Chilis Chilis & Other Peppers

Chilis (Capsicum) are yet another branch of the diverse and powerful Nightshade family. New varieties are constantly popping up with all nightshades, but for Chilis it borders on the absurd. They vary distinctly in flavor, fleshiness (thickness of pod wall), size and shape, but more than anything they vary in "hotness".

Spelling:   "Chili" is common in English speaking North America. "Chile" is Mexican Spanish. "Chilli" is the English spelling outside North America. There is a movement originating in Texas to spell the peppers "Chile" and the stew "Chili" to avoid confusion. We don't think non-Texans are likely to confuse pods with stew and will stick with "Chili" for both.

Aji is a Caribbean word for chilis. The Spanish carried this name through most of South America, so many chili names from that region start with "Aji", as in Aji lengua de pajaro (bird's tongue chili).


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History

The chili, including bell peppers ("capsicum" in GB) are all descended from plants native to Central and South America. They were in general use there when Europeans first landed in the New World. A botanists misnamed one species "chinense" for some reason that we can never know.

The Portuguese are most responsible for inflicting chili peppers on the world. They took to them right off and transported them to Africa and to their trading post in Goa, India. Dried red chilis are light, long lasting and contain mature, eager to sprout seeds so chilis quickly spread everywhere traders traded.

Some maintain, particularly regarding Eastern Europe, that some chilis came to there from China and point to differences between paprika and pimento peppers, but those chilis probably entered Eastern Europe through India and Turkey, descendents of those brought from Brazil by the Portuguese (and would differ from Spanish chilis brought from Mexico).

The hottest chilis are particularly appreciated in the tropics because they induce sweating which makes the body feel cooler. This is less appreciated in the frozen north but heat-free bell peppers are appreciated everywhere.

Today it's as difficult to imagine Thai or Indian cuisine without chilis as it is to imagine Italian cooking without tomatoes or Irish without potatoes, but chilis, tomatoes and potatoes were all unknown in Europe and Asia before 1500.

Varieties

Our list covers mostly chilis you are likely to find available for purchase in the U.S. (particularly California) or which are important to a particular cuisine. It's just a fraction of the known varieties - trying to list them all is as futile as the ancient Egyptian priest's trying to catalog all the gods and goddesses of the Nile Valley - new ones appeared and the old ones changed before the catalog was done. That doesn't stop some people from trying though (A7).

The chilis pictures and the hotness ratings (H#) are from Southern California and Mexican grown examples and results may differ elsewhere. Caution: The heat ratings are typical, but actual variation is wide depending on soil, weather and the perversity of chili plants. Always test to avoid disappointment (or devastation).

Aji Amarillo   -   [C. baccatum var. pendulum]
Whole and cut Chilis

This chili is most commonly associated with Peru but is also used in Bolivia. The baccatum species originated in Peru and/or Bolivia and still dominates the Andes region today. The name means "Chili Yellow". It ripens to a bright orange. Some sources say they turn yellow ("amarillo") when cooked, but they actually stay pretty orange. This is a moderately hot variety (H) and grows to 3 to 6 inches long. In Peru they are used mostly fresh, but in Bolivia they are dried and ground. A number of products are made from this chili, see Details and Cooking.

The photo specimens were from my own plants, grown from seeds of a dried aji amarillo imported from South America. The plants didn't do all that well here in Southern California, producing only a few chilis which ripened very slowly and unevenly. I have purchased frozen ones that were from a shorter fatter cultivar. The largest of the photo specimens was 6 inches long and 7/8 inch diameter, and was significantly hot.

Aji Limo   -   [C. baccatum var. pendulum]
Whole and cut Chilis

This chili is most commonly associated with the north coast of Peru, where it is essential to the proper flavor of the Ceviches made there. It is also used in other dishes, particularly rice dishes. It is described as having a "citrus spice" taste when cooked. It is smaller and a bit hotter than the Aji Amarillo and can be green, yellow or red, and white and purple varieties are known.

Aji Panca   -   [C. baccatum var. pendulum]

This is the second most common chili in Peru, after the Aji Amarillo. It is similar, a bit larger, but deep red and very mild, with a sweet, berry like, slightly smoky flavor. Popular for use in stews and with fish, it is available in North America in paste form and dried.

Anaheim   -   [Long Green, California Green, Chili Verdi, Chili Colorado (when ripe), California Chili (when red ripe and dried); C. Annuum]
Whole Chilis

Fresh green or red ripe (Chili Colorado) or dried red (usually called California), 6 to 11 inches by 2 inches. These mild (H2) chilis are most common green but are also excellent red, with a taste and sweetness similar to a red Bell Pepper but with a definite bite to them. They are were originally brought from New Mexico to much more populous California and were renamed. Other similar chilis also fit the "long green" description.

Anaheims are said to be somewhat milder than their New Mexico relatives but hotness varies. They are often used by restaurants for Chili Rellenos and other recipes that should be made with Poblanos because they are large enough to stuff, available, low cost and because Poblanos can sometimes be hotter than they think their customers want. The Anaheim lacks the dark flavor of the Poblano, but is otherwise a fine chili.

Ancho   -   [C. annuum]
Anchos Dried black H1-H2, 2 to 4 inches. This is the dried from of the Poblano, (shown to the left) and is one of the sweetest and most flavorful of the dried chilis. They are often used in Mexican sauces and recipes often in combination with other dried chilis. They are sweeter, hotter and brighter in flavor than the Mulato which is very similar in appearance.

Arbol - see de Arbol.

