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The Top 10 Hottest Peppers in the World

Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree in 2018. He has a keen interest in cooking, and loves to experiment with spicy dishes.

From the Ghost Pepper to the Carolina Reaper, this article ranks the 10 hottest peppers in the world!

From the Ghost Pepper to the Carolina Reaper, this article ranks the 10 hottest peppers in the world!

Throughout the world, there exists a number of hot peppers that are renowned for their unique flavors and intense heat levels. And while the vast majority of peppers are mild (to moderate) in their overall heat, recent decades have witnessed a significant spike in the number of superhot varieties worldwide.

From the 7 Pot Red to the infamous Carolina Reaper, this article ranks the 10 hottest peppers in the world. It is the author’s hope that a better understanding (and appreciation) of these hot peppers will accompany readers following their completion of this work.

Selection Criteria

In order to select (and rank) the world’s hottest peppers, a number of basic assumptions were necessary for the extents and purposes of this study. First and foremost, each of the following peppers described was ranked according to their peak output of heat (in relation to Scoville Heat Units or SHUs). This refers to a standardized heat measurement that will be discussed in greater detail below.

In addition to their peak heat levels, another important factor to consider when ranking each pepper is its “average” heat output. Averages are important to consider, as some of the less-hot specimens available have been known to put out heat levels that rival (or exceed) hotter varieties. This results in outliers that can greatly skew averages if not properly accounted for. While these criteria leave room for a number of potential issues, the author believes them to be the best means for ranking the world’s hottest (and spiciest) peppers.

Note: For comparative purposes, each of the peppers mentioned in this work will use both the jalapeño and habanero as a point of reference (in regard to heat). To be more specific, the jalapeño often measures in at 10,000 SHUs, whereas the habanero reaches an incredible 100,000 SHUs or more.

How to Measure the Heat of a Pepper

In order to measure the heat of a pepper, researchers have developed a unique test that registers the overall Scoville Heat Units (SHUs) of a particular variety. First invented by an American pharmacist by the name of Wilbur Scoville, the Scoville Scale (as it is known today) measures a pepper’s heat level using an alcohol-based extract of capsaicin oil that is present within a pepper. This is then added to a solution of sugar water before it is placed on the tongues of “taste testers.” Little by little, the solution is diluted with additional water until the taste tester can no longer taste the heat of the pepper. This is then assigned a number rating which is based on how many times the solution had to be diluted in order to properly eliminate the heat source. For example, a habanero (with a heat scale of 100,000 SHU) would have to be diluted 100,000 times before its heat is completely dissipated.

In more modern times, sophisticated equipment makes this test far simpler. Using a technique known as “High-Performance Liquid Chromatography” (HPLC), scientists are able to determine the exact quantities of capsaicin that are present within a specific pepper. This number can then be converted using the American Spice Trade Association’s “Pungency Units,” allowing for a SHU score to be calculated.

The 10 Spiciest Peppers in the World

  • 7 Pot Red
  • 7 Pot Barrackpore
  • Ghost Pepper
  • Naga Viper
  • Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T”
  • 7 Pot Primo
  • 7 Pot Douglah
  • Trinidad Moruga Scorpion
  • Carolina Reaper
  • Dragon’s Breath Pepper
The incredibly hot 7 Pot Red

The incredibly hot 7 Pot Red

10. 7 Pot Red

  • Species: Capsicum chinense
  • Origin: Trinidad
  • Scoville Scale: 1 to 1.2 million Scoville Heat Units (SHUs)
  • Heat Level: High

The 7 Pot Red (also known as the“habanero-type pepper, Trinidad 7 Pot Pepper, or 7 Pod Pepper) is a species of chili pepper that is believed to have originated in Trinidad. Considered a relatively rare pepper (by modern standards), varieties of this species are renowned for their unique flavors and tremendous heat. They are also considered to be one of the hottest chilies in the world. As their name implies, an average-sized 7 Pot Pepper is hot enough to provide heat to seven pots of chili or stew.

As with most peppers, the 7 Pot Red can be easily identified by onlookers due to its habanero-like appearance. Although most are red in coloration, some varieties are known to produce yellow, brown, white, and burgundy colors as well. On average, most of these peppers will reach a size of approximately 2 inches tall, and 1.5 inches wide. In regard to taste, many consumers describe the pepper as both fruity and nutty (in addition to its extreme heat).

How Hot are 7 Pot Red Peppers?

