Types of Peppers ⋆ 100 Days of Real Food

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There are so many different types of peppers! There is nothing like the sweet, spicy, and vegetative bite of a great pepper. There are hundreds of different varieties of delicious fresh peppers available in stores and farmer’s markets everywhere. Explore a few of the most deliciously sweet and spicy peppers around the world with this helpful guide to different types of peppers!

Different Kinds of Peppers

There are hundreds of different types of peppers! Peppers belong to the Capsicum genus, and they come in various shapes, sizes, colors, and levels of spiciness. Read this comprehensive guide to peppers, how to eat them, their spiciness level, and different recipe ideas.

Aleppo

Aleppo peppers, also known as Halaby peppers, originate from the city of Aleppo in Syria. These peppers have a moderate level of heat, typically milder than cayenne peppers but still with a noticeable kick. What sets Aleppo peppers apart is their fruity, earthy flavor profile, which adds a delightful depth to dishes, making them a popular choice in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.

Scoville Heat Units: 10,000 to 30,000

Aleppo peppers.

Alma Paprika

Alma paprika peppers are a vibrant red variety of Capsicum annuum, commonly grown in Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe. These peppers are known for their rich, sweet flavor and mild heat, making them ideal for adding color and taste to dishes without overwhelming spiciness. Alma paprika peppers are often dried and ground into a fine powder, becoming an essential ingredient in Hungarian paprika, which is widely used in traditional goulash and other savory dishes.

Scoville Heat Units: 0

Alma paprika peppers.

Aji Amarillo

Aji Amarillo is known for its powerful spicy punch and bright colors. These peppers have a long thin pepper shape and are bright yellow when ripe. Inside the colorful peppers are loaded with heat; they range between 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville. Aji Amarillo peppers are very popular in traditional Peruvian dishes like aji de gallina.

Scoville Heat Units: 30,000 to 50,000

Aji amarillo.

Aji Chombo

Aji Chombo peppers, also known as Panamanian Hot Peppers, are a popular chili variety native to Panama and other Central American countries. These small, fiery red peppers pack a significant amount of heat, often measuring between 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville Heat Units. Aji Chombo peppers are a key ingredient in many traditional Panamanian dishes, including hot sauces, stews, and marinades, where their intense spiciness adds a bold and distinctive flavor.

Scoville Heat Units: 50,000 to 100,000

Aji chombo.

Anaheim

Anaheim peppers, named after the city of Anaheim in California, are a mild chili variety of the Capsicum annuum species. These peppers are long and slender, with a vibrant green color that matures to red when fully ripe. With a Scoville heat rating of around 500 to 2,500 SHU, Anaheim peppers are much milder than jalapeños, making them a popular choice for roasting, stuffing, and adding a subtle kick to various dishes, including salsas, soups, and Mexican cuisine.

Scoville Heat Units: 500 to 2,500

Anaheim peppers.

Ancho

Ancho peppers are a dried form of the poblano pepper, belonging to the Capsicum annuum species. These peppers are known for their deep, smoky flavor with hints of dried fruit and mild heat, typically ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 Scoville Heat Units. Ancho peppers are a staple in Mexican cuisine, where they are used to create rich, flavorful sauces like mole, as well as being rehydrated and used in various stews, salsas, and marinades.

Scoville Heat Units: 1,000 to 2,000

Ancho chili.

Banana

Banana peppers, also known as yellow wax peppers, are a sweet and mild chili variety with a distinct elongated shape, resembling a banana. They are typically harvested when they are bright yellow but can turn orange or red as they mature. Banana peppers are commonly used in salads, sandwiches, pickles, and relishes, adding a tangy-sweet flavor that complements various dishes. They are one of the most popular types of peppers.

Scoville Heat Units: 0 to 500

Banana pepper.

Bell Pepper

Bell peppers are the most common and most tame variety of pepper. Bell peppers come in a variety of colors including, green, yellow, orange, and red. The warmer-colored bell peppers, like red and orange, tend to be very sweet; whereas, green bell peppers are very leafy and green in flavor. Bell peppers are ideal for building flavor in savory dishes, adding color and crunch to raw foods, or using pretty much anywhere you can imagine. In addition, these are one of the most commonly eaten types of peppers. Check out these Steak and Pepper Fajitas!