Armenian / Turkish   -   [C. annuum]
Armenian

Fresh yellow-green, up to 8 inches by 2 inches but more commonly stubbier at 5 to 6 inches by 2 inches diameter, tapered with a usually blunt end. These are noticeably sweet when they start to yellow but can have detectable hotness (H0 to H1). They have thinner walls and a more subtle flavor than Bell Peppers but can be used in similar ways. With thin skins they are good for frying and roasting. They are very like the sweet Hungarian Green pepper, which stands to reason, since the Hungarians got their peppers from the Turks

Banana Peppers   -   [Yellow Wax Pepper; C. annuum]
Long Yellow Peppers

This name covers a number of similarly shaped waxy yellow peppers which may vary in heat and color, but they are most commonly yellow and of very moderate heat (H1). The ones commonly sold under the name here in the Los Angeles region mostly thick walled (much thicker than Hungarian pepers) and elongated with thin skins. They are very much like yellow Anaheims, but not as hot - good for roasting, stuffing or in recipes where Bell Peppers just aren't quite spicy enough or too strong in flavor. In contrast, those sold around here as "Yellow Wax Peppers" are uaually much hotter. The photo specimens were typically 7-3/4 inches long and 1-7/8 inches diameter at the big end.

Bell Peppers - [Capsicum (British), C. annuum var. grossum]
Bells

Fresh ripe red, yellow and orange, H0. Bells are always available fresh and are only dried for use as industrial food additives. Box shaped to heart shaped, these large (up to 5 inches across) chilis feature thick, crisp and flavorful flesh with no heat, making them popular in nearly every cuisine worldwide.

Baby Bell Peppers - [Capsicum (British), C. annuum]
Baby Bells

Fresh red, green, yellow and orange, H0. These look a lot like Gypsy Peppers and other frying peppers but have much thicker walls, more flavor and are usually very sweet. The photo specimens were 4-1/2 inches long, 2-1/4 inches across and weighed 3-1/4 ounces.

Bird Peppers - [Bird's Eye Chili]
A generic term for small, usually very hot, chili pods that grow erect (pointing upward) and are eaten and dispersed by birds. About 50 varieties worldwide are called "bird peppers", particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia, but also in Central and South America.

Bishop's Crown   -   [C. baccatum var. pendulum]
Whole Chilis

This oddly shaped chili is probably native to the region around Bolivia, but is now grown, mainly as a curiosity, in North America, the Caribbean and Europe. The flesh is thin but crisp and it has rather little heat (H2), all of which is concentrated up near the stem. It has no characteristics that would encourage culinary usage, but as a decorative the plant puts out a lot of bright red chilis that hang like little bells, about 1-5/8 inches across the widest part.

Canario - See Manzana.

Cascabel   -   [Chili Bola; C. annuum]
Chili Cascabel

Normally sold dried red, these are smallish round or heart shaped chilis up to about 1-1/2 inches diameter. They are used mostly in Mexican cooking, giving sauces a nutty flavor, and are readily available in the US Southwest. Moderately hot (H5).

California   -   [C. annuum]
Calfornia Chili Dried red, 4 inches to 8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter, H2. California chilis are usually dried red Anaheims but can be a number of similar varieties. They can be used in mild Mexican sauces and are a major ingredient in California Chili Powder. Subst: New Mexico Chili.

Capsicum

  1. The scientific family name for all chilis.
  2. Bell Peppers in what remains of the British Empire.

Cayenne - [Prik khee fah (Thai); C. annuum]
Whole Chili

Originating in French Guiana, this famous chili is used to make the Cayenne chili powder used in many cuisines - except that powder is at least as likely to be made from some other variety and just labeled "Cayenne". The Cayenne pod is fairly large, to 10 inches long, and is quite hot (H8).   Photo by André Karwath distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic.

Cherry Pepper
Cherry Pepper - Hot   -   [C. annuum]
Whole Cherry Peppers

Fresh red spherical to slightly pointy, 1 inch in diameter, H0-H1. Cherry peppers are used for salad plates and mild pickles. Hot Cherry Peppers look exactly the same but will knock the socks off the unwary at H4 or hotter and can be used same as Fresnos.

Chilaca   -   [C. annuum]
Whole Green Peppers This pepper is fairly mild, H2 to H3, though can sometimes be a little hotter. It is also called Pasilla, but that is properly the dried form. Unfortunately fresh Poblanos are often mistakenly called Pasillas, adding to the confusion. This is a medium thick fleshed chili with a slightly smoky flavor similar to a Poblano, but not as intense. The largest of the photo specimens was 1-1/4 inches long and 1-1/8 inches in diameter at the big end.

Poblanos are often called "Pasilla" in error so be sure which a recipe actually calls for - if it's for stuffing it probably actually wants Poblanos. Subst: Chilacas are rather scarce here in Southern California, but for many recipes Poblanos can be used. They are thicker walled, heavier and more intense in flavor and heavier, so adjust as needed.

Chili Leaf
Chili Leaves Fresh chili leaves, which have no heat, are used in a number of cuisines. In Thailand they are used to add green color to green chili paste. In the Philippines they are used particularly in chicken soup. The photo sampless are from Philippine sili type chilis. Raw they were harsh on the throat, but lightly cooked they were very like an extremely mild spinach. They are most commonly found in Philippine markets.

Chiltepin   -   [Chili Tepin; C. annuum]
Whole Chilis

These tiny (about the size of a pea or smaller) but intensely hot (H9) chilis arose in Bolivia and southern Brazil, and were scattered throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean by birds long before humans invaded the Americas. They are found as far north Arizona and New Mexico and are still harvested wild (thus are quite expensive - U.S. $8.00 / ounce here in Southern California). They are valued for their heat, complex flavor and medicinal uses.

Chipotle
Chipotle family Pronounced Chee-POT-lay, this is a smoked Jalapeno. The common versions are pictured above, from left to right:
¤   Jalapeno:   fresh green - what chipotles are made from.
¤   Brown Chipotle:   [Chipotle Meco, Tipico] the most common kind in Mexico, but not so common in the U.S.. It is a green jalapeno smoked and dried, properly over a smoldering pile of jalapeno foliage.
¤   Chipotle in Adobo Sauce:   the most common version in the U.S., red ripe jalapenos smoked, smothered in red Adobo Sauce and put up in tiny cans. Usually smaller varieties are selected for this version, see Morita below. The sauce has been wiped from the photo specimen.
¤   Chili Morita:   a red ripe jalapeno smoked and dried. Usually smaller varieties are selected for this version which, due to the small size, is often mistakenly called "smoked serrano".

