Hot Chile Peppers on the Scoville Scale

Measuring Chile Pepper Heat in Scoville Units

Close up of red chili peppers on cutting board
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Wondering how to rate the heat level of various types of chile peppers? Peppers are rated based on Scoville Heat Units, a method developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912. The original method used human tasters to evaluate how many parts of sugar water it takes to neutralize the heat. Nowadays, human tasters are spared and a new process called HPLC, or High-Performance Liquid Chromatography, measures a number of capsaicinoids (capsaicin) in parts per million.

Capsaicin is the compound that gives chiles their heat. The chart below rates chile peppers, with 0 being mildest and 10 the highest heat.

Nowadays, chile pepper aficionados are locked in intense rivalry to create the world's hottest pepper. Since 2011, when the competition began to heat up (pun intended), the title of hottest pepper has changed hands a number of times as new crosses and genetic mutations have emerged. In 2013, the Carolina Reaper was named by the Guinness Book of World Records the world's hottest pepper, measured at 2,200,000 SHU. It's a cross between the Pakistani Naga and a Red Habanero.

The presence of capsaicinoids in chile peppers is an irritant in mammals. Nonetheless, it is common for people to experience pleasurable and even euphoriant effects from ingesting capsaicin. Fans of chiles attribute this to a pain-stimulated release of endorphins. A different reaction makes capsaicinoids useful as analgesics: applied topically, the heat of the chile gives relief to muscle pains and some forms of neuropathy.

Hot Pepper Scale in Scoville Units

VarietyRatingHeat Level
Sweet Bells, Sweet Banana,  Pimento0Negligible Scoville Heat Units
 
Mexi-Bells, New Mexica, New Mexico, Anaheim, Big Jim, Peperonicini, Santa Fe Grande, El Paso, Cherry1100-1,000 Scoville Heat Units
Coronado, Mumex Big Jim, Sangria, Anaheim21,000 - 1,500 Scoville Heat Units
Pasilla, Mulato, Ancho, Poblano, Espanola, Pulla31,500 - 2,500 Scoville Heat Units
Hatch Green42,000 - 5,000 Scoville Heat Units
Rocotillo52,500 - 5,000 Scoville Heat Units
Yellow Wax, Serrano, Jalapeno, Guajillo, Mirasol65,000 - 15,000 Scoville Heat Units
Hidalgo, Puya, Hot Wax, Chipotle715,000 - 30,000 Scoville Heat Units
Chile De Arbol, Manzano830,000 - 50,000 Scoville Heat Units
Santaka, Pequin, Super Chile, Santaka, Cayenne, Tobasco, Aji, Jaloro950,000 - 100,000 Scoville Heat Units
Bohemian, Tabiche, Tepin, Haimen, Chiltepin, Thai, Yatsufusa10100,000 - 350,000 Scoville Heat Units
Red Savina Habanero, Chocolate Habanero, Indian Tezpur, Scotch Bonnet, Orange Habanero, Fatali, Devil Toung, Kumataka, Datili, Birds Eye, Jamaican Hot11350-855,000 Scoville Heat Units
Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia aka Naga Jolokia), Trinidad Moruga Scorpion12855,000-2,100,000 Scoville Heat Units