Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...
Do you want to add a little kick to your meal? Hot peppers are terrific way to spice up any dish. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors but many people don't know how hot each type of pepper is. You don't want to add peppers when cooking unless you know their hotness level or you could end up with an inedible meal. Here's a guide to the different types of popular peppers.
Types of peppers
Invented by Wilbur Scoville, the Scoville Heat Index ranks peppers in order from mildest to hottest. It starts with zero being the mildest and goes over 1,000,000 to indicate the hottest peppers. Though there are dozens of different kinds of peppers, here's information on some of the more widely used 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 zero. You can cook bell peppers in a variety of different 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 are about four inches long and three 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 of 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 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 two to three 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 two inches) and green in color. As a general rule of thumb, the smaller the Serrano pepper, the hotter it will taste.
The Cayenne pepper is another hot pepper (between 25,000 and 50,000 on the Scoville Heat Index) that is popular with those looking to add heat to food. Red in color, the Cayenne pepper is generally dried and used in powder form. Additionally, this pepper has been used in natural medicines for hundreds of years due to reported healing attributes.
As you may have guessed, the Tabasco pepper is used to make Tabasco sauce. If you've ever tasted how hot Tabasco sauce is, you won't be surprised to learn that the Tabasco pepper has a Scoville Heat Index of between 30,000 and 60,000. The actual pepper is less than two inches long and can be green, red, yellow or orange in color.
Grown in Thailand and neighboring countries, the Thai pepper is a type of pepper that can be classified as "very hot." With a Scoville Heat Index of between 50,000 and 100,000, these peppers are sure to leave your taste buds wanting relief. The Thai pepper is one of the smallest peppers, measuring in at less than an inch. It's used in many spicy Thai dishes at restaurants in the U.S.
While Rocoto peppers look somewhat like bell peppers, it can be dangerous to get the two mixed up. While bell peppers aren't hot at all, the Rocoto pepper is extremely hot. Between 100,000 and 250,000 on the Scoville Heat Index, this pepper is about the size of a bell pepper but is rounder and is typically only red or green. Some people use this pepper to make very spicy sauces.
Habanero chili pepper
Of hot peppers that are commonly used, the Habanero chili is recognized as the hottest. This pepper, which can be any color from green to yellow to pink, is usually only around three centimeters in length. However, do not let the small size fool you – the Habanero chili can pack a punch! The Scoville Heat Index for the Habanero chili can range from 150,000 to 350,000.
Also known as Naga Jolokia, this pepper is literally the hottest pepper in the world. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized the Ghost pepper in 2006 after reports surfaced that this pepper has a Scoville Heat Index of over 1,000,000. If you get your hand on a Ghost pepper, be sure to be extremely careful because one seed from this pepper will have your mouth burning for up to thirty minutes.