Chipotles will generally be somewhat less hot than the H5 jalapenos, so figure around H4. Chipotles with Adobo Sauce, with their smoky flavor, are absolutely wonderful with scrambled eggs and in other egg dishes.

Choricero - See Nora

Coban
Small dried red smoked chilis popular in Guatemala and southern Mexico. They're about 1/2 inch in diameter and have a smoky flavor similar to Chipotles but are hotter.

Colorado (Chili Colorado) - this is a red ripe Anaheim Chili - not nearly as common as the green ones.

Cubanelle - [Italian Frying Pepper; C. annuum]
Fresh green and red chilis

This chili is very much favored in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, regions where hot chilis are not appreciated. It can surprise, though. While usually solidly withn H1 it can occasionaly get to the high end of H2. They are usually harvested while still yellow-green, but turn bright red if allowed to ripen. They.have rather thin walls and grow to about 6 inches Subst: preferably the very low heat Hungarian or Armenian / Turkish chilis. Anaheims are second choice (thicker walls, more intense flavor, usually a little hotter) and green bell peppers are a distant third (very thick walls, different flavor).   Photo by United States Department of Agriculture = public domain.

Curd Chili
Chilis India. These are green chilis soaked in yogurt and salt, then sun baked for nearly a week. Fry them in a little oil and serve as a condiment. They are used most on the west coast of India. Actually pretty tasty, hotness about H3.

de Arbol   -   [Rat Tail Chili; C. annuum]
Fresh and Dried chilis

Meaning "Tree Chili", de arbols are grown primarily in Mexico but are common in dried form (and less common fresh) north of the border. Shown are fresh green, fresh ripening and dried red. It is a fairly hot chili (H7), 2 to 5 inches long and easily recognized from it's long, slender, sharply pointed shape. Dried de arbols are excellent when you want a bit more heat than the commonly available Japones provide but not so much as dried Thai bird chilis..

Dutch Red - see Holland Red.

Fresno   -   ["Red Jalapeno" (supermarkets); C. annuum]
Fresno Chilis

Fresh red ripe, almost never green, H4-5. A conical, medium walled chili about 2 to 3 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Fresnos are fast becoming the standard for hot red chilis and are found in all the Southern California ethnic markets (as well as in the big supermarkets where they're often called "red jalapenos").

Fresnos are highly available, have good flavor and a hotness that's close enough to hot chilis used in Korea, Southeast Asia, India and other regions. I have also seen Fresnos listed on European sites so they are apparently becoming common there as well (Fresno is 220 miles north of Los Angeles). The less commonly available Holland Red is a good substitute though it is thinner walled and seems more perishable.

Greek - see Italian.

Green Chili - the mythical "green chili", H0-H10. One of the most common stupidities of cookbook writers, particularly ethnic cookbooks, is to call for "three green chilis". Really? What kind of green chilis do you have in mind? I propose cookbook writers use a "Serrano equivalent" so we have some idea where we're supposed to be on the heat scale at least.

Guajillo   -   [C. annuum]
Guajillo Dried red Mirasol chilis, 4 to 7 inches by 1-1/2 inches and moderately hot (H3-H4), this chili is notable for its smooth skin and the flavor of chocolate. It is used in a number of Mexican sauces and as a substitute for Chili Negro which is harder to find.

Guero   -   [Yellow Hot, Caribe, Goldspike; C. annuum]
Conical Yellow Chilis

This conical chili is of moderate heat (H4) and appears similar in size and shape to the red Fresno, though usually not as pointy. Flavor is not nearly as good as the Fresno in my opinion. The photo specimens were typically 3.0 inches long and 1-5/8 inches diameter at the big end.

Guindilla (Basque)
Long yellow chilis While these pickled chilis from Spain superficially resemble Italian Peperoncini, except for being much longer and thinner, the resemblance is just that, superficial. These have much better flavor and some nice, but not overwhelming, chili heat. Definitely superior, they are more appropriate as appetizers than as sandwich ingredients. The big one at the top was 6 inchs long (not counting the stem) and 0.50 inch diameter at the big end.

Gypsy   -   [C. annuum]
Gypsy Peppers A bluntly conical thin walled non-hot (H0) pepper which passes quickly through colors from medium green to medium red as it ripens. They are generally about 4 inches long and 2-1/4 inches in diameter weighing 3-1/2 ounces.

Gypsys are currently much admired by chefs and yuppies though I really don't see the point. They have thin skins so can be fried and roasted and cook quickly (important in restaurants), but also have less flavor and a less favorable skin to flesh ratio than the much more flavorful Baby Bell Peppers which are available in a similar range of even more intense colors. Select dark red ones carefully, they tend to go quickly to rot after achieving that color.

Habanero   -   [C. chinense]
This is a family of very hot chilis native to the Yucatán Peninsula and surrounding areas. Its genus was named C. chinense by a botanist who certainly should have known its home wasn't China. He left no explanation. Taken to the Caribbean in pre-Columbian times, they returned to the continent from Cuba, thus the name meaning "of Havana". Few are grown in Cuba today because very hot food is not in style there now.

Habaneros are typically thin walled and when ripe are commonly red, orange or yellow, but white, pink and brown varieties also exist. They are named for Havana, Cuba, but hot chilis are no longer much used in Cuba. They have a unique fruity flavor, which, combined with their intense hotness (H10), makes them popular for hot chili sauces. Though they have very thin walls, they tend to rot quickly so are difficult to dry, but they are available in that form. When you buy them fresh, keep them loosely wrapped in the refrigerator and plan to use them up in 5 days or so.


