Chile Pepper Varieties

chile pepper varieties

Chile Pepper Varieties

The Most Common Chile Pepper Families

Capsicum annuum (common varieties such as bell peppers, paprika, jalapeños, and the chiltepin) Capsicum frutescens (includes cayenne and tabasco peppers) Capsicum chinense (includes the hottest peppers such as habaneros and Scotch bonnets) Capsicum pubescens (includes the South American rocoto peppers) Capsicum baccatum (includes the South American aji peppers) Many of the Mexican chiles have different names for the fresh and dried chile pepper varieties. A ‘poblano‘ is called ‘ancho‘ when dried and the ‘jalapeno‘ becomes ‘chipotle‘ when dried and smoked. While the following list is by no means exhaustive, some of the more common varieties are briefly described and heat levels on a scale of 1 to 10 are provided.




Chile pepper Varieties

Aji: [Ahee] (Capsicum baccatum) A fiery hot, fruity, yellow orange chile from Peru. It’s full bodied flavour enhances potatoes, chicken, stews and is excellent raw in salsas or salads. Sometimes called Aji Amarillo. 30,000-50,000 SHU.
Hotness Scale: 7

Aji Cereza: (Capsicum annuum) Cereza is Spanish for “cherry” and this chile pepper is so named because it resembles a cherry. The extremely hot pods are found in all regions of the Peruvian jungle. There are no commercial growers so the chile is rare outside of Peru. Rich flavour and searing heat.
Hotness Scale: 8

Aji Limo: (Capsicum chinense) An extremely hot South American chile that is related to the habanero. A beautiful lantern shaped pod with a deep red colour.
Hotness Scale: 9

Aji Mirasol: (Capsicum baccatum) A deep yellowish red chile, 3 – 5 inches long with a distinctive berry like flavour. Used to make stews, escabeche, salsas, yellow mole and other sauces. Can be used as a condiment.
Hotness Scale: 7

Aji Panca: (Capsicum chinense) Grown on small farms in Peru, this chile is known for it’s distinctive berry flavour. In the Andes, this is the most popular choice for making sauces, stews, escabeche and especially fish. Medium fleshed, 3 to 5 inches long.
Hotness Scale: 3

Aji Pinguita: (Capsicum annuum) The unique name of the Aji Pinguita de Mono translates loosely to “little monkey dick,” so called because of the pod’s size, shape, and color, The pods are small, elongated, and pointed and the chile is among the hottest in Peru. Rarely found outside of Peru, used in almost any dish to add heat.
Hotness Scale: 9

Anaheim: [AN-uh-hime](Capsicum annuum) Also known as California Chile and Chile Verde. it was developed from Pasillas to be the ideal size for canning (15 cm long by 4 cm wide) by a factory in Anaheim, California around 1900. It may be used green or red; hotter when red. Red chiles are left on the bush until turning leathery, then dried in the sun to later be ground into powder and sold as chile Colorado. Scoville units: 1,000-10,000.
Hotness Scale: 3

Ancho: [AHN-choh] (Capsicum annuum) Ancho means ‘wide’, its flat heart shape creating one of the largest chiles, a dried Poblano. It is sweet, with hints of raisin and plum. The Ancho is one of the most commonly used chile pepper varieties in Mexico and is a basic ingredient for making many Mexican style sauces. The ancho, along with the mulato and pasilla form the “holy trinity” of chiles used to make traditional Mexican mole sauces. The Mulato (light brown) and Negro (black) chile are varieties of the Ancho. Scoville units: 1,000-1,500.
Hotness Scale: 4

Arbols: (Capsicum frutescens) are also known as a type of cayenne and in some places, Thai or Bird chiles. They are hot, slender, tubular peppers, about 2 to 3 inches long, and bright green when immature, turning a bright red at maturity. They are most commonly found dried.(15,000 to 30,000)
Hotness Scale: 7-8

Cascabel: [KAS-kuh-behl] (Capsicum annuum) A dried, plum-shaped, dark blood-red colored chile that ranges in size from about 1 to 11/2 inches in diameter. Cascabel means “little round bell” or “rattle” in Spanish, a name alluding to the rattling sound this chile makes when shaken. This chile, with its rich nutty flavor and medium heat, is excellent in sauces, soups and other cooked dishes. The cascabel chile is also known as chile bola. Scoville units: 3,000.
Hotness Scale: 4

