27 Pepper Varieties (The Wide Varieties of Peppers)

Different colors of bell peppers, focused shot.

Peppers belong to the genus Capsicum, which includes both fiery and sweet species, such as chili and bell peppers. Scoville heat units (SHU) are used to measure the heat of a pepper, and this scale ranges from 0 (think bell pepper) to 3,000,000 (damn!). Peppers and chiles, while technically fruits in most cases (and with a pretty strong warm summer season), don’t have the sweet, juicy flavors that you expect from berries in the summer. Instead, they challenge your taste buds.

Peppers grow best in the summer because they can soak up the sun and enjoy the dry weather. They prefer to live in, generate, and deliver heat to our kitchens. Most plants will continue to produce well into the fall.

Peppers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some are pleasant to the palate, while others are mildly torturous. So, how hot are you willing to go?

Let’s have a look at some of the more popular variations below.

Bell Peppers

Alternative names: Capsicum, green pepper, red pepper, sweet bell pepper

Characteristics: The bell-shaped pepper is very large in size and has a little bitter flavor when young. It gets a vivid crimson color and becomes sweeter as it ages. Yellow, orange, white, pink, and even purple types are available. Bell peppers will add moisture to any dish due to their high water content. They can also be used to add color to food.

Scoville heat units: 0

Tabasco Peppers

Tabasco peppers, focused shot.

Characteristics: This pepper is grown worldwide and is best known for the sauce that bears its name. The pepper grows to be one to two inches long and vivid red when fully mature. The pepper is crushed and mixed with vinegar and salt to make tabasco sauce. It tempers the heat of the pepper (the Scoville rating of tabasco sauce is 2,500 to 5,000, which is a fraction of the pepper’s rating).

Scoville heat units: 30,000 to 60,000

Jalapeno Pepper

Alternative names: Chipotle

Characteristics: This Mexican pepper is usually picked while still green from the plant. Allowing them to ripen more will color them crimson and give them a slightly fruity flavor. Jalapenos are a delicious ingredient that is frequently used in salsa and sauces. A chipotle is a jalapeno that has been dried.

There are two types of smoke-dried chipotles: Meco (mellow) and Moritas (hot and spicier). Chipotles are smoky, woodsy, and spicy, making them ideal for salsas, sauces, escabeche, and adobo.

Scoville heat units: 3,500 to 8,000


Characteristics: These peppers are similar to jalapeno peppers but are spicier and sweeter. The flesh is shiny, solid, and of medium thickness. Excellent in Latin recipes like stews, soups, dips, and fire-roasted meats.

Scoville heat units: 2,500 to 10,000

Habanero Pepper

Characteristics: This pepper, which belongs to the same family as the Scotch bonnet, is small, bulbous, and one of the hottest on the Scoville scale. Habaneros have a delicious flavor if you can get beyond the heat.

They’re popular in the Caribbean and in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, where they’re used to make fiery sauces.

Scoville heat units: 150,000 to 350,000

Cayenne Pepper

Alternative names: Finger chile, Ginnie pepper, and bird pepper.

Characteristics: Slender and tapering, this chili is most commonly known in its dried, powdered form—the powder known as cayenne pepper.

Chili powder with ground cayenne pepper is a key component in Tex-Mex meals like chili con carne. It’s one of the spiciest peppers around!

Scoville heat units: 30,000 to 50,000

Rocoto Pepper

Alternative names: Ajrocoto, hairy pepper, and locoto

Characteristics: This South American pepper resembles a small bell pepper and can be found in colors of orange, yellow, and red, just like bell pepper. Although yellow rocotos are the hottest, red rocotos are the most abundant. The pepper features one-of-a-kind black seeds within.

Because of its fuzzy leaves, it’s also known as the hairy pepper. The flavor of rocoto is sharp and fruity, and it’s widely used in salsa.

