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Top 15 Hottest Peppers In The World
9 min

Top 15 Hottest Peppers In The World (2021 Edition)

9 min

How does a chilli become the hottest in the world? We take a look at the 15 most potent peppers you'll want to get your hands on—or perhaps avoid, depending on how well you can handle the heat! We cover the difference between the Carolina Reaper, the Ghost Pepper, and more using the handy Scoville heat unit measurement system. Take a look.

The title of the world's hottest pepper is one that has been highly sought after for many years. At this point, you'd think we'd have seen all there is to see with chillies. However, the release of novel hybrids ensures that new peppers are always competing for that top spot.

Of course, everyone's version of “spicy” differs, so how is a chilli dubbed the hottest in the world? Simple, by using the Scoville heat units (SHU) measuring system. Created and named after American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, this method uses sugar water to dilute the heat of the chilli until no spice can be detected from a panel of testers. It is these units that are then recorded, allowing the hottest pepper to be officially confirmed.

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Top 15 Hottest Peppers in the World

We've tracked down the top 15 hottest peppers available in the world today. The following chillies have been officially recognised by the Guinness Book of Records for their scorching heat levels. However, we've also found a couple newcomers waiting in the wings to make their spicy mark on future lists. So if you're a heat thrill-seeker or just have a curiosity for all things hot, check out our list, and maybe give a few of them a try—if you can handle it, of course!

1. Carolina Reaper — 2,200,000 SHU

Hottest Peppers: Carolina Reaper

With up to a whopping 2,200,000 SHU, the Carolina Reaper is top of the heap when it comes to heat. Developed by American chilli breeder Ed Currie in South Carolina, this pepper is characterised by its red, wrinkled appearance and tapered tail. As of 2013, the Carolina Reaper has been officially classified as the world's hottest chilli, and very few have come close since. Because of its fame (or infamy), this is also a hugely popular pepper to grow at home.

Given its, quite frankly, insane SHU, the Carolina Reaper is often favoured by those looking to really push the limits of what they can handle. Appearing in plenty of hot sauces, and even challenges such as eating a singular tortilla chip coated in a powdered form of Carolina Reaper, it only takes a quick YouTube search to see the devastating (but often hilarious) results of what this pepper can do. So if you're thinking of tackling this one, best exercise some extreme caution.

2. Komodo Dragon — 2,200,000 SHU

Hottest Peppers: Komodo Dragon

Similar to the Carolina Reaper, the Komodo Dragon can also clock in with a massive 2,200,000 Scoville heat units. That is roughly 880 times hotter than a jalapeño, just for reference. Developed in Blunham, United Kingdom, the Komodo Dragon pepper shares a similar look to the Carolina Reaper, with a bright red exterior, but it’s a little smoother than the aforementioned chilli. However, it still has that pointed tail that is alluring as it is intimidating.

Considering how many Scoville heat units this chilli can reach, you might be thinking that one taste of the Komodo Dragon would instantly have you sweating. In fact, this is a very fruity and flavourful pepper. Those who have tried it often describe an initial sweet, fruity, and spicy taste. However, it's after around 10 seconds that the Komodo Dragon will unleash its true heat. Proceed with caution!

3. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion — 2,000,000 SHU

Hottest Peppers: Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

Native to the small village of Moruga in Trinidad and Tobago, and bred by local chilli connoisseur Wahid Ogeer, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion is another hyper-potent pepper on our list. With the ability to reach around 2,000,000 SHU, it was recognised as the world's hottest pepper in 2012 by New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute, until the mighty Carolina Reaper dethroned it. The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion has a plump yet wrinkled, red appearance. With a sweet, fruity flavour, it can take a little while for the spice to warm your mouth.

This chilli is often favoured by those looking to make chilli jam or add a sweet and hot kick to dishes. Although placed at number three on our list, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion still brings the heat. It is advised that those cutting and handling this pepper should wear gloves to protect themselves from any potential burn (especially before using the bathroom).

