It seems like ever since Man v. Food debuted back in 2008, the world has become obsessed with chasing the heat of hot peppers. Not really sure why watching host Adam Richman suffer through dishes like ghost pepper pizza piqued our interest, but it did. The show may have come to a close five years ago, but our curiosity about peppers still lingers.
And it's not even that we want to feel the burn, per se, it's just so interesting to learn about the spiciest peppers in existence and think about all the people in the world that can actually handle them. But for us, there's nothing worse than sinking your teeth into a juicy pepper — only to find out that it's so hot not even three glasses of whole milk and a bowl of ice cream can quiet the pain.
Since it's impossible to tell how spicy a pepper is just by looking at it, we've created a guide that'll let you know exactly how hot a pepper is judging by the Scoville heat index. Invented by Wilbur Scoville, the Scoville heat index ranks peppers in order from mildest to hottest. It starts with 0 being the mildest and goes over 1,000,000 to indicate the hottest peppers.
There are too many different kinds of peppers for us to include them all, but here's the 411 on some of the most common types.
Bell peppers, which can be red, yellow, green or orange, aren't hot peppers. They are very common sweet peppers. Since this type of pepper has no heat, its Scoville heat index is 0. You can cook bell peppers in a variety of ways, however don't expect this type of pepper to add spice to your food.
Also known as pimento peppers, cherry peppers are heart-shaped and about 4 inches long and 4 inches wide. These peppers are actually very mild, scoring about a 500 on the Scoville heat index. Cherry peppers are perhaps best known to be the red filling that can typically be found inside olives.
Another mild type of pepper is the Anaheim pepper. This pepper is usually maroon in color and has a long, skinny body. While the Anaheim pepper usually has a Scoville heat index of around 1,000, some varieties can have a rating as high as 5,000. Relative to the rest of this list, this pepper is not very hot.
The jalapeño is one of the most common types of peppers in the U.S. Many people like it because it's spicy yet not overwhelming. Jalapeños are usually either red or green and about 2 to 3 inches long. Their Scoville heat index is around 5,000, however they can range anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000. When used sparingly, they add just the right amount of spicy flavor to most Mexican dishes. Many people also deep-fry jalapeños stuffed with cheese for a tasty appetizer.
The serrano pepper is similar to the jalapeño in its look, but this pepper is much hotter. On the Scoville heat index, the serrano pepper can be between 10,000 and 25,000. This pepper is usually small (around 2 inches) and green in color. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the serrano pepper, the hotter it will taste.
Next Up: Cayenne pepper
Originally published August 2008. Updated June 2017.
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