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Top 10 Hot Peppers

Updated on March 13, 2011

The Scoville Scale

In 1912, while working at Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Company, Professor Wilber Scoville developed a method for measuring the heat of chili peppers. The test was called the Scoville Organoleptic Test and it involved diluting extracts of various chili peppers and diluting them in a sugar water solution. To complete each test an average of 5 testers were used to taste the diluted solution until the ‘heat’ was no longer detectable. The degree of dilution necessary to eliminate the heat determined where the pepper rates on the Scoville Scale. For decades the Organoleptic Test was the accepted method of measuring the capsaicin amounts in peppers in spite of its lack of precision.

It was not until the 1970’s that something better came along. A method using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) was developed by a chemist named Gillett. The new test was aptly named the Gillett Method and is used today. This more accurate method measures directly the amount of capsaicin. A measurement of one part per million (ppm) is equal to approximately 15 Scoville Heat units.

Naga Viper Chili: World's Hottest Pepper
Naga Viper Chili: World's Hottest Pepper

#1 Naga Viper:

The Naga Viper Pepper was created in Northwest England in 2010. By crossing three very hot pepper, #2, Naga Jolokia, Naga Morich and the Trinidad Scorpian this , paint stripping, hot pepper was born! Gerald Fowler, the creator and proprietor of The Chilli Pepper Company , explains that the Viper was created through selective breeding. Pods were selected for shape and size the seeds harvested and the growing continued. The Naga Viper measures in at 1,359,000 SHU which makes it the hottest chili in the world. The previous title holder, the Ghost Chili or Naga Jolokia, is now seated in the number two position.

Naga Jolokia
Naga Jolokia

Chili Tasting: Bhut Jolokia or Naga Jolokia

#2 Naga Jolokia:

This hot pepper is popularly known as the Ghost Pepper and also Ghost Chili. Bhut Jolokia also refers to this exceptionally hot pepper.

Unlike the selectively bred Naga Viper, the Naga Jolokia is a naturally occurring pepper native to the Assam region of North Eastern India. The Naga Jolokia reaches a range of 855,000-1,041,429 SHU. Until late in 2010 the Naga Jolokia was the world’s hottest pepper.

Homeopathic medicine in India incorporates Naga Jolokia in preparations used to treat stomach aliments. It is also used as a method to combat summer heat by inducing perspiration. This incredibly hot pepper is also used as spice for cooking.

Another use of the Naga Jolokia in its native northwest India is that of an elephant repellent. The pepper is smeared on fences and used in smoke bombs designed to keep elephants away.

Dorset Naga Chili
Dorset Naga Chili

Chili Tasting: Dorset Naga

#3 Dorset Naga Pepper:

Developed by Peppers by Post in West Dorset, England between 2001 and 2003. The Dorset Naga was selected from the Naga Morich which is an extremely hot pepper from North-eastern India and Bangladesh.

Seeds were sold starting in 2003 but the heat levels of the Dorset Naga were not tested until 2005. This pepper reaches 876,000-970,000 SHU. During the BBC show “Gardener’s World” a Dorset Naga measured 1,598,227 SHU which would make it the world’s hottest pepper over even the newest contender, the Naga Viper.

These exceptional heat levels have not been confirmed yet the Dorset Naga remains a very hot pepper and one that deserves great respect.

Red Savina Habanero
Red Savina Habanero

Chili Tasting: Red Savina

#4. Red Savina Habanero:

This Habanero variety was developed by GNS Spices in Southern California. The Red Savina was selectively bred for heat as well as larger size and weight of the fruit. GNS Spices’ efforts paid off when they produced a pepper that is capable of producing twice the heat of the standard Habanero pepper.

The Red Savina held the title of world’s hottest pepper from 1994 until 2006. The Red Savina reaches 350,000-577,000 SHU. In 2006 the Naga Jolokia unseated it as world’s hottest pepper. Even in the number 4 seat, this pepper is 65 times hotter then a jalapeno!

In addition to its great heat, the Red Savina is noted to have a very good flavor when eaten fresh or used in sauce or cooking. If you have not tasted one yourself watch the video to understand exactly how hot this pepper actually is.

Habanero Chilies
Habanero Chilies

Chili Tasting: Chocolate Habanero

#5. Habanero Chili:

Habanero Chilis are extremely well known, naturally occurring peppers. The Habaneros are green and ripen into various colors including red, orange, white, and chocolate, depending on the variety.

Habanero means from Havana and it is believed they were originally brought to the Yucataan Peninsula of Mexico from Cuba. Currently 1,500 tons of Habanero Chilis are harvested every year on the Yucataan Peninsula of Mexico which makes Mexico the largest producer of Habanero chilis.

Habanero chilis measure between 100,000 and 350,000 on the Scoville Scale. They are reported to have a very nice and distinctive flavor with tropical fruit tones. However, before you start mixing them into your next meal remember these chilis pack 50 times the heat of a jalapeno pepper. Habaneros are not for the faint of heart!