4. Chocolate Bhutlah — 2,000,000 SHU

Hottest Peppers: Chocolate Bhutlah

Don't be fooled by the name of this chilli; you won't be popping these into your mouth like your favourite bonbons. Called the Chocolate Bhutlah, this fiery friend does have a similar colour to cocoa, but with a potential 2,000,000 SHU, it's a force to be reckoned with. Unlike some peppers on our list, this one is fast-acting and instantly heats the mouth as soon as you bite into it. And once the heat hits, it's going to be there for a while, so it might be worth having some milk, yoghurt, or ice cream to hand to try and put out this fire as soon as it gets going.

Because of its instant and relentless heat, the Chocolate Bhutlah is often included in scorching sauces. Just a drop or two is enough to take your dish to the next level (and beyond)—so use sparingly, and you'll be in for a spicy treat.

5. 7 Pot Douglah — 1,853,986 SHU

Hottest Peppers: 7 Pot Douglah

From Trinidad hails the 7 Pot Douglah, which features a chocolate-brown exterior much like the Chocolate Bhutlah. However, the 7 Pot Douglah begins life with green skin and eventually becomes a darker brown as it matures. But it's certainly not unusual to see examples of this pepper with mixed colours and rough skin. It has a similar shape to a small, wrinkled bell pepper, but is definitely much more potent. With a possible 1,853,986 SHU in its arsenal, this chilli isn't playing around.

The name “7 Pot” is in reference to this pepper’s ability to add heat to 7 pots of stew. So a little definitely goes a long way with this one. But it's not all brawn with the 7 Pot Douglah. Its flavour is often described as sweet, earthy, and nutty before the ensuing heat takes over. It's also worth noting that the oils released by the skin of this pepper are enough to cause some serious chilli burn. So take care and prepare with gloves and goggles.

6. Dorset Naga — 1,598,227 SHU

Hottest Peppers: Dorset Naga

Cultivated in the south coast county of Dorset, United Kingdom, the Dorset Naga is the brainchild of Joy and Michael Michaud. They found the exotic Naga Morich plant in a local shop and aimed to create their own special variant. Boasting a potential 1,598,227 SHU, it's safe to say they succeeded. The resulting chilli has become hugely popular in its native country, and around the world, for some great reasons.

The Dorset Naga has a wrinkled appearance and starts life green, ultimately maturing into a deep red to let you know it's ready. It has a sweet taste backed up with slightly floral notes; however, the heat effortlessly cuts through to provide a bit of a sweat. Since its arrival, the Dorset Naga has been a primary ingredient in many a hot sauce, and has found its way into all sorts of dishes, local and otherwise.

7. Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” — 1,463,700 SHU

Hottest Peppers: Trinidad Scorpion Butch T

Back in 2011, “Butch T” took the top spot on the hottest peppers in the world list. And while it's fallen in the rankings since then, it's still a feisty and fiery chilli. With up to 1,463,700 Scoville heat units, the “Butch T” brings an estimated 585 times more heat than the average jalapeño. It has a unique look with a large, top-heavy red body that tapers into a fine point—similar in appearance to that of a spinning top.

However, “Butch T” isn’t playing any games. While there is a sweetness to be found in the flavour, much like the other Trinidad Scorpion varieties, it provides a super-hot experience for spicy thrill-seekers. It's not uncommon to find “Butch T” in a variety of hot sauces. However, it is often favoured as a powder to be added to Mexican and Indian dishes for maximum potency.

8. Naga Viper — 1,382,118 SHU

Hottest Peppers: Naga Viper

Ready to strike, the Naga Viper is the (not-so) deadly combination of three heavy-hitting peppers. With some fine-tuning of genetics, the Naga Viper has parentage in the form of Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Ghost Pepper, and Naga Morich. This makes for a triple-threat chilli that can reach SHU heights of 1,382,118—certainly nothing to be scoffed at! The Naga Viper has a wrinkled red look that can manifest in a variety of shapes. Some have an elongated appearance with a fine point at the end, while others take on a more stout approach. One thing's for sure; when it's red, it's mature and ready to go.

This is one tangy and tasty chilli. It is extremely hot and should be treated with the appropriate level of caution. Less is most definitely more when it comes to this one. The Naga Viper is the preferred choice for those looking to make hot marinades and spicy rubs for meat.

