Learning about the types of peppers and their facts is a lifetime valuable skill. With some basic knowledge about the popular peppers, walk through the stores and the farmers market with confidence.
How many types of peppers are there? There are hundreds of varieties of peppers available in the market. And we might have crossed at least 10 popular verities in our regular life.
Each pepper family has unique properties and varies in their spice level, and tastes different. Every global cuisine has its own treasure of peppers. And these authentic ingredients bring our deep and intense flavors to make the food more classic in nature.
When a recipe calls for a specific pepper, blindly substituting with another pepper will not be working out always. By understanding the heat, and the spice level of peppers, we can figure out the way of using the peppers that suits our heat tolerance.
Measuring the heat
The heat of the peppers is measured with the Scoville heat scale. And this Scoville units range from 0 and more than 15 million and denoted as SHU units.
Where green bell pepper's heat is considered mild and measured as 0 SHU. And imagine how the hottest pepper with 15 million could sense like.
We can adopt the Scoville scale for general guidelines to determine the heat. SHU units of a pepper depend on the various factors: the type of pepper, the cultivating method, the weather, and more. To put it differently, a jalapeno may taste fiery hot and at times they may taste bland.
What makes the pepper hot?
The seeds and the white membrane(the rib) make the pepper tastes hot. Are you are trying a specific pepper for the first time, and are sensitive towards the heat. It's always advisable to start prepping by removing the seeds. You may reserve some seeds, so that you may add in the dish later to suit your personal requirement.
How peppers are classified?
The types of pepper are classified according to their spice level. The chili pepper's Scoville heat units vary from zero to millions. And are broadly classified as mild, medium, hot, and super hot.
Most peppers are available in different colors. The green, yellow, and red colors show the different stages in their growing cycle. Where green peppers are the young and red ones are the ripe peppers.
Most super-hot peppers are unbearably hot and not normally used in the everyday comfort dishes. Proceed with caution when handling a new type of hot-pepper.
What precaution should I take?
Wear gloves while prepping the peppers. The chili oil present in the peppers gives a burning feeling when gets in contact with the skin. Hence, wash the hands thoroughly with water and avoid touching eyes and face for a minimum couple of hours(even after washing the hands).
If you feel a scorching feeling after eating a hot pepper, have a glass of milk, to mellow down the fiery sensations.
The Popular types of peppers
There are thousands of verities of pepper available and keep being discovered and introduced throughout the world. Here is the list of few common and popular peppers that are mentioned according to their heat level-from mild to hot.
The most popular and commonly found in the store’s produce sections. These have zero to mild heat. Often called as sweet pepper, it has all the aroma of a pepper minus the heat. Makes it easy to use in our everyday recipes, from breakfast to dinner. Available in green, yellow, and red, and shaped like a bell. These are rich in Vitamin C and vitamin B6. Especially, the red bell peppers are rich in Vitamin A.
Scoville scale. 0 SHU units.
In recipes. Because of its shape, it is excellent for stuffed recipes. And their crunchy texture and mild sweetness make it fabulous in the salads and stir-fries.
These are gorgeous to look, with bright green color and firm glossy skin. Moreover, easy to grow at home and usually around 4 inches in length. They are also called as wax peppers or Ooty chilies. A and looks similar to super-hot Hungarian was peppers. These are mild in heat and tastes great on sandwiches and in scrambled eggs.
Scoville scale. 0-500 SHU units.
In recipes. Banana peppers are usually pickled and used as a spicy topping for sandwiches and burgers. When pickled they are tangy and turns the pizza and the salad more delicious. The same pickle is a delectable addition in sauces and salsas.
Also called as Pimento peppers, a small bell-like, heart-shaped peppers. They are generally around 3 inches in size. It has a classic sweet pepper flavor with mild heat and tastes mildly sweet. They have robust flavors than red bell peppers. It has thick flesh and tastes great when roasted.
Scoville scale. 100-500 SHU units.
In recipes. The texture and the tastes make it excellent on salads, dips, and stir-fries. A suitable replacement for the red bell peppers in any recipe. Roast and remove the skin and toss in any recipe that calls for the red pepper.
It has a thin skin, mild heat, and mild sweetness as well. And considered as a sweet pepper because of its low Scoville unit. It's a popular type of pepper in Cuban and Puerto Rican cuisines. It’s about 6 inches long and bends at the end. The flesh of the cubanelle pepper is similar to Anaheim pepper. This pepper also comes in green, yellow, and red, where tender green peppers are commonly used.
Scoville scale. 100 to 1000 SHU units.
In recipes. Like anaheim, these are best for stir-frying, making sauces, and salsas. A flavor booster for meat and egg dishes.
Belong to the mild pepper verity and a mild variant of spicy Hatch chili. Its mild heat makes it versatile to use in most comfort food, which gives very light spice kick with the natural pepper flavors. These work great on stuffing recipes and a good substitute for poblano peppers.
Scoville scale. 500 – 2,500 SHU units.
In recipes. This mild pepper works great when eaten as raw, and turns mildly sweet when cooked. Add them in the salads and in the drinks, just enough to heat up the dish without turning your face red. Saute them with eggs and stir-fries. Or roast and remove the skin, and whip up wonderful salsa and sauces.
Another popular type of pepper is seen in the American stores and farmers market during the summer season. It resembles the bell pepper with its flesh and its wide shape. But these slightly hotter than the bell peppers. A popular Mexican chili that is reliable to use in most authentic Mexcian recipes. When the poblano peppers ripen and dried, they are called Ancho chilies.
Scoville scale. 1000 - 1500 SHU units.
In recipes. Because of its bowl shape, it’s ideal for making stuffed peppers. It also turns great when roasted or grilled. Great fit in making meat stir-fries, salads, sauces, and salsas. Can be substituted bell peppers in a recipe to build the heat.