Common varieties of the 7 Pot Red are known to reach extreme heights on the Scoville scale. On average, the 7 Pot Red is known to reach approximately 1,000,000 to 1,200,000 Scoville heat units (SHUs), making it an incredibly hot (and potentially dangerous) pepper to consume. In relation to the average jalapeño, this species is approximately 100 to 120 times hotter (pepperscale.com). In comparison to the habanero, this places the 7 Pot Red at nearly 10 to 12 times hotter. As a result, extreme caution should be taken when consuming (or handling) these peppers as they can produce a burning sensation to the skin, stomach pain, diarrhea, as well as irritation of the digestive tract. Those with digestive problems (such as stomach ulcers or acid reflux) should avoid these peppers like the plague.

The spicy 7 Pot Barrackpore pepper

The spicy 7 Pot Barrackpore pepper

9. 7 Pot Barrackpore

The 7 Pot Barrackpore is a species of chili from the 7 Pot pepper family. Considered one of the hottest chilies in the world (by modern standards), the Barrackpore is believed to have originated in Trinidad and is considered a relatively rare specimen. In addition to its tremendous heat, the pepper is renowned for its tropical taste that is often described as both fruity and nut-like (similar to the average habanero). In relation to the 7 Pot Red, however, this species tends to be slightly more bitter than its spicy cousins.

Most 7 Pot Barrackpore varieties follow the typical 7 Pot shape, which includes a pimpled, elongated, and wrinkled appearance. Most possess a scorpion-like tail (similar to scorpion peppers) and come in red, white, yellow, or chocolate varieties. In regard to size, they are slightly bigger than the 7 Pot Red, reaching nearly three inches in length at maturity.

How Hot is the 7 Pot Barrackpore Pepper?

A typical 7 Pot Barrackpore pepper is considered extremely hot on the Scoville heat scale. Heat for this species reaches an incredible 1,000,000 to 1,300,000 Scoville heat units, making it slightly hotter than the 7 Pot Red. In relation to the jalapeño, the 7 Pot Barrackpore is approximately 100 to 130 times hotter (or 10 to 13 times hotter than an average habanero pepper). As a member of the “super-hots,” individuals should exercise extreme caution when consuming or handling this pepper as serious injuries could occur. Likewise, those with disorders associated with the digestive tract should avoid these peppers at all costs as consumption of this pepper could result in serious complications.

Several Ghost Peppers ready for harvest

Several Ghost Peppers ready for harvest

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8. Ghost Pepper

  • Species: Capsicum chinense
  • Origin: India
  • Scoville Scale: 855,000 to 1,041,427 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs)
  • Heat Level: High

The Ghost Pepper (also referred to as the Bhut Jolokia) is a species of super-hot pepper from the chili family. Once considered a world-record holder for heat, the Ghost Pepper is renowned for its sweet and fruity taste, as well as its rich chili flavor. Originating in Northern India, this species of pepper has experienced a rapid growth in popularity over the past decade and is widely considered one of the hottest peppers on the planet (as of 2021).

A typical Ghost Pepper grows to nearly two or three inches in length, forming a pod-like shape at maturity. The peppers generally start out green, before changing to a bright red coloration at picking season. They can be easily identified by their elongated bodies and wrinkled appearances.

How Hot is the Ghost Pepper?

As a super-hot variety, the Ghost Pepper is considered extremely hot on the Scoville heat scale. Heat from this variety is known to reach nearly 855,000 to 1,041,427 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). Using jalapeños as a point of reference, it is estimated that an average Ghost Pepper is approximately 104 times hotter at maximum intensity. This means that the pepper is approximately 11 times hotter than a standard habanero. As a result, extreme caution should be taken when eating or handling the Ghost Pepper. Failure to heed this warning can result in serious injury, as the heat from this species is capable of inducing severe hiccups, burning, generalized sweating, eye-watering, and numbness of the throat and mouth. For individuals with weaker stomachs, the results are even more troubling.

The infamous Naga Viper pepper

The infamous Naga Viper pepper

7. Naga Viper

  • Species: Capsicum chinense
  • Origin: England
  • Scoville Scale: 900,000 to 1,382,118 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs)
  • Heat Level: Exceptionally Hot

The Naga Viper is a species of hot chili pepper that was first developed in England. Considered one of the world’s hottest peppers, the Naga Viper once held the 2011 world record for heat due to its extremely spicy taste. Cultivators first developed the Naga Viper by crossing 3 separate “super hots.” This included the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Ghost Pepper, as well as the Naga Morich. Upon ingesting this monstrously hot pepper, individuals often describe its flavor as a fruity and tangy sensation that is followed by a slow burn.