Cayenne: [KI-yehn] (Capsicum frutescens) Among the hottest chile pepper varieties, cayenne peppers are long, thin, sharply pointed red pods that are either straight or curled at the tip; they grow to a length of 6″ to 10″. (The chile de arbol is closely related and similar in shape, but grows only 2″ to 3″ in length and usually does not have a curled tip; it is also slightly less pungent.) Ground, dried cayenne is a popular spice. The cayenne may go under several other names such as Thai, Arbol, or Bird. Scoville units: 30,000-50,000.
Hotness Scale: 8-9

Charleston Hot: (Capsicum annuum) It is straight to slightly curved because it is a Cayenne, (but much hotter) and 4 to 5 inches long and 3/4 inch across. It matures from green to yellow to orange. It is reported to contain 100,000 Scoville heat units, which is more than twice the heat of a typical Cayenne and about 1/3rd of the heat of a Habanero.
Hotness Scale: 9.5

Cherry: (Capsicum annuum) So named for their resemblance to the familiar fruit, cherry peppers are round and red. They range in pungency from mild to moderately hot. Cherry peppers are sold fresh, and also are commonly pickled and sold in jars. Scoville units: 0-3,500. Hotness Scale: 1-5

Chiltepin: see Tepin Chipotle: [chih-POHT-lay] It has a wrinkled, dark brown skin and a smoky, sweet, almost chocolaty flavor. It can also be found packed in canned adobo sauce. Scoville units: 10,000.
Hotness Scale: 5-7

de Arbol: (Capsicum annuum) Meaning a ‘tree like’ plant with thick woody stems. Peppers are a delicate, slender, cayenne dark-red variety growing up to 3 inches long but thin. Bright brick red colour. From the Oaxaca, Jalisco and Nayarit regions of Mexico. Also known as Cola de rata, Rat’s Tail or Cow Horn. Known in Mexico as the Birds Beak chile. Scoville units: 15,000-30,000 .
Hotness Scale: 5-8

Dundicut (Dandicut): (Capsicum annuum) Developed and grown in the Tharparkar region of Sindh, Pakistan. Pods range from spherical to teardrop shaped and average 1 inch in diameter. Strong fruity aroma, ripening to a deep ruby red colour. This pepper is commercially cultivated in Pakistan and is considered indispensable for many dishes.
Hotness Scale: 5-9

Fresno: [FREHS-noh] (Capsicum annuum) Fresnos are tapered like yellow chiles, and usually harvested when they are immature and a pale green color. They are a bright, red color when mature.
(heat varies)

Guajillo: [gwah-HEE-yoh] (Capsicum annuum) Meaning ‘little gourd’. The Guajillo, Cascabel (Rattle) or Catarina (Ladybug) chiles all belong to the group known as the Mirasol chiles. The Guajillo from Mexico is a beautiful russet red, translucent, thin-walled dried chile, measuring between 10-15 cm in length and between 2.5-3.25 cm in width. Most chiles grow hanging downwards (pendant). Guajillos grow upright, earning themselves an alternative name Mirasol (i.e. looking at the sun). Its delicate flavour makes it a favourite, especially for colouring, in all forms of New World cooking. Scoville units: 3,000.
Hotness Scale: 2-4

Habanero: [ah-bah-NEH-roh] (Capsicum chinense) This chile belongs to the Capsicum Chinense family of peppers, of South American origin. In Mexico it is planted exclusively in the Yucatan Peninsula, where it was probably introduced from Cuba, which might explain its popular name “Habanero”. The Habanero is one of the world’s hottest chiles. For the uninitiated even a tiny piece of Habanero would cause intense and prolonged oral suffering. Underneath the heat is a delicate plum-tomato apple-like flavour. The riper red ones have a sweetness that gives them a mouthwatering appeal. It is available in green, yellow, scarlet and deep red. It has a number of close relatives such as Scotch Bonnet and Rocoto. It is used mainly raw because it loses subtlety, but not heat, when cooked. Habaneros hold the distinction of being the most fiery of all domesticated peppers; however, their heat can sneak up on you, so beware of taking a second bite if you think the first one wasn’t hot (which is unlikely). Furthermore, rather than dissipating quickly, the heat of habaneros persists. They are also called Scotch bonnets. Scoville units: 200,000-300,000.
Hotness Scale:10.