Scoville Heat Units: 0

Colorful bell peppers.

Black Cobra

Black Cobra peppers, also known as Naga Jolokia or Ghost peppers, are an extremely hot chili variety originating from India. With a Scoville rating ranging from 800,000 to over 1,000,000 SHU, these peppers are among the hottest in the world. Black Cobra peppers are often used to create super spicy hot sauces, salsas, and chili pastes, but should be handled with extreme caution due to their intense heat level.

Scoville Heat Units: 800,000 to 1,000,000

Black cobra peppers.

Black Prince

Black Prince peppers are very small, oftentimes less than 1 inch long. They are a beautiful purple color.

Scoville Heat Units: 5,000 to 30,000

Black Prince pepper.

Bird’s Eye

Birds eye or Thai chiles are small yellow to red hot peppers with a serious punch. The small peppery package hides a big heat rating of 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville. Birds eye chiles are not just hot, though, they are also mildly sweet and fruity. They are commonly used in Asian cuisine to add heat to hot sauce, ramen, dumplings, and so much more!

Scoville Heat Units: 50,000 to 100,000

Bird's eye chili.

Caribbean Hot

Caribbean hot peppers, also known as Scotch bonnet peppers, are a fiery chili variety widely cultivated in the Caribbean region. With a Scoville rating ranging from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU, they rank among the spiciest peppers available. These peppers have a distinct, fruity flavor, making them a key ingredient in many Caribbean dishes, such as jerk seasoning, hot sauces, and spicy stews.

Scoville Heat Units: 100,000 to 350,000

Caribbean hot peppers.

Carolina Reaper

Some peppers will tell you with their name that you need to beware and the Carolina reaper is one such pepper. These peppers read over 2 million on the Scoville scale and must be handled with absolute care. If you can handle the heat, reapers have a chocolatey flavor that makes them great for use in hot sauce, curry, and creamy dips. They are one of the hottest types of peppers.

Scoville Heat Units: 2,000,000+

Carolina reaper.

Cascabel

Cascabel hot peppers, named after their rattling sound when dried, are a popular chili variety in Mexican cuisine. These round, cherry-like peppers have a mild to medium heat level, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 Scoville Heat Units. Cascabel peppers are often toasted or dry-roasted before being used in various dishes, imparting a nutty and earthy flavor with a subtle spiciness, making them ideal for salsas, sauces, and traditional Mexican recipes.

Scoville Heat Units: 1,000 to 3,000

Cascabel peppers.

Cayenne

Cayenne peppers are renowned for their fiery heat, which ranks higher on the Scoville scale. These elongated, red chilies are commonly ground into a fine powder and used to add a spicy kick to various dishes, including soups, stews, and marinades. In addition to its culinary uses, cayenne is often praised for its potential health benefits, such as aiding digestion and boosting metabolism.

Scoville Heat Units: 30,000 to 50,000

Cayenne pepper.

Charleston Hot

Charleston hot peppers are closely related to cayenne peppers. In fact, they are even more hot than cayenne peppers. They are bred by the United States Department of Agriculture and contain double the heat of cayenne peppers.

Scoville Heat Units: 70,000 to 100,000

Charleston hot peppers.

Cherry

Cherry peppers, also known as pimento peppers or cherry bomb peppers, are a small, round chili variety with a unique sweet and mildly spicy flavor. They are typically harvested when green and mature to a vibrant red color. Cherry peppers are popularly used for stuffing with cheese or meat, pickling, or adding a delightful pop of color and taste to salads, sandwiches, and various dishes in Mediterranean and Italian cuisines.

Scoville Heat Units: 0 to 500

Cherry peppers.

Chile de Arbol

Chile de Arbol peppers are slender, red chili peppers with a Scoville rating ranging from 15,000 to 30,000 SHU, making them moderately hot. They are a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine, adding a fiery kick to dishes such as soups, salsas, and sauces. The chile de arbol peppers are often dried and used as a spice, lending a smoky and earthy flavor to various dishes, while also providing a vibrant red color.

