Are Peppers Fruits? Do Vegetables Exist? [MUST READ]

Yes, peppers are fruits in the botanical sense, as they are the seed-bearing pods of a flower-bearing plant. But for most people, peppers will always be referred to as vegetables.

And here is why.

We classify plants as they are used in everyday life. And we often use the culinary definition. Hence, fruits and berries are sweet. Vegetables are savory.

But for a botanist, taste and use is irrelevant. 

And to make it even more fun, if you ask me as a botanist, there is no such thing as a “vegetable.”

A “vegetable” is simply the edible part of a plant if you ask a botanist.

PlantEdible part


Grab a drink, and let’s look at the difference between fruits and vegetables.

But first, let’s take a minute to understand and appreciate the field of botany.

What is Botany, Anyway?

In simple terms, botany can be described as the scientific study of plants. And this includes everything from the tiniest mosses to the most majestic of trees.

But do we really need botany when we discuss whether peppers are fruits or veggies?

I think we do. And here is why.

What we call peppers is less important. But, we should recognize one important point.

Peppers do not solely exist for our culinary pleasure. And botany helps us lift our view and see how it all fits together.

For a botanist, peppers are a fruit as they are the seed-bearing pods of a flowering plant. This fruit is designed to protect and help spread the seeds to ensure the plant’s reproduction. 

Fruits are colorful and sweet to be attractive to animals. Animals get a meal and help create new plants by excreting the seeds. 

Pretty cool. eh?

But What is a Fruit?

Whether a plant is classified as a fruit or vegetable depends on who you ask.

  • Ask a chef or cook: fruits are sweet or sour and can be eaten right off the plant. Apples are a good example.
  • Ask a botanist: fruits are the mature pods holding and protecting the seeds of a flowering plant. Tomatoes and peppers are good examples.

And this is also why many vegetables we eat are technically fruits.

Eggplants are fruits if you ask a botanist
Fruit or vegetable? Depends on who you ask.
Many veggies that are fruits belong to the nightshade family including tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

So, What is a Vegetable?

The word “vegetables” is a culinary term describing edible plants that are typically savory rather than sweet. Most of us refer to potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, broccoli, and string beans as veggies.

But for a botanist, the word vegetables is simply a construct used to describe the edible parts of a plant.

And if you sit back and think about it, we pretty much eat from the whole plant – from top to bottom.

  • roots – carrots and potatoes
  • stems – celery and asparagus
  • leaves – lettuce, kale and spinach
  • and even flower buds – broccoli and cauliflower 
Vegetable and edible roots of a plant
Carrots – vegetable & edible root of a plant

Let’s have a look at 10 popular vegetables that technically should be referred to as fruits.

10 Popular Vegetables That Are Indeed Fruits

Here are 10 popular veggies considered fruits in the world of botany.

  1. Cucumbers grow from the flowers of a vine-like plant and hold seeds.
  2. Pumpkins, a Halloween and pie-making favorite, come from flowering plants and contain seeds.
  3. Okra is a staple in Southern cuisine. The slim, green pods contain seeds and grow from the flowers of the okra plant.
  4. Squash, including butternut and zucchini, comes from a flower’s ovary and holds seeds inside.
  5. Green Beans, the slender pods, are fruit pods that hold seeds as a part of the plant’s reproductive process. 
  6. Eggplants or aubergines are known for their deep purple color and grow from flowers and hold seeds giving them fruit status.
  7. Olives are drupe fruits, as in fleshy fruits that usually contain one single seed. [1] 
  8. Peppers grow from the flowering part of the plant and are full of seeds. 
  9. Tomatoes are often referred to as veggies. This fruit contains its seeds and grows from a flower.
  10. Avocado, a creamy, green delight with edible flesh, is also technically a fruit. A close relative of the cucumber. 
Cucumber flower and fruits
Cucumber flower and fruits
Fun fact, there are different kinds of fruits, including drupes (with a single seed), berries (with multiple seeds), and pods (like pea pods). Examples of drupes include peaches, cherries, and plums, but also walnuts, pecans and almonds.

Bonus Fun 1: A Nut is a Hard-shelled Fruit

For a botanist, a nut is a hard-shelled fruit that does not split open to release its seed.

Two great examples are almonds and coconuts. 

 Sounds simple, right? Guess again.

Many foods we casually call “nuts” in everyday life, like peanuts and cashews, are not nuts in a botanical sense. These “nuts” are technically legumes [2] or seeds. 

Bonus Fun 2: What About Berries?

When I say berry, you think of small, colorful, and delicious fruits.

A classical berry
Raspberries are “classical” berries

But the botanical definition is actually quite broad.

Speaking as a botanist, a berry is a fruit produced from a flower’s ovary with seeds embedded in the flesh.

Following this definition, berries include crowd-pleasers like blueberries and raspberries, as well as bananas and kiwi fruits.

In Summary

This article started as a discussion with my son when we were harvesting sweet peppers and eggplants.

I will admit that the fruits vs. veggies discussion, in large part, is more academic than practical.

But it does shed light on the reproductive process of plants.  And surely that is more important than whether watermelon and cantaloupe are classified as fruits or not? (I heard you say: “fruits,” well done).

So, what do we know after reading this article?

  • Vegetables: Not a term botanists recognize or use
  • Veggie or Fruit?: Many foods we consider veggies in the culinary world are, botanically speaking, fruits.
  • Botanical Truth: Fruits are the mature ovaries of flowering plants and often contain seeds.
  • Savory Surprises: Peppers, cucumbers, avocados, and more are all fruits in the botanical sense.
  • It’s easy to Go Nuts Over Nuts: Nuts are fruits, but not everything we call nuts is real nuts.
  • Berries Come in Different Shapes and Sizes: Not all berries are small; say hello to bananas and kiwis.

Please let me know if you enjoy this more “academic” article. I am used to seeing eyes roll over at home when discussing botanical classification or mesocarp vs. endocarp.

Regardless, I trust you now know that peppers are fruits, and maybe I have opened your eyes to the wonderful world of botany. Trust me, it is a fascinating field.

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Mattias Magnusson: Hello, I'm Mattias, a passionate and experienced gardening enthusiast. I am the creator of, your guide to year-round herb and veggie growing. Let's simplify green living, no matter your space or location.