Some Like it Hot: Where Does Your Favorite Peppers Rate on the Pungency Scale?

Some Like it Hot:  Where Does Your Favorite Peppers Rate on the Pungency Scale?

In the world of diverse cooking and international eating competitions, it is safe to say you have run into a pepper or two in your lifetime. These spicy devils probably ended up on your plate even if you are the weakest person alive when it comes to spicy foods. Peppers can range from sweet to unbearably spicy depending on the capsaicinoid concentration in the peppers. In the 1920s the Scoville Scale (SHU) was created to measure the capsaicinoid concentration and is still widely used. Recently, the High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) has been used to measure the capsaicinoid concentration more accurately in non-dried peppers. Continue reading to see where your favorite eye-watering treats rank on this list of peppers from sweet to never-again in hotness.

10. Bell Pepper - 0 SHU

Bell peppers on white background

The bell pepper is one of the most common peppers used in cooking. These peppers are not spicy at all and rank at 0 SHU. The bell pepper is a sweet pepper that is good in any dish. Bell peppers are easy to grow and can be eaten raw as a snack, on a salad, or in the main dish. If you are not into spicy food but want to take a bite of a pepper, then bell peppers are the peppers for you. Bell peppers can be found in almost any supermarket and come in a variety of colors that affect their overall flavor. Bell pepper even come in miniature form, commonly known as baby bell peppers. Bell peppers are a great addition to any meal to add flavor and an extra crunch factor to your favorite dish.

9. Pepperoncini - 100 to 600 SHU

Pepperoncini on white background

If you have ever ordered a pizza or a salad, you have likely been given pepperoncini on the side. Pepperoncini are slightly spicier than a bell pepper at 100 to 600 SHU and are tangier. Native to the Tuscan region in Italy, pepperoncini are traditionally given with many Italian dishes or in your favorite pizza box because it is believed to help improve the taste of your food. If you want to add just a little spicy or a little tang you can choose to eat the pepper or spread the juice on your food. There’s no right or wrong way to doing this, so if you want to be a little adventurous next time you get pepperoncini on the side of your plate or in your pizza box take a bite and experience a new and delicious world.

8. Banana Peppers - 500 SHU

Banana peppers on white background

One of my favorite peppers to add on top of any burger or salad is the banana pepper. Banana peppers add a sweet and spicy kick to any meal. The banana pepper or yellow wax pepper, rates at 500 SHU. You wouldn’t be alone if you confused these sweet and spicy peppers to their close cousins the pepperoncini. Banana peppers are similar to pepperoncini but differ from them because they tend to be sweet and not bitter. You can eat banana peppers raw or pickled on any dish and have likely seen them cut into thin rings on top of a salad or sandwich and can.

7. Cascabella - 1,500 to 4,000 SHU

Cascabel chili on white background

This often-forgotten pepper is probably one you've eaten before. The Cascabella pepper is a moderately spicy pepper ranging from 1,500 to 4,000 SHU. These peppers grow in a tear-drop shape and can ripen to yellow or orange color. The Cascabella peppers are spicy like a jalapeño but add a sweeter twist to the heat everyone loves. Famously, Cascabella peppers are pickled and used as a secret topping at In-N-Out restaurants nation-wide and can also be found on many topping bars at other chain restaurants. If you have never tried these peppers on your favorite burger, I highly recommend it.

6. Jalapeño - 3,500 to 8,000 SHU

Jalapeno peppers on white background

Moving further up the pungency scale, the jalapeño pepper rates at 3,500 to 8,000 SHU. If you want a comparison, the SHU rating of Sriracha is 2,200 SHU and Tabasco sauce at 2,500 to 5,000 SHU. Jalapeño peppers are probably the most common peppers and can be used in almost every dish. Jalapeños add a spicy flavor to an appetizer like a cream cheese ball or can be used as a topping to add a little extra pizazz to your amazing, loaded nachos. In addition, Jalapeños can be stuffed or fried with cheese to make an amazing appetizer.