Scoville Heat Units: 15,000 to 30,000

Chile de Arbol.

Chimayo

Chimayo peppers, also known as Chimayó chilies, are a unique variety of chili peppers named after the village of Chimayó in New Mexico, USA. They are relatively mild, with a Scoville rating of around 1,000 to 2,000 SHU, making them ideal for those who prefer a subtle heat. Chimayo peppers are highly prized for their distinct flavor, often described as sweet, smoky, and slightly fruity, making them a favorite for traditional New Mexican dishes like chile sauces, stews, and salsas.

Scoville Heat Units: 1,000 to 5,000

Chimayo veggie.

Chipotle

Chipotle peppers are dried and smoked jalapeño peppers, commonly used in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines. They have a distinctive smoky, earthy flavor with a moderate level of heat, typically measuring around 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units. Chipotle peppers are a versatile ingredient, often found in adobo sauce, marinades, soups, and various dishes, adding depth and complexity to the flavors.

Scoville Heat Units: 2,500 to 8,000

Chipotle peppers.

Cuban

Cuban peppers, or cubanelle peppers, are slightly sweet. These peppers are typically picked before they ripen. At this stage, they are light green. As they ripen, they turn bright red. They are also called Italian frying peppers because they are great fried in some olive oil!

Scoville Heat Units: 0 to 1,000

Cuban veggie.

Datil

Datil peppers are a hot chili variety native to St. Augustine, Florida, and are closely related to the habanero pepper. They have a distinctive sweet and fruity flavor with a fiery heat level. Datil peppers are a cherished ingredient in various Floridian dishes and hot sauces, contributing a unique and tantalizing taste that enthusiasts of spicy cuisine adore.

Scoville Heat Units: 100,000 to 300,000

Datil peppers.

Devil’s Tongue

Devil’s Tongue peppers, also known as Capsicum chinense ‘Devil’s Tongue,’ are a rare and extremely hot chili variety. Originating from the Caribbean region, they are closely related to other super-hot peppers like the Carolina Reaper and Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. Devil’s Tongue peppers have a scorching heat level, often exceeding 500,000 Scoville Heat Units, making them a challenge even for the most adventurous chili lovers.

Scoville Heat Units: 500,000

Devil's tongue peppers.

Dragon’s Breath

Dragon’s Breath peppers were claimed to be one of the hottest chili peppers in the world, surpassing even the Carolina Reaper and the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. There has been controversy surrounding their actual heat level and authenticity as a new chili variety. The extreme spiciness of Dragon’s Breath peppers prompted concerns about safety, and their validity as a separate pepper variety has been debated within the chili community.

Scoville Heat Units: not officially verified

Dragon's breath.

Fatalii

Fatalii peppers, also known as Capsicum chinense ‘Fatalii,’ are a hot chili variety originating from Central and Southern Africa. These chili peppers are known for their unique, bright yellow color and intense heat. Fatalii peppers are commonly used in hot sauces, salsas, and spicy dishes, where their citrusy, fruity flavor adds a distinct kick to the culinary experience.

Scoville Heat Units: 125,000 to 400,000

Fatalii peppers.

Fresno

Fresno peppers, also known as Capsicum annuum ‘Fresno,’ are a moderately hot chili variety resembling red jalapeños in appearance. They offer a milder heat compared to jalapeños. Fresno peppers are popularly used in a variety of cuisines, from Mexican to Asian, where their vibrant red color and balanced spiciness make them a great choice for salsas, pickles, and as a topping for pizzas and sandwiches. When it comes to types of peppers, they are commonly known.

Scoville Heat Units: 2,500 to 10,000

Fresno peppers.

Ghost Pepper

Ghost peppers might have you a little spooked but if you love heat these pretty peppers are just right. These peppers have red and wrinkled skin that hides their inner heat! Ghost peppers read over 1 million Scoville, but behind all that heat they taste fruity which makes them great for spicy salsas, jams, and coconut curries. They are one of the most spicy types of peppers.

Scoville Heat Units: 1,000,000

Ghost peppers.