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9. 7 Pot Brain Strain — 1,350,000 SHU

Hottest Peppers: 7 Pot Brain Strain

While it might sound like a work-related injury, the 7 Pot Brain Strain can most certainly bring the hurt when it wants to. However, its name comes from its unique look. This chilli is cultivated to have a brain-like appearance, which could serve as a hint for those with more sense not to try this pepper. With up to 1,350,000 Scoville units, renowned chilli grower David Capiello opted for spice and sweetness, both of which it highlights flawlessly.

Much like other 7 Pot varieties, one of these chillies is said to be enough to power up to 7 pots of stew, providing insane heat with every spoonful. However, it's not just soup it's good for; this is a highly sought-after chilli for hot sauces too. The 7 Pot Brain Strain is not a commonly found pepper, especially fresh, so it is often the focus of many avid chilli growers’ home projects. With a distinct look, great flavour, and, of course, exceptional heat, it's not hard to see why.

10. 7 Pot Barrackpore — 1,300,000 SHU

Hottest Peppers: 7 Pot Barrackpore

From the town of Barrackpore, located in southern Trinidad and Tobago, the 7 Pot Barrackpore bears a red, fleshy appearance culminating in a pointy end, which could almost serve as a warning. In short, it looks mean. With the potential to be 520 times hotter than the average jalapeño, the 7 Pot Barrackpore provides a SHU of anywhere up to 1,300,000, which is bound to blow many away when they get their hands on it.

Leaning toward a much more bitter taste, this is a savoury pepper with very little sweetness going for it. However, it works as a superb ingredient in hot salsas and sauces. The 7 Pot Barrackpore is definitely a rare one on our list, with it being quite hard to find in food shops. Many have taken to growing this one at home to produce their own supply.

11. 7 Pot Primo — 1,268,250 SHU

Hottest Peppers: 7 Pot Primo

At this point on our list, you might assume the peppers would start getting much weaker. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The 7 Pot Primo is an ultra-hot hybrid chilli created by crossing the original 7 Pot Pepper with the notorious Naga Morich. The result is around 500 times hotter than a jalapeño. With a SHU of around 1,268,250, that's surely enough to back up claims of it being a force to be reckoned with.

With a stubby appearance accented by a sharp-looking point, the 7 Pot Primo can take on a look similar to a raspberry at first glance. Featuring bumpy and rough skin, upon closer inspection (and taste), it's anything but a refreshing summer fruit. This pepper packs a punch, but it also has some sweet, citrusy, and even floral notes that make it unique. With “primo” defined as "of top quality and importance", this chilli effortlessly ticks plenty of boxes on the checklist of serious chilli aficionados.

12. Infinity Pepper — 1,250,000 SHU

Hottest Peppers: Infinity Pepper

They say love is forever, but the heat from the Infinity Pepper is close behind. This potent pepper provides a super-hot sensation that's long-lasting and certainly not for the faint of heart. With a potential 1,250,000 Scoville heat units at its disposal, this is one mean chilli. However, the warning signs are there. With wrinkled, rough skin and a bright red colour, this pepper communicates caution without you even needing to take a bite.

Once you do, though, it will provide a juicy and fruity flavour followed closely by a dynamic, seemingly never-ending barrage of spice. The Infinity Pepper was a one-time champion of the hottest pepper in the world—for two weeks—until it was dethroned. Nowadays, it's a tricky chilli to get your hands on, especially fresh. However, there are some dedicated seed shops that can help you on your way to growing this monster at home.

13. Trinidad 7 Pot — 1,200,000 SHU

Hottest Peppers: Trinidad 7 Pot

As one of the hottest chillies in the world, the Trinidad 7 Pot is a deceptively spicy addition to our list. Now that's not to say that it doesn't bring the heat, but let's just say, never judge a book by its cover. This pepper looks more like a habanero than the 1,200,000-SHU powerhouse it is. This has led to many trying this plump pepper thinking they're getting the habanero's more palatable 100,000 SHU—they very quickly realise that's not the case. That's not to discredit the sweet flavour and superb heat, but it's definitely a different experience compared to much milder peppers.

