Hot peppers have been a component of human culture and cuisine for thousands of years. Peppers are native to the Americas, and traces of the food have been found in prehistoric remains. Interestingly, the hotness is not a flavor but instead inflicts pain in a way that people find enjoyable and stimulating, hence the popularity of spicy peppers and foods.
In this article we will explore 20 of the world’s hottest peppers and discuss the ins and outs of each pepper to provide a better understanding of each of these hotties. For anyone new to peppers, their heat is measured by the Scoville scale, which is a measurement of the pungency and concentration of Capsaicin. Capsaicin is the component in peppers that causes pain and the feeling of burning.
Carolina Reaper Brings the Heat
South Carolina born “Smokin’ Ed” Currie is responsible for the development of this intense chili pepper. Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper ended up breaking the Guinness World Record for the hottest chili in 2013, according to PuckerButt Pepper Company.
The Reaper has been featured on many popular media sites including NPR, the New York Times, Good Mythical Morning, and the highly popular YouTube talk show Hot Ones. Additionally, it still holds the world record for hotness as of 2020, giving it a 7-year reign so far.
- Scoville: Sitting generally above 1.5 million Scoville Heating Units, the Carolina Reaper ranges between 1,400,000 – 2,200,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units).
- Appearance: The reaper is fairly small, red, and has a bumpy texture. The bottom of the pepper comes to a sharp-looking point, like a spiky tail.
- Taste: There is a sweet and almost chocolate-like flavor to the pepper but beware – the heat kicks in fairly quickly. It is recommended to add in small amounts to salsa and spicy dishes.
- Weight and size: On average the pepper is about 5 – 7 grams and 1 – 2 inches in height.
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion was Once the Hottest Pepper
The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is right behind the Carolina Reaper in heat and a subset of the Trinidad Scorpion peppers, the Butch T, was in fact the world record holder before the Reaper took the title in 2013. Compared to a jalapeno, this Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is around 400 times hotter.
This pepper comes from the village of Moruga in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which is an island located in the Caribbean. Its heat is known for being slow building and long lasting, making it popular with pepper fanatics looking to challenge themselves.
- Scoville: Though most that are found in today’s market sit at or around 2 million SHU, the pepper can range between 1,200,000 – 2,000,000 SHU.
- Appearance: The texture of this pepper is wrinkled, and the bottom has a stinger. It is generally red in color, though they are sometimes available in yellow.
- Taste: Trinidad Moruga Scorpions have a sweet and fruity that many find tasty and useful in cooking.
- Weight and size: This pepper is pretty small, around 1 – 2 inches in height and 3 – 5 grams in weight.
7 Pot Douglah Bring Trinidad Spice
The 7 Pot Douglah hails from Trinidad and is considered somewhat rare. The “7 Pot” title is used as a reference point for its heat level and indicates that one pod is enough to spice around 7 pots of stew, according to The Chileman. In fact, 7 Pot is used in many chili pepper titles, including several more in this list. However, the 7 Pot Douglah is considered more unique than other 7 Pots thanks to its dark coloring that is packed with flavor and heat.
- Scoville: 900,000 – 1,900,000 SHU
- Appearance: The 7 Pot Douglah is generally darker red or brown in color, with an outer texture described as bumpy and pimply.
- Taste: Most chili peppers, like this one, have a fruity flavor before the heat hits. However, the 7 Pot Douglah is not only fruity but also has more earthiness to its taste.
- Weight and size: This pepper will be approximately 2 inches in length and around 6 – 8 grams in weight.
Chocolate 7 Pot Lends Itself to a Nuttier Spice Taste
Chocolate 7 Pots are a subset within 7 Pot Douglahs. The Chocolate 7 Pot, also known as Chocolate Lightning, is the darkest of the Douglahs. Some chili pepper fans do not even bother to make the distinction between the two, as they are so similar in flavor and heat. The Chocolate 7 Pot nonetheless has some slight flavor differences, such as more nuttiness.
