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Different Types of Chili Peppers

Pushpa Duddukuri Mar 17, 2020
This post might be just too hot for you, as it not only contains the hottest chilies known, but it will also guide you through the commonly used chili peppers. So keep a gallon of ice water in front of you before eating these chilies which can easily blaze your tongue!
Chili can easily instill fear even in the bravest of the brave. It is definitely not for feeble-minded people. You must have seen different chili pepper varieties while strolling in the market.
But did you ever stop and wonder, how different are these chilies from each other? Did you ever try to have different types of chilies in your food just for the sake of getting a kick out of experimenting? Know your chilies before you go in the unchartered territory of culinary experience.
Capsicum, known to us as chili pepper, is indigenous to America. It was a serendipity of Christopher Columbus, who misidentified chili as black pepper from India. Thus, the name got stuck to chili and now we call this wonderfully fiery fruit as chili pepper. However, technically it is considered as one of the types of berries.
The fiery or sharp taste is attributed to a chemical component called capsaicin, which stimulates the skin membrane with sensation of 'pain' or 'hotness'. The more capsaicin, the hotter it tastes. A scientist called Wilbur Scoville devised a scale called Scoville Organoleptic Test to measure the amount of capsaicin in chili, rating its sharpness or hotness.
There are many different types of chili peppers available in the market, some grown in your own country, while others have to be imported. Chilies are named after the places they come from. In vegetable markets, you can easily find its vibrant and colorful varieties.


Hailing from the Mexican heartland, serrano pepper is generally 1-2 inches long and fleshy to eat. Raw serrano is green in color. Later on, it changes its hue to shades of orange and red.
Mostly used in salsa and sauces, serrano is almost a look-alike of jalapeno chili. Usually used in condiment with tomatoes, onions, etc., this chili is quite popular in Mexican cuisine. It's not good for drying due to its fleshy meat.


This chili was wrongly accredited to China and hence, it is called the Chinese pepper as well. The actual, habanero, is derived from 'Havana', where it was commonly traded. It comes in different colors like green, red, orange, white and even pink.
Though only up to two and half inches in length, it can literally put your tongue on fire. It is mainly preferred by Yucatan people of Mexico for preparing hot sauces and other spicy foods. Habanero is also used in making spicy alcoholic drink.


Also known as ancho chili when they are dried, pablano is heart-shaped chili. Because of its roundness and meat, it is usually used for stuffing. Its color is blackish green, though on maturity it turns darkish red.
This Mexican chili is hardly hot and used extensively in Mexican cuisine. The origins of this chili pepper lies in the state of Puebla, Mexico and hence the name. It can be preserved through canning and freezing and used for months.


This cylindrical shaped chili is green in color, though after ripening it turns red. Many people love to eat jalapeno, as it has just the right amount of hotness. Another Mexican gift to the world, its name is derived from the Xalapa of Mexico.
Some people believe that jalapeno is quite hot. However, that is not the entire truth. The hotness of this chili depends on the preparation of the dish. If you remove the seeds and veins, this chili becomes mild on the tongue.


Cayenne originated from French Guiana, and is also named as bird pepper. The most common use of cayenne is in the form of spices which is prepared through drying and powdering of the cayenne seeds and skin.
Long and slender, it is mostly green and red in color. This chili is quite nutritious as it contains vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, riboflavin etc. Therefore, it's no wonder that this chili is used as a medicinal herb for curing many health issues.


Named after Anaheim city of California, anaheim is hardly fiery and easily edible in the raw form. The cone-shaped chili is commonly called New Mexico chili or California chili.
Upon drying, it gets a darkish brown color. When steamed or charred, the skin of this chili peels off and then it can be used in sauces, soups and casseroles after pureeing or chopping. This chili can also be used