Aji Dulce   -   [Ajice (PR); Rubra, Biquinho (Brazil)]
Fresh yellow chilis

These very low heat (H1), smoky flavored habaneros are very popular in Puerto Rico where hot chilis are not appreciated, and are also essential to the national cuisine of Venezuela. They come in various colors and shapes, and some have a little more heat thean they're supposed to. A crop of low heat habaneros is reported being developed in Texas, but they are not yet widely available.   Photo believed to be in the public domain.

Orange Habanero
Habanero 1 inch long, lantern- shaped orange to yellow- orange and H10. These and the very similar but more wrinkly Scotch Bonnet Habanero are the varieties now common in Southern California. They have the full fruity habanero flavor which makes them popular in salads (not too much and sliced very thin).

Red & Yellow Habanero
Habanero Closely related to the Orange Habanero but red and yellow versions. These are seen in the Caribbean and parts of Mexico but are rare in Southern California where the orange dominates.

Red Savina - [Dominican Devil's Tongue, C. chinense]
Red Savina

Demoted from "hottest chili" by the Naga Jolokia the Red Savina has been measured at a Scoville rating around 580,000. Besides being hotter than other habaneros it is heavier with thicker walls. This is a patented cultivar of the Red Habanero bred by Frank Garcia of GNS Spices in California. Photo by Avriette distributed under GNU Free Documentation License v2.1.

Scotch Bonnet   -   [Bonnie Pepper; C. chinense]
This chili cultivar is very difficult for a non-expert to tell from the orange Habanero, but it is more rumpled and has a somewhat different flavor. It's said to resemble a Scottish lady's antique head gear and is the preferred chili for making jerk meat in Jamaica. They are used throughout the Caribbean and in West Africa.


Holland Red   -   [Dutch Red, Cabai Merah (Indonesia); C. annuum]
Chili

A cayenne type pepper sold fresh and red ripe. They are 4 to 6 inches long by 5/8 inch diameter and tapered to a sharp point, hotness H4-5. They have thicker flesh than some long narrow chilis and sweet taste. These are popular in Holland and its former colonies in Indonesia as well as other parts of Europe and California. Probably would be about right for Sichuan and Hunan recipes and are a good choice for most ethnic cuisines. Fresnos are a good substitute, though of different shape and thicker walled, and are much more readily available.

Hungarian Green   -   [C. annuum]
Whole Chilis

These yellow-green chilis have medium thick walls with crunchy texture and little or no heat (H0 - H1 ). The center photo specimen was 5-7/8 inches long, 2-1/8 inches across and weighed 4-1/4 ounces. Allowed to fully ripen they become bright red-orange.   Details and Cooking.

Hungarian Wax   -   [C. annuum]
Whole Chilis

Fresh yellow green, 4 to 5 inches by 1-1/2 inch with roundly pointed tips, hotness H4,H5. Extensively used in European cuisines, particularly that of Hungary, but also in Thailand and by Thais in the U.S. as a substitute for a Thai yellow chili (Prik yuak) that's difficult to find even in Thailand. Allowed to fully ripen they become orange-red.

India   -   [Mirch (India); C. annuum]
Drying Chilis Chilis were introduced to India by the Portuguese through their colony of Goa. Today India is the largest producer and exporter of chilis in the world. Many varieties are grown, particularly in the south, with the majority left to ripen to red and then sun dried   List, Details and Descriptions.

Italian Sweet Peppers   -   [C. annuum]
Italian

Fresh green, 2 to 7 inches long by 3/4 inch in diameter, H0-H2 and easily recognizable by their wrinkly tops. They come in two varieties, smooth and wrinkled. They are fine for munching on or using in salads or Italian recipes. Red ones are sweeter but not nearly as available as green.

Jalapeno   -   [C. annuum]
Jalapenos

Fresh green, 2 to 3 inches by 1 inch diameter, dark green with blunt tip, H5-H6. The skin is dark green (or red), smooth and shiny but often has faint stretch marks (corking). The Jalapeno, with its thick flesh and distinctive flavor is the preferred chili for many Mexican salsas and for hot pickled peppers.

Red ripe Jalapenos are very rare even in Southern California, probably because Huy Fong Foods buys them all up to make their famous (though not precisely authentic) Sriracha sauce. They don't have jalapenos in Vietnam but the owner of Huy Fong loves them.

Plant breeders have recently developed a special "low heat" variety of Jalapeno so "Mexican" restaurants in New York can advertise "real Jalapeno peppers" without devastating the population. Fortunately, if we grow any of those here we export them all to New York.

Japanese Chile   -   See Shishito Chili

Japones   -   [C. frutescens]
Japone

Dried red, hotness H5, H6. This is the most common dried red chili and seems to be sold everywhere in the Mexican sections of markets. In Southern California they are also sold in Indian, Korean and other Asian markets and are often available bulk from bins. Note that they are almost always missing their caps and stems.

Japones are very much used for Asian dishes, having good flavor and darkening easily in hot oil. I've found a rather wide spread in hotness, so check them out before committing a lot of them to a dish. They are often compared to the de Arbol. Here in North America these are the accepted dried chilis for Sichuan and Hunan cuisines.

Korean   -   [C. annuum]
Green Chilis Fresh green, 3 to 5 inches by 3/4 of an inch in diameter and tapered to a slightly blunt point, H2-H4. Found in Koran groceries and some multi-ethnic produce markets, these chilis vary rather widely in hotness. Most have very little heat but I recently bought some red ones that were about as hot as Holland Reds. Subst: Indian Chilis.

Long Green Chili   -   [C. annuum]
Long Green Fresh green, 6 to 11 inches, H2. Commonly Anaheim in Suthern California, but could be New Mexico or any other variety of large mild green chili. Often used for stuffing in "Mexican" cooking, but I prefer Poblanos (hotter and deeper flavor). Long greens are excellent though for just munching raw.

