The 20 hottest chili peppers in the world

The Apocalypse Scorpion Pepper, Pepper X, and the Carolina Reaper sound almost like titles of frightening horror movies. In reality, these are some of the hottest chili peppers known to man. If you can’t handle the heat in the kitchen, this may very well be the stuff of your nightmares. But if you always choose the ‘extra hot’ option and then add some more salsa just for the kick, these chili peppers might be the stuff of your dreams.

Whether you want to challenge your taste buds or find the perfect chili to complement your gran’s chili recipe, we’ve scoured the corners of the globe (okay, the internet) to bring you the chilis out there with the most fire.

How to measure chili heat

Ever been quite unphased while a friend was sweating like a resident of Death Valley right next to you? That’s because different people have varying tolerances to spice. But with so many different experiences, how does one measure chili heat?

Meet the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU): an objective scale that measures the amount of capsaicin (the active compound responsible for spice) in peppers. Ranked from zero up to millions, each ranking represents the number of cups of sugar water necessary to dilute the food to a neutral spice level.

From chilis that can be found in the wild to man-made creations that remind us of some kind of fiery Frankenstein, here are the top 20 contenders in ascending order.

1.  Madame Jeanette

Rating: 225,000 SHU

Origin: Suriname

Traditional uses: Traditional Suriname and Antillean dishes Said to be named after a prostitute from Paramaribo, this smooth, yellow pepper packs a surprising punch. Its flavor is said to be neither fruity nor floral - just HOT.

 

2. Scotch Bonnet

Rating: 100,000 - 350,000 SHU

Origin: Caribbean

Traditional uses: Caribbean cuisines like jerk chicken or jerk pork This odd-looking pepper was named after its resemblance to the Scottish Tam o’ Shanter - the plaid cap/bonnet worn by men in Scotland. While it can be found as far as West Africa, it’s most commonly used as one of the main ingredients in West Indian hot pepper sauces.

 

3.  White Habanero

Rating: 100,000 - 350,000 SHU

Origin: Peru and Mexico

Traditional uses: Traditional Mexican stews and salsas As a particularly rare and difficult-to-cultivate variety of the habanero, the white habanero bush typically produces many peppers. While also used in the Caribbean, this taste is iconic of Mexican salsas.

 

4. Habanero

Rating: 100,000 - 350,000 SHU

Origin: The Amazon

Traditional uses: Mexican/Yucatanian cuisine Readily available in your local grocery store, this orange pepper belongs to the same species as the Scotch Bonnet. While it originally came from the Amazon, it now adds a fruity and floral flavor to Mexican dishes on the Yucatan.

 

5.  Fatalii

Rating: 125,000 - 325,000 SHU

Origin: Central and southern Africa

Traditional uses: Fruity hot sauces from Africa and the Caribbean While it is said to have a fruity, citrus flavor, it is nearly impossible to distinguish the floral notes of this pepper due to its extreme heat. The heat kicks in early, burns the entire mouth, and takes a long time to fade.

 

6.  Devil’s Tongue

Rating: 125,000 - 325,000 SHU

Origin: Pennsylvania

Traditional uses: Unknown With an ominous name and a mysterious past, it is uncertain where exactly this pepper originated from. As a relative to the habanero, it was first discovered growing in the field of an Amish farmer and is described as having a nutty, fruity taste.

 

7.  Tigerpaw NR

Rating: 265,000 - 328,000 SHU

Origin: Scientifically engineered

Traditional uses: Unknown Created by scientists to resist a common parasite often found on pepper and tomato plants, it’s named after its resemblance to a tiger paw. Coincidentally, it is said to hit like one too. As a man-made pepper, it doesn’t have traditional uses but can be used as a more intense substitute for the habanero.

 

8.  Caribbean Red Habanero

Rating: 300,000 - 475,000 SHU

Origin: Amazon basin

Traditional uses: Mexican salsas and hot sauces Half the size and double the heat of the standard habanero, this pepper has a deceptively cute appearance and sinister level of heat. As an upgraded version of the habanero, it’s often used to add more kick to traditional Mexican cuisine.

 

9.  Red Savina

Rating: 200,000 - 577,000 SHU

Origin: Scientifically engineered in California

Traditional uses: Unknown Holding the status of the hottest pepper in the world from 1994 to 2006, this spicy piece of work was first discovered by a farmer by accident. He had been growing habaneros, yet found this bright red pepper and cultivated more of them. This task was then taken over by the US government, ensuring decades of Red Savina to come.

