The Scoville Heat Index

What Makes Peppers Hot?
The substance in chilies that makes them spicy is called capsaicin. It is concentrated in the veins of the fruit (not the seeds), known as the placental membrane and stimulates the nerve endings in your mouth, fooling your brain into thinking you’re in pain. The brain responds by releasing substances called endorphins, which are similar in structure to morphine. A mild euphoria results, and chilies can be mildly addictive because of this hot pepper “high.”

Chile hotness is rated in Scoville units, which is a system developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912. It was first a subjective taste test, but since has been refined to a general industry standard in honor of its inventor. The hottest pepper on record is the Moruga “Scorpion” from Trinidad, which has been gaining popularity among distributors worldwide. Still, at 2-million SHU, the heat of this monster is so extreme, practical uses in cooking are all but impossible. By contrast, the lowly Jalapeño comes in at about 5,000 to 15,000 Scoville heat units.

Please note that measurements shown are approximate, as the heat can vary from pepper to pepper (even ones picked from the same plant.) Generally, the more arid the climate and soil conditions, the hotter the pod.

Scoville Heat
Units (SHU)
Country / Region
of Origin
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion 2,000,000+ Trinidad, West Indies
Bih/Bhut Jolokia (Ghost) 1,000,000+ Northeast India
Dorset Naga 923,000 Bangladesh
Red Savina 350-550,000 Central America
Habañero/Scotch Bonnet 150-300,000 Yucatan Province, Mexico
Thai 70-80,000 South Asia, Thailand
Chiltepin 70-80,000 Northern Mexico, Southwest USA
Santaka 50-60,000 Japan
Tabasco 30-50,000 Avery Island, Louisiana
Chilipiquin 35-40,000 Mexico
Cayenne 30-40,000 Central, South America, West Indies
Chile de Arbol 15-30,000 Central America, Mexico
Serrano 7-25,000 Mexico
Jalapeño and Chipotle 6-10,000 Central America, Mexico
Ancho/Poblano 2.5-3,000 Mexico
Anaheim 1-1,500 California, USA
Bell Pepper 0 Mexico, USA
Dried Chiltepin Peppers | Culinary Compost

Dried chiltepin peppers – don’t be fooled by their tiny size. They pack intense heat, measuring 80,000 Scoville heat units.

Dried Homegrown Cayenne Pepper | Culinary Compost

Dried and ground homegrown cayenne pepper.

Dried Thai Bird's Eye Chili Peppers | Culinary Compost

Dried Thai bird’s eye chili peppers from my garden.
They are incredibly hot, measuring 100,000~250,000 SHU.
After picking, wash them, then dry on a towel.
I place them in my outdoor smoker and dry at 100°F for about 30 minutes.

Dried Thai Bird's Eye Chili Peppers | Culinary Compost

When Thai bird’s eye peppers are dried they will darken to a beautiful earthy chocolate brown color. Store in an airtight spice jar away from direct sunlight, or place in your freezer.

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