The Naga Viper can be easily identified by its Ghost Pepper shape that is both elongated and wrinkly in appearance. They also possess a scorpion-like tail similar to the Trinidad Scorpion Maruga. On average, the Naga Viper reaches approximately two to three inches in length at maturity.

How Hot is the Naga Viper Pepper?

The Naga Viper Pepper is an incredibly spicy pepper, and once held the world record for “world’s hottest chili.” On average, the Naga Viper Pepper produces approximately 1,382, 118 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). In relation to the jalapeño, this means that the Naga Viper is approximately 140 times hotter than its milder cousin, or approximately 14 times the heat of a standard habanero. For these reasons, extreme caution is required when consuming this pepper, as serious harm or injury can occur following ingestion.

The Trinidad Scorpion "Butch T" pepper.  Notice the pepper's unique "scorpion" tail.

The Trinidad Scorpion "Butch T" pepper. Notice the pepper's unique "scorpion" tail.

6. Trinidad Scorpion "Butch T" Pepper

  • Species: Capsicum chinense
  • Origin: Australia
  • Scoville Scale: 1,463,700 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs)
  • Heat Level: Exceptionally Hot

The Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” is an incredibly hot pepper that originated from the Trinidad Scorpion pepper. Originally developed from Scorpion peppers that were grown in Trinidad and Tobago (in the Caribbean), the “Butch T” was first created by a man known as Butch Taylor, who resided in Mississippi and was the founder of Zydeco Hot Sauce (hence its name). Following ingestion, most individuals describe the “Butch T” as having a sweet and fruity undertone. This “sweetness” is short-lived, however, as the pepper’s intense spiciness quickly overwhelms the tastebuds with an explosion of heat.

As with many peppers of this caliber, they can be easily identified by their moderate length (approximately one to two inches), as well as their bulbous and “wrinkly” appearance. As their name implies, the pepper also possesses a pronounced point at the bottom that is similar in appearance to a “stinger.” Although coloration for the “Butch T” varies (depending on maturity), common colors include green, yellow, or red (similar to most chili peppers).

How Hot is the Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” Pepper?

The Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” pepper is insanely hot, and once held the record for “world’s hottest pepper.” According to modern estimates, the “Butch T” is capable of producing approximately 1,463, 700 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). In comparison to the jalapeño and habanero (for points of reference), this means that the “Butch T” is nearly 146 times hotter than a standard jalapeño, or nearly 15 times the heat of a habanero pepper. For these reasons, the pepper is not for the faint of heart. As such, extreme care should be taken when ingesting (or even handling) the “Butch T” as serious harm or injury can occur. Likewise, “chili burn” is also possible with this pepper, meaning that it should never be handled with bare hands.

The exceptionally hot 7 Pot Primo pepper

The exceptionally hot 7 Pot Primo pepper

5. 7 Pot Primo

  • Species: Capsicum chinense
  • Origin: Louisiana
  • Scoville Scale: 1,473,480 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs)
  • Heat Level: Exceptionally Hot

The 7 Pot Primo refers to a pepper that is a cross between the Naga Morich and Trinidad 7 Pot. Considered one of the world’s hottest peppers, the 7 Pot Primo was first developed by Troy Primeaux in Louisiana (2005). Upon ingesting this remarkable pepper, individuals are quick to point out its fruity and floral taste. This is quickly overwhelmed, however, by the extreme heat that quickly follows.

As with many chili peppers, the 7 Pot Primo can be easily identified by its bumpy and “pimply” skin, lumpy pods, and distinctly red coloration (at maturity). They are also renowned for their unique tails that take on a “stinger-like” appearance. Orange and yellow varieties, however, also exist for this pepper and maintain a similar level of heat and flavor as the red.

How Hot is the 7 Pot Primo Pepper?

The 7 Pot Primo is classified as a superhot chili pepper with an extreme heat rating. On average, the pepper’s heat measures at an astonishing 1,473,480 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). This gives the pepper a slight edge to the heat produced by the Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” mentioned earlier in this list (an insanely hot pepper in its own right). In relation to the jalapeño, this means that the 7 Pot Primo is approximately 147 times hotter. For habaneros, this variety is almost 15 times spicier. For these reasons, extreme care should be taken when consuming the 7 Pot Primo.