Manzana   -   [Rocoto, Locoto (Peru), Manzana, Canario (yellow ones), Peron (Mexico); C. pubescens]
Whole Chilis

Native to southern Central America and northwestern South America where they have been cultivated for about 8000 years, these chilis are now grown from Mexico to Chile. They are popular in mountainous regions because they can stand colder weather than most chilis. The bush can live 15 years and grow as tall as 10 feet.

Ranging from green through yellow and bright red, round to bell shape and 1 to 2-1/2 inches diameter, they are fairly hot (H8), and have black seeds. They have fairly thick walls so they do not dry well. Rocoto is the only widely cultivated variety of C. pubescens.

Mirasol - Fresh red, 4 to 5 inches by 1 inch tapered to a sharp point, hotness H4. This chili has a unique fruity flavor but is not commonly available in Southern California.

Morita - a variety Chipotle (smoked Jalapeno) but smoked when red ripe rather than green. Usually a smaller variety is used, about 2-5/8 inches long by 7/8 inch wide. See Chipotle for more information.

Mulato - dried   -   [C. annuum]
Chili Mulato Dried black to 2-1/2 x 4 inches (variable), heart shaped, hotness H1. The flavor of this chili is suggestive of licorice and is darker and less sweet than that of the brighter flavored Ancho but they are used similarly and sometimes in combination. This is a flavoring chili with almost no heat.

Negro (Chile Negro) - see Pasilla.

Naga Jolokia - [Ghost Pepper, Bih Jolokia, Bhut Jolokia Borbih Jolokia, Nagahari, Naga Murch, Raja Mirchi, Dorset Naga, C. frutescens / C. chinense]
Naga Jolokia

Recently the hottest chili known with a Scoville rating of around 1,000,000 (depending - it can be half that in a drier climates) - it has been dethroned by several others. This chili was found in north eastern India and grows to about 3 inches long and 1 inch across. It appears to be a cross between C. Frutescens and C. chinense. This chili is of interest mostly to Western chili-heads and makers of "death sauces". It is not used for cooking in India. Photo by Gannon Anjo distributed under GNU Free Documentation License v2.1.

New Mexico   -   [C. annuum]
New Mexico Chili Dried red, 4 to 6 inches by 2 inches in diameter, H2. This chili is used as a major ingredient in New Mexico Chili Powder and in various Mexican sauces. Very similar to California Chili but tends to be a bit hotter.

Nora - [Choricero; C. annuum]
Nora Chili

A small heart shaped dried sweet pepper about 1-5/8 inch diameter or smaller. It's very important to much Spanish cooking, particularly from the Basque region. It's quite sweet with almost no hotness and can be had from Spanish emporiums in the U.S. at a stunning $3.50 per ounce or so. Cascabels look similar but have a thinner, much less sweet flavor and more hotness.

My formula for a substitute for Nora Peppers is this: 3 parts California Chilis, 2 parts Ancho Chilis and about 1/8 teaspoon of Lemon Juice for each chili used - Noras have a definite sour tang to them. This mix is a shade darker in flavor and has a little more heat than real Noras but it's reasonably close.

Padrón - [Pimientos de Padrón (Spain); C.annuum]
Fresh Peppers

From the concello of Padrón in the northwest corner of Spain, these peppers are wrinkly in shape and erratic in heat. The saying is, "Padrón Peppers, some are hot, some are not". They are most often served simply fried with olive oil and sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Those in the photo were grown in Southern California and were just a little hot. The largest was 2-3/4 inches long and 1-1/2 inches diameter. In weight they run from about 1/2 ounce to 1-1/4 ounces.

Paprika   -   [C. annuum]
Whole Chili

Large pointy pods of this sort (6 to 8 inches long and 1-1/2 inches wide) are allowed to ripen fully, then dried and ground into Paprika powder in Hungary (American paprika is made from dried Anaheim type pods). Originally all Hungarian paprika was hot, but non-hot versions were developed to serve demand from neighboring countries. The Hungarians probably got their chilis from invading Turks, who probably got them from the Portuguese. In any case paprika chilis were being planted in private gardens by 1569.   Photo by Josip Rodin distributed under GNU General Public License v3.

Pasilla   -   [Chile Negro; C. annuum]
Pasilla & Negro

These are properly whole dried chilis, usually about 6 inches long by 1 inch with a blunt end - hotness H2 - H3 - also called Chile Negro. The photo specimens (upper pair) are dried. The fresh green ones (lower pair) are properly called Chilaca, but are often called "Pasilla" in error. The dried ones are commonly available in Southern California, with the fresh only occasionally seen. Pasillas are often called for in Mexican stews and salsa. Subst: for green pasillas, Poblanos (different shape, thicker flesh), for Subst: Ancho (sweeter, thicker flesh, so use fewer if by count).


Pasilla de Oaxaca
Pasillas that have been smoked in the manner of Chipotles. They are larger and not as hot.

Peperoncini   -   [Peperoni, Friggitelli (Italy); Greek Peppers, Peperoncini (American English); C. annuum]
Whole Chilis

Pickled peperoncini are a mainstay of sandwich making and are often used in salads, particularly Greek salads. They are very seldom seen in North America except in pickled form, as in the photo. Greek varieties (the photo specimens were from Greece) are reputed to be sweeter than the Italian. They are picked fairly small, typically 2-1/2 inches long by 1-1/4 inches across, and they are rather mild (H1). In Italy the name "peperoncini" is not used for these but only for hotter chilis.

Pequin   -   [C. annuum]
Whole Chilis Pronounced "pikEEN", these dried red 1/2 by 1/4 inch pointed chilis are a cultivated version of the Chiltepins. A little larger then wild Chiltepins, they are still very hot at H9 and posses a complex flavor.