The most popular type of pepper in the United States which known for its rich flavors and the heat. They are mild to moderately hot. Looks bright, shiny, deep green in color. Jalapenos hold up the heat in their seeds and the pith. Remove them to reduce the heat level. And handle the jalapeno with care and avoid touching the face and the eyes after chopping.
Scoville scale. 2500 - 8000 SHU units.
In recipes. It is versatile to use, use them as diced, chopped, minced, roasted, however the way you like it. The properties of jalapenos are easily customizable to our needs. Mellow down the heat level by removing the seeds and the ribs. Leave some seeds on to increase the spice. It is good to use in pizza, pasta, sandwiches, burgers, salsa, dip, and even the drink.
These are long and look similar to jalapeno. But are slightly hotter than the jalapenos. Available as green and red in the market. Where the matured red Fresno pepper has intense and smoky flavors than the green peppers. A rich source for Vitamin B and Vitamin C. Can be substituted to jalapeno for more heat.
Scoville scale. 2,500 to 10,000 SHU units.
In recipes. Same as jalapeno, these are best to use in any recipe to increase the heat, like salsa, dip, sauce, pizza, or burger. Add them as slices for the concentrated heat. Roast and add them in the salsa and sauce for uniform heat.
These pepper are about 2 inches long. And looks like a smaller variant of jalapeno but hotter than the jalapenos. Has a thin wall, makes it great for flash fries, and stir-fries. Good to serve them as raw in the salad or as sauteed. Has very thin skin, so need for peeling them after roasting. Just slice add them to your recipes.
Scoville scale. 10,000 to 23,000 SHU units.
In recipes. It works great on a chopped salad, guacamole, salsa, and sauces. In curries and chilies, add them as a whole for incorporating the flavors but not the heat. Slit and add them for reduced heat, mince them for the fuller heat.
Like other peppers, these do also found in green, yellow, red peppers. But, matured red cayenne peppers are used widely for its smokey, bright flavors. These are mostly consumed in the powder form in the United States. It literally spices up anything, from soups to chilies.
Scoville scale. 30,000 to 50,000 SHU units.
In recipes. These do have a thin wall and easy to dehydrate. Dry in them and grind coarsely. Use them as flakes to spice up the pizza, soup, and sauce. And grind finely to make dry rubs. Great to use in spicy curries and chilies.
Bird's eye pepper.
These are also called Thai chili peppers and widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine. They look smaller in size about 2-3 inches in size. However, these are really hot and instantly brings a burning sensation. Used to make the curries and the curry paste. The mature red bird's eye chili is used to make the popular Thai red curry.
Scoville scale. 50,000 - 100,000 SHU units.
In recipes. Fabulous to use them as minced, chopped, or slit, depending on the spice and flavor requirement. While making simple curries or chilies, add them as a whole and cook them for about 5 minutes. And discard them before serving for the mild heat and rich flavors.
These look similar to Bird's eye chili peppers but are hotter when compared. Widely used in Portuguese and South African cuisine. These peppers are hot to handle them than the other common peppers. Hence these are used as sauces and spice rubs. Peri-peri chicken and Peri-peri fries are popular food around the globe.
Scoville scale. 50,000- 175,000 SHU units.
In recipes. These make the food much hot for our palate. Make them as hot sauces, or mix them with other spice blends to use them in the food. This way the hot is controlled but still can enjoy its intense aroma.
These are short around 1-2 inches long but too hot for a normal palate. Looks like an inverted lantern, commonly found in the yellow and orange colors. Has a thin wall, and with less pith when comparing with other common peppers. Normally used in the form of hot sauce.
Scoville scale. 100,000–350,000 SHU units.
In recipes. Remove the rib and the seeds for the moderate heat. A little amount can spice up the whole dish. So it is a good idea to start with the low amount to increase the heat. The heat hits up the sensation after a fraction of a second. Use habanero sauce as the flavor booster for the grilled meat, store-bought rotisserie chicken.
These are also called as Caribean peppers and also as Bahama mamas. One of the hot popular peppers. Mostly used in Caribean cuisine and belongs to the Habenero family. They are spicy, mildly sweet, and have a fruity flavor. and, and used as raw, sauteed, or roasted. Like Habenero, Scotch Bonnet is also available in multiple varieties with distinctive flavors.
Scoville scale. 100,000–350,000 SHU units.
In recipes. In the Caribbean cuisine, these are used as a whole, chopped, or minced. These are classic pepper to make authentic Caribean salads, sauces, and other condiments. These are a little pricey in the United States market compared to jalapenos.
These are originated from India, and considered as world's hottest chili in 2007. These are used to spice up the curries and chutneys. Available in green, yellow. and red in color. The mature red ghost peppers have strong flavors and taste fiery hot. Most popular hot sauces are made using ghost pepper as a spice booster.
Scoville scale. 850,000-1,050,000 SHU units.
In recipes. Mostly used to make hot sauces, and spice blends. Perfect for making powder, as they have a thin wall and easy for drying. Use the ground Ghost pepper powder to increase the heat in the sauce, condiment, and curry recipes.
How can a pepper list get completed without these? In 2013, Carolina reaper became a sensation in the Medias. As it was declared as the world's hottest chili pepper. These look similar to Habenero in size but have a tiny pointed tail at the bottom, which makes it look different from all the peppers out there. Experimenting in discovering the hottest pepper is introducing more and more hottest peppers to the world. And this one always has special mentions.
Scoville scale. 1,400,000 – 2,400,000 SHU units.
In recipes. These are extremely hot, handling them with the bare hands is not advisable. There are no specialty recipes available for this pepper. However, replace it with any chili pepper in a recipe, for a strong hot and spicy dish. Nowadays, popular brands are using them as an extreme heat source.