Guajillo

Guajillos are the dried form of mirasol pepper. Guajillo chiles have a very mild heat rating of 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville so most people can handle their flavor. These common dried Mexican chiles are the perfect mild pepper for stews, sauces, rubs, marinades, and so much more!

Scoville Heat Units: 2,500 to 5,000

Guajillo peppers.

Habanero

Habanero peppers are small peppers with bright orange skin. The orange color might be a warning because what is inside is very hot! Habaneros read between 100,000 and 350,000 Scoville; however, they are also known for their very fruity flavor, so they are perfect for pairing with fruit compote, chutney, and creamy curries. This type of pepper can be used in sweet or savory recipes.

Scoville Heat Units: 100,000 to 350,000

Habanero peppers.

Hatch

Hatch peppers, also known as New Mexico green chile, are a renowned chili variety grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico, USA. These peppers have a mild to medium heat level, with a Scoville rating typically ranging from 1,000 to 8,000 SHU. Hatch peppers are highly prized for their unique flavor, which is both slightly sweet and smoky, making them a sought-after ingredient in various dishes like enchiladas, burgers, and stews, and celebrated during the annual Hatch Chile Festival.

Scoville Heat Units: 1,000 to 8,000

Hatch veggies.

Hungarian Wax

Hungarian wax peppers, also known as Hot Yellow Wax peppers, are a popular chili variety widely cultivated in Hungary and other parts of Europe. These peppers are typically harvested when yellow, but they can also mature to orange or red. Hungarian wax peppers have a mild to medium heat level, making them suitable for pickling, stuffing, or adding a gentle kick to various dishes.

Scoville Heat Units: 5,000 to 10,000

Hungarian wax peppers.

Italian Sweet

Italian sweet peppers, also known as Italian frying peppers, are a mild chili variety that is popularly used in Italian cuisine. These peppers have a sweet and tangy flavor, with little to no heat, making them perfect for sautéing, grilling, or roasting. Italian sweet peppers are often featured in dishes like peperonata, where they are cooked with onions, tomatoes, and olive oil, creating a delicious and versatile side dish.

Scoville Heat Units: 0

Italian sweet peppers.

Jalapeño

Jalapeño peppers are one of the most well-known peppers in America. Jalapeños are small to medium in size and green when ripe. Their heat level is only 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville, so they are mild enough for most people to enjoy! Plus, the size and relative grassiness of this pepper make it perfect for stuffing with cheese and enjoying as a deliciously spicy snack!

Scoville Heat Units: 2,500 to 8,000

Jalapeño peppers.

Madame Jeanette

Madame Jeannette peppers, also known as Surinamese yellow peppers, are a fiery chili variety originating from Suriname in South America. These small, bright yellow peppers have a Scoville rating ranging from 125,000 to 325,000 SHU, making them extremely hot. Madame Jeannette peppers are used to add intense spiciness and a distinctive fruity flavor to traditional Surinamese dishes and are also popular in Caribbean cuisines.

Scoville Heat Units: 125,000 to 325,000

Madame Jeanette pepper.

Malagueta

Malagueta peppers, native to Brazil and also popular in other parts of South America and Africa, are small and fiery chili peppers. They are an essential ingredient in many traditional Brazilian dishes, including moqueca and vatapá, where their intense heat and fruity flavor contribute to the complexity of the flavors. Malagueta peppers are also commonly used to make spicy sauces and condiments, adding a fiery kick to various dishes.

Scoville Heat Units: 60,000 to 100,000

Malagueta peppers.

Melrose

Melrose peppers are a lesser-known sweet pepper variety. They are generally small to medium-sized with a tapered shape and a vibrant red color when ripe. Melrose peppers are prized for their sweet and fruity flavor, making them a delightful addition to salads, stir-fries, and other dishes where a mild and pleasant pepper taste is desired.

Scoville Heat Units: 0

Melrose peppers.

Pasilla

Pasilla peppers, also known as chile negro, are a mild to medium-hot chili variety commonly used in Mexican cuisine. They are long and dark, ranging from dark green to almost black in color when fresh, and turn shiny dark brown when dried. Pasilla peppers have a rich, earthy flavor with notes of dried fruit and are frequently used in sauces, stews, and moles, imparting a deep and complex taste to the dishes.