- Scoville: 900,000 – 1,900,000 SHU
- Appearance: The Chocolate 7 Pot is dark and brown in color with shriveled and wrinkly skin.
- Taste: This pepper will give off the same fruity notes as the 7 Pot Douglah, but with more chocolatey characteristics.
- Weight and size: It will be around the same size as the 7 Pot Douglah – 2 inches in length and around 7 – 8 grams in weight.
Dorset Naga are Perfect for a Ground Spice
This pepper came from the Naga Morich pepper, which originated in Bangladesh. The Dorset Naga was developed in market gardens in Dorset, England. These peppers are especially recommended for drying and grinding into powders to use in cooking.
The English creators of the Dorset Naga started development on the pepper after purchasing a Naga Morich plant from a local Asian market, according to Pepper Scale. They bred the pepper by choosing the best pods from a harvest and growing them again.
- Scoville: 1,000,000 – 1,500,000 SHU
- Appearance: The Dorset Naga ripens from green to the classic red seen in most chili peppers. It has finely wrinkled skin.
- Taste: This is a sweet pepper – before the heat kicks in of course – and gives off fruity and floral aromas when cooked.
- Weight and size: The Dorset Naga is bigger than the previous peppers we’ve covered at around 2 – 3 inches in length and generally at or less than 10 grams in weight.
Naga Morich is also Nicknamed the Snake Chile
The Naga Morich is the parent plant to England’s famed Dorset Naga pepper. The Naga Morich originated in Bangladesh, a country in South Asia to the east of India. The pepper is also known as the “snake chili” and has close genetic ties to Jolokia chilies, including the Bhut Jolokia that is more popularly known as the Ghost Pepper.
While many chili peppers originate in the Americas, this Asian pepper is widely seen in areas such as Assam. The area of Assam is also known for its tea growing and subsequent tea culture, making it an agricultural hub.
- Scoville: 1,000,000 – 1,500,000 SHU
- Appearance: The Naga Morich is near identical to the Dorset Naga, though it has somewhat more textured skin and walls.
- Taste: Sweet and aromatic, great for cooking or making powders.
- Weight and size: The Naga Morich is generally around 2 -3 inches and weighs around 8 – 10 grams depending on pod size.
7 Pot Primo is a New Spicy Pepper
The 7 Pot Primo is the result of the crossbreeding of Trinidad 7 Pot and Naga Morich peppers by a horticulturist named Tony Primeaux in Louisiana. Though this is a relatively new variety of pepper, it is in its 8th generation. For reference, peppers generally take around 6 – 7 generations to be considered stable enough to be an official variety of pepper.
- Scoville: 800,000 – 1,260,000 SHU
- Appearance: The 7 Pot Primo is sometimes referred to as sinister-looking, thanks to its highly texturized, bumpy skin and its stinger-like tail.
- Taste: Aside from sweetness, this pepper also offers citrus and floral notes.
- Weight and size: They stay generally between 1 – 2 inches in height and 5 – 6 grams in weight.
Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” was Created in Australia
The Butch T is a strain of Trinidad Scorpion peppers, related closely to the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper. In 2011, it held the Guinness World Record for world’s most pungent pepper, making it one of the true predecessors to the Carolina Reaper.
T name “Butch T” comes from Butch Taylor, owner of Zydeco Hot Sauce and credited for the discovery of this strain. The scorpion peppers are native to Trinidad, although the Butch T was created in Australia thanks to seed providers.
- Scoville: 800,000 – 1,460,000 SHU
- Appearance: Similar to other scorpion peppers, the Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” is fairly short and bumpy, with the classic stinger tail.
- Taste: This pepper has the typical fruity flavor seen in chili peppers.
- Weight and size: The Butch T strains is rarely bigger than 2 inches and weighs around 5 – 6 grams.
