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Different Kinds of Peppers and the Scolville Scale

What is a Pepper?

Capsicum, known as the ‘pepper’, is a genus of flowering plants that are native to the Americas, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years. The most famous pepper, the bell pepper, comes in different colors, including:

red, yellow, orange, green, white, and purple


Bell peppers: Bell Peppers are sometimes grouped with less pungent pepper varieties as "sweet peppers.”


Scolville scale: American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville invented the Scoville scale in 1912. Scoville created the scale by way of his Scoville Organoleptic Test, which he used to measure a pepper's heat level. When conducting his test, Scoville mixed an alcohol-based extract of capsaicin oil from a pepper into a solution of sugar water and placed the solution onto the tongues of taste testers. Little by little, he diluted the solution with more water until his taste testers told him that it no longer tasted hot. Scoville then assigned a number rating to that pepper based on how many times he had to dilute the solution to eliminate the heat. Jalapeño peppers, for instance, have a Scoville rating of 10,000, which means a jalapeño solution would have to be diluted 10,000 times before the heat was neutralized.

Modern Use of the Scoville Scale

Today, in order to obtain more accurate results, scientists use a technique called High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) to determine the exact concentration of capsaicin in a pepper.HPLC technique measures the pungency of a pepper in American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) Pungency Units. This number can be plugged into a formula that converts it to Scoville Units. Even though the process has changed since Wilbur Scoville's time, we continue to use his Scoville scale to measure the heat of peppers.

24 Types of Peppers Ranked on the Scoville Scale

The Scoville scale provides a way to compare the world’s hottest peppers with everyday varieties, measuring their pungency in Scoville Heat Units.

1. Pure capsaicin: 16,000,000 SHU 

2. Carolina Reaper: 2,200,000 SHU 

3. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion: 2,009,231 SHU 

4. Trinidad Scorpion Butch T: 1,463,700 SHU 

5. Naga Viper: 1,382,118 SHU 

6. Bhut jolokia (ghost pepper): 1,041,427 SHU 

7. Red Savina habanero: 580,000 SHU 

8. Scotch Bonnet: 350,000 SHU 

9. Jamaican Hot: 350,000 SHU 

10. Habanero: 350,000 SHU

11. Devil's Tongue: 300,000 SHU 

12. Bird's eye chili: 225,000 SHU 

13. Carolina Cayenne: 125,000 SHU 

14. Tabasco: 50,000 SHU 

15. Santaka: 50,000 SHU 

16. Chile de árbol: 30,000 SHU

17. Serrano: 23,000 SHU

18. Jalapeño: 10,000 SHU

19. Chipotle: 8,000 SHU 

20. Guajillo: 8,000 SHU

21. Anaheim: 2,500 SHU 

22. Poblano: 2,000 SHU

23. Pepperoncini: 900 SHU 

24. Bell: 0 SHU


What are the Different Types of  Peppers Are There?


1. Poblano (a.k.a. Ancho)

Poblanos get fairly big and are usually sold fresh, while they are younger and dark green. At their red, mature stage they are usually dried. Their skin is easy to blister and peel, with enough heat to be zesty but not scorch anyone.

AVERAGE SIZE:About 4 to 5 inches long



2. Guindilla Verde

From the Basque area in Spain, this is a tender pepper with a distinct sweetness. The variety shown is from the Bilbao region, and it’s a good fryer served alongside meat like lamb or pork. It shouldn’t be confused with the more widely available jarred guindillas.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 6 inches long



3. Chilaca (a.k.a. Pasilla)

This is a Mexican variety that matures from dark green to dark chocolate brown. It’s a versatile pepper that’s good for sauces, roasting, and grilling when fresh. Chilacas are medium hot but “not so much that they are scary.” When dried, they are called pasillas and are common in mole recipes; pasillas (also known as chiles negros) are available both whole and powdered.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 7 to 9 inches long



4. Basque Fryer (a.k.a. Piment d’Anglet, Doux Long des Landes)

A French pepper used in many French Basque recipes. It is a twisty, long pepper that when green has a very distinct peppery taste with a very tender skin, and lends a nice chili zest without adding heat. When it turns red, it gets very sweet. It excels in sauces, chopped up and sautéed for a pipérade (the Basque fryer would replace the bell peppers in our recipe), or fried with meats or sausage.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 6 inches long



5. Anaheim

Named after the city in Southern California, the Anaheim is a big, mild chili that’s good for stuffing. Its skin is a little tough, but it peels pretty easily if you roast it first. Anaheims are good roasted, cut into strips, and thrown into a salad; stuffed with meat and grilled; used in salsa verde; or added to cheese enchiladas.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 5 to 6 inches long