Scoville Heat Units: 1,000 to 2,000

Pasilla peppers.

Pequin

Pequin peppers, also known as bird’s eye peppers, are small and fiery chili peppers with a Scoville rating ranging from 30,000 to 60,000 SHU. Native to the southern United States and Mexico, they are named after their resemblance to small bird’s eyes. Pequin peppers are commonly used in hot sauces, salsas, and as a spicy seasoning, adding intense heat and a distinct fruity flavor to various dishes.

Scoville Heat Units: 30,000 to 60,000

Pequin peppers.

Pepperoncini

Pepperoncini peppers, also known as Tuscan peppers, are a mild chili variety that originated in Italy. These small, wrinkled peppers are typically harvested when green, but they can turn red or yellow as they mature. Pepperoncini peppers are often pickled and used as a popular condiment, adding a tangy and slightly spicy flavor to sandwiches, salads, and Mediterranean dishes.

Scoville Heat Units: 100 to 500

Pepperoncini.

Pimento

Pimento peppers, also known as cherry peppers, are a sweet and mild chili variety with a unique shape resembling a small, round cherry. These peppers are commonly harvested when red, and they are often used in pickled or canned form as pimentos to stuff olives. Pimento peppers are also a popular ingredient in various dishes, providing a sweet and slightly tangy flavor that complements a wide range of culinary creations. Try this Pasta Salad with Pimento Pesto!

Scoville Heat Units: 0

Pimento peppers.

Piquillo

Piquillo peppers are a sweet and mildly spicy chili variety hailing from the northern regions of Spain, particularly Navarra. These small, red peppers are renowned for their distinctive triangular shape and rich, smoky flavor, which comes from being roasted over open flames before being peeled and packed. Piquillo peppers are a beloved ingredient in Spanish cuisine, often used in tapas, salads, and stuffed dishes, adding a touch of sweetness and smokiness to elevate the flavors.

Scoville Heat Units: 1,000 to 2,000

Piquillo peppers.

Piri Piri

Piri Piri peppers, also known as African bird’s eye chilies, are a small and extremely hot chili variety native to Africa. They have a Scoville rating ranging from 50,000 to 175,000 SHU, making them one of the spiciest peppers in the world. Piri Piri peppers are widely used in African, particularly Mozambican and Portuguese, cuisines to make piri piri sauce, a fiery condiment that adds intense heat and flavor to various dishes.

Scoville Heat Units: 50,000 to 175,000

Piri Piri peppers.

Poblano

Poblanos are an instantly recognizable pepper. They are large, flat, deep green peppers that are perfect for stuffing, dicing, breading, and more! Poblanos have a people-pleasing flavor that is similar to a green bell pepper but with a kick. Poblanos only read about 1,000 to 1,500 on the Scoville scale, so pretty much everyone can enjoy this colorful mild pepper!

Scoville Heat Units: 1,000 to 5,000

Poblano veggie.

Purple Beauty

Purple Beauty peppers, as the name suggests, are a visually striking chili variety known for their vibrant purple color. These sweet peppers have a mild flavor, making them ideal for fresh consumption, salads, or as a colorful addition to various dishes. Their unique hue and gentle taste have made Purple Beauty peppers a popular choice for gardeners and chefs looking to add a splash of color and flavor to their creations.

Scoville Heat Units: 0

Purple beauty pepper.

Puya

Puya peppers are a small, fiery chili variety originating from Mexico. They are closely related to the guajillo pepper and are often used in Mexican cuisine to add heat and flavor to various dishes, including salsas, sauces, and stews. Puya peppers have a Scoville rating ranging from 5,000 to 8,000 SHU, providing a moderate to high level of spiciness that adds a bold kick to culinary creations.

Scoville Heat Units: 5,000 to 8,000

Puya peppers.

Red Savina Habanero

Red Savina habanero peppers are a special strain of the habanero pepper known for their extreme heat. At their peak, they were once considered one of the hottest chili peppers in the world. These peppers have a vibrant red color and are used sparingly in hot sauces and spicy dishes, adding a potent fiery kick to the culinary experience.