Philippine Chilis   -   see Sili - Philippine Chilis

Pickled Red Chilis - Asia    
Whole Chilis Many types of chili are pickled, but I list this one in particular because pickled red chilis are important to the cuisine of Hunan, China and surrounding regions . They are best naturally salt fermented, but those aren't much available commercially in North America. Ubiquitous in all Asian groceries is the Thai product shown in the photo. Apparently these are sufficiently acceptable to the cuisines that use pickled red peppers so it is not urgent to have other types. These range from 2-1/4 to 2-3/4 inches long and are moderately hot, around H4.

Pimento   -   [C. annuum]
Whole Peppers

Red ripe, round or heart shaped to 4 inches in diameter with thick walls making them substantial and attractive for food processing uses where appearance is a factor. Hotness H0, they are very tasty and sweet, similar in flavor to red bells but more intense. Unfortunately they are seldom seen in stores in the US.

Pimientos del Piquillo   -   ["Little Beak"; C. annuum]
Canned peppers

Red ripe pimento type peppers grown around Lodosa in the Spanish state of Navarra and strictly regulated by Denominacion de Origen. They are flame roasted over open wood fires, seeded and peeled by hand and put up in jars and cans. Spanish chefs who otherwise would never consider something from a can to be edible dote over these. Similar peppers are grown and similarly prepared in Peru.

Piquillos are often stuffed and served as tapas. They have very low heat (H0) and are very tasty and sweet. Fresh they look like a Fresno chili, but lack the heat. As canned they measure about 2-1/2 inches long and 2-1/4 inches across. They can be ordered from Spanish import emporiums or from various on-line sources.

Piri Piri   -   [Pili Pili African Bird's Eye Chili, C. frutescens]
Chilis on plant

Small very hot (H9) chilis used in sauces in tropical Africa, the sauces also called pir piri. These chilis are pretty much interchangeable with Thai chilis which are much more available in North America.   Photo by Jeff Lawson contributed to the public domain.

Poblano   -   [not Pasilla; C. annuum]
Poblanos

Fresh green H3, rarely red ripe - dried red it is called Ancho. This large (4 to 6 inches), very dark green conical chili has fairly thick flesh with a unique flavor, but hotness and shape can vary widely.

Poblanos are the correct chili for Chili Relleno, but many restaurants use the less flavorful Anaheim for reasons of cost, availability and for fear of the somewhat erratic hotness of the Poblano. When a recipe calls for "Pasilla" chilis it almost always actually means "Poblanos", particularly if it calls for stuffing them. Real fresh green "Pasillas" are properly called Chilacas, "Pasilla" is the properly the dried form. Chilacas are not only hard to find in Southern California but are long, narrow and relatively thin of flesh. They do have a similar but less intense flavor.

Puya   -   [C. annuum]
Chili Puya Dried red chilis (hotness H4-H5) similar to Guajillo but much smaller and much hotter. The pictured examples are about 3-1/2 inches long.

Red Savina - see Habanero.

Rocoto - See Manzana.

Scotch Bonnet - Nearly identical to the orange Habanero but a little more rumpled in shape.

Serrano   -   [Prik e noo kaset (Thai); C. annuum]
Serrano

Fresh green, H6. This is our "standard" for hot green chilis. It is hot on just about anyone's scale, is widely available, reasonably reliable as to how hot it actually is, and has been adopted by many immigrant communities. The Serrano has a distinctive flavor, moderately thick flesh and generally is between 2 and 3 inches long by 1/2 inch in diameter with a rounded point.

Thai restaurants adopted Serranos for their condiment trays in the days before California started producing Thai chilis by the ton, People became so used to the flavorful Serranos many Thai restaurants have now added a fourth condiment bowl to provide Serrano and Thai chilis side by side. Now I hear they're starting to grow Serranos in Thailand - probably the tourists are demanding them. Their prominence in Indian markets indicates the Indian community has adopted them as well.

Mexicans use Serranos wherever Jalapenos just aren't hot enough to do the job. They also put up cans of pickled Serranos in the same manner as Jalapenos, but I consider pickled Serranos just a bit too hot to enjoy munching on.

Shishito Chili - [Japanese Chile; C. annuum]
Japanese

Fresh slightly yellowish green, 2 to 3 inches long by 1/2 inch in diameter, H1. These chilis have unique lengthwise ridges and blunt ends. They have excellent flavor but usually no heat - but a few will be hotter in any batch. This is the same as with the much stubbier but similarly wrinkled Spanish Padrón pepper. Like them, shishitos are frequently fried briefly and served as an appetizer. Korean markets very often have these peppers (Japanese markets are few and far between even here in Los Angeles).

Sili - Philippine Chilis   -   [Capsicum annuum and ???]
Green Chilis

"Sili" is Filipino for Chili. In Filipino cuisine the chilis used are almost always either Sili Mahaba or Sili Labuyo, but there are complications. I harvested the photo specimens from fronds of "chili leaves" purchased from a Philippine market in Los Angeles. I have not identified them but they are not Sili mahaba - they had almost no heat at all and have a distinctive ridge under the cap.

Here are some named varieties with the best information I could gather on them. Filipinos are not very informative about their chilis.   Details and Cooking.


Sili Mahaba   -   [Siling Haba, Finger Pepper, Long Pepper, Spanish Pepper; Capsicum annuum var. longum]
A long yellowish green chili, 4 to 6 inches, about 3/4 inch diameter at the stem end and tapering to a point. These are of medium heat - similar to a Jalapeno. I use Serranos as a substitute, but with carful tasting, because their heat can vary a lot - it should be hotter but sometimes isn't as hot.

Siling Labuyo   -   [lit. "Wild Chili"; C. fritescems ???]
The standard hot pepper in the Philippines, small, slightly blunt on the end, extremely hot and red when ripe. They are becoming scarce in the Philippines because growers find the slightly larger and definitely longer Thai chilis easier to grow and harvest, but some complain the flavor is different and they are not as hot.

Siling Bilog / Siling Parasco   -   [(Philippine), Rounded Pepper, Capsicum annuum var grossum]
Basically these are medium size Bell Peppers used (generally green) in the Philippines as a vegetable and for stuffing.


