We’re not talking jalapenos here, folks.
These peppers are so spicy that they’re dangerous, with many professionals agreeing that eating them is generally a bad idea. Nevertheless, there’s something fascinating about peppers spicy enough to burn a hole in your stomach. While we’d caution against actually eating these vegetables, stick around for a minute and indulge your curiosity.
The SHU heat rating
Before we begin, it’s important to note how these peppers are measured against one another. The SHU, or Scoville Heat Unit, is how researchers and growers measure the spiciness of a pepper. This rating measures capsaicin levels—the chemical that gives spicy peppers their heat. The higher the SHU, the hotter it is.
Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia)
That’s right—the fabled Ghost Pepper is actually the least spicy pepper on this list.
The Ghost Pepper is notorious as being one of the hottest peppers in the world, largely due to the massive amount of press it received when it was created. As the first pepper to break one million Scoville units, it was a pretty big deal at the time, and it was many people’s first introduction to the world of hot peppers.
But growers are always pushing the boundaries, and these days, the old Ghost Pepper falls short.
Hailing from England and earning the “World’s Hottest Chili” title in 2011, the Naga Viper is a fiendish pepper hybrid that crosses the Naga Morich, the Ghost Pepper, and the Trinidad Scorpion. Testing around 1,382,000 SHUs, the Naga Viper is certainly potent—but you might have a hard time finding it.
Most of these super-spicy peppers are made through cross-breeding other varieties, and for a new pepper breed to be considered “stable,” it must be grown out through eight generations. The Naga Viper hasn’t yet met that standard, so there’s still a lot of variation in pepper color, flavor, and heat.
The Komodo Dragon chili is as fierce as its namesake, featuring a fearsome 1,400,000 SHUs. This is another pepper that originated in England, and it actually became popular enough to earn a place in the Tesco grocery chain’s rotation for a while. Maybe it’s because of the Komodo’s soft side: The pepper has a sweet, fruity flavor that tickles the tongue for a few seconds before the heat kicks in. At least that’s what we’ve heard. We’re not about to try it.
Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T”
And in this corner, weighing in at 1,463,700 SHUs, we have the 2011 world record holder for hottest chili pepper: The Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T.” Named for its creator (Butch Taylor) and for the pepper’s distinctive scorpion-like tail, this pepper is a monster.
It might be less fashionable these days in light of all the newer peppers that have entered the market, but it’s still one of the 10 hottest peppers in the world.
7 Pot Douglah
The 7 Pot Douglah, aside from being one of the hottest peppers on earth, features a few interesting characteristics that set it apart from others on this list. Most “superhot” peppers are similar shades of red, but the 7 Pot is the only one that’s brown, with a distinct pitted appearance that looks a bit like a dried plum.
Just don’t mix up the two the next time you’re making a fruit cake for grandma—the 7 Pot Douglah scores a scorching 1,853,936 SHUs.
From Trinidad and Tabago comes this devil-pepper, this fiery beast, appropriately dubbed the Trinidad Morunga Scorpion. With a SHU of two million, the Morunga is twice as hot as a Ghost Pepper and possibly hundreds of times hotter than a jalapeno. All this heat comes from the unusually high amount of pepper placenta—the inner tissues that hold capsaicin oil.
While this isn’t technically the hottest pepper on this list, if you bit into one, we’re guessing the difference would be negligible.
These names are great, aren’t they? Reaper … Scorpion … Viper … Dragon … It’s almost like they’re warning you to stay away! No pepper proves this better than the Carolina Reaper. Search “hottest pepper in the world” and what do you get? Carolina Reaper. There’s no question.
Earning the top spot as hottest chili in the world in 2018, the Reaper has a blistering SHU of 2.2 million and outscores every other scorpion, viper, and dragon on this list. This pepper is a true freak of nature, crossing a red habanero and a ghost pepper and featuring heat levels up to 200 times that of a jalapeno.
We can’t recommend that you try it—or that anyone tries it—but if you’re looking for the hottest pepper on planet Earth, the Reaper takes the crown.