Chili Peppers – What’s Hot?

Ask the Test Kitchen

When it comes to chili peppers, some are hotter than others. Can you please provide some guidance?

TOH: When it comes to rating chili peppers’ heat, looks don’t help: It’s the seeds and membranes that count. Scoville Heat Units (SHU), named after researcher Wilbur Scoville and used by heat experts, indicate the amount of capsaicin, a potent compound that gives chilies their sizzle. Although the method for determining SHUs relies heavily on subjectivity, the scale is a respectable gauge. Use the following information from to put the heat into perspective:

Sweet bell pepper – 0
Cubanelle pepper – 100-1,000
Texas Pete Hot Sauce, T.W. Garner Food Co. – 747
Anaheim pepper – 500-2,500
Poblano pepper – 1,000-2,000
Jalapeno pepper – 2,500-5,000
Chipotle pepper (a smoked jalapeno) – 5,000-10,000
Serrano pepper – 6,000-23,000
Tabasco brand Habanero Sauce, McIlhenny Co. – 7,000-8,000
Cayenne pepper – 30,000-50,000
Habanero pepper – 100,000-350,000Up to 80 percent of the fiery factor in peppers – capsaicin – is found in the seeds and membranes of peppers, so the only way to reduce the heat of a hot chili is to remove the seeds and veins. But keep in mind that a little burn is not without benefits. Capsaisin is known for its decongestant qualities; it also causes the brain to produce endorphins, which contribute to feelings of well-being, according to The Food Lover’s Companion.

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