Although not a commonly enjoyed pepper, the Trinidad 7 Pot is often found as part of more extreme challenges among chilli daredevils and competitive eaters. It can also be used in a wide variety of hot sauces to effortlessly bring the heat.

14. 7 Pot Jonah — 1,200,000 SHU

Hottest Peppers: 7 Pot Jonah

The 7 Pot Jonah shares a lot in common with the Trinidad 7 Pot. Both feature a wrinkled and plump appearance, as well as a SHU rating of 1,200,000. However, the 7 Pot Jonah is a sweet-tasting pepper that, while hot, is very flavourful. For this reason, it is used in many hot sauces, salsas, and spice rubs. Don't worry, it still delivers the heat, just in a much more gradual way compared to some other super-hot chillies.

When it comes to finding the 7 Pot Jonah fresh, it can be a little tricky. It's not a commonly grown pepper, and you'll almost certainly struggle to find it in a shop. However, there are seed shops online that stock the 7 Pot Jonah for you to grow at home.

15. Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia) — 1,041,427 SHU

Hottest Peppers: Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia)

Although last on our list, the Ghost Pepper was actually at the top back in 2007, when it took the world's hottest chilli title. Originating in India and known as bhut jolokia, this pepper offers up a SHU of around 1,041,427, still packing some major heat. With a scorching red exterior that's wrinkled and sometimes lumpy, the Ghost Pepper is often seen as a rite of passage for many chilli connoisseurs, and certainly viewed as “the next step” when moving on from the jalapeño and habanero through the hot pepper ranks.

Because of its fame, it is an extremely easy pepper to come across, with major supermarkets often stocking it fresh. The Ghost Pepper is frequently used in Mexican and Indian cuisine as a way to add a superb kick that is certainly more than enough to warm things up.

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Potential New Contenders for Hottest Pepper in the World

Potential New Contenders for Hottest Pepper in the World

As you can see, the list above represents the top 15 hottest chillies available today. However, you may have noticed that the position of some of these chillies has changed over the years. What was once the hottest pepper in the world now makes way for something even more fierce. So there is quite some competition between hot peppers today. At present, there are additional varieties with insane SHU ratings that are just waiting to be made official so they can top the chart. Let's take a look at a couple chillies waiting in the wings.

Pepper X — 3,180,000 SHU (Unofficial)

Obviously not content with being top of the list already, Carolina Reaper creator Ed Currie created Pepper X. With an ominous name and a potentially huge 3,180,000 Scoville heat units, Currie states that it's “two times as hot as the Carolina Reaper”. This is a pepper primed to blow everyone away that's lucky (or unlucky) enough to try it. With a small, wrinkled, green, generally unassuming appearance, Pepper X was developed and fine-tuned over the course of more than 10 years. Often found in extremely hot sauces and tortilla chip challenges, Pepper X is carving a name out for itself as the new (unofficial) hottest pepper in the world.

Dragon's Breath — 2,480,000 SHU (Unofficial)

With an estimated 280,000 SHU more than the Carolina Reaper, Dragon's Breath is set to take the title of hottest pepper should Pepper X not be able to make it. This tiny, mean-looking pepper is the stuff of dreams or nightmares, depending on how you like your spice. There are even studies by Nottingham Trent University into the effectiveness of using natural oils from Dragon's Breath in clinical settings. Let's just say that Dragon's Breath isn't playing around. And with a name like that, what else would you expect other than an insanely spicy burn?

Pick Out Your Hot Pepper Partner Today

Pick Out Your Hot Pepper Partner Today

With so many chilli peppers on our list, we're sure by now you've made your own list of ones to try (or avoid). Just be sure to try them in moderation and proceed with caution, and you'll be absolutely fine. However, it's one thing to source them fresh from shops, but have you considered growing your own at home? You'd be surprised to learn just how easy it is to do.

Zamnesia

Written by: Zamnesia
Zamnesia has spent years honing its products, ranges, and knowledge of all things psychedelic. Driven by the spirit of Zammi, Zamnesia strives to bring you accurate, factual, and informative content.

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