How does a chili become the hottest in the world? Let's take a look at the 15 Most Potent Peppers You'll Want to Get Your Hands—or Maybe Avoid, Depending on How Well You Can Handle the Heat! We cover the difference between Carolina Reaper, Ghost Pepper and more using the handy Scoville Heat Units measuring system. Check.
The title of hottest pepper in the world has been coveted for many years. At this point, you'd think we'd seen all there is to do with pepper. However, the release of new hybrids ensures that new peppers are always in contention for the top spot.
Of course, everyone's version of "hot" is different, so how do you call the hottest chili in the world? Simple, using the Scoville Heat Units (SHU) measurement system. Created and named after American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, this method uses sugar water to dilute the chili's heat until no spice can be detected by a panel of testers. It is these units that are registered, which allows you to officially confirm the strongest pepper.
The 15 Hottest Peppers in the World
We've tracked down the 15 hottest peppers available in the world today. The following peppers have been officially recognized by the Guinness Book of Records for their levels of scorching heat. However, we also find some newcomers waiting in the wings to make their mark on future charts. So if you're looking for hot thrills or just curious about all things hot, check out our list and maybe try some of them out, if you can handle it of course!
1. Carolina Reaper - 2.200.000 SHU
With up to 2,200,000 SHUs, thecarolina reaperit's top of the heap when it comes to heat. Developed by American chile breeder Ed Currie in South Carolina, this chile is characterized by its wrinkled red appearance and tapered tail. As of 2013, the Carolina Reaper has officially been ranked as the hottest chili in the world, and very few have come close since then. Due to its fame (or infamy), it is also a very popular pepper to grow at home.
Given its frankly crazy SHU, the Carolina Reaper is often a favorite with those looking to really push the boundaries of what they can handle. Appearing in many spicy salsas and even in challenges like eating a unique tortilla chip covered in an octopus shape by Carolina Reaper, you only need a quick search on YouTube to see the devastating (but at least hilarious) results of what this pepper can. So if you are thinking of tackling this one, you better be very careful.
2. Komodo Dragon — 2,200,000 SHU
Like the Carolina Reaper, the Komodo Dragon can also register 2,200,000 Scoville Heat Units. That's about 880 times hotter than ajalapeno pepper, for reference only. Developed in Blunham, UK, the Komodo Dragon pepper shares a similar appearance to the Carolina Reaper, with a bright red exterior, but is slightly milder than the aforementioned pepper. However, it still has that pointy tail that is both attractive and intimidating.
Considering how many Scoville Heat Units this chili can reach, you might be thinking that trying Komodo Dragon would instantly make you sweat. It is actually a very fruity and tasty pepper. Those who have tried it usually describe a sweet, fruity and spicy initial taste. However, it is after about 10 seconds that the Komodo Dragon releases its true heat. Proceed with caution!
3. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion — 2.000.000 SHU
Native to the small town of Moruga in Trinidad and Tobago, and bred by local chile connoisseur Wahid Ogeer, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is another hyperpotent pepper on our list. Capable of reaching around 2,000,000 SHU, it was recognized as the hottest pepper in the world in 2012 by the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University, until the mighty Carolina Reaper dethroned it. The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion has a red, plump but wrinkled appearance. With a sweet and fruity flavor, the seasoning can take a while to warm up in the mouth.
This chili is often a favorite of those who want to make chili jam or add a sweet and spicy touch to dishes. Although placed third on our list, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion still brings the heat. It is recommended that those who cut and handle this pepper wear gloves to protect themselves from possible burns (especially before using the bathroom).
4. Bhutlah de Chocolate - 2.000.000 SHU
Don't be fooled by this chili's name; You won't be putting them in your mouth like your favorite chocolates. Called Bhutlah Chocolate, this fiery friend is similar in color to cocoa, but with a potential 2,000,000 SHU, it's a force to be reckoned with. Unlike some peppers on our list, this one is fast-acting and instantly warms your mouth as soon as you bite into it. And once the heat kicks in, it's going to last a while, so it might be worth keeping some milk, yogurt, or ice cream on hand to try and put out the fire once it starts.
Due to its instantaneous and unrelenting heat, Bhutlah Chocolate is often included in hot sauces. Just a drop or two is enough to take your dish to the next level (and beyond), so use sparingly and you'll enjoy a tangy treat.
5. 7 Pot Douglah - 1.853.986 SHU
From Trinidad comes 7 Pot Douglash, which features a chocolate brown exterior much like Chocolate Bhutlah. However, 7 Pot Douglash starts life with a green skin, eventually becoming a darker brown as it matures. But it's certainly not uncommon to see examples of this pepper with mixed colors and rough skin. It's similar in shape to a small, shriveled pepper, but it's definitely a lot more powerful. With a possible SHU of 1,853,986 in its arsenal, this chili is no joke.
