Bell peppers are a sweet pepper in the same genus and species (Capsicum annuum) as many of the hot peppers often referred to as chiles, such as jalapeños and serranos, says Danise Coon, a program coordinator and research specialist for the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University.

Technically, you can call bells chile peppers, she says, because a bell pepper “is a chile that doesn’t produce capsaicin,” the stuff that makes peppers hot. In casual speech, however, chile has come to imply a hot pepper, not a sweet one.

CHOW’s Nagging Question column appears every Friday. Got a Nagging Question of your own? Email us.

See more articles