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I recently became addicted to the taste of fried bell peppers (green specifically because that's what's cheapest) as an ingredient in meat dishes. However, in my area the price has doubled so I can't buy as many.

What are some things (if any) that can replicate the flavor (and the lack of spiciness) of bell peppers? Specifically I like to add them in beef and make sandwiches with cheese and onions.

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I find that bell peppers freeze pretty well so when they go on sale you can stock up, that is if you don't already do that. –  duchessofstokesay Feb 25 '11 at 1:57
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To run on from the above comment, in the UK you can by frozen peppers cut in small strips. Not as nice as fresh, granted, but much cheaper. –  Orbling Feb 25 '11 at 2:30
    
Do you mean roasted/fried peppers? Raw green peppers don't taste like much, just watery and crunchy like yossarian said. –  tim Feb 25 '11 at 3:39
    
How are you preparing the bell peppers? or even, what meat dish? that might help give us ideas for suggestions. –  Joe Feb 25 '11 at 3:53
    
@Joe Sorry, I'm frying them and like to add them in for beef cheese steak sandwiches. I'll edit my question. –  Kryptic Feb 25 '11 at 15:02

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Others are saying that bell peppers have no taste -- but I'd disagree. The green ones have a kind of grassy quality to them.

Obviously, there's wheat grass, but I never have that around. There might be some herbs that could pull it off (eg, flat leaf parsley; maybe taragon, but also gives a licorice note)

You might try some dark greens ... spinich, kale, swiss chard. They've got a touch of other stronger flavors to 'em, but if you cook them down first, you might be able to tone them down some. (I guess you might describe it as a 'spiciness' ... it can be a sharp flavor.

... for the texture, though, my first thought was bok-choy. It's actually a cabage, and it has some dark green leaves, but the thicker white parts have that watery/crunchy quality that other people have mentioned about bell peppers, but there's that sharp cabbage note that might keep it from fitting your requirements.

update : okay, as the issue is specifically fried peppers, you're going to be bringing out the sweeter notes of the peppers, which you're not going to get from a cabbage. Sweet onions might give some similar qualities (once fried well), as the cooking will mellow the oniony qualities, but the sugars will caramelize.

You can also try looking for jarred peppers -- they're usually packed in oil or a vinegar solution after being roasted. There are 'hot' and 'sweet' varieties, where the hot ones also have some hot peppers in there. The non-vinegared ones sweet ones might work for you.

Also, remember that bell peppers, like most vegetables are a seasonal item -- if you're in the north, it's the end of winter, so any peppers are being being grown in hot houses, or brought in from the southern hemisphere, which jacks the prices up.

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ooh I agree with trying bok choy. It might not give you exactly what you are looking for, but I definelty feel the same sort of kindred with bok choy that you feel for bell peppers. Asian markets are the best place to find cheap produce, in face you may even find cheaper bell peppers there than your local supermarket. –  Manako Feb 25 '11 at 16:41
    
Bok choy rules, however if you find yourself going to an asian store to get it, be sure to check the price of bell peppers as well. Around here (US), bells are often half price at these stores compared to the local supermarkets. Peppers are also usually cheaper at latin American stores. –  Wayfaring Stranger Mar 30 '13 at 2:14

Nothing will ever replace the taste of fried bell peppers. And I mean nothing, if the price double then you pay double. Simple as that.

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I agree, a very definite taste and hard to replicate. Particularly when fried. –  Orbling Feb 26 '11 at 0:37

I find that bell peppers are a predominately watery and crunchy. As such, I'd look for other vegetables that have that characteristic. Depending on how much you are cooking them, you could use carrots, red or white onions, or celery. I think those are all pretty close. To get a little further away from the texture and flavor, you could also try broccoli, asparagus, or green beans; although I'm not sure any of those will be cheaper than bell peppers.

Depending on your climate, peppers are actually quite easy to grow too (at least in my experience). If price is a significant issue, you could try some of your own gardening.

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The great thing about peppers -- there's no need to ever buy seeds ... every time you buy a pepper to eat, you get enough to plant more peppers than you need for a small garden. –  Joe Feb 25 '11 at 3:43

Watery and crunchy could also describe water chestnuts, or to go a bit further afield, bamboo shoots or even baby corn. These all tend to be inexpensive, since they are purchased canned.

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