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A Chili-Head's Pepper Guide

Updated on March 21, 2015

I’m a Chili-Head. I always have been, but I was unaware of the name until recently. I discovered the term chili-head by chance one fine winter day. I was making chili con carne in my crock-pot and decided to use a little extra chili pepper. I tasted it, to make sure I didn’t go overboard, when I noticed something strange. The familiar burning sensation in my mouth that caused me to shake my head and gasp for air, was followed by a pleasant little jolt to my brain and a feeling of well being washed away my crankiness. There I was, huddled over my crock-pot like, getting a buzz off of chili pepper.

This can’t be! I immediately consulted the almighty Google and sure enough, what I suspected was true. And there are other crazed chili ingesting endorphin addicts like me, all over the planet.

Chili-heads favorite endorphin releasing foods.
Chili-heads favorite endorphin releasing foods.

How It Works

Set your mouth on fire by consuming food that contains capsaicin, a chemical found in the spines of certain peppers, and your body will respond by releasing endorphins, it’s natural painkiller, to ease the perceived pain. So, if you have ever broken a sweat while eating jalapeños, hot sauce, or your favorite Mexican foods, and then laughed about it, chances are you are a chile-head too. The greater the level of heat you can tolerate, the better the buzz.

Athletes run for miles to stimulate endorphin release and achieve a runner’s high. People eat gobs and gobs of chocolate to get their endorphin fix and ease the stress of their day. Chile-heads look for something hot to eat, even at breakfast, you may witness them covering their scrambled eggs with Tabasco sauce.

Is It Healthy?

There is no evidence suggesting that it is unhealthy. Capsaicin is in fact, a natural anti-inflammatory . It can be purchased in a topical cream form and rubbed on arthritic joints. It has been made into nasal sprays to stop the pain of a migraine or cluster headache.

So no, this is one high that will not hurt you.

The following list covers some of the most popular peppers that can be added to your diet for great taste and mouth burning fun. Each pepper possesses a distinctive flavor and level of hotness. There are more than 140 varieties of Mexican chile peppers available, so this is merely a partial list. Hot peppers containing capsaicin are found all over the world and are easily added to your favorite international dishes. You can turn up the heat in your kitchen with dried or fresh chiles.

One word of caution: the natural oil capsaicin can burn your eyes and skin if you are not careful, so you may want to use gloves while preparing them. Keep your kitchen well ventilated while roasting or toasting your chiles. The fumes may irritate your nose.

Peppers to fuel a chili-head or ease your pain with capsaicin.
Peppers to fuel a chili-head or ease your pain with capsaicin.

Hot, Hotter, Hottest of Peppers

The heat in chile peppers is measured on the Scoville Heat Scale by units, with 1 unit as the mildest and 10 the hottest. Some hot sauces, like the famous Dave’s Insanity Sauce, measure in the fifties, hundreds, and sometimes thousands. There is even a sauce that the manufacturer requires the taster to sign a waiver of responsibility.

  • Anaheim: Heat Level 2-3 Also known as the New Mexico or California chile, This chile is between 6-8 inches in length and will vary in color from green to red. They have a generally mild flavor and are often stuffed or used in sauces. They can be bought canned, as green chiles.
  • Pablano: Heat Level 3 This deep green pepper is great for stuffing with cheese or meat and delicious in sauces.
  • Pasilla: Heat Level 3 Similar to the pablano, but long and slender. It has a sweet flavor and is often used in traditional Latin dishes.
  • Jalapeno: Heat Level 5-6 This pepper is usually dark green, but sometimes red. Use to add spice to almost any dish. Slice them and put them on your favorite sandwiches. Also available canned.
  • Fresno: Heat Level 6-7 This pepper is named after the California city but is also known as chile cera. It is often mistaken for a red jalapeno, but tastes hotter and sweeter. Great in salsas and salads.
  • Serrano: Heat Level 6-7 This small slender pepper has a very hot flavor and turns from green to red as it ripens. Also used in salsas, guacamoles and marinades.
  • Habanero: Heat Level 10+ This super hot chile should be used sparingly. It is also called the Scotch Bonnet and can be yellow, orange or red. A red colored habanero will be the hottest. These are commonly used in Yucatan dishes.

Tips for Storage

Fresh chile peppers can be stored in a paper bag and refrigerated for up to a week. Or, roast them, let them cool and then freeze them in plastic bags for up to 12 months. Dried chiles can be stored in an airtight container in a cool place, or in the freezer.

Chile Products To Add to Your Pantry

Ancho, chipotle and other types of dried chiles can be purchased in powder form. Pick vibrantly colored powders with a spicy smell, for the best flavor.

Green chile peppers, jalapenos and chipotle peppers are commonly available canned. Store leftovers in a well sealed container for up to a month.


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    • WokandRoll profile image


      7 years ago

      I used to be a huge chilehead, but then I started having some GERD symptoms. Now I have to settle for mild peppers for the flavor, rather than fighting the heat. Bah humbug!

      I found out I was a chilehead when I was little on a trip to D.C. I asked a Thai restaurant to make my curry the spiciest they could, and I could only eat half of it. I wandered around with a chile buzz for the rest of the day, and even years later, I remember that meal.

    • billdales18 profile image


      7 years ago

      looks like I'm a chili-head too! Since I discovered the habanero tabasco and the habanero byron bay chilli sauce I eat it with everything!

      And by the way @ chilli-head Grand Daddy, since 2012 the hottest pepper in the world is the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion with a over 2 million 2,000,000 scoville units.

      I'm going to grow that one!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I've been growing the ghost chile for a couple of months now and i promise to everyone, that even though they taste good, use proper precautions. and yes they are hot.

    • profile image

      Chilli-Head Grand Daddy 

      10 years ago

      You didn't list the Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia). The hottest pepper in the world with 1,000,000 (that's right, 1 million) Scoville units. Four times hotter than the poor little Red Habanero that I eat like candy every day and barely get a tickle with.

    • Japemwellows profile image


      10 years ago from 5ifth Dimensi0n

      Awesome hub Amy Jane, I'm certainly a chili head, in the process of growing the Bhut Jolokia/ Naga Jolokia/ Ghost chili.

      Cant wait to try it! I'll be recording the results - pain levels on hubpages once they're ready, should be interseting!

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      12 years ago from Connecticut

      jboland, that sounds like a great recipe and I am definitely going to try it out. I am always looking for new ways to enjoy a jalapeno! Thanks so much :)

    • jboland profile image


      12 years ago from Chico, CA

      I love chiles. I don't know if I can be considered a "chile head" since I tend to stick with the basics. . . but last summer every time we BBQ'd we'd have jalepeno poppers. Stuff a fresh pepper with cream cheese, wrap it in bacon, and grill over the coals. Cook your popper a little longer if you tend to be a little heat sensitive. They're great on a July evening.

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      13 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks Doghouse!

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 

      13 years ago from California


      Another great HUB!

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      13 years ago from Connecticut

      Thanks Peter - this was a fun one:)

    • amy jane profile imageAUTHOR

      amy jane 

      13 years ago from Connecticut

      Hi Steph - It seems to be a genetic trait. My dad and brother are chile heads too!

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 

      13 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      Great hub. The title alone is worth making the finals.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Marshall 

      13 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      My husband and father-in-law are chile heads! I KNEW there was something funny about them. LOL! Great hub!


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