Scoville heat units: 35,000 to 50,000

Serrano Peppers

Characteristics: This little pepper is only a couple of inches long and has a tapered end, yet it delivers a punch. It’s important to remember that the smaller the pepper, the hotter it is. Serranos are red or yellowish-orange when ripe, and they can be prepared in both ripe and unripe forms. Serranos are frequently used in Mexican and Thai cuisine.

Scoville heat units: 6,000 to 23,000

Poblano Pepper

Alternative names: Ancho

Characteristics: The poblano is a big, heart-shaped pepper is commonly used in Mexican cuisine like chilesRellenos. Is it true that poblano peppers are hot? Yes, but only in a minor way. When the poblano reaches maturity, it develops a dark red-brown color and can be dried, at which point it is known as an ancho or mulato. Anchos have a raisin-like sweetness to them. Anchos are ideal for sauces because of their high flesh-to-skin ratio.

Scoville heat units: 1,000 to 1,500


Alternative names: Guajillo

Characteristics: These peppers are bright red and pointed upward, which is why they were given the name mirasol (Spanish for “looking at the sun”). Guajillo is the name given to them when they are dried. Guajillo peppers are delicious, tart, and moderately acidic, and they’re a staple in traditional al pastor. They’re also one of the most common chilis in mole sauce.

Scoville heat units: 2,500 to 5,000

Scotch Bonnet

Scotch bonnet peppers, close up shot.

Alternative names: Bonney peppers, ball of fire peppers, cachucha, and Caribbean red peppers

Characteristics: Because it resembles the caps men wear in Scotland (tam o’ shanter hat), this fiery pepper is known as a scotch bonnet. It’s the hottest pepper in the Caribbean, and it’s used to flavor jerk chicken and other island cuisines. Though the pepper is usually fiery, a sweet variation known as cachucha can be seen sometimes.

Scoville heat units: 80,000 to 400,000.

Anaheim Pepper

Alternative names: California green chile, chile Verde, and New Mexican chile.

This long pepper has a moderate flavor and can be used in a variety of ways. When fully grown, the Anaheim chile becomes a deep red color and is known as a Colorado or California red chile. Anaheims are commonly used in salsas and other American Southwest foods.

Scoville heat units: 500 to 2,500


Alternative names: Periperi, African bird’s-eye pepper, and African red devil pepper

Characteristics: When Portuguese sailors visited what is now South Africa and Mozambique, they carried small chili peppers known as bird’s eyes, or peri-peri in Swahili, onshore. The pungent sauce prepared from these chiles and the Portuguese-African manner of cooking prawns, fowl, or anything else in this sauce earned the moniker. Nando’s bottled version is a go-to for those who don’t want to prepare it from scratch. It’s a little pepper, only one to two inches long, but it packs a powerful punch.

Scoville heat units: 50,000 to 175,000.

Padrón Peppers

Characteristics: Padrón peppers are usually sweet and moderate, but they can be fairly spicy on rare occasions. The eponymous pepper is grown in Padrón, northwest Spain, and is frequently served as a tapa, fried. Grilled versions are also available.

Scoville heat units: 500 to 2,500

Cherry Pepper

Alternative names: Pimiento and pimento

Characteristics: This delicious pepper has a sweet flavor both on the outside and inside. This huge pepper, bright red and shaped like a heart, barely registers on the Scoville scale but makes up for it with a sweet, juicy flavor. Cherry peppers are typically seen chopped and stuffed with green olives, pimento bread, and pimento cheese.

Scoville heat units: 500


Alternative names: Pasilla and chilenegro

Characteristics: Chilacas have a prune-like flavor with a tinge of licorice, and they’re black and wrinkled. The Aztec word “chilaca” means “ancient or gray-haired,” which fits the pepper’s wrinkled appearance. When dried, the chilaca is known as a pasilla or chilenegro when dried, and it is toasted or steeped before being incorporated into sauces, frequently with fruit.

Scoville heat units: 1,500 to 2,500


Alternative names: Little beak pepper

Characteristics: This mild, sweet pepper hails from northern Spain and has a smoky, acidic flavor that works well in sandwiches and sauces, as well as as a meat and cheese complement. You can usually get them in jars in the gourmet department of your supermarket. They change color from green to red as they mature. They’re three to four inches long and have a small bent end that looks like a beak.

