A quick guide to the Scoville Scale and a List of the Hottest Chiles and their Scoville Ratings
The Scoville Scale is a rating system used to determine a chile pepper’s relative heat. It was developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912. His test, which was called the Scoville Organoleptic Scale, used pepper tasters to taste different chiles and judge how many parts of sugar water needed to be added to one part of chile essence in order to completely erase the chile’s heat.
No, that is not how chiles are measured today. A modern test called a High Performance Liquid Chromatography(HPLC) test is used, which determines the capsaicin concentration in the chile in parts per million. It is the capsaicin in chiles that is responsible for the heat. The heat in chiles varies. You probably have encountered a jalapeno, for instance, that blew your socks off, being so much hotter than you expected it to be. When an HPLC test is used, the results are reported in ASTA Pungency Units, which themselves can be converted to Scoville Heat Units by multiplying them by a factor of 15.
Why should you care about the Scoville or ASTA pungency units of a chile pepper? Well, there are other reasons to know the heat score of a chile beside whether it will curl your toes or not. What if you are like me, and so into awesome and unusual hot sauces that you want to make your own? Knowing the relative scores of different chiles can help you balance the sauce, as there is more to it than just heat, although heat certainly is one of the main attractions.
See also Do Chile Pepper Seeds Have Heat?
Growing conditions, weather, soil, environment, etc. all can affect the number of heat chemicals in the fruit. Not only that but even two chiles pulled from the same plant can have quite different levels of heat. Chile plants cross-pollinate so much that up to 35 different levels of pungency can be found on the same plant. 1 So when an official measurement is given, it is a mean taken from many tests on different plants.
There are over 7000 varieties of capsicum in the world and no doubt and even more ridiculously hot one will be uncovered in the near future. Hopefully I’ll remember to update this page.
Why Does it Take a Few Seconds for the Heat of a Chile Pepper to Register?
The chemoreceptors in your tongue (and elsewhere) that detect capsaicin, and its heat, are located just a bit under the surface of the tongue…a few millimeters at best, but enough to delay the burning sensation for a second or two.
What’s the Best Cure for Too Hot Chile Pepper Burn?
Dairy, hands down. Drink milk or eat some other dairy product high in casein protein. The casein joins with the capsaicin, thus removing it from your tongue. Water can just spread the oils, and the burn, around!
Here is a List of the Hottest chiles and Their Scoville Ratings
This list is not in alphabetical order. Instead, it goes from the least spicy to the highest Scoville ratings. To put into perspective the kind of heat we are talking about with these chiles, the familiar jalapeno chile has a Scoville rating of 2,500 to 8,000.
Chile Name Scoville Rating
|Thai||50,000 – 100,000|
|Diablo Grande||60,000 – 100,000|
|Malagueta||60,000 – 100,000|
|Charleston||70,000 – 100,000|
|Pico de Pajaro||70,000 – 100,000|
|Merah||85,000 ~ 100,000|
|Bahamian||95,000 – 110,000|
|Tabiche||85,000 – 115,000|
|Bahamian||95,000 – 110,000|
|Carolina Cayenne||100,000 ~ 125,000|
|Kumataka||125,000 – 150,000|
|Bahamian||125,000 – 300,000|
|Jamaican Hot||100,000 – 200,000|
|Birds Eye||100,000 – 225,000|
|Madame Jeanette||175,000 – 225,000|
|Tepin||100,000 – 265,000|
|Texas Chiltepin||100,000 – 265,000|
|Datil||100,000 – 300,000|
|Devil Toung||125,000 – 325,000|
|Fatalii||125,000 – 325,000|
|Orange Habanero||150,000 – 325,000|
|Scotch Bonnet||150,000 – 325,000|
|TigrePaw-NR||265,000 – 348,000|
|Rocoto / Manzano||225,000 – 350,000|
|Caribbean Red||20,000 – 400,000|
|Choclate Habanero||325,000 – 425,000|
|Red Savina Habanero||350,000 – 575,000|
|Dorset Naga||800,000 – 970,000|
|Naga Jolokia’/Ghost Pepper||800,000 – 1,041,000|
|Infinity||800,000 – 1,067,286|
|Naga Viper||800,000 – 1,382,118|
|Trinidad Scorpion||900,000 – 1,463,700|
A more complete pepper listing can be found at ushostuff.com.
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What’s the Difference Between Chiles and Dried Black Pepper?
The two are completely unrelated. In fact, although we in America are always calling chiles “peppers” they have nothing to do with true ‘pepper,’ like the Black peppercorn that we grind to get the stuff in our pepper shaker.
The genus, capsicum, has more in common with tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants than it does pepper. These all come from the nightshade family, otherwise known as Solanaceae. Although we eat the fruits of some of the plants from this family, many of the plants themselves are poisonous. You have probably heard of the Deadly Nightshade.
Tomatillos also belong to the Nightshade family. So, the next time some know-it-all makes a big deal of how tomatillos aren’t related to the tomato at all, but are related to the gooseberry, you can tell them that, indeed, they must be related to the tomato, being from the same family and all. You can also tell them that there are completely different fruits known as gooseberries, so they must be specific. The Peruvian, or Cape gooseberry are also of the family solanaceae, but of the genus physalis, as are tomatillos. Whereas tomatoes are of the genus solanum. On the other hand, the Eurasian gooseberry is from the family grossulariaceae and the genus ribes. Tomatillos, by the way, are often mistaken for being a type of chile, causing some to wonder about hte tomatillo scoville rating. They of course, have no chile heat, although some might call their taste ‘spicy.’
Black pepper, or piper nigrum, is a plant that is also unrelated to chiles, being of the order piperales and the family piperaceae, the genus piper. The fruit of this plant is known as the peppercorn, and it is dried and ground as a spice.
Black Pepper Scoville?
It is the chemical piperine that gives black pepper its pungency, not capsaicin. Although I have never been able to find a Scoville rating for black peppercorns, it should be possible to use the same organoleptic Scoville rating scale, although modern tests which find the amount of capsaicin would not be useful at all. I have read that capsaicin is about 70 times hotter than piperine. So, black pepper can never come close to a hot chile pepper, if that is true. But why do we call chiles peppers, if they are not really of the same family?
Well, by the time Europeans (the Spanish), first came to the Caribbean islands and encountered chiles, they were already well familiar with black pepper. So naturally the chile’s pungent spice reminded them of the black pepper they knew, and the name pepper became associated with the chile from then forward.
While We’re at It, Aren’t You Spelling Chile Wrong Here?
I don’t think so. You can spell it chili pepper, if you wish, but to me that gets the chile confused with the Texas dish, chili. Chile, with an -e on the end, is the Spanish spelling.
How Hot is Pepper Spray in Scoville Units?
Police grade pepper spray hits 5.3 million Scoville units. The common consumer self-defence pepper spray is 2 to 3 million SHU.
- Butel, Jane. Hotter than Hell: Hot and Spicy Dishes from around the World. Flagstaff, AZ: Northland Pub., 2005.