How Hot Is Hot?

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.

Hot 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 pepper

Bell pepper

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.

Get the recipe for chickpea-stuffed bell peppers >>

Cherry pepper

Cherry pepper

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.

Anaheim pepper

Anaheim pepper

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.

Try this roasted tomato and Anaheim pepper salsa >>

Jalapeño pepper

Jalapeño pepper

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.

Make a watermelon and jalapeño margarita >>

Serrano pepper

Serrano pepper

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.

Whip up spicy hummus with baked pita chips >>

Cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper

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.

Cream cheese pie with cayenne-spiced cherries >>

Tabasco pepper

Tabasco pepper

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.

Try Cuban sandwiches with chipotle sauce >>

Thai pepper

Thai pepper

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.

Make grilled skirt steak with Thai red chili sauce >>

Rocoto pepper

Rocoto pepper

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

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.

Enjoy shrimp ceviche salad with habanero peppers >>

Ghost pepper

Ghost pepper

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.

Blazing hot chocolate chicken wings >>

Hot and spicy recipes

Spicy hot corn dip recipe
Spicy blood orange and whiskey cocktail
One-skillet spicy sausage pasta

Ghost pepper photo credit:  Asit K. ghosh Thaumaturgist


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Comments on "Types of hot peppers"

Wayne November 17, 2013 | 11:26 PM

Betty that may have been either Scorpion Pepper. I did the same thing while trying to harvest the seeds. I put the pepper out to dry awhile back and decided to take out the seeds using my bare hands thinking that it would have lost it's potency....8hrs later the area under my finger nails were still burning it felt like it was hit with a hammer....and even after washing my hands in different soaps I happened to rub my neck several hours later .... lo and behold My neck was on fire and you could see my finger marks where I rubbed my neck .... I learned my lesson handling scorpion peppers with my bare hands lol

Betty October 29, 2013 | 8:44 AM

Last night while in severe pain, I tried writing a comment and made many mistakes in vocabulary and spelling. Would you kindly re-submit my corrected comment. Thank you. Foolishly I diced tiny fiery hot red peppers without gloves. I do not know the name of the pepper, but they were a little larger than a quarter and round. The surface was not smooth. It took me about 45 minutes to do the cutting. My right hand, doing the cutting, has not been affected as bad but my left hand, which held the peppers, is burning, especially under the nails. Now 6 hours later, I am experiencing pain up my arm, all the way to my armpit. I have tried soaking my hands in sudsy warm water, no relief. I have tried holding an ice bag and I get minor reief and then pain returns. Would anyone have any solutions or remedies as to how I can ease the pain. Thanking you in advance

Betty October 29, 2013 | 12:17 AM

Foolishly I diced tiny fiery hot red peppers without gloves. I do not know the name of the pepper, but they were a little larger than a quarter and round. The surface was not smooth. It took me about 45 minutes to do the cutting. My right hand, doing the cutting, has not been affected as bad but my left hand, which held the peppers, is burning, especially under the nails. Now 6 hours later, I am experiencing pain up my arm, all the way to my armpit. I have tried soaking my hands in sudsy warm water, no relief. I have tried hold and ice bag and I get minor reief. Would anyone have any solutions or remedies to ease the paid. Thanking you in advance.

DIANA October 22, 2013 | 10:53 AM


John October 19, 2013 | 2:50 AM

It is now almost the end of the growing season and I have a surplus of peppers and chillis, can they be frozen to use at a later date

Sylvia Taub October 17, 2013 | 4:36 PM

My chili recipe called for Poblano peppers - the chili could have used more heat. What is the heat value as compared to jalopeno peppers?

Sandy R September 16, 2013 | 8:45 AM

I wonder if jalapenos could be used for chiles rellenos?

Patti September 02, 2013 | 3:22 PM

I grew a thai hot pepper plant this summer but the peppers are quite a lot smaller than pictured. They are very small and now turning dark reddish/brown. Are there different kinds of thai hot peppers or perhaps my plant is sick. It's been about 3 months now since I planted it.

kathy August 08, 2013 | 6:13 PM

can I substitute serrano peppers for pablanos?

Sue Vann August 06, 2013 | 10:35 AM

I have what looks like a cherry pepper but they are so hot even compared to jalapenos that I am not sure what to use them for. I tried them in dip, oh boy.

Brian July 23, 2013 | 6:03 AM

Doc, Judging from the article above it looks like you have a Rocoto pepper in your salad. Read the description of the pepper above. Brian

moe langley July 20, 2013 | 4:37 AM

As of today (July2013), the hottest pepper on the planet is the Trinidad scorpion; something like 2 million Su's. I have one growing in my backyard -- no fruit on it yet, and if I have any, I'll dry them and use them next year (blended in oil or water) as a rabbit deterrent (on bean plants)!

Al adams July 11, 2013 | 7:17 PM

I feel one of my favorites to make are sweet-n-hot pickles. Using a mix from jalapeño, cayenne,habanero and sanerro, all who taste these feel I should market them. I just enjoy making and sharing. Different mixes make assorted amounts of heat. Mild to breathtaking hot. Explore and share.

martin July 04, 2013 | 2:22 PM

I have a jar of pickled "cherry peppers", they look just like on the picture. However, they're not mild in the least and pack at least two times the punch that jalapenos do. Does anyone know if there is a kind of pepper that looks similar to cherry peppers?

LEO & JUDY June 24, 2013 | 10:11 AM


Doc June 18, 2013 | 7:06 AM

Hello, I have been a hot pepper fan for well over fifty years. Over the past decade discovering new types of pepper varieties. However after harvesting what I assumed to be bell,s last evening for a salad, we had an extreamly hot and inedible dish. The peppers look like red and yellow bell's, about three inches avg. length, black seeds but I believe well over 350,000 sc. I have other very hot peppers in my garden but, what do you think we have here? With Respect, doc

N.A. June 16, 2013 | 8:45 AM

@Kody: Most probably tabasco or Naga Jolokia pepper if it's hotter than jalapeno. Both tabasco and naga jolokia started as light green and then turn red and orange.

Kody May 28, 2013 | 6:25 PM

I have some small extremely hot peppers. They are about an inch long and go from yellowish green to orange to red. Wondering if anyone knows what type they are. They grow on.small bushed but ththere are a ton on each bush. Live in south east ga. They jalapeno but.they are to small andbhot to be.jalapeno

Sara May 20, 2013 | 12:31 PM

This message is for Sam..I think the pepper you're looking for is called a Chili Pequin. They're very small peppers and even grow wild in brushy bushes along the edges of wooded areas sometimes here in Texas. I think you can buy the plants also, though. Hope this helps.

kena boyd May 06, 2013 | 7:50 PM

did not realize their was so many hot peppers.

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