Hungarian wax: (Capsicum annuum) These are the hot version of sweet banana peppers. They are never green: the peppers start out yellow and ripen to orange or red and are mostly sold when yellow.
Hotness Scale: 4

Jalapeño: [hah-lah-PEH-nyoh] (Capsicum annuum) Probably the most widely used hot pepper, jalapeños are tapered, about 2″ in length, and have slight cracks at their stem ends. The name Jalapeno comes from its ancient production center, Jalapa in the state of Veracruz even though it is no longer planted there They vary in degree of heat, sometimes tasting much like a green bell pepper and other times being very hot, with a bite that you notice immediately. Most often, these peppers are consumed at the mature green stage, but sometimes you will find fully ripe red jalapenos on the market. In addition, they are sold canned, sliced, and pickled, and are used in a wide array of products including sausage, cheese, and jelly. Canned types may be milder than fresh because they are usually peeled, seeded, and packed in liquid, but they will still pack a punch. Pickled jalapenos are always hot. A dried and smoked jalapeño is called a chipotle. Scoville units: 2,500-7,000.
Hotness Scale: 3-6

Korean Hot: (Capsicum annuum) Related to Thai chile. Bright green, slightly curving with a taper to a point. Grows to 4 inches long. From Korea, Japan and California.

Macho: (Capsicum annuum) Related to the Pequin. Light green and growing to less than a 1/4 inch. Fiery hot with sharp intense flavour. Matures to red. From Oaxaca and Yucatan regions of Mexico.
Hotness Scale: 9-10

Mirasol: (Capsicum annuum) Mirasole translates to “looking at the sun” This chile plant has 3 inch elongated pointed pods that grow in erect, upright clusters at the tops of 2 foot tall sturdy plants. Mature pods are a lovely bright red. From Mexico. Mirasol has a distinctive flavour, combining a hint of strawberry in its medium hot pungency. Also called chile Trompa (Elephant’s trunk). 80 days.
Hotness Scale: 7

Mulato: [moo-LAH-toh] (Capsicum annuum) When dry the pepper is very dark brown, almost black, in colour (due to the chlorophyll remaining in the ripe fruit). It is an important chile in Mexican cooking, along with the Ancho and Pasilla chiles. The Mulato is 10-15 cm long and 5-7.5 cm wide. It is the smoky, licorice, aromatic flavour, as well as its chocolate-black colour which gives it its appeal.
Hotness Scale: 2-4.

Paprika: [papp-RE-KAR] (Capsicum annuum) Paprika is the Hungarian word for pepper, but today it has come to mean a particular flavourful spice . The actual chile is a fleshy pod, cultivated in Hungary over the centuries to give maximum flavour, a deep red colouring and variable heat levels.
Hotness Scale: 0-2

Pasilla: [pah-SEE-yah] (Capsicum annuum) This dried chile is one of Mexico’s most highly regarded chiles, along with the Ancho and Mulato chiles. The Pasilla is also called Chile Negro (black chile). In its fresh form it is known as the Chilaca. It turns from dark green to purpled dark brown as it ripens. . They are used in tamales and quesadillas, and can be interchanged with the poblano in many instances.In Spanish, pasilla means little raisin, and this pepper is so named because of its deep black color and raisinlike aroma. It is mild with a smoky flavor. Scoville units: 1,000 -2,000.
Hotness Scale: 3 -5

Pequin: [PEE-KIN] (Capsicum annuum) It’s name means small, and refers to the tiniest chiles – which are usually among the hottest. There are many varieties, some round and some conical. Others are called Bravo, Mosquito, Pequeno, Turkey Pepper, Grove Pepper, and Pring-kee-new, Birds Eye, Chilpequin and Chiltipiquin. Related to the wild form called Tepin/Chiltepin. Scoville units: 50,000.
Hotness Scale: 8-9

Peter Pepper: (Capsicum annuum) Also called the Penis Pepper, this is an ornamental chile, bred for fun and for its phallic appearance. Red or green with a length between 7.5-10 cm. It ends in a rounded dome, which is inset inside the main sheath of the chile. Extremely rare variety. From Louisiana and Texas.
Hotness Scale: 7-8.