Tabasco   -   [C. frutescens]
Chilis on plant This chili, famous for being made into Tabasco Sauce and other Louisiana hot sauces, was imported from the Mexican state of Tabasco. Some are still grown on Avery Island, Louisiana, but the main production is in Central America where the weather is more suitable. They are quite hot (H6) and related to the Thai chilis. They start out pale green, turning to yellow, then orange and finally bright red as they ripen.

Tepin - see Chiltepin

Thai Chilis   -   [C. frutescens mostly, but also C. annuum]
Thai Chilis

Many kinds of chilis (Prik) are grown in Thailand, and terminology, by time it's translated to English, is very confusing and sometimes just plain wrong. Details of size and hotness are difficult to find for those not available in California. Asian sources don't bother with these details because "everyone already knows". Several of the smallest chilis are called "Bird Peppers", but this name is not at all unique to Thailand.

While all chilis originated in Central and South America, chilis are so variable unique varieties have been developed in Thailand for local use. For details and culinary usage of the most important varieties, See our Thai Chilis page.

Turkish Peppers - See Armenian Peppers - same thing, but I live across the street from Yeravan West, so I have to list them as Armenian :)

Tuscan - see Italian.

Verdi (Chili Verdi) - see Anaheim.

Yellow Hot Chili - see Guero.

Yellow Wax, Long   -   [C. annuum]
Yellow Wax

Yellow green, 6 to 9 inches by 2 inches diameter, H4. Similar in size and shape to the green Anaheim, but these are much hotter. These start out yellow-green, turn yellow at the point they're usually marketed, then turn orange as they fully ripen. Pretty much interchangeable with and easily confused with hot Hungarian Peppers.

Ground Chilis and Mixes

Aji Amarillo   -   [C. baccatum var. pendulum]
Powder

In Peru this chili is usually used fresh, but in neighboring Bolivia it is most commonly used as dried powder. This powder is orange in color and moderately hot at about H4. I have yet to see this powder here in Los Angeles, but dried whole chilis are available from Latino markets, so I just grind them in my spice grinder.

Aleppo   -   [pul biber (Turkey (flake pepper)); Capsicum annuum]
Powder

Aleppo Sweet powder, hotness H1 is certainly one of the finest low heat powders available. It is much sweeter, tastier and a little hotter than American paprika. Aleppo Extra Hot (H3) is also available, and while hotter still has excellent flavor. This chili is grown in northern Syria and is suitable for Lebanese, Turkish and Persian cooking. The photo is of "extra hot", the samples of sweet I've encountered have been a bit more maroon in color. Subst: Korean Flake (not powder) is less sweet and somewhat hotter, but a decent substitute.

Cayenne
Powder

Hotness H8 a distinctly hot powder, usually without much flavor, Cayenne is the "standard" for adding heat to recipes without greatly affecting the flavor, including adding heat to California and New Mexico chili powders mixes. Sometimes it's made from actual Cayenne chilis but often not. It varies in color and is often of a duller and less red color than the version in the photo which was made by one of the big Mexican chili companies.

California Chili Powder
California powder

Caution:   this comes two ways - American and Mexican. The American is a seasoning blend, generally made from California or New Mexico chilis, cumin, cayenne, oregano, salt, onion powder and/or garlic powder. The Mexican will be plain ground California chilis and will list no other ingredients.

Chipotle
California powder

Ground chipotle chilis (smoked jalapenos). It has a stronger smoke flavor than Spanish smoked paprika and is considerably hotter (H4).

India Extra Hot
powder

This is the hottest H7 of the chili powders sold in the Indian groceries here in Southern California (Paprika, Kashmir, Reshampatti and India Extra Hot). It's nearly as hot as Cayenne but has better flavor. Use it for the cuisines of southern India and on the west coast from Goa on south, or wherever Cayenne is called for.

Kashmir - [Kashmiri Mirch (India)]
Kashmir

Hotness H3. Much less sweet and quite a bit hotter than Aleppo, Kashmir chili powder is used in Indian cooking, particularly in the relatively softly spiced meat dishes of the north.

Korean - Flake and Powder
Flake and Powder

Hotness of the flake is about H2, sweet and tasty. The powder tends to be considerably hotter, more like H5. Flake and powder are used liberally for kimchi and other Korean dishes, so turnover at Korean markets is quick and the product is generally of excellent quality.

New Mexico Chili Powder
New Mexico Powder

Caution:   This comes two ways, American and Mexican. The American is a seasoning blend invented in Texas in the 1800s. It is available in mild and hot versions and is generally made from New Mexico chilis, paprika, guajillo chilis, black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Cayenne may be added for hotter formulas. The Mexican will be plain ground New Mexico chilis and will list no other ingredients.

Paprika, U.S.
Paprika

Hotness H0. Undistinguished to slightly bitter in flavor and lacking any heat, U.S. Paprika is pretty much for decoration only, but often dull in color too. It is usually ground from Anaheim type pods. Obtain genuine Hungarian or Spanish paprika if at all possible.

Paprika, Hungarian, Sweet & Hot
Powder

Hungarian paprika is sweet, flavorful and brilliant red. "Sweet" (H0) and "Hot" (H2) versions are sold. Today, when a recipe calls for "paprika" it means sweet - hot is used mainly as a "sprinkle" at serving, but originally all Hungarian paprika was hot.

Though now the signature spice of Hungarian cooking, paprika was little used until after 1850. It is said the technique for grinding chilis into fine powder was first developed in Hungary.

Paprika, Spanish   -   [Pimentón]
Powder

Spanish paprika is made from an entirely different chili than the Hungarian, coming directly from the New World rather than through Turkey, and it has a different flavor. It comes in several versions, including Dulce (Sweet), Agridulce (bittersweet) Picante (Hot, about (H3)),Ahumado (Smoked, about (H2)). Hungarian paprikas are reasonable substitutes for Dulce and Picante, but the others are unique to Spain.

