Eyewatering! Discover the Hottest Chillies In The World
Warning! The sorts of chillies in this article are so explosively hot they should be handled with protective gear such as gloves and eye protection.
Guinness World Records for 2021 winner: Carolina Reaper!
The Carolina Reaper is currently the world’s hottest chillie.
Chillies are members of the solanaceae family, along with cousins potatoes, eggplants and tomatoes.Chillies can come in various degrees of heat intensity, which is measured on what is called the Scoville Heat Unit scale.
The hottest chilli pepper is the ‘Carolina Reaper’, which rates at an average of 1,641,183 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), according to tests conducted by Winthrop University in South Carolina, USA, throughout 2017.
Chillies come in a remarkable diversity of shapes, colours, flavours and potency. There are five major species of cultivated peppers (genus Capsicum) Capsicum annuum, Capsicum chinense, Capsicum baccatum, Capsicum frutescens, and Capsicum pubescens and over 50,000 pepper varieties grown across the world.
The world’s hottest chili can change from year to year and with ever-improving breeding and growing techniques, farmers will continue to cultivate new, record-breaking chillies as the experiment with hotter and hotter cultivators.
Chilies get their kick from the phytonutrient called capsaicin which attaches to the taste bud TRPV1 receptors that detect scalding heat and send spicy heat signals to the brain. Capsaicin (one of the most stable alkaloids in the world; it is very resistant to both high temperatures and aging). The Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) scale is a method of quantifying a substance’s ‘spiciness’, through determining the concentration of the chemical compounds responsible for the sensation, which are named capsaicinoids.
Scoville heat units Examples
1,500,000–3,000,000+ Most law enforcement grade pepper spray, Carolina Reaper, Dragon’s Breath
750,000–1,500,000 Trinidad moruga scorpion, Naga Viper pepper, Infinity chilli, Ghost pepper
350,000–750,000 Red savina habanero
100,000–350,000 Habanero chili, Scotch bonnet pepper, Peruvian white habanero
50,000–100,000 Byadgi chilli, Bird’s eye chili (a.k.a. Thai chili pepper), Malagueta pepper
25,000–50,000 Guntur chilli, Cayenne pepper
10,000–25,000 Serrano pepper, Aleppo pepper, Cheongyang chili pepper
2,500–10,000 Espelette pepper, Jalapeño pepper, New Mexican varieties of Anaheim pepper
1,000–2,500 Anaheim pepper, Poblano pepper
100–1,000 Banana pepper, Cubanelle
0–100 Bell pepper, Pimento, Banana pepper
The capsaicin present in chillies is so powerful that it’s able to penetrate a normal pair of latex gloves and, if smoked, even the vapors can badly hurt you.
The Hottest Chillies In The World
Carolina Reaper 1,641,183 SHU
The Carolina Reaper is king among the world’s hottest chilies. The fierce-looking pepper was initially named the HP22B. The Carolina Reaper is gnarled and red with a tail that is small and pointed, and it is a cross between the Red Habanero and the Pakistani Naga. The pepper first went into the Guinness World Records in 2013 for being the world hottest chili in the world after surpassing the Trinidad Scorpion. The pepper has an average SHU of 1.64 million with some peaking at almost 2.2 million SHU. The pepper is famed for the excellent fruity flavor, deep red with hints of chocolate and cinnamon.
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion 1,463,700 SHU
The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion.
The Trinidad Scorpion made headlines in April 2011 when laboratory tests measured its heat at 1,463,700 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs).
This variant of pepper initially from Trinidad and Tobago gets its name from its scorpion-like tail. Symptoms from eating one of these raw include hiccups, sweating, and numbness, and it is up to 800 times hotter than a jalapeño pepper.
Naga Viper 1,350,000 SHU
Naga Viper and Scorpion cultivars
1,250,000 to 1,350,000 SHUs
The Naga Viper is a three-way cross between the Bhut Jolokia, Naga Morich, and Trinidad Scorpion varieties.
The Naga Viper boasts of containing around 900,000 to 1.38 million SHU and is a cross between three hot chilies, namely the Naga Morich, ghost pepper, and the Trinidad Naga Morich. The pepper held the Guinness World Record for the hottest chili in the world in 2011 after beating the infinity pepper, but it lost the title the following year. The pepper is described as having the slow burn of the ghost pepper and the heat of a scorpion pepper.
7 Pot (7 Pods) Habanero 1,200,000 SHU
1,100,000 to 1,200,000 SHUs
The pepper is folded and round, 7 Pods are some of the rarest chillies on the planet. Their name reflects the story that a single 7 Pod chilli burns enough to heat seven pots of stew. It is purported to taste fruity, tropical and a little nutty.
The Nagas 900,000 to 1,100,000 SHUs
The Nagas: Bhut Jolokia, Bih Jolokia, Naga Jolokia, Naga Morich, Dorset Naga
900,000 to 1,100,000 SHUs
Bhut Jolokia also known as the “Ghost Pepper” is a hybrid between Capsicum chinense and Capsicum frutescens. It was the Guinness World Records holder in 2007 until 2011 when it lost the title to Naga Viper.
Nagas have been cultivated in India and parts of neighbouring Bangladesh for centuries. They are so hot that the Indian army has developed them as a weapon, using their extract to create a blinding chilli grenade.
Nagabon and Habanaga
Nagabons are a cross between Nagas and Scotch Bonnets. The Habanaga, on the other hand, was reportedly created by accident last year, when a student at New Mexico University mistakenly crossed Nagas with Habaneros.
Red Savina Habanero
At more than 100 times the spiciness of a Jalapeno, the Red Savina Habanero held the Guinness World Record for hottest chilli from 1994 to February 2007, when it was overtaken by the Nagas. Frank Garcia, who is credited with developing the Red Savina in California, has kept the method of its propagation a closely guarded secret.
Habaneros: Chocolate, Caribbean, Orange
250,000 to 450,000 SHUs
Few Habanero varieties approach the heat of the Red Savina, but the Chocolate, Caribbean and Orange come close. The Chocolate Habanero, named not for its flavour but for its rich brown colour, is perhaps the hottest of the three, with reports of up to 450,000 SHUs. Habaneros are believed to have originated from Cuba; the name Habanero translates literally from Spanish to ‘from Havana’ – Cuba’s capital city. But from here they were exported to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, where most Habaneros are grown today.
Other Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets
100,000 to 250,000 SHUs
Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets are close relatives within the species Capsicum chinense, though they have distinct flavours. These and other members of the species thrive in hot weather and have spread from Central America to many other warm parts of the world, including West Africa and the US. One bite out of a common Habanero or Scotch Bonnet would be enough to induce tears in all but the most diehard chilli-heads.
Bird’s eyes, Tabascos, Tepins
Last on the list but still packing a punch, these three varieties don’t belong to Capsicum chinense, though they too originated from Central America. Bird’s eye chillies are a variety of the species Capsicum frutescens and have spread widely across South-East Asia, where they’ve become a staple ingredient in many dishes. Tabasco chillies are close relatives of the Bird’s eye and are well-known in North America for the famous sauce of the same name. The tiny Tepin chilli belongs to a different species again (Capsicum annum) and is the smallest on the list, growing only to the size of a hazelnut.