Scotch Bonnet Cili
Scotch Bonnet Cili

Chili Tasting: Scotch Bonnet

#6: Scotch Bonnet Chili:

Do not let the name fool you, this wildly hot pepper is not remotely related to Scotland. The name was derived from the fact that the pepper’s shape slightly resembles the Scottish Tam O’Shanter.

The Scotch Bonnet is of the same species as the Habaneros but is mainly found on the Caribbean islands but is also available in the Guyana and Maldives islands. The Scotch Bonnet ranges in color from orange to a scarlet red.

Possessing a flavour distinct from its Habanero cousin, the Scotch Bonnet is an essential ingredient of Jamaican cooking and a contributor to the unique flavour of Caribbean Jerk dishes. Scotch Bonnet Chilis measure between 150,000 and 325,000 SHU.

There are some tips for enjoying the flavor of Scotch Bonnet and other peppers without experiencing the extreme heat. Avoid touching the peppers while cutting so that you do not experience the stinging sensation on your skin which comes from handling very hot,uncooked peppers. Use only the skin for flavor. Avoid the flesh near or around the seeds and certainly avoid the seeds themselves!

Bird's Eye Chili
Bird's Eye Chili

Chili Tasting: Bird's Eye Chili

#7. Bird’s Eye Pepper:

Another naturally occurring pepper, the Bird’s Eye, can be found in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore. The pepper may also be found in the Kerala region of India and is used widely in Kerala’s cuisine. The Bird’s Eye measures 100,000-225,000 SHU.

The Bird's Eye pepper plant reaches 4 feet high and produces a large amount of small sized fruit. These plants do well in pots. Most varieties of peppers are able to be grown easily by home growers.

With some research into preferences of sunlight, temperature and fertilizer and the home grower can do remarkably well with peppers. Seeds are widely available for order online making pepper growing  a popular hobby.

Madame Jeanette Chili
Madame Jeanette Chili

Chili Tasting: Madame Jeanette

#8. Madame Jeanette Chili:

Madame Jeanette peppers have a shape similar to a small bell pepper but with exceptional heat. The peppers ripen to a reddish yellow color.

This variant of the habanero is reported to have been named after a famous Brazilian prostitute. Madame Jeanette Chilis measure 225,000 SHU and are found on the islands of Surinam and Aruba.

The Madame Jeanette is a common ingredient of Indonesian and Malaysian Samal.

Easy Sambal Recipe

  • 10 hot peppers
  • 2 tbs dried shrimp paste
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Wash and dry peppers. Remove seeds if you wish to reduce the heat. Blend ingredients together until peppers are chopped fine. Refrigerate in small container with added fresh lime juice.

This sambal with lime is very tasty with grilled fish and/or rice.

Jamaican Hot Pepper
Jamaican Hot Pepper

#9. Jamaican Hot Pepper:

Originating from Jamaica, this pepper measures between 100,000 and 200,000 SHU which makes it 40 times hotter then a jalapeño pepper.

When reasearching recipes using Jamaican Hot Peppers I often come across the advice to use gloves and even googles when preparing these very hot peppers!

Many chili lovers feel that pepper eating does not get interesting until you reach the heat level of the Jamaican Hot Pepper. Such chili heads consider the jalapeno pepper to be too mild to taken seriously.

Caroline Cayenne Pepper
Caroline Cayenne Pepper

#10. Carolina Cayenne Pepper:

This small, slender variety of cayenne was developed at Clemson University in the United States. The plant is smaller in size than other cayenne pepper varieties and yields a large amount of fruit. These traits make it popular with home growers. 


Carolina cayenne measures 100,000-125,000 on the Scoville heat scale. These are extremely hot peppers which are popular for hot and spicy recipes. The Carolina cayenne can be used whenever cayenne pepper is called for in a recipe and extra heat is desired. Even at number 10-this is a hot, hot pepper.


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    • profile image

      Masudul Haque 3 years ago

      Naga Morich or Dorset Naga Morich totally Bangladeshi originated chilli pepper

    • profile image

      peppergyal 3 years ago

      Yes. Got your Chili's wrong. madame Jeanette is not the same shape as Bell pepper. It's elongated and yellow in color only. And Suriname is on mainland South America. Please present correct info.

    • profile image

      Rudy Reteig 4 years ago

      My first comment is with concern of the Madame Jeanette pepper. It does not come from Suriname as I do, but from one of the French Islands in the Caribbean.

      Furthermore, Suriname is not an Island, but is on the North Eastern coast of South America, bordering with Brazil in the South, situated between French Guyana and Guyana.

      This Chili is hot like the habanero, but its special characteristic is the flavour and therefore it is used to be cooked in a meal, avoiding that it breaks open and spoil the meal because of its pungent taste

    • Simba73 profile image

      Simba73 5 years ago from UK

      Cooking a dorset naga chilli con carne right now !!!!!!!!!!

    • chuckboombuck profile image

      chuckboombuck 6 years ago from south paris,me

      it burns coming out the other end!