This bell pepper salad is an easy, fresh side dish that's both simple to make and incredibly versatile. Fresh oranges and a bit of lemon juice bring a hint of acidity to balance bell pepper's natural sweetness, while parsley, red, and green onions bring a touch of brightness to the recipe.
What's in it?
As for most salad recipes, the ingredients for this recipe are fairly simple. Bell peppers, naturally, form the foundation of the recipe while citrus, onions (both green and red) as well parsley provide interest and contrasting flavors. You finish the salad with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Mini bell peppers form the foundation of the salad. Choose ripe peppers, such as red, orange, yellow, and green for the best flavor. Bell peppers are high in various antioxidants, and are a good source of beta carotene - a precursor to vitamin A. Bell peppers are also rich in vitamin C, too, which supports skin health and immune system function.
- Citrus lends acidity the salad which balances the sweet peppers. Like bell peppers, citrus is rich in vitamin C.
- Alliums include red onions and green onions. They give the salad a bit of a zesty bite which cuts the sweetness of both the peppers and the oranges.
- Parsley provides a punch of green, which gives the already colorful salad an additional note of visual interest. Parsley also has a bright, herbacous edge which can lend help bring complexity to the sweet, acidic notes of the salad.
- Pink peppercorns are a member of the cashew family, and they bring a delicate floral note to the salad, but you can easily skip them if you wish.
- Extra virgin olive oil brings the salad together, helping to dress the bell peppers, citrus, and other ingredients. It also brings a good dose of healthy fat which helps you absorb the fat-soluble nutrients that the other ingredients contain, such as beta carotene from the peppers.
Making a bell pepper salad is a cinch. It's easy, straightforward and there's a lot of room for experimentation, too. With only two steps (mixing the ingredients, and then dressing them), it's one of the easiest recipes you can make. However, there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind.
- Knife techniques matter. Cutting both the peppers and the oranges require some measure of skill. For the peppers, you'll want to remove both the seeds and the interior membranes, which tend to make peppers soggy over time. For the oranges you'll need to cut them into supremes, by removing the outer peel and pith and freeing the flesh from the translucent membranes that separate citrus segments.
- Let the salad rest before dressing. Because bell peppers are so crunchy, you'll want them to soften a bit before you serve the salad. Prepare the salad, and then add salt. The salt will break down the cellular walls of the sweet peppers, causing them to soften just a bit. That means the whole salad will be easier and more pleasant to eat.
- Experiment. This recipe is very forgiving. Experiment with different flavor combinations and new additions. Add feta cheese and olives, or black beans and avocado. It's something you can adapt easily depending on your own preferences.
What to pair with bell pepper salad
This bell pepper salad recipe makes a simple, easy side dish. Owing to its crunchy texture, it keeps better than salads made with lettuce. So, it can withstand a little travel and are perfect for taking to potlucks or picnics.
For people who watch their carbohydrate intake, it makes a nice low-carb replacement for the ubiquitous pasta salad you often see at barbecues, picnics, and potlucks.
Grilled meats such as baby-back ribs or grilled chicken also work well when partnered with this salad. The bell peppers, herbs, and citrus are light, sweet, and bright which works to balance the heaviness of grilled meat.
Add feta cheese. Feta is a traditional sheep's milk cheese that gives the salad a savory, briny flavor. It's delicious partnered with both citrus and bell peppers. You can also replace the citrus with olives, which is a nice variation, too. You can also swap out the lemon juice in the dressing for balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar, too.
Add black beans. Black beans can give a boost of protein and fiber to the salad, making it heartier. If using black beans, consider swapping fresh cilantro for the parsley.
Add avocado. Avocado gives the salad a creamy edge and can make it more satisfying since it's high in both fiber in healthy fats. Lime in place of lemon works well in the dressing, too.
Cucumber and cherry tomatoes are also nice additions to bell pepper salad and are also delicious partnered with olives, too.
Add a jalapeño or serrano pepper for a little heat. The heat of a chile pepper can bring a little life to the sweetness of both the bell peppers and the orange.
Use full-size bell peppers. While mini bell peppers work particularly well in a salad, you can also use full-size peppers if you prefer. You'll need to slice them into matchsticks, about 1-inch long by ⅛-inch thick.
Swap crushed red pepper for the pink peppercorns. Pink peppercorn has a floral sharpness that works well with both bell pepper and citrus. However, if you can't find it (or don't want to use it) try adding a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes instead.
You can keep the salad in the fridge for up to 3 days, although it's best to eat it the day you make it. That's because the citrus and peppers will release liquid as it sits in the fridge, so it can become soggy with prolonged storage.
You can prepare each individual portion ahead, such as slicing the bell peppers or segmenting the oranges; however, combine them about 10 minutes before you plan to serve the salad.
First, cut off the top part of the salad and remove any seeds clumps from the interior of the bell pepper. Then, slice the pepper in half length-wise. Next, use a paring knife to remove the thin, white membranes on the interior of the pepper. Rinse the pepper to remove any remaining seeds, and then slice the pepper crosswise into thin matchsticks about 1-inch long and ⅛-inch wide.
Orange supremes are the fleshy segments of an orange, without the membrane. To cut an orange into supremes, you'll slice about ¼ inch from the top and bottom of the orange, and then use a paring knife to cut away all the peel and pith, exposing only the flesh of the orange.
Then, use your paring knife to slice away the flesh of each individual segment, removing it from the membrane. This video gives good instruction on cutting citrus supremes.
Buy red, yellow, and orange mini bell peppers for salad. Ripe bell peppers of these colors are less likely to cause indigestion for susceptible people than green peppers. Further, mini bell peppers are smaller, and better suited to salads than large peppers which tend to be bulky.