The name "7 pots" refers to this pepper's ability to add heat to 7 pots of stew. So a little definitely goes a long way with this one. But not everything is strength with the 7 Pot Douglash. Its flavor is often described as sweet, earthy and nutty before the resulting heat takes over. It is also worth noting that the oils released by the skin of this pepper are enough to cause a severe pepper burn. So take care and be prepared with gloves and goggles.
6. Dorset Naga - 1.598.227 SHU
Growing up in the south coast county of Dorset, UK, Dorset Naga is the brainchild of Joy and Michael Michaud. They found the exotic Naga Morich plant at a local shop and set out to create their own special variant. With a potential 1,598,227 SHU, it's safe to say they've made it. The resulting chili has become wildly popular in its home country and around the world, for a few important reasons.
The Dorset Naga has a wrinkled appearance and starts its life green, eventually maturing to a dark red to let you know it's done. It has a sweet flavor with slightly floral notes; however, the heat passes effortlessly to provide a little sweat. Since its arrival, Dorset Naga has been the main ingredient in many chutneys and finds its way into all manner of dishes, local and otherwise.
7. Trinity Scorpion “Butch T” — 1.463.700 SHU
In 2011, "Butch T" ranked first on the list of the hottest peppers in the world. And although he's fallen through the ranks since then, he's still a fiery, feisty chili. With up to 1,463,700 Scoville Heat Units, the Butch T provides approximately 585 times more heat than the average jalapeño. It has a unique appearance with a large, heavy red body that tapers into a thin point, similar in appearance to a spinning top.
However, "Butch T" isn't playing any games. While there is a sweetness to the taste, like the other Trinidad Scorpion strains, it offers a super spicy experience for spicy thrill seekers. It is not uncommon to find "Butch T" in a variety of hot sauces. However, it is often preferred as a powder to add to Mexican and Indian dishes for maximum potency.
8. Naga Viper — 1.382.118 SHU
Ready to pounce, the Naga Viper is the (not-so) lethal combination of three powerful peppers. With a few genetic tweaks, the Naga Viper has ancestry in the form of the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Ghost Pepper, and Naga Morich. This makes it a triple threat chili that can reach SHU heights of 1,382,118 - certainly nothing to scoff at! The Naga Viper has a wrinkled red appearance that can manifest itself in a variety of forms. Some have an elongated look with a fine point at the end, while others have a more chunky approach. One thing is right; when it is red, it is ripe and ready to consume.
This is a spicy and flavorful chili. It is very hot and should be treated with the appropriate level of caution. Less is definitely more when it comes to this one. The Naga Viper is the right choice for anyone looking to make hot marinades and spicy seasonings for meat.
9. 7 pot brain strain: 1,350,000 SHU
While it might sound like a work-related injury, 7-pot brain strain can certainly wreak havoc when it wants to. However, its name comes from its unique appearance. This chili is grown to have a brain-like appearance, which may serve as a clue to those with more common sense not to try this chili. With up to 1,350,000 Scoville units, renowned pepper producer David Capiello opted for heat and sweetness, which stand out perfectly.
Like other 7-pot varieties, one of these chiles is said to be enough to fuel up to 7 pots of stew, providing incredible heat with every tablespoon. It's not just good for soup; This is a popular chile for hot sauces as well. 7 Pot Brain Strain is not a commonly found pepper, especially fresh, which is why it is often the focus of many home projects by avid pepper growers. Distinctive in appearance, great flavor and, of course, exceptional heat, it's not hard to see why.
10. 7 Pot Barrackpore - 1.300.000 SHU
Hailing from the town of Barrackpore, located in southern Trinidad and Tobago, the 7 Pot Barrackpore has a red, meaty appearance that culminates in a pointed tip, which could almost serve as a warning. In short, it looks bad. With the potential to be 520 times hotter than the average jalapeno, the 7 Pot Barrackpore provides a SHU of up to 1,300,000, sure to leave many speechless when they get their hands on it.
Leaning towards a much more bitter flavor, this is a flavorful pepper with very little sweetness. However, it works as an excellent ingredient in chutneys and sauces. The 7 Pot Barrackpore is definitely a rare one on our list as it is very hard to find in health food stores. Many have started growing this one at home to produce their own supply.
11. 7 Bote Primo - 1.268.250 SHU
At this point on our list, you can assume that the peppers will start to get very weak. This couldn't be further from the truth. 7 Pot Primo is an ultra-hot hybrid chile created by crossing the original 7 Pot Pepper with the famous Naga Morich. The result is about 500 times hotter than a jalapeno. With a SHU of around 1,268,250, that's certainly enough to back up claims that he's a force to be reckoned with.
With a stumpy appearance accentuated by a sharp point, the 7 Pot Primo may appear similar to a raspberry at first glance. With a bumpy, rough skin, upon closer inspection (and taste), it's anything but a refreshing summer fruit. This pepper packs a punch, but it also has some sweet, citrus, and even floral notes that make it unique. With "primo" defined as "of the highest quality and importance," this chili effortlessly ticks many boxes on the serious chili aficionado's checklist.