6. Cayenne

This bright red pepper is usually consumed in its dried, powdered form, known as cayenne pepper. When ripe and fresh, cayenne chiles are long, skinny, and very hot. They are relatives of wild chiles from South and Central America.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 to 6 inches long



7. Guernica

The Guernica is a Spanish pepper similar to the Padrón in flavor but bigger and without any heat, It is often served fried like the Padrón or stuffed with cheese or other fillings. It develops a tougher skin as it matures, and then is best roasted and peeled.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 3 to 5 inches long



8. Hot Banana

Happy Quail grows both sweet and hot varieties of the banana pepper, known as bácskai fehér in Hungary. They are often used in Hungarian lecsó (a dish of stewed peppers and eggs), pickled, or served grilled with meats.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 6 to 7 inches long



9. Jalapeño (a.k.a. Chipotle)

Familiar stuffed with cream cheese and deep-fried as a bar snack, or chopped up in salsa, the jalapeño is probably the best-known pepper in the States. It gets its name from Jalapa (also spelled Xalapa), the capital of Veracruz, Mexico. Harvested at both its green and red stages, the jalapeño is spicy but easy to seed and devein if you wish to remove some of the heat. When dried and smoked, it’s called a chipotle chili.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 to 3 inches long



10. Serrano

Spicier than the jalapeño, the serrano is a small Mexican pepper with thick, juicy walls, so it’s a great hot-salsa pepper, and is widely available and versatile. It is most commonly sold in its green stage (it turns red and then yellow as it gets older). You can also find serranos pickled or dried.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 1.5 to 2.5 inches long



11. Habanero

Native to parts of Central America and the Caribbean, this little pepper packs a lot of heat. But contrary to popular belief, the Red Savina habanero is not the hottest type of chile; that distinction now goes to the Indian bhut jolokia, or ghost chile. Still, habaneros add a lot of heat to cooking and should be used judiciously. You’ll find different colors, ranging from red to white-yellow and even brown, but orange is the most common. Great for salsa, hot sauces, or a fiery jerk chicken.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 inches long



12. Pimiento de Padrón

This pepper is a specialty grown in Galicia in northern Spain. It is traditionally eaten as a simple tapa, fried in olive oil and tossed with salt; it is harvested young and small, with a tender skin and no mature seeds, so it’s perfect for eating whole, bitten right off the stem. It is generally mild with a nutty flavor at this stage, but it gets hotter as it matures. Part of the fun of eating these peppers is that about one in a dozen will be pretty hot.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 to 4 inches long

SPICINESS: 1 (but the hot ones, even when young, can be 2 to 3)


13. Aji Rojo

Common in a lot of Peruvian cooking, the aji rojo is more of an orange-red than a true red pepper. It has a similar heat level to cayenne and can be chopped finely and added to ceviche or mixed with cheese or cream to make a sauce to serve over potatoes or chicken.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 to 3 inches long



14. Thai

This tiny chile adds serious amounts of heat to Southeast Asian cuisines. You may find either green or red Thai chiles; both are very spicy. Throw them whole into Thai soups like tom kha gai, purée them for curry pastes, or chop them up for any dish where you want to add heat without a lot of pieces of pepper.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 1 to 2 inches long



15. Bell

The most common sweet pepper, bells are usually seen in red, green, and yellow, but there are also purple, brown, and orange varieties. They are a crunchy, juicy pepper that is great for eating raw on salads, sautéing, or roasting and chopping up to throw on a pizza or a sandwich.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 3 to 6 inches long



16. Hot Cherry

These vary in size and shape and are very hot. They are usually round, though sometimes more of a triangular shape. Cherry peppers can also be sweet. They’re most often used in pickling: You can throw one in a jar with cucumber pickles to spice things up, or pickle them with other, more mild peppers.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 1 to 2 inches long



17. Hungarian Pimento

This is a type of pimento (or pimiento) pepper, which is what you often find stuffed in green olives. It is a large, sweet red pepper, similar to a bell but with an extra-thick, juicy wall. The skin comes off easily, so this is an ideal pepper for roasting. It’s also great to eat raw with dip.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 4 to 6 inches long



18. Piquillo

The ultimate pepper for roasting, the Spanish piquillo has become very popular because of its intensely sweet flavor and bright red color. It is usually only available canned or jarred, but it’s becoming easier to find fresh. It is often roasted, peeled, and stuffed with a variety of fillings like salt cod, tuna, or cheese.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 3 inches long



19. Shishito

Popular in Japan, the shishito has thin walls, mild heat, and a little sweetness. It is good served like the Padrón: simply fried, drizzled with some soy sauce and sesame oil, and eaten whole. It also makes very tasty tempura.

AVERAGE SIZE: About 2 to 4 inches long

SPICINESS: 1 to 2 (occasionally you might get a 2 to 3)






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