Scoville Heat Units: 570,000

Red Savina habanero.

Rocoto

Rocoto peppers are small red peppers with a surprising kick. These small peppers reach between 50,000 and 100,000 Scoville, but they have a grassy vegetable flavor that helps balance their heat. The fresh flavor makes rocoto peppers delicious in tomato-based dishes, like goulash, pasta sauce, and salsa.

Scoville Heat Units: 50,000 to 100,000

Rocoto peppers.

Scotch Bonnet

The Scotch bonnet is a hybrid habanero pepper that packs a serious punch. This small orange pepper is between 100,000 and 350,000 on the Scoville scale, but its heat is balanced by notes of vegetable sweetness and a hint of mild fruitiness. Scotch bonnets are a must-have for Caribbean-style cuisine and they are great in curries and sauces.

Scoville Heat Units: 100,000 to 350,000

Scotch Bonnet peppers.

Serrano

The serrano pepper is a spicy step up from jalapeños. With a heat range of 10,000 to 23,000 Scoville, serrano peppers can really bring the heat! Serranos have a veggie taste that helps to balance their bold heat. These peppers are perfect for salsas, stews, and curries.

Scoville Heat Units: 10,000 to 23,000

Serrano peppers.

Siling Labuyo

Siling labuyo are very small chile peppers with bright red flesh. They are only about an inch long, but in every small bite of Siling labuyo peppers, you get a lot of earthy flavors and some serious spice! Siling labuyo peppers are about 80,000 to 100,000 on the Scoville scale so they are great for adding a zippy heat to sauces and curries.

Scoville Heat Units: 80,000 to 100,000

Siling labuyo.

Shishito

Red shishito peppers are a variety of shishito peppers that ripen to a bright red color. These small, slender peppers are known for their mild and slightly sweet flavor, making them a popular choice for appetizers, tapas, and side dishes. Red shishito peppers are typically pan-fried or grilled until they blister, creating a delicious and easy-to-eat snack with a hint of smokiness.

Scoville Heat Units: 50 to 200

Shishito veggie.

Tien Tsin

Tien Tsin peppers, also known as Chinese red peppers, are a small and fiery chili variety native to China. These peppers have a Scoville rating of around 50,000 to 75,000 SHU, making them notably spicy. Tien Tsin peppers are often used in Sichuan and other Chinese cuisines to add intense heat and flavor to dishes like Kung Pao chicken and Mapo tofu, providing a tingling and numbing sensation that is characteristic of Sichuan cuisine.

Scoville Heat Units: 50,000 to 75,000

Tien Tsin peppers.

Thai

Thai peppers, also known as Thai bird’s eye chilies, are a small yet incredibly hot chili variety commonly found in Southeast Asian cuisine. These peppers are one of the spiciest peppers in the world. Thai peppers are a key ingredient in many Thai dishes, such as spicy curries, stir-fries, and sauces, adding a fiery kick that tantalizes the taste buds.

Scoville Heat Units: 50,000 to 100,000

Thai pepper.

Tabasco

Tabasco peppers are small smoky peppers with yellow to red skin. These little bites are known for their medium heat level of 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville and their distinct smoky aftertaste. They are ideal for use in hot sauce, wing sauce, barbecued recipes, and chili.

Scoville Heat Units: 30,000 to 50,000

Tabasco peppers.

Trinidad Scorpion

Scorpion peppers were once regarded as the hottest pepper in the world, but today other hybrids have taken their crown. However, the Trinidad Scorpion pepper is still one of the most sought-after hot peppers around! They have a wonderfully fruity flavor that compliments their 1 to 1.5 million Scoville rating. These hot peppers should be handled with care, but when used right they add a ton of fruity peppery heat to sauces, salsas, curries, and more!

Scoville Heat Units: 1,000,000 to 1,500,000

Trinidad scorpion veggie.