Komodo Dragon is both an Animal and a Spicy Pepper
Unlike other chili peppers, the Komodo Dragon is sometimes seen in supermarkets rather than having to be specially ordered. This is especially true in the United Kingdom, where the pepper is kept stocked in Tesco.
Though widely marketed as the UK’s hottest pepper, little is known about its true origin. It is thought to be a UK hybrid pepper, meaning a United Kingdom grower likely crossbred UK grown peppers with other peppers from regions such as the Americas or Asia. It appeared in Tesco stores around 2015.
- Scoville: 1,400,000 – 2,200,000 SHU
- Appearance: The skin is relatively smooth and twists around. The Komodo Dragon is generally fairly slim.
- Taste: The Komodo Dragon is known for its delayed heat, meaning more of the fruitiness can be enjoyed in the beginning before the senses are overwhelmed by the heat.
- Weight and size: Like similar peppers such as 7 pots, the Komodo is around 2 inches in length and slim.
Naga Viper is a Crossbreed that Will Knock Your Socks Off
The Naga Viper was created by an Englishman by the name of Gerald Fowler and is supposedly a three-way cross strain. The Naga Viper was grown in a greenhouse and crossed between the Bhut Jolokia, Naga Morich and Trinidad Scorpion. The Bhut Jolokia is also known as the Ghost Pepper. Naga translates to “Cobra snake” in Sanskrit, a reference to the “bite” of the heat provided by the chili pepper.
- Scoville: 900,000 – 1,380,000 SHU
- Appearance: Naga Vipers tend to be plump and lumpy. They are generally the classic red color, though sometimes they appear more orange.
- Taste: The taste of this pepper is described as floral and tangy, with a medium pace of heat building.
- Weight and size: The Naga Viper is compared to a Habanero in shape and size and is around 2 inches in length.
The 7 Pot Brain Strain Actually Looks Like a Brain
Belonging to the 7 Pot variety of chilies, the 7 Pot Brain Strain was created by a North Carolinian man named David Capiello in 2010. Capiello used seeds imported from Trinidad and followed the methods of selective breeding to achieve the Brain Strain.
The pepper has gained attention from media and fanatics alike thanks to it being bred to look similar to an actual brain. While this pepper is generally chopped and diced to use in chili recipes, it can also be ground into a powder and is often sold in this fashion.
- Scoville: 1,000,000 – 1,350,000 SHU
- Appearance: This pepper is known for its looks. It has been bred to appear similar to a brain, with a small but plump shape and many lumps and folds.
- Taste: This fruity flavor is coupled with a sun-kissed smoky flavor, giving the Brain Strain some uniqueness.
- Weight and size: Generally, this chili stays at or less than 2 inches in size.
7 Pot Barrackpore is Another Spicy Record Holder from Trinidad
This pepper comes from the Barrackpore region on Trinidad. It is yet another of the 7 Pot varieties, though it has some significant differences from other 7 Pots. Trinidad is, in fact, known for producing many of the world’s hottest peppers, or for sourcing seeds to breeders in regions in the U.S. and U.K. who then go on to produce record breaking peppers. Thus, the 7 Pot Barrackpore contains elements of similar to that of the Trinidad Scorpion peppers as well.
- Scoville: 1,000,000 – 1,300,000 SHU
- Appearance: 7 Pot Barrackpore peppers are generally elongated in form, though they can vary in shape somewhat widely. They have wrinkly skin and are red in color.
- Taste: This pepper is not as sweet as others in the 7 Pot variety, and even has been described as bitter by some.
- Weight and size: The 7 Pot Barrackpore is longer and bigger than other types within this variety; it is generally around 3 inches in length.
Infinity Chili Burns for Quite Some Time
The Infinity Chili was developed by Englishman and chili breeder Nick Woods. The name is in reference to the long-lasting heat provided by the chili, insinuating that the hotness and subsequent burning is infinite.
