Changes in xanthophyll esterification degree during pepper fruit ripening have been studied in five cultivars (Numex, Mana, Belrubi, Delfin, and Negral). Esterification of xanthophylls with fatty acids is seen to be a process that is contemporary with and directly linked to the transformation of chloroplast (present in the green fruit) into chromoplast (present in the red fruit). Changes in the fractions of free and partially and totally esterified carotenoids are similar between varieties, reflecting the constitutive nature of esterification as part of the ripening process and being controlled by it. From the first stages of ripening, the fraction of totally esterified pigments (zeaxanthin diester, beta-cryptoxanthin diester, capsanthin diester, and capsorubin diester) makes up almost 50% of the total carotenoid content. The proportion of the partially esterified pigment fraction (zeaxanthin monoester, capsanthin monoester, and capsorubin monoester) in the total carotenoid content increases, with a gradual decrease in the fraction of free pigments (beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, capsanthin, and capsorubin). In the fully ripe stage, a balance is reached between the three esterification fractions (free, partially esterified, and totally esterified), with mean values of 24.17 +/- 4.06, 31.48 +/- 4. 61, and 44.36 +/- 5.05, respectively, which seems to be largely independent of variety. This suggests a marked control of the carotenoid composition of the totally developed chromoplast, indicating its use as an index of ripeness. The inclusion in the present study of a variety (Negral) that retains chlorophylls when ripening, and which shows the same esterification behavior, supports the idea that carotenogenesis is normal and independent of chlorophyll catabolism.