Yellow Chili

Yellow chili peppers refer to a wide range of chili varieties that ripen to a vibrant yellow color when mature. Some popular yellow chili peppers include banana peppers, Hungarian wax peppers, and yellow bell peppers. These peppers are often milder in heat compared to their red or green counterparts, making them ideal for adding a splash of color and a subtle, sweet flavor to various dishes, from salads to stir-fries.

Scoville Heat Units: varies

Yellow chili peppers.

What Is The Scoville Heat Unit Scale?

The Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) scale is a measurement used to quantify the spiciness or heat level of chili peppers and other spicy foods. It was developed by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912. The scale measures the concentration of capsaicin, the compound responsible for the heat sensation, in a particular pepper or spicy food. Different types of peppers have different SHU scores.

The Scoville Heat Unit scale ranges from 0 SHU for mild or sweet peppers to over 2,000,000 SHU for the spiciest peppers like the Carolina Reaper. The higher the number on the SHU scale, the hotter and more intense the sensation of heat. The scale allows consumers and chefs to gauge the spiciness of chili peppers and use them appropriately in various dishes, taking into account personal preferences and tolerance for spicy foods.

How Do You Calculate Scoville Units?

The Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) scale measures the number of capsaicinoids in a sample of chili pepper or spicy food. Capsaicinoids are the chemical compounds responsible for the heat or spiciness in chili peppers. The process of calculating Scoville Units involves a series of dilutions and taste tests. Here’s how it works:

  1. Extraction: A sample of the chili pepper is ground up and mixed with alcohol to extract the capsaicinoids.
  2. Dilution: The extracted liquid is then diluted with sugar water in a series of steps.
  3. Taste Test: Trained tasters or a panel of testers then taste each diluted solution and rate its heat level. The dilution continues until the heat is no longer detectable by the tasters.
  4. Scoville Heat Units: The Scoville rating of the chili pepper is determined by the level of dilution at which the heat is no longer perceived. The more dilutions required, the higher the SHU value, indicating a hotter pepper.

For example, if a chili pepper requires 1,000 dilutions before the heat is no longer detectable, it would be rated at 1,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).

Today, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is often used to measure the actual concentration of capsaicinoids accurately. This method provides a more precise and objective measurement compared to the traditional sensory taste test, but the results are still reported in Scoville Heat Units for historical continuity.

Colored bell peppers.

Selecting Peppers

Selecting peppers to buy depends on your preferences, the intended use, and the level of spiciness you desire. Here are some factors to consider when choosing peppers:

  1. Heat Level: Peppers vary widely in their spiciness, from mild to extremely hot. If you prefer a mild pepper, go for varieties like bell peppers, banana peppers, or Italian sweet peppers. For more heat, consider jalapeños, serranos, or Thai bird’s eye chilies. If you enjoy intense spiciness, look for habaneros, scotch bonnets, or Carolina Reaper peppers.
  2. Flavor Profile: Different peppers offer various flavor profiles, ranging from sweet and fruity to smoky and earthy. For example, bell peppers have a mild, sweet taste, while poblano peppers have a rich, smoky flavor. Consider the taste you want to add to your dishes.
  3. Culinary Use: Think about how you plan to use the peppers. Some peppers are ideal for raw consumption, stuffing, or pickling (e.g., bell peppers and banana peppers). Others are better suited for cooking in soups, stews, and sauces (e.g., jalapeños and cayenne peppers). Choose peppers that align with your cooking style and the dishes you enjoy making.
  4. Freshness: When buying fresh peppers, look for ones that are firm, glossy, and free from wrinkles or blemishes. Avoid peppers with soft spots or signs of decay.
  5. Color: Depending on the recipe or dish, you may want to choose peppers in specific colors. For example, red bell peppers tend to be sweeter and have a richer taste compared to green bell peppers. Fully ripe peppers usually have a more pronounced flavor than unripe ones.
  6. Size and Shape: Consider the size and shape of the peppers, especially if you plan to stuff or slice them. Some varieties, like jalapeños and poblano peppers, are elongated and suitable for stuffing, while others, like Thai bird’s eye chilies, are small and ideal for chopping or garnishing.
  7. Availability: Some pepper varieties are seasonal and may not be available year-round. Check the availability of the peppers in your region and choose accordingly.

