Peppers have long been the food of choice to spice up any meal. But no pepper is the same. Some are incredibly hot, while others aren’t even remotely spicy. How fiery a pepper is can be measured in Scoville Heat Units. So let’s see the pepper that scores the highest.

Aaah, those peppers look refreshing

Measuring hotness

First, let's take a quick look at how to measure Scoville Heat Units. Measured might not actually be the best term. As you’ll see the test is not precise at all. The test is called the Scoville Organoleptic Test. To perform this test you dissolve dried pepper in alcohol. Add this mixture to sugar water and give it to a group of test subjects. These people, usually a group of about five, decide on the taste. If the mixture still tastes hot, it is further diluted and mixed with sugar water until it no longer tastes hot. Using human tasters introduces imprecision. Some people are more resistant to spicy foods. And after tasting peppers for a longer period tasters will get used to the spiciness.

For a more precise measurement there is a different method for measuring the hotness of a pepper. Using a process called high performance liquid chromatography a more exact measurement is produced. This process is used to measure the amount of capsaicin in a pepper. Capsaicin is what makes a pepper hot. This is much more precise. Still, growing conditions like humidity and heat could influence the precise hotness of a chili.

The Many Uses Of Chili Peppers

So, we all know and love hot sauces, right. But chili peppers have many more uses than just spicing up food. Most notably, the capsaicin from chilies is used in pepper spray. Often thought to be a non-lethal weapon. However, pepper spray is known to cause fatalities from time to time.

The capsaicin in peppers has several medical uses as well, including:

  • Treating several diseases like herpes and shingles
  • Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Helping with weight loss
  • It may also help prevent diseases like pneumonia, strokes, heart attacks, and cancer. Though there needs to be more research to back up these claims.

In south-west China, police officers are feeding raw chili peppers to drowsy motorists. Hoping that the heat will keep the drivers awake. Making this the most culinary method for preventing road deaths.

In Africa, farmers have been planting chili peppers around their fields. Not because they like spicy food, but because Elephants don’t like chili peppers. This makes sure the Elephants don’t pass beyond the chili peppers and destroy the crops.

The Hottest Chili Peppers

There are many different kinds of chilies each with its own specific taste. Some of them are hot and some of them are just diabolical. Below is an overview of the hotness of common types of peppers compared to the absolute spiciest peppers in the world. One block represents roughly 10.000 points on the Scoville scale. Orange blocks show the hottest levels measured for a pepper, red the lowest levels.

Name Hotness
Cayenne pepper
Tabasco pepper
Piri piri
Madame Jeanette
Naga Morich
Ghost pepper
Infinity chili
Bedfordshire Super Naga Chili
Naga Viper pepper
Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper
Trinidad moruga scorpion
Carolina Reaper

The Carolina Reaper has a Scoville score of a whopping 2.200.000. That is incredibly hot. For comparison, pepper spray used by law enforcement ranges between 2.000.000 and 5.300.000. That makes the Carolina Reaper more than just food, that makes it a weapon.

Photo of the peppers by Kyle May