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Hot Chili Peppers types and heat classification

We generally look to chilies as the world’s most universally popular source of hot seasoning. They are used around the world in different forms and ways. You can buy them whole, fresh, dried, canned, and jarred in the form of chili oil, paste, and powder, as well as hot red pepper flakes and ground red pepper, or cayenne. With over a hundred varieties of chilies available, recipes calling for chilies can sometimes be confusing, especially since chilies range in heat from mildly sweet to strongly painful. Chiles are members of the capsicum family, and their heat is caused by the amount of capsaicin oil they produce, and customarily measured according to Scoville Heat Units (SHUs), a relative heat index named after the chemist Wilbur Scoville.

The most commonly available fresh chilies ordered by their SHU number,
from the hottest (7) down to the most mild (0) are:

 Habanero 7  Extremely hot. Light green to bright orange. 3-inches long and 1-inch wide.
 Thai 6  Extremely hot. Green to bright red. 2-inches long and ¼ -inch wide.
 Cayenne 5  Very hot. Bright red. Usually dried and ground. 3-to 4 –inches long and ½ -inch wide.
 Serrano 4  Very hot. Deep green, bright red when ripe. 2-inches long and 3/8-inch wide.
 Jalapeno 3  Hot. Dark green. 2 –inches long and 3/4 –inch wide.
 Poblano 2  Mild to medium hot. Dark green, resembles a bell pepper. 4-inches long and 3-inches wide.
 Anaheim 1  Mild. Medium green in color. 6-inches long and 1-inch wide.
 Bell Peppers 0  Have no heat at all, and can be substituted in any recipe calling for hot chilies.


If a recipe calls for mild, dried chilies, anchos are a good choice. For hot dried chilies, try the cayenne or Thai bird chilies. Commercial chili powders are widely available with varying degrees of quality. They are usually a blend of ground dried chilies combined with other spices, such as cumin and oregano. Paprika, the Hungarian word for “sweet pepper”, refers to the powder made from ground sweet peppers. It can be labeled either “sweet” or “hot”, depending on what parts of the pepper are used. When the seeds and membranes are included, or when hot varieties of chilies are also included, the result will be a “hot” paprika.

Whenever one handles hot chilies, it must be done very carefully. The juice or flesh of a hot chili can burn on contact, and you don’t want any part of it near your eyes. Try to wear rubber or disposable gloves when handling chilies, and, if that’s not possible, be sure to wash any contacted areas immediately. Whatever you do, don’t rub your eyes after handling chilies.