How to Store

Storing peppers properly can help prolong their freshness and maintain their flavor. Here are some general guidelines for storing different types of peppers:

  1. Refrigeration: Most peppers, including bell peppers, jalapeños, serranos, and other common varieties, should be stored in the refrigerator. Place them in a plastic bag or a perforated plastic wrap to retain moisture while allowing some air circulation. Stored this way, they can stay fresh for up to one to two weeks.
  2. Room Temperature: Some peppers, like banana peppers, Italian sweet peppers, and poblano peppers, can be kept at room temperature for a few days if you plan to use them soon. However, if you want to prolong their freshness, it’s best to store them in the refrigerator.
  3. Drying: To preserve peppers for a more extended period, consider drying them. Hang them in a well-ventilated area with good air circulation, or use a food dehydrator. Once fully dried, store the peppers in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Dried peppers can retain their flavor for several months.
  4. Freezing: Another way to store peppers for an extended period is by freezing them. Wash, seed, and slice the peppers before freezing. Lay the slices on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze until firm. Then transfer the frozen pepper slices to a freezer-safe container or bag. Frozen peppers can retain their quality for about 6 to 12 months.
  5. Pickling: For small hot peppers, like jalapeños or Thai bird’s eye chilies, pickling is an excellent preservation method. Prepare a pickling solution using vinegar, water, salt, and any desired spices, and then submerge the peppers in the liquid. Store the pickled peppers in the refrigerator for up to several months.
Sliced bell pepper.

Health Benefits

Peppers, particularly hot chili peppers, offer several health benefits due to their rich nutritional profile and active compounds like capsaicin. Here are some of the potential health benefits of consuming peppers:

  1. Rich in Vitamins and Minerals: Peppers, especially bell peppers, are abundant in essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate, and potassium. These nutrients play crucial roles in supporting the immune system, maintaining healthy skin, and promoting overall well-being.
  2. Antioxidant Properties: Peppers are a good source of antioxidants, such as carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin) and vitamin C. These antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and lowering the risk of chronic diseases.
  3. Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Capsaicin, the active compound found in hot chili peppers, has anti-inflammatory properties. It may help reduce inflammation and provide relief from certain inflammatory conditions like arthritis.
  4. Weight Management: Peppers are low in calories and high in fiber, which can aid in weight management by promoting feelings of fullness and reducing overall calorie intake.
  5. Heart Health: The antioxidants and potassium in peppers can contribute to heart health by supporting healthy blood pressure levels and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  6. Pain Relief: Topical creams containing capsaicin derived from hot peppers have been used for pain relief, particularly for conditions like arthritis, muscle pain, and nerve pain.
  7. Improved Digestion: Peppers, especially hot varieties, may have a positive impact on digestion by stimulating gastric juices and enhancing metabolism.
  8. Boosted Metabolism: Capsaicin in hot peppers has been found to increase metabolism and promote fat burning, potentially aiding in weight loss efforts.
  9. Immune System Support: The high vitamin C content in peppers can help boost the immune system and improve the body’s ability to fight off infections and illnesses.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are all peppers spicy?

No, not all peppers are spicy. Peppers come in various heat levels, ranging from sweet and mild to extremely hot. For example, bell peppers and Italian sweet peppers are mild and sweet, while jalapeños and habaneros are known for their spiciness.

How do I reduce the spiciness of peppers in a dish?

To reduce the spiciness of peppers in a dish, you can remove the seeds and white membranes. They contain most of the capsaicin, which is responsible for the heat.

Can you freeze peppers?

Yes, you can freeze peppers to preserve their freshness. Wash, seed, and slice them before freezing.

What are some popular uses for different types of peppers?

The uses of peppers vary depending on their heat level and flavor. Bell peppers are great for salads, stir fry, and stuffing. Jalapeños and serrano peppers are great for salsa, sauces, and Tex-Mex recipes. Bird’s eye adds spiciness to Asian cuisines while poblano peppers are great for chiles rellenos.

Can I use dried peppers instead of fresh ones in recipes?

Sure! Dried peppers often have a more concentrated flavor, so you may need less than what the recipe calls for.

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