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Does Freezing Chili Peppers Make Them Less Hot and Spicy?

If you are a fan of chili peppers and either bought a ton at the grocery store or had a bumper harvest in your garden, you will probably end up freezing the extras. As you think about your chili peppers sitting in the freezer, you could be asking yourself, does freezing chili peppers make them less spicy?

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 Freezing Chili Peppers Make Them Less Hot?

No, chili peppers don’t lose their spiciness when frozen. During the freezing process, small ruptures in the cell walls can release capsaicin but it will remain inside the chili pepper, leaving the heat levels effectively unchanged. However, if you freeze a chili pepper for an extended period, it can affect its flavor, so make sure to use your frozen peppers before they go bad.

Will Thawing Frozen Peppers Make Them Less Hot?

Similarly, thawing frozen peppers won’t make them less hot. The amount of capsaicin, which is the chemical in chili peppers that makes them spicy, remains unchanged inside the pepper. While the spiciness will remain unchanged, a frozen pepper once thawed will become mushy and will taste less fresh.

Many people thinking about freezing excess peppers may also wonder if freezing these peppers will make them hotter? I got you covered; I wrote a post about this very topic!

Why Do Some People Think Chili Peppers Get Less Hot When Frozen?

Some people think chili peppers lose their spiciness when frozen because they think the cold temperatures deteriorate the spicy capsaicin inside. However, this doesn’t happen because the capsaicin levels inside the frozen pepper remain unchanged.

Another, but less common reason why some people think freezing chili peppers causes lower heat levels is due to sublimation. Frozen chili peppers will start to lose the water held in their cell walls, which is about 85 percent of their volume. 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. Some people think as the pepper shrinks a little it loses its capsaicin levels in the process. This isn’t the case, and the pepper will still contain the same amount of capsaicin even though it might have shrunk in size.

What Changes Occur When Chili Peppers are Frozen

As mentioned above, the spice level of chili peppers will remain unchanged when frozen but there will still be some other noticeable changes:

  1. The exterior of the chili pepper will shrivel and wrinkle a little bit
  2. Small ice crystals on the exterior of the peppers will start to develop (don’t worry, these are harmless)
  3. The chili pepper when thawed will become mushy
  4. The chili pepper will lose a bit of its fresh flavor
  5. If frozen for a long time, the fundamental flavor of the chili pepper could change

Related post

If you are interested in learning more about the effects of freezing spicy foods, I recommend that you check out 5 Things to Know About Freezing Hot Sauce