The spicy 7 Pot Douglah pepper

The spicy 7 Pot Douglah pepper

4. 7 Pot Douglah

  • Species: Capsicum chinense
  • Origin: Trinidad
  • Scoville Scale: 1,853,986 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs)
  • Heat Level: Exceptionally Hot

The 7 Pot Douglah refers to an extremely hot chili pepper that was first developed in Trinidad. The 7 Pot Douglah can be easily identified by its dark chocolate-brown coloration, as well as its “pimply” appearance. Generally speaking, they greatly resemble their milder habanero relative, and will typically grow to an average length of approximately two inches. As with many peppers, the 7 Pot Douglah usually begins its growth cycle with a green coloration before finally maturing to its distinctly brown color.

As with most of the superhot chili peppers in existence (worldwide), the 7 Pot Douglah maintains a “fruity” taste that is often described as both sweet and “earthy.” They are also relatively “nutty,” making them one of the more flavorful options for pepper enthusiasts. This flavor is quickly overtaken by the pepper’s extreme heat, however, which delivers a quick (and long-lasting) blast to the tastebuds.

How Hot is the 7 Pot Douglah Pepper?

As with all of the peppers mentioned on this list, the 7 Pot Douglah is an incredibly hot pepper with an intense kick. Peak heat for this pepper is in the vicinity of 1,853,986 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). This means that the 7 Pot Douglah is approximately 185 times hotter than a jalapeño pepper, or nearly 18.5 times the heat of a standard habanero. For these reasons, this variety of pepper is usually unsafe to eat on its own, as the heat produced by the 7 Pot Douglah can result in serious injuries when eaten in larger quantities. This is certainly a pepper variety that is not for the faint of heart.

The Trinidad Morgua Scorpion

The Trinidad Morgua Scorpion

3. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

  • Species: Capsicum chinense
  • Origin: Trinidad
  • Scoville Scale: 2,009,231 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs)
  • Heat Level: Extreme

The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is a scorching hot chili pepper, renowned for its intense flavor and heat. First developed in a village around Moruga, Trinidad (hence its name), the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion was once considered the hottest chili pepper in existence, breaking the world record for heat in 2012. As with most chilies, the pepper can be easily identified by its bright red coloration, wrinkly appearance, and short green stem. They are also quite small in their overall size, reaching only two to three inches in length at maturity

In regard to flavor, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion was developed as a sweet-hot variety. This means that the pepper is extremely flavorful, delivering a fruit-like taste upon first bite. This is quickly supplanted, however, by an intense heat that continues to build and build with each passing minute. For most individuals, the heat for this pepper is far too hot to handle, resulting in intense burning sensations that are difficult to quell.

How Hot is the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper?

The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is an insanely hot pepper, with an incredible heat range of 2,009,231 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). In comparison to other peppers, this means that the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is approximately 200.9 times hotter than a standard jalapeño, or nearly 20 times the heat of a habanero pepper. Most of its heat can be found in the pepper’s “placenta” region, where most of the capsaicin oil is present. Hiccups, profuse sweating, and numbness of the throat and body have been reported by a number of individuals consuming this particular pepper; so be forewarned that this pepper is not for the faint of heart. This is one nasty pepper that delivers a serious kick when consumed.

The infamous Carolina Reaper

The infamous Carolina Reaper

2. Carolina Reaper

  • Species: Capsicum chinense
  • Origin: Fort Mill, South Carolina
  • Scoville Scale: 2,200,000 SHU
  • Heat Level: Extreme

The Carolina Reaper is a species of pepper first developed by Ed Currie in Fort Mill, South Carolina. This insanely hot chili was developed by crossing a Pakistani Naga with a Red Habanero found on St. Vincent’s Island. Upon reaching maturity, the Carolina Reaper tends to form into the shape of a small pod, reaching only one to two inches in width, and two to three inches in its overall length. They can be easily identified by their bumpy texture, bright red coloration, and scorpion-like tails.

In regard to their overall taste, the Carolina Reaper is often described by individuals as both fruit-like and sweet. This gives the pepper a uniquely sweet and hot combination. The sweet factor, however, is rapidly supplanted by the reaper’s tremendous heat that is virtually unparalleled in the pepper realm.

How Hot is the Carolina Reaper?