5. Chipotle - 5,000 to 10,000 SHU

Chipotle pepper on white background

The chipotle pepper is not named after the famous burrito chain. In fact, I bet you didn't know that chipotle peppers are actually just ripened and smoked jalapeños. Compared to the jalapeño, chipotles become denser and spicier as they dry out. If you want to cook with chipotle peppers, I recommend going by the number of peppers and not weight because they can weigh a tenth of a jalapeño. They rank at mouth-watering 5,000 to 10,000 SHUs. Chipotles are used primarily in Mexican dishes to add seasoning. Traditionally, chipotle peppers can be added to salsas to provide heat or ground into a fine powder and used to season meat.

4. Serrano Pepper - 10,000 to 23,000 SHU

Serrano peppers on white background

The serrano pepper is named after the mountains in the region that they originated in. The serrano pepper plant can produce up to 50 pods at once and these peppers can be harvested even when they are not fully ripe. Serrano peppers are green when they are under-ripe but when they mature, they can become a variety of colors from red, brown, orange, and yellow. These peppers rate at 10,000 to 23,000 SHU and will be noticeably spicier than a jalapeño when you bite into them. Serrano peppers are generally used in Mexican cuisine but most famously, they are used to make many traditional Pico de Gallos and salsas because the peppers have more flesh than most when they are used in recipes.

3. Habanero - 80,000 - 600,000 SHU

Habanero peppers on white background

Traditionally, habaneros scored on the Scoville scale with an upper limit of 350,000 SHU but recently they have been bred to reach almost 600,000 SHU. Named after a city in Havana, the habanero pepper is commonly used in hot sauces because of its heat, flavor, and floral aroma. In shape, the habanero pepper resembles several other types of peppers but usually are orange or red when they mature. If you want a real-life comparison, the pepper spray used by law enforcement ranks at a max of 500,000 SHU.

2. Ghost Pepper - 1 million SHU

Ghost pepper on white background

The ghost pepper or Bhut Jolokia Pepper is native to India and is traditionally used to prevent elephants from stomping on specific areas by farmers. However, in the pepper eating world, the ghost pepper is probably the pepper that claims the title for being involved in the most eating challenges. This exceptionally hot pepper rates at 1 million SHU. It was certified in 2007 as the world’s hottest pepper by the Guinness Book of Records and is 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

1. Pepper X - 3.18 million SHU

Pepper X on white background

Appropriately placed as number one on this list, the pepper X is probably one of the spiciest peppers you might, unfortunately, come across in your eating challenges. Unofficially, the pepper X scores at 3.18 million SHU. This genetically bred pepper by Ed Currie is twice as spicy as his previous creation the Carolina Reaper. Another mouth-watering comparison, pure capsaicin or the chemical responsible for the pungency of peppers rates at 16 million SHU. If you think you’re tough enough for this beast, be prepared for almost instantaneous eye-watering, an extreme burning sensation in your mouth, and heavy perspiration. If you ever come across one of these and do not want to pass up your chance, it would be a good idea to request a side of apple slices because they can help relieve the burning sensation more than iced water itself.

If you are feeling adventurous the next time you go out to eat, try adding one of these peppers to your meal to spice things up. In addition to these peppers, there are countless other types of peppers that range from mild and sweet to unbearably spice. But each pepper has its own unique flavor to it that can complement any dish. In addition to adding depth to your meal, capsaicin found in peppers has a myriad of health benefits. Capsaicin can boost your metabolism, help regulate your body temperature, and may even lower your blood pressure. Not matter if you can stand the heat or you want to feel it next time you go to the bathroom, there is a pepper out there suited for you. Better yet, peppers are easy to add to your diet through sweet side dishes featuring bell peppers or spicy toppings featuring habaneros. Tell us in the comments below what is your favorite go-to pepper and where it ranks on the Scoville Scale.


  1. I have tried habanero pepper and it had me crying for a couple hours afterwards. However, I am still wanting to try and work my way up the scale to see if I can handle the worlds hottest pepper. I hope it doesn’t seriously injure me but I always say “you only live once.”
    jake111 11 october 2019, 22:00 # 0

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