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Does Freezing Chili Peppers Make Them Hotter? (Answered)

If you are like me and freeze your excess peppers you may ask yourself, does freezing chili peppers make them hotter? One way to find out is by freezing your own for a few months and then trying one. The easier way to find out is by reading on!

Will Freezing Chili Peppers Make Them Hotter?

No, chili peppers don’t get hotter when frozen. During the freezing process, small ruptures in the cell walls of the peppers can release capsaicin, but it will remain inside the chili pepper keeping the spice levels effectively unchanged.

The reason chili peppers are hot is because they contain a chemical called capsaicin. Capsaicin is a phenolic compound that is also responsible for the taste and pungency of the chili pepper.

Capsaicin excites the sensory receptors in your tongue which sends a signal to your brain. As capsaicin excites these receptors, your body is alerted about a pain (in this case spicy taste in your mouth) that you need to draw your attention to.

Fun fact: Freezing a chili pepper won’t affect its spiciness, but if you heat up a chili pepper in a pan for an extended period, it will start to flatten out its spice level making it a little less spicy. This is mostly due to the capsaicin spreading out over the entire dish, instead of being concentrated in the pepper pod.

Frozen green Habanero peppers in a ziplock bag being removed from the freezer
Some frozen green Habanero peppers are being removed from the freezer. If you look closely you may see a few ice crystals. Photo by Spicy Trio

Will Thawing Frozen Peppers Make Them Hotter?

No, thawing frozen peppers won’t make them hotter, because the capsaicin levels will remain unchanged inside the pepper. After thawing the pepper, the texture of the peppers will become mushy and less fresh-tasting, but the flavor profile will still be intact and as spicy as the day you got it.

Alternatively, some may wonder if freezing peppers can have the opposite effect and make them less spicy. If that’s you, check out this post to learn more!

Why Do Some People Think Chili Peppers Get Hotter When Frozen?

Some people think chili peppers get hotter when you freeze them due to sublimation that occurs with frozen water. When peppers are frozen the water inside the chili—which is about 85 percent of its volume—freezes as well. When water freezes, it starts to sublimate over time, which is the process of frozen water turning into vapor and being released into the air.

As the water content of the frozen chili is released into the air, the pepper will shrink resulting in a smaller pepper with the same level of spice. The capsaicin level of the chili pepper and its spice level are unchanged, even though the volume of the peppers has decreased.

What Changes Occur When Peppers are Frozen?

As mentioned above, the spice level of chili peppers won’t change when frozen, but your peppers will undergo other changes. Over time you will notice your frozen chili peppers will:

  1. Start to shrivel and wrinkle
  2. Develop small ice crystals on the exterior
  3. Become mushy when thawed
  4. Lose a bit of their fresh flavor