As of 2021, current SHUs for the Carolina Reaper are believed to range between 1.6 to 2.2 million Scoville Heat Units (depending on the pepper that is selected). In relation to the jalapeño, this means that the Carolina Reaper is approximately 220 times hotter. For habaneros, it is nearly 22 times the heat. For these reasons, the Carolina Reaper is not the faint of heart. A single bite of this pepper is capable of inducing “thunderclap” headaches that result from pressure on the body’s blood vessels. Vomiting, extreme nausea, and stomach pain have also been described by individuals brave enough to consume this fiery pepper (lasting upwards of five hours after consumption). To date, a man by the name of Matt Gross holds the current world record for eating three Carolina Reapers (in rapid succession). It was later reported that Gross suffered debilitating symptoms for approximately 14 hours. As such, this is a pepper that the average individual should probably avoid.

The Dragon's Breath Pepper is currently considered the world's hottest pepper.

The Dragon's Breath Pepper is currently considered the world's hottest pepper.

1. Dragon's Breath Pepper

  • Species: Capsicum chinense
  • Origin: Denbighshire, United Kingdom
  • Scoville Scale: 2,480,000 SHU
  • Heat Level: Extreme

The Dragon’s Breath Pepper is a species of chili first developed by Neal Price, Nottingham Trent University, as well as Mike Smith. Named after the “Welsh Dragon,” the pepper’s original purpose was to serve as a natural topical anesthetic for individuals with allergies to standard anesthetics used in hospitals. According to its cultivators, the Dragon’s Breath Pepper was never intended for commercial consumption as its tremendous heat was both dangerous and potentially deadly for humans. Despite warnings from health officials, however, a number of individuals have attempted to consume this remarkably hot pepper with horrifying consequences.

The pepper can be easily identified by its small size, reaching only 0.5 inches in length at maturity. They are generally quite wrinkled with a pock-marked appearance. Stinger-like tails are also common on this variety as well, with red being its primary coloration when ready to pick. In regard to their overall flavor, the Dragon’s Breath Pepper is usually described as having a sweet and fruit-like taste that is both “earthy” and “nutty.”

How Hot is the Dragon’s Breath Pepper?

The Dragon’s Breath Pepper is currently classified as the world’s hottest pepper, exceeding that of the Carolina Reaper. Reaching an astounding 2.480,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs), the pepper is even more intense than the pepper spray currently employed by law enforcement. For comparison, the Dragon’s Breath Pepper is approximately 250 times hotter than a standard jalapeño, or nearly 25 times hotter than the average habanero pepper. For these reasons, the Dragon’s Breath Pepper is a variety that should be avoided by most individuals. Symptoms (following ingestion) can include severe breathing issues, burning sensation of the mouth and throat, as well as intense stomach pain and nausea. One drop of this pepper’s capsaicin oil is so powerful, that it is detectable in over 2.48 million drops of water.

Many researchers have expressed concerns over the distribution of the Dragon’s Breath Pepper, as its effects on the human body can be extremely problematic. In addition to causing severe burns to the skin and mouth, researchers have also identified asphyxiation and anaphylactic shock as potential outcomes of consumption. As such, the Dragon’s Breath Pepper is a variety of pepper that can literally kill you when eaten (even in small quantities). For these reasons, it is easily the hottest (and spiciest) pepper in the world.

The insanely hot "Pepper X"

The insanely hot "Pepper X"

Honorable Mention: Pepper X

  • Species: Capsicum chinense
  • Origin: Rock Hill, South Carolina
  • Scoville Scale: 3,180,000 SHU (Unconfirmed)
  • Heat Level: Extreme

Although the Pepper X did not make the “top 10” of our list for hottest peppers, it is currently believed that this variety will eventually supplant both the Dragon’s Breath Pepper and Carolina Reaper as the world’s hottest pepper. Developed by Ed Currie (creator of the Carolina Reaper), it is currently believed that the Pepper X is capable of producing upwards of 3.18 million Scoville Heat Units (SHUs) at its peak intensity. Because these reports remain unverified, however, the Pepper X could not be included within our “top 10” list at this time. If these findings prove true though, the Pepper X will truly be the world’s hottest pepper in the foreseeable future.

Works Cited

Articles/Books:

  • “Carolina Reaper.” Chilipeppermadness.com. Accessed: 20 October 2021.
  • “Dragon’s Breath Pepper.” Pepperhead.com. Accessed: 22 October 2021.
  • Taylor, Charlotte and Brandon M. Kelly. “Fear the Reaper: Reversible Cerebrovascular Vasoconstriction Syndrome After Hot Pepper Ingestion.” U.S. National Library of Medicine.” 4 April 2020. 15(6): Accessed 19 October 2021.

Images/Photographs:

  • Pixabay Commons
  • Wikimedia Commons

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Larry Slawson

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