Though the Infinity Chili was put forth to compete with the other hottest chilies, it was ultimately beat out by the Naga Viper and Trinidad Scorpions in Scoville level. Nonetheless, this little pepper packs a hefty punch of heat.
- Scoville: 1,000,000 – 1,250,000 SHU
- Appearance: Infinity chilies are smaller and bright red, with mildly wrinkly skin on the exterior.
- Taste: The Infinity Chili does not stray too far from the general fruity flavor of chili peppers, though some note it can also have a nuttiness.
- Weight and size: These chilies get up to 2 inches in size and can be plump and bulbous.
The 7 Pot Jonah is Hard to Come By
The 7 Pot Jonah tends to be a larger plant that produces plumper and more round crops. Like the other 7 Pot varieties, the Jonah comes from the Trinidad region. This pepper is one of the less popularized versions of the 7 Pots, possibly due to its lower Scoville range. Thus, the 7 Pot Jonah can be a little more difficult and rarer to get ahold of.
- Scoville: 800,000 – 1,200,000 SHU
- Appearance: The 7 Pot Jonah is round and plump, with more of a rib texture and sometimes with a stinger shape hanging from the bottom.
- Taste: While the heat is still very bold, more of the fruitiness is apparent in the taste thanks to its lower Scoville level compared to other 7 Pot varieties.
- Weight and size: This pepper ranges in length, but typically sits at around 2 inches with a plump shape.
Trinidad 7 Pot Is Easy to Grow Yourself
The Trinidad 7 Pot is one of the more commonly available 7 Pot varieties within its home region, but not necessarily available in markets outside of the island. These peppers are also more easily found in seed form in international markets, making it a more accessible variety for fans of hot peppers looking to grow their own. This pepper hails from the Chaguanas region of Trinidad.
- Scoville: 1,000,000 – 1,200,000 SHU
- Appearance: The Trinidad 7 Pot certainly looks hot, with sometimes darker red skin that is heavily wrinkled. It generally has a habanero type shape.
- Taste: Like the 7 Pot Jonah, the Trinidad 7 Pot’s fruitiness is a little more notable thanks to its slightly lower Scoville level.
- Weight and size: Around 1.5 – 2 inches, or about the size of a golf ball, is the size these peppers generally come in.
7 Pot Infinity is Quite the Culinary Phenomenon
Similar to the Infinity Chili, the 7 Pot Chili features a decently high Scoville level that ranks it among the Trinidad 7 Pots. It is used for culinary purposes primarily, but it is sought out by fanatics of hot peppers as well. It can be notably rare to find and not of a heat level to be searched for too often. Nonetheless, it does still have the heat to match up with its competition, even if it is not widely recognized.
- Scoville: 1,000,000 – 1,200,000 SHU
- Appearance: Smaller and red, though sometimes eaten at the orange phase of the ripening stage. Typically wrinkled lightly on the outer skin.
- Taste: Fruitiness, floral-like, and nuttiness are all flavors used to describe this variety.
- Weight and size: The 7 Pot Infinity is usually around 2 inches and has a good amount of plumpness.
The Bedfordshire Super Naga is Actually from England
This pepper was developed by Salvatore Genovese, a farmer from Bedfordshire in East England. The Daily Mail reports that Genovese produces high amounts of chilies every week – around 500,000 to be exact. He has been a farmer since 1972, but turned to growing hot peppers in the 90’s and 00’s.
The Bedfordshire Super Naga is sold in Tesco, a grocery store in England, and is packaged to alert customers to its heat. Apparently, the packaging warns customers not to touch the pepper without gloves, as it is a skin irritant.
- Scoville: 900,000 – 1,120,000 SHU
- Appearance: Bedfordshire Super Naga peppers are elongated and have a rib-like texture. The skin is also decently bumpy.
- Taste: Fans of this pepper describe the fruit flavor to match the heat level in richness, though it is still at a high enough Scoville range for the heat to overpower the flavor after some time.