12. Pimenta Infinita — 1.250.000 SHU
They say love is forever, but Infinity Pepper's warmth is right around the corner. This potent pepper delivers a super hot sensation that is long lasting and certainly not for the faint of heart. With a potential 1,250,000 Scoville Heat Units at your disposal, this is one bad chili. However, the warning signs are there. With its wrinkled, rough skin and bright red color, this pepper communicates caution without having to take a bite.
However, once done, it will deliver a juicy, fruity aftertaste closely followed by a dynamic and seemingly never-ending barrage of spice. Infinity Pepper was once champion of the hottest pepper in the world, for two weeks, until it was dethroned. Nowadays, it is a pepper that is difficult to obtain, especially fresh. However, there are some dedicated seed stores that can help you grow this monster at home.
13. Trinidad 7 Pot - 1,200,000 SHU
As one of the hottest chilis in the world, the Trinidad 7 Pot is a deceptively hot addition to our list. Now, that's not to say it doesn't bring warmth, but let's just say, never judge a book by its cover. This chile tastes more like a habanero than the 1,200,000 SHU powerhouse it is. This has led many to try this fatty chile thinking they are getting the most appetizing 100,000 SHU out of the habanero; they quickly realize this is not the case. That doesn't discredit the sweet taste and excellent heat, but it's definitely a different experience compared to much milder peppers.
While not a commonly enjoyed pepper, the Trinidad 7 Pot is often found as part of more extreme challenges among daredevils and competitive eaters. It can also be used in a wide variety of hot sauces to effortlessly increase heat.
14. 7 Can Jonás — 1,200,000 SHU
The Jonah 7 Pot has a lot in common with the Trinidad 7 Pot. Both boast a plump and wrinkled appearance, as well as a SHU rating of 1,200,000. However, the 7 Pot Jonah is a sweet-tasting pepper that, although hot, is very tasty. For this reason, it is used in many chutneys, sauces and seasonings. Don't worry, it still builds up the heat, just much more gradually compared to other super hot chili peppers.
When it comes to finding the new 7 Pot Jonah it can be a little tricky. It's not a commonly grown pepper, and you'll almost certainly have a hard time finding it in a store. However, there are online seed stores that have 7 Pot Jonas for you to grow at home.
15. Pimienta Fantasma (Bhut Jolokia) — 1.041.427 SHU
Although last on our list, theghost pepperit was at the top in 2007, when it obtained the title of the hottest pepper in the world. Originally from India and known as bhut jolokia, this pepper offers a SHU of around 1,041,427 and still packs a punch of heat. With a fiery red exterior that is crinkled and sometimes lumpy, the Ghost Pepper is often considered a rite of passage for many pepper connoisseurs and certainly considered "the next step" when going from jalapeno and habanero to chili pepper ranks.
Due to its fame, it is an extremely easy to find pepper, and large supermarkets usually sell it fresh. Ghost pepper is often used in Mexican and Indian cooking as a way to add a great kick that is certainly more than enough to heat things up.
Possible new competitors for the world's hottest pepper
As you can see, the above list represents the 15 hottest peppers available today. However, you may have noticed that the position of some of these chiles has changed over the years. What was once the hottest pepper in the world now gives way to something even stronger. So nowadays there is quite a bit of competition between chili peppers. There are currently additional strains with incredible SHU ratings just waiting to be made official so they can top the list. Let's take a look at some chilies waiting in the wings.
Pepper X — 3,180,000 SHU (unofficial)
Obviously not content with being at the top of the list, Carolina Reaper creator Ed Currie created Pepper X. With an ominous name and a potentially staggering 3,180,000 Scoville Heat Units, Currie claims it's "twice as hot as Carolina reaper". This is a pepper prepared to surprise all those lucky (or unlucky) who try it. Small, wrinkled, green and generally unassuming looking, Pepper X has been developed and perfected over more than 10 years. Often found in extremely hot sauces and tortilla chip challenges, Pepper X is gaining fame as the new (unofficial) hottest pepper in the world.
Dragon's Breath - 2,480,000 SHU (unofficial)
With an estimated 280,000 SHU more than the Carolina Reaper, the Dragon's Breath is poised to take the title of hottest pepper if Pepper X doesn't make it. This tiny, mean-looking pepper is the stuff of dreams or nightmares, depending on how you like your spice. There are even studies from Nottingham Trent University on the effectiveness of using natural Dragon's Breath oils in clinical settings. Let's say Dragon's Breath is not playing. And with a name like that, what else would you expect other than an incredibly spicy burn?
Choose your pepper partner today
With so many peppers on our list, we're sure you've already created your own list of peppers to try (or avoid). Just be sure to try them in moderation and proceed with caution, and you'll be absolutely fine. It's one thing to buy them fresh from the stores, but have you ever thought about growing your own at home? You'd be surprised how easy it is to do.
Professional cannabis journalist, writer and author Adam Parsons is a long-time member of the Zamnesia team. Tasked with covering a wide range of topics from CBD to psychedelics and everything in between, Adam creates blog posts, guides and explores an ever-growing range of products.