Scoville heat units: 500 to 1,000

Banana Pepper

Alternative names: Yellow wax pepper and banana chili

Characteristics: This mild yet tart pepper gives pizza or sandwiches a bite. This pepper normally turns a bright yellow color as it ripens, although it can also turn red, orange, or green.

Scoville heat units: 0–500

Shishito Pepper

Characteristics: These thin-walled peppers can be pan-seared and eaten on their own if harvested while still green. They can also be used to flavor pizza or other foods. The pepper gets spicier as the shishito gets riper.

Scoville heat units: 50 to 200

Basque Fryer

Alternative names: Doux long des Landes, doux de Landes, and pimentbasque

Characteristics: The Basque region, which lies on the border of France and Spain, has six approved pepper varieties. The most popular is the Basque Fryer pepper, often known as the doux des Landes, or “sweet from Landes,” is the most popular.

(Landes is in the southwest of France.) The pepper is sweet, as the name implies. Raw, roasted, or sautéed Basque fryers are available.

Scoville heat units: 0

Ghost Pepper

A single ghost pepper on a wooden background.

Alternative names: Bhutnagajolokia, jolokia, bhut, ghost chilli, nagajolokia, ghost jolokia, U-morok, and red nagajolokia

Characteristics: The name Bhut Naga Jolokia (the meaning of bhutis ghost, and naga means snake, and jolokia means chili) is intimidating enough.

The bite of this chile is deadly! The ghost pepper is native to Northeast India, but it is also grown in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. How hot is this hair-raiser, exactly? It’s about half as spicy as law police pepper spray but 100 times hotter than a jalapeno, with more than 1 million Scoville units. Ghost peppers, one of the world’s hottest (edible) peppers, are used sparingly in chutney and curry.

Scoville heat units: 1,000,000+

Sweet Italian Pepper

Alternative names: pepperoncini

Characteristics: They are often mistaken for banana peppers since they have a similar appearance and flavor and may nearly always be used interchangeably.

Pepperoncinis add a little extra zing. They aren’t spicy in the least.

Scoville heat units: 100 to 500

Cuban Pepper

Alternative names: Cubanelle pepper

Characteristics: These peppers are commonly used for cooking, but they can also be substituted for bell peppers in various meals to offer a new flavor. They’re classified as sweet peppers because their heat is still mild.

Scoville heat units: 1,000

Yellow Chile

Characteristics: These sweet peppers come in a variety of heat levels, from mild to scorching. They have a thick, bright yellow meat with a smooth texture and a gleaming sheen. They can be filled and boiled, roasted, grilled, pickled, or used raw in salads and crudites.

Scoville heat units: 100 to 15,000

Komodo Dragon

Characteristics: Many people believe that ghost peppers are the hottest, but Komodo dragon peppers are just as spicy.

They have a sweet flavor until you finally feel the heat (this is when you will regret ever taking a bite of it).

Scoville heat units: 1,400,000

Carolina Reaper

Characteristics: It’s much hotter than the Komodo dragon pepper, and it’s almost as close to eating pepper spray as you can get. It isn’t readily available.

Scoville heat units: 1,000,000 to 2,000,000

Dragon’s Breath

Characteristics: It’s the spiciest pepper. It’s also one of the tiniest peppers available. They’re not commercially available and aren’t recommended for eating because they pack so much heat into just a half-inch.

Scoville heat units: 2,480,000

We’ve listed down various pepper varieties and included SHU numbers so you can know exactly when and how much heat to add to a dip or skillet meal. Just keep in mind that heat levels vary from pepper to pepper, so one jalapeno may taste milder than another.

For individuals who can’t stand the heat, keep some dairy on hand, such as yogurt or milk, to help balance the fiery heat of chilis. Remove and discard the seed and white ribs before using them if you merely want to reduce the spice intensity.

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