The molecular self-assembly, growth and nonlinear thermo-optical properties of three synthetic aromatic-aliphatic hybrid nitropeptides have been investigated. The X-ray crystallography of nitropeptide 2 containing a glutamic acid moiety shows that the peptide adopts a dimeric structure using intermolecular hydrogen bonding as well as face to face π-π stacking interactions. Moreover, nitropeptide 2 exhibits nonlocal nonlinear optical properties. When a Gaussian laser beam passes through nitropeptide 2, the peptide shows several concentric rings due to spatial self-phase modulation (SSPM). However, the homologous peptide 1 containing an aspartic acid moiety and peptide 3 containing an achiral α-aminoisobutyric acid (Aib) moiety adopt sheet-like structures and have no self-phase modulation effect. The report describes the thermo-optical properties consistent with assumption and calculation and is promising for their applications in nonlinear optical modulation devices.