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The World’s Hottest Pepper Revealed

If you are into spicy peppers like me, at some point, you’ll ask what the hottest pepper in the world is. In this post, I’ll answer that question as well as discuss why it’s not quite as simple of an answer. So, let’s get into it!

What is the World’s Hottest Pepper?

The world’s official hottest pepper is the Carolina Reaper, with an average Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating of 1.6 million but with an SHU that has measured as high as 2.2 million SHUs. The Carolina Reaper pepper has been the world’s hottest pepper since August 11, 2017, when the Guinness World Records declared it as such. So, officially, there is no pepper hotter than the Carolina Reaper pepper.

The Carolina Reaper is so hot that after the extraction of its pepper oil, the oil needs to be diluted with one of the following measurements of sugar water to eliminate the burning sensation when consumed:

  • 2,200,000 drops of sugar water
  • 468 cups of sugar water
  • 29 gallons of sugar water

Even though the Carolina Reaper has an average of 1,641,183 Scoville Heat Units, some have been measured to have an SHU as high as 2.2 million. To give you an idea of how hot that is, it’s 275 times hotter than very spicy Jalapeño peppers.

Jar full of red dried Carolina Reaper peppers
The smell that comes out of my jar of Carolina Reaper peppers is incredible. If you smell it too many times your nose will burn for around 30 minutes. Photo by Spicy Trio

How Hot is the Carolina Reaper Pepper?

As mentioned above, on average, Carolina Reaper peppers are 1,641,183 Scoville units and can measure as high as 2.2 million in the spiciest examples. The best way to contextualize how hot Carolina Reaper peppers are, is by comparing the hottest Carolina Reaper pepper Scoville units to other spicy chili peppers.

Type of PepperScoville Heat UnitsHow many times hotter a Carolina Reaper is
Orange Habanero350,0006.3x
Red Savina Habanero500,0004.4x
Ghost Pepper1,041,4272.1x
Naga Viper1,382,1181.6x
7 Pot Primo1,469,0001.5x
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion2,009,2311.1x
A table comparing the Scoville Heat Units of seven peppers and how they compare to the heat level of the Carolina Reaper pepper.

Why is the Carolina Reaper Pepper so Hot?

The Carolina Reaper pepper is so hot due to its high concentration of capsaicin. Capsaicin is a chemical compound found in all spicy chili peppers and is known for causing the burning sensation in the mouth when consumed or your skin when it gets on your body. Capsaicin is an oil-like compound with no color or odor. It’s found in the pepper membrane, known as the placenta, which holds the seeds of the pepper.

The Carolina Reaper pepper was specially bred to have extremely high levels of capsaicin. The pepper was created by cross-breeding two spicy peppers, a La Soufriere and a Naga Viper pepper.

  • La Soufriere is from the Caribbean island of St Vincent and is named after a local volcano. The pepper is related to Habaneros and probably has a Scoville Heat Rating above 150,000 Scoville Heat Units
  • The Naga Viper pepper was created in the U.K. by cross-breading a Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper and a Naga Morich pepper and has a Scoville Heat Unit rating of 1,382,118

Interesting fact: Capsaicin causes a burning sensation on the skin. When handling hot peppers, it’s best practice to wear gloves to reduce the chances of coming into contact with the capsaicin.

How Long Does the Carolina Reaper Heat Last When Consumed?

From my personal experience, when I ate a piece of dried Carolina Reaper pepper, the burn in the mouth lasted for about 30 minutes. The pain continued to build for about 10 minutes, with hints and waves of it getting better, so I felt a bit like the pain was moving one step forward, followed by two steps back. It peaked at about the 10-minute mark and slowly became less painful over the next 20 minutes.

However, I felt the burning in my stomach for about 45 minutes to an hour. I didn’t eat so much that I developed any abdominal cramps or hiccups. Many people develop those symptoms when eating whole Carolina Reaper pepper pods or other highly spicy foods.

Rehydrating a dried Carolina Reaper pepper in a blue bowel full of warm water
Close up photo of a rehydrated Carolina Reaper pepper. Photo by Spicy Trio

Is there a Pepper Hotter than the Carolina Reaper?

This is where things get a little interesting. Officially there is no pepper hotter than the Carolina Reaper but unofficially, there could be a few. Let me explain.

Currently, three peppers could potentially be hotter than the Carolina Reaper: the Apollo pepper, Pepper X, and Dragon’s Breath. However, none of these three peppers have officially been certified as hotter than the Carolina Reaper by the Guinness Book of World Records.

If you want to learn more about these unofficial record-holders, I covered it in my article Is There a Pepper Hotter Than the Carolina Reaper as well as my post on the Top 3 Hottest Peppers in the World.

Below is a table comparing the alleged Scoville Units of the three peppers unofficially hotter than the Carolina Reaper.

Type of PepperMakerScoville Heat Units
Apollo PepperEd Currie3.2 million+
Pepper XEd Currie3.18 million
Dragon’s BreathMike Smith & Neal Price2.48 million
Reference – Carolina ReaperEd CurrieUp to 2.20 million
In this table, we compare the Scoville Heat Units of the world’s hottest peppers.

If you enjoy learning about some of the hottest peppers in the world I recommend a few of my other articles on the subject:

Top 3 Hottest Peppers (Official & Unofficial 2022 List)

20 of the Hottest Peppers in the World

Is There a Pepper Hotter Than the Carolina Reaper