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What is Pepper Extract and How Hot is it?

What is pepper extract?

Pepper extract is a concentrated form of capsaicin extracted from super hot chili peppers. Pepper extracts are used as ingredients in insect and pest repellents, pepper sprays, and in extremely spicy, novel hot sauces. Pepper extracts are well known for the pain they cause if they come in contact with skin, eyes, and mouth. Pepper extracts are also known as capsaicin extracts.

How hot are pepper extracts?

Pepper extract-based hot sauces are some of the hottest in the world. Pepper extract-infused hot sauces generally measure between 1 million and 16 million Scoville units. To give some perspective, the jalapeño pepper has Scoville units ranging between 2,500 and 5,000 and the habanero ranges between 100,000 and 350,000 units.

What does pepper extract taste like?

Pepper extracts are not known for their taste, rather they are known for their unbelievable heat. Pure capsaicin is supposed to be odorless and flavorless. However, many including myself, feel that hot sauces containing pepper extract come with unpleasant, chemical, metallic undertones, akin to putting pennies in your mouth. It could be that some people are more sensitive than others to the extract and those who are sensitive get the metallic taste.

If you are still curious and want to experience the extract flavor for yourself, I recommend tasting Beyond Insanity Da Bomb hot sauce. In my opinion, it is all pain with the full unpleasant flavor of pepper extract. To learn more about the flavor profile and taste, read our comprehensive review of Da Bomb.

What are pepper extracts used for?

The substance causes painful reactions to skin, eyes, and mouth. The non-lethal but painful side effects are why pepper extracts are commonly used in riot control products and pest repellents. The painful reactions are also why it is used in extremely hot sauces.

Interestingly, the active compound in pepper extract, capsaicin, is a banned substance in equestrian sports. Capsaicin in horses acts as a pain killer, allowing horses to push themselves physically further in sporting events. As recently as 2008, horses tested positive for capsaicin in the Olympics and were disqualified.

How is pepper extract made?

Warning: making pepper extract at home can be dangerous and is not recommended.

Pepper extract is made by taking super hot chili peppers with high levels of capsaicin – any species of chili pepper with 500,000 Scoville units or more are used. The super hot peppers are first dried in an oven or food dehydrator. After the chili peppers have dried, they are ground into a fine powder. After the chili’s are pulverized into a powder, they are added to a glass container and mixed with pure grain alcohol spirits. As the grain alcohol evaporates over time it extracts the capsaicin from the chili peppers.

Over a period of time, impurities accumulate in the alcohol-chili pepper mixture. When this happens, the mixture is then strained and filtered into a smaller glass container where it is set aside again to continue evaporating. This process is repeated until all that is left is a translucent, bright, red oil. This oil is the capsaicin extract from the chili peppers.

The bright red color is due to a high concentration of beta carotene present in the chili peppers that was extracted along with the capsaicin.

Are there any health benefits from consuming pepper extract?

There are mainly claims about what pepper extract in its pure capsaicin form can do, from curing headaches to killing cancer cells. Some of the potential benefits that pure capsaicin may have, as listed on Healthline, include:

  • Metabolism boost
  • Hunger reduction
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Digestive aid
  • Pain relief
  • Psoriasis improvement
  • Reduction of cancer risk

These benefits are unproven, still, it does not hurt to add a few chili peppers to your diet just in case. We do not recommend consuming pure capsaicin extract without diluting it with foods and liquids since it can cause sever reactions to the digestive tract if consumed in its concentrated form.

What peppers are generally used to create pepper extract?

Any pepper that has capsaicin present can be used to create a pepper extract. However, the higher the capsaicin content a pepper has the less peppers will need to be used to create the extract. Therefore, strains of super hot chili peppers are primarily used when creating pepper extracts. Below are some of the more popular peppers used when creating extracts:

Pepper SpeciesOriginScoville Units
Red SavinaCalifornia350,000 – 577,000
Bhut Jolokia
(Ghost Pepper)
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion
(Scorpion Pepper)
Trinidad and Tobago1,200,000
Carolina ReaperSouth Carolina1,569,300

What is the hottest pepper extract in the world?

Several novelty hot sauce manufacturers make extremely hot pepper extracts. Below are some of the hottest we have found:

  1. Artifact EXTREME Burn – 3 million Scoville units
  2. Mad dog 357 No. 9 Plutonium – 9 million Scoville units
  3. PURE Capsaicin Crystals – 16 million Scoville units