Reshampatti
Reshampatti

Whole reshampatti chilis are common in India but not seen in North America, though the ground version is common in Indian groceries. This chili powder is a little less sweet and a bit hotter (H4). than Kashmir and a good choice for all-around Indian cooking.

White Chili Powder
White Chillii

This ground chili powder is used a fair amount in India to spice up recipes with white sauces (all white feasts were popular with the ruling class during the Moghul empire period). I'm not sure how it's made but it's an extremely fine powder and about as hot as Reshampatti (H4) but lacks the distinctive flavor of red chili peppers. Consider it a "hottening agent" only, but much safer than capsaicin extracts.

Health Considerations

Hot Chilis are safe.   Experiments have been conducted squirting chili oils directly onto the stomach lining and no adverse effects were seen. Scientists working with pure capsaicin do so in filtered rooms wearing hazmat suits, but the pure stuff is 16,000,000 Scoville and real chilis you are actually likely to encounter top out at about 500,000 Scoville (A2).

The pain of hotness is entirely a nerve signaling thing and is not a real pain from damage of any kind. Birds do not have appropriate receptors and are immune to chilis so eat them and spread their seeds efficiently. The upshot of this is you can treat the seed in your bird feeder with chilis so the squirrels can't eat it, but it doesn't bother the birds at all. There are commercial products for this.

Tolerance:   For the uninitiated a modest amount of chili pepper causes unpleasant pain when consumed and will mask the flavors of the dish it is included in. Repeated exposure, however, causes the chili specific nerve receptors to become much less sensitive to chili heat. Once you have paid your dues you can really enjoy hot food. For details see our article Chili Heat and Tolerance.

Afterburn:   If you notice stinging at your nether orifice a day or so after eating hot chilis you are not eating enough hot chilis. The digestion adjusts and this problem goes away. For instance, I eat enough hot chilis I was not bothered by exit sting after testing (and guzzling) hot sauces for the articles on this site.

Vitamins: Hot red chilis are extremely high in vitamin A, but have good doses of vitamin C as well as folic acid, potassium and antioxidants. They are low sodium and very low carb (A3). Due to the high vitamin A content, fresh or dried red chilis are said to be effective in improving night vision. Vitamin C levels decline greatly when chilis are dried.

Diabetes   The capsaicin (the hot stuff) in chili peppers have been shown effective in controlling blood glucose levels in persons suffering from type-II diabetes, with the effect still evident in fasting levels in the morning. It has been reported that injections of capsaicin have cured diabetes in mice, but there is not yet any information on effectiveness and/or safty for humans.

Endorphin Rush:   Chilis have been found to provide many people with an "endorphin rush" similar to that achieved by joggers but with a lot less effort, risk and damage to the joints (A2). It is reported this can be achieved with hot chili varieties when they are too young to be hot so people who like this effect can get it without the pain if they plant their own chili plants.

Sweating and Digestion:   Hot chilis are very popular in practically all tropical areas because they induce sweating which cools the body. They are also a digestive stimulant which helps a lot in hot weather (A4).

Hotness

The official measure of chili hotness is the Scoville Unit, which ranges from 0 (green bell pepper) to 16,000,000 (pure capsaicin). A few years ago, the hottest known actual chili peppers were between 350,000 and a bit over 500,000 Scoville. Today,

Remembering big numbers is difficult and the chilis don't cooperate either, forcing you to remember a range of big numbers. A single variety can show wide variation in heat depending on soil, weather and the chili plant's mood at the time.

Here we use a simple 0 to 10 hotness scale with the 10 spot held by the Habanero family. "Close enough for government work", as the saying goes. Keep in mind the wide variation and the fact that when dried, ripe red chilis will lose some hotness.

ScaleDescription and Chilis at this level
H0 No heat (or trace - even some bell peppers have trace heat)
Bell Pepper, Green, Red, Orange, Purple and Yellow; Pimiento; Sweet Banana; U.S. Paprika; Peproncini (most); Cherry (cool end) - (Scoville 0 to 100)
H1 Detectable Heat to the average palate
Aleppo Pepper; Cherry (hot end); Peproncini (hot end) - (Scoville 100 to 500)
H2 Only a Canadian could call these "hot"
Hungarian Hot Paprika; El Paso; Anaheim, California; New Mexico, Santa Fe, Coronado; Poblano (mild end) chili powder (California and New Mexico). - (Scoville 500 to 1000)
H3 Heat, but comfortable
Poblano (hot end); Mulato; Ancho; Pasilla; - (Scoville 1000 to 1500)
H4 "Entry level" hot chilis
Cascabel; Sandia; Yellow Hot Wax - (Scoville 1500 to 2500)
H5 The Mexican border
Jalapeno (mild end); Fresno, Mirasol; Guajillo; Louisiana hot sauce - (Scoville 2500 to 5000)
H6 Starting to sweat
Serrano (low end); Jalapeno (high end); Hot Wax; Hidalgo; Tabasco Sauce - (Scoville 5000 to 15,000)
H7 The weak have fallen by the wayside
Serrano (high end); Manzano; De Arbol; habanero sauce - (Scoville 15,000 to 30,000)
H8 OK, that's quite hot enough now.
Cayenne; Tabasco; Piquin; Super Chile; Sanaka; Aji; Thai (mild end) - (Scoville 30,000 to 50,000)
H9 Fire and Damnation!
Thai (hot end); Bahamian; Yatsafusa; Haimen - (Scoville 50,000 to 100,000)
H10 Hotter than the hearth grates of Hades
Habanero (family); Scotch Bonnet; Chinenses (South America); Birdseye (Africa); Jamaican Hot; Kumataka; Carolina Cayenne - (Scoville 100,000 to 500,000)
H11 Completely Absurd
Red Savina, Naga Jolokia - (Scoville greater than 500,000)

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