Pimento: (Capsicum annuum) Spanish paprika is different from the Hungarian variety. It is more heart-shaped, smaller (maximum size is 10 cm long by 6.5 cm wide), and has a little less savory flavor than the Hungarian version. When ground it is called ‘Pimiento pare pimenton’ in Spanish.
Hotness Scale: 0

Pepperoncini: [pep-per-awn-CHEE-nee] (Capsicum annuum) Also known as Tuscan Peppers, this pepper is found in Italy and Greece. Dried, it is wrinkly, curved and russet red, 5-10 cm long and 1.25 cm wide.
Hotness Scale: 1-3

Poblano: [poh-BLAH-noh ] (Capsicum annuum)These are ancho peppers in the green state; they look like small, dark green (sometimes almost black) bell peppers at the stem end, tapering to a thin point at the blossom end. The darkest poblanos have the richest flavor. Ranging from fairly mild to hot, poblanos are usually roasted and peeled before using in casseroles, soups, and sauces, or stuffed with meat or cheese for chiles rellenos. Probably Mexico’s most popular variety of chile. It has a big interior which is perfect for stuffing. Scoville units: 1,000-2,500.
Hotness Scale: 2-3

Red Savina Habanero: (Capsicum chinense) A mutated version of the Habanero, it was recently accepted into the Guinness Book of Records as the hottest chile known. The wrinkled, Chinese-lantern shaped fruits are even hotter than orange Habaneros, tipping the Scoville heat scale at 350,000 to 500,000 units! Red Savinas create an excitingly intense burn in the back of the mouth that tingles and tantalises with the essence of heat.
Hotness Scale:10

Rocoto: (Capsicum pubescens) A chile much prized in its native Mexico City for use in salsas. Its size and shape are like a hen’s egg and it has a marvellous apple-like flavour. Its seeds are black, which makes it most attractive in salsas. The seeds are brown to black and very large, which easily distinguishes it from other varieties. Cherry-like very meaty fruits. Turns to orange-red when ripe.
Hotness Scale: 8

Scotch Bonnet (Capsicum chinense) A native to the Caribbean, the scotch bonnet is possibly the cultivar of chile that Columbus sampled. Very closely related to the Habanero chile, the Scotch Bonnet (or Bahamian, Bahama Mama, Jamaican Hot or Martinique Pepper) is just about as hot. It has a similar apple-cherry tomato flavour. Like the Habanero, it is spherical, although rather more squashed in shape and it is smaller, 3.25-4 cm in diameter. Native to the Caribbean, It is great for salsas and sauces.). Scoville units:300,000.
Hotness Scale: 9-10

Serrano: [seh-RRAH-noh] (Capsicum annuum) The Serrano, meaning ‘from the mountains’, is native to Mexico and south-west America. These small (1″ to 4″ long) torpedo-shaped peppers are primarily consumed fresh, usually in salsas but also for flavoring stews, casseroles and egg dishes.. Serranos are very hot and are typically sold in their mature green state, although they are also sometimes available when red. Scoville units: 10,000-23,000.
Hotness Scale: 6-7

Tabasco: (Capsicum frutescens) Yes, this is the chile they use to make Tabasco sauce. The Tabasco grows pointing upwards, is bright red when picked, 4 cm long by 1 cm wide. 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units.
Hotness Scale: 9

Tepin: (Capsicum annuum) It is believed the Tepin, also called Chiltepin, is the original wild chile: the plant from which all others have evolved. It is a tiny round berry slightly larger than a peppercorn. It is very decorative and bright scarlet in colour and, despite its high heat level, it is attractive to wild birds, who helped to distribute it across the prehistoric Americas. Other names include Chile Mosquito, Chile de Pajaro, Chile Silvestre or Tecpintle.
Hotness Scale: 8.

Thai: (Capsicum frutescens) These chiles are small, seldom growing larger than 1 to 3 inches long. They are usually less than 1/2 inch wide, but provide plenty of heat. These slightly curvy, potent peppers are typically bright red or deep green, and end in a sharp point. Finely sliced Thai peppers can be mixed with the hot oil in a stir-fry or used to heat up coconut soups and noodle dishes. Scoville units:50,000 – 100,000.
Hotness Scale: 9

Tien Tsin: (Capsicum annuum) Traditional for Asian cooking. Tien Tsin chile peppers are named after the province of China in which they are harvested. Very hot, bright red, 1-2″ Chinese pods. It is often added whole or as oil to Asian soups, stews, sauces and stir-fried dishes as a flavouring. These are the peppers found in your Kung Pao chicken.
Hotness Scale: 8-9

Tōgarashi: [toh-gah-RAH-shee] (Capsicum annuum) Small, hot, red Japanese chile available fresh and in various dried forms; rounds, flakes and powder. In Japanese, Tōgarashi means “Chinese mustard” . Tōgarashi is also called as Ichimi.
Hotness Scale: 8-9

Wax:(Capsicum annuum) Very shiny chiles are often grouped together under the name Wax. Some examples include Hungarian Wax, Caloro, Torrido, Santa Fe Grande and Gold Spike. Sizes vary, as do heat levels and colours.