 

10.  Naga Morich (aka Dorset Naga)

Rating: 1,000,000 - 1,500,000 SHU

Origin: Northern India and Bangladesh

Traditional uses: Raw consumption and side dishes With a name that translates to serpent chili, it comes as no surprise that this pepper was the first in the world to break one million SHU - double that of Red Savina. While it is native to Indian and Bangladeshi territories, it was further scientifically engineered for maximum heat. Supposedly, it sports notes of orange and pineapple, if your tastebuds can withstand the burn.

 

11.  Trinidad Scorpion CARDI

Rating: 800,000 - 1,000,000 SHU

Origin: Trinidad

Traditional uses: Military-grade mace and the prevention of barnacles on boats With a little stinger opposite the stem that inspires the reference to a scorpion, this chili crosses the threshold from spicy food to downright terrifying fiery Frankenstein. While it originated in Trinidad, it has since been bred to be particularly potent.

 

12.  Bhut Jolokia Chocolate (aka Naga Jolokia)

Rating: 800,000 - 1,001,304 SHU

Origin: India

Traditional uses: Curries and chutneys worldwide Also known as the Ghost Pepper, the chocolate variant of this pepper is notoriously deceptive for its sweet taste - that comes with a high price.

 

13.  Bhut Jolokia (aka Ghost Pepper)

Rating: 800,000 - 1,001,304 SHU

Origin: India

Traditional uses: Curries and chutneys worldwide More common than its chocolate counterpart, this pepper is not to be trusted. While it’s the source of various YouTube challenges, the fact that this pepper is also used to ward off stampeding elephants is signal enough of its fiery power.

 

14.  7 Pot Chili

Rating: over 1,000,000 SHU

Origin: Trinidad

Traditional uses: Stews, marinades, and hot sauces At over a million SHU, it is said that this chili can provide enough spice for seven pots of stew and looks almost as if it is boiling from the inside out.

 

15.  Gibraltar (aka Spanish Naga)

Rating: 1,086,844 SHU

Origin: Spain

Traditional uses: Unknown It started as a native resident in Spain and was then turned into a mind-searing pepper in the UK. This chili has to grow in blistering temperatures in plastic tunnels to produce the heat of its reputation.

 

16.  Infinity Chili

Rating: 1,176,182 SHU

Origin: Scientifically engineered in UK

Traditional uses: Unknown Red, wrinkly, and scary-looking, this fiery Frankenstein held the record for hottest chili… For two weeks. It was then replaced by:

 

17.  Naga Viper

Rating: 1,382,118 SHU

Origin: Scientifically engineered

Traditional uses: Unknown A genetic hybrid between the Naga Morich, the Bhut Jolokia, and the Trinidad Scorpion, the mere mention of this chili makes the tongue burn. Fortunately, you’re unlikely to run into it as its creator Gerald Fowler is the only one who possesses the seeds.

 

18.  Trinidad Scorpion Butch T

Rating: 1,463,700 SHU

Origin: Scientifically engineered in Mississippi

Traditional uses: Unknown Engineered by the owner of Zydeco Hot Sauce in Mississippi, this pepper is so hot that you require safety gear like goggles, gloves, and bodysuits to cook with it - and chefs have reported numbness in their hands for up to two days after cooking.

 

19.  Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

Rating: 2,009,231 SHU

Origin: Scientifically engineered in Trinidad

Traditional uses: Unknown Meet the first pepper ever to rank over 2 million SHU! While it’s apparently fruity, we’re more focused on its golf ball size and 25 milliliters of police-grade pepper spray.

 

20.  Carolina Reaper

Rating: 1,569,383 - 2,200,000 SHU

Origin: Scientifically engineered in South Carolina

Traditional uses: Unknown Do you fear the reaper? Exceeding the Moruga Scorpion’s 2 million SHU with over 200,000 units, this pepper currently claims the title of the hottest chili of all time. While it’s popular for its name, we highly doubt that those who have tasted it have lived to comment on its taste.

That completes the list of chillis from not-so-hot to over-the-top. However, if you ask us, the best peppers are those we use to create our very own Bravo Salsa - chili pequin, habanero, red jalapeño, and cayenne peppers. If you read this list and are craving the capsaicin, give this perfectly-blended salsa a try.