Chillies are a delightful specie of fruit that challenges our taste buds to its limits. They are graded according to the ‘Scoville scale,’ named after an American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, who in 1912, attempted to measure the level of capsaicin in a variety of chilli peppers. Capsaicin is the chemical compound that produces that characteristic heat sensation in the mouth. Pure capsaicin is an explosive 16 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Although there are several listings of the hottest chillies, I have compiled an approximate concurrence list, from the least to the most insufferable chillies:

Three Red Cherry Peppers on White PaperThe pimiento – often to be found stuffed in Spanish green olives – rates 100-900 SHU.






Capsicum Baccatum Hot pepper South Italy ItalyUp a grade from this, in the 1,000-2,500 SHU range, is the Peruvian Rocotillo pepper, which is usually green or yellow.


Two Green and One Red Jalapeno Peppers on Red. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.



That well-known condiment, Tabasco sauce, scores 2,500-5,000 SHU. Around this level is also to be found the jalapeño, apparently named after the Mexican town of Xalapa, where it originated, which can range from 2,500-10,000 SHU.




Serrano PepperThe serrano pepper originated in the mountainous regions of the Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo. The name of the pepper is a reference to the mountains or sierras of these regions. The Scoville rating of the serrano pepper is 10,000 to 25,000 SHU.



Pack of red bird peppers



Staying in the kitchen, but on a much higher shelf – Scoville-speaking – is cayenne pepper, which registers at 30,000-50,000 SHU.

Red Bird's Eye Chili Peppers. Image shot 2011. Exact date unknown.





That staple of Thai and Keralan cooking, the Bird’s Eye Chilli, meanwhile, clocks in at 50,000-100,000 SHU. Personally, our taste buds conflagrated at this level.

Scotch Bonnet Chilli Peppers



Caribbean cuisine, by contrast, favours the Scotch Bonnet, known in Guyana as ‘Ball of Fire.’ Similarly fiery is the magnificently named Madame Jeanette, a small but fiery reddish-yellow bell pepper from Suriname at 100,000-350,000 SHU.

Red savina chili pepper on forks with fire



The Red Savina pepper has been developed from the well-known habanero chilli, to produce hotter fruit. Characterised by a deep red colour, it registers between 250,000 and 450,000 SHU.

Dried Bhut Jolokia chillies (also known as Naga Jolokia, Ghost Naga etc. See description box for a comprehensive list of names).


If you are travelling in Northeast India or Bangladesh, be very careful if anyone tries to tempt you with a curry containing the Bhut Jokolia. It’s also known as the ‘Ghost Pepper’ which is what you’ll feel like after tasting it, as it is rated at over 1 million SHU.

Dec. 9, 2011 - Lakeside, California, United States - December 9, 2011_Lakeside_California_USA_|Trinidad Butch T. Scorpion, the world record holder for heat. Grown by grower Jim Duffy's of Lakeside. Duffy a wide variety of super hot chiles and sells seed


The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is a golf-ball-sized beast that has been identified as one of the world’s hottest cultivated chilli pepper. Despite its initially sweet taste, the fire builds and builds, and can rate as high as 2 million SHU.

Carolina Reaper Pepper


At the top of the chilli tree is the exceptionally hot Carolina Reaper. It has been rated as the world’s hottest chili pepper by Guinness World Records since August 7, 2013. The original crossbreed was between a ghost pepper (a former world record holder) and a red habanero, it averages a 1,569,300 on the Scoville scale, peaking over 2,200,000 SHU.

Credits: The Telegraph, Wikipedia.