dead. And edible.

Please, especially if you identify with this at all, I seek recommendations for things to try to add to foods we cook which will somehow give it that life. that zest, but not… er… that actual flavor that the other five hate so much.

Any ideas?

I got nothing really, but are you sure they really don’t like the peppers and aren’t just skeeved out by what you do with them (i.e. covering you nose with them, sensually sniffing them, etc.)? If I saw or had suspicion of someone doing that with food they were preparing for I would also find it unappealing.

Maybe broccoli or celery?

Maybe a hit of acid? A squeeze of lemon or lime right before serving improves many a dish.

Maybe switch to fresh poblanos. My husband hates bell peppers, but he likes poblanos. They don’t taste so grassy. They’re kind of spicy and nutty and mellow all at once.

Get new housemates :slight_smile:

Unless biometrick is right*, these sound like pretty picky eaters. So anything you do to liven up the food might be met with less than enthusiasm. However, you could intensify the herbs/spices you use. My go-tos include rosemary, thyme, basil, tarragon, cumin, white pepper, and others (browse the Penzey’s website for ideas). And/or you could caramelize onions, and use a liberal amount of those. What about garlic?

  • And I like the celery idea, but would advise caution with broccoli or any other cruciferous vegetable (cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc.) as they produce nasty sulfurous odors if cooked for a long time.

**What can liven up my food the way bell peppers do, without being bell peppers? **

I don’t have anything to contribute, except that your thread title sounds like one of Groucho’s lines out of A Night at the Opera


If you love 'em that much, why not just keep a bag of diced peppers on hand and toss them in to your portion once it’s on your plate?

I agree with araminty. A hit of acid is bound to make any meal a bit more interesting. :-}

Not enough info yet for a thread, but you might consider using garlic, olives, bacon, radishes, grapes and/or chili peppers.

So there are two things you’re getting from the bell peppers: Acidity and herbaceousness. Few things do both, but some combination of the following may help:

Celery - use a vegetable peeler to remove the biggest fibers before dicing if the picky ones complain about the texture. Keep the root and leaves in a freezer bag and use them in broths.

Balsamic vinegar - almost anything is better with a dose of it.

Diced tomatoes - Anything that just doesn’t taste right can be saved by a can of these. Warning, they will also overwhelm many things that taste great, so use judiciously.

Dried Rosemary - in small quantities it will add that brightness without being overly herbaceous.

Fresh sage - it adds a wonderfully complex brightness to any poultry or pork dish.

Fresh cracked black pepper - if you’re not already doing this, put a grinder next to the stove instead of the pre-ground stuff. Buy good Tellicherry or Malabar corns.

TrueLemon - This powdered lemon juice is surprisingly good. I find it perfect for cooking or even just flavoring a drink of water. The ability to drop in a bit of fresh lemon without all the fuss makes a huge difference. TruLime is really good too, but I didn’t like the orange at all. You can also get crystallized lemon juice by the pound at nutsonline.com. It’s just as good and I used so much of it that we started buying it that way. TrueLemon is cheaper to try it out.

For spaghetti sauce, I’d use a shot of cheap port, and try a fresh lemon oregano.

If you want to post a specific recipe, we might be more helpful.

Seems like the answer to me, too.

I make philly cheesesteak sandwiches and my sandwich is a scrap of shaved steak, a ton of onions, peppers, and mushrooms, and lots of white cheese. Husband’s is meat meat meat with a slice of 'Murican on it. I cook the meat the same for both of us, but of course he won’t eat vegetables. When I make soup, though, I will take out the beef or chicken and whiz the broth and vegetables and then put the meat back. He doesn’t mind the taste so much as the sight or the texture!..but for you? cook your peppers separately and add them to your portion. You can do that. You’re the cook.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of people living here who will not even tolerate the smell of bell peppers.

I don’t get it either.

I always substitute Italian frying peppers, AKA Cubanelle peppers, for green bell pepper in gumbos and goulashes and such. Adds the sass without the grass.

I’m cool with all other color bell peppers — and green are fine if I roast and peel them — but I dislike the grassy unripe flavor.

Wow, I’ve never heard of anyone finding the smell offensive. Though I do know people who don’t like the taste.

Like the OP I think they’re terrific. I would say that just adding peppers to a cooked dish doesn’t have nearly the same effect as cooking with them. So a very distant second choice.

The closest approximations I can think of have already been mentioned: celery and tomatoes. Not the same but probably better than nothing. Can you have peppers as part of your meal when you go out with the family to eat?

Frylock, the aroma of those peppers on your plate is wafting across the table to me and I find it very offensive.. Please take your dinner out with you to the parking lot.”

Geez, I hope they don’t do that to him. He might as well take up cigars.

While they are acidic, they aren’t terribly so. So adding them to something like a tomato sauce (as the OP does) actually makes the food less acidic. Most vegetables are in the same general acid level as bell peppers (somewhere around 5-ish).

But, in general, adding some additional acid to the food does help perk it up. For me, I’d go with celery and onions. (I love peppers of all kinds, but keep them out of my spaghetti sauce, unless it’s a meat sauce, then onions, carrots, and peppers, please!)

Oh, the other thing for me, if you like the “greenness” of green peppers, parsley does a good job to me to bring some of that freshness to the table. Or even cilantro. Different flavors, and both flavors that many people hate, too, so YMMV, but that brings the “greenness” of peppers to the plate for me.

ETA: Oh, and a more offbeat suggestion, maybe fresh fennel bulbs? Once again, a very specific flavor that some people may not enjoy, but brings a similar type of “liveliness” to the dish.

When I think a stew or soup “needs something” I mash up some anchovies and add them.

You need new people. I like bell peppers and cook them a lot, and I don’t recall them even having much of a smell. Do you like onions? Maybe you could cook onions with them to mask the smell?

The definitely have a distinctive smell, especially the green ones, when cooking. I love that smell. My dad used to make some kind of green pepper and beef stir-fry type of dish when I was a kid that I absolutely loved, especially the smell of the green peppers frying.

And red peppers have their own lovely aroma, as well. Roast some and it’s pretty obvious.