- Weight and size: As mentioned, this pepper is elongated and is generally 2 -3 inches.
The New Mexico Scorpion pepper was Developed by Engineers
A New Mexico-based team comprised of food show producer Dave Dewitt, chemical engineer Marlin Bensinger, and grower Jim Duffy discovered and developed this hot pepper. It’s Scoville test topped out at 1,191,595 SCU, but the team believes with more breeding that Scoville level can be raised.
The pepper was grown in New Mexico, but the plants were cultivated and brought from Trinidad, hence this New Mexico Scorpion’s similarities with the Trinidad Scorpions. Regardless of their similar origins, the New Mexico Scorpion has undergone different breeding strategies to make it a unique pepper.
- Scoville: 800,000 – 1,191,000 SHU
- Appearance: These peppers are usually longer rather than plump and can be a variety of shades of red.
- Taste: This scorpion does not vary very much from the standard sweet flavor followed by massive heat that builds up.
- Weight and size: These peppers are a big bigger, around 3 inches and length and 8 – 10 grams in weight.
The Spanish/Gibraltar Naga Gives a Spanish Flavor
The Gibraltar, or Spanish, Naga is Spain’s version of the Naga peppers. Originally from India, Naga peppers made their way to the United Kingdom, where they began to be crossbred into UK-specific variations. From here they ended up in Spain, where the Spanish Naga was created. The pepper provides a much more intense heat to Spanish dishes, giving them their notable spiciness.
- Scoville: 1,000,000 – 1,200,000 SHU
- Appearance: Spanish Nagas are round with tapered ends. They have mild wrinkling and ribbing textures and range from orange to red in color – though unripe they are green.
- Taste: These chilies have a notable citrus flavor that comes through the heat. Some have even noted the flavor remaining as an aftertaste once the heat has subsided.
- Weight and size: These Naga peppers are a bit bigger, around 3 inches, causing them to be heavier as well.
The Well-Known Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia) Delivers Heat
The Ghost Pepper was one of the first hot peppers to gain viral and worldwide attention. Likely thanks to its unforgettable name, this pepper made the rounds of hot pepper fanatics eating it for a challenge around the late 2000s and early 2010s.
The Ghost Pepper actually comes from the Assam region near Bangladesh. Its untranslated name is Bhut Jolokia, with Bhut meaning ghost. It has competed for the Guinness World Record title, and it is also a source of competition as people will try to see how quickly they can eat the pepper before succumbing to the heat.
- Scoville: 855,000 – 1,041,427 SHU
- Appearance: The Ghost Pepper is longer than other peppers and features folded and ribbed skin. It can be a range of colors, from yellow to red, though at its most red point is where more heat will lie.
- Taste: Coming in at half the Scoville level of the Carolina Reaper, the Ghost Pepper has its similar sweetness but is more easily enjoyed.
- Weight and size: The Ghost Pepper is usually between 2.5 – 3.5 inches in length.
Our First Honorable Mention is Pepper X
Pepper X was created by Smokin’ Ed Currie, the same madman behind the current world record holder the Carolina Reaper, according to Pepper Scale. Thought the pepper is not stable enough yet to count as a true pepper variety, thus disqualifying it for world record consideration, it is likely to far surpass the current record held by the Reaper once the variation stabilizes.
- Scoville: 3,180,000 SHU
- Appearance: Similar to the Carolina Reaper, with a small shape and red, bumpy texture.
- Taste, weight, and size: Not much is currently known about the taste and weight, as these peppers are still largely in development and consistent characteristics are to be determined.
Our Second Honorable Mention is Dragon’s Breath
Coming it at a whopping 2,480,000 Scoville level, the United Kingdom’s Dragon’s Breath pepper is still in development and has not been released or approved for public consumption. Not much is known about this pepper’s general appearance, but it is likely being considered for medicinal uses. Dragon’s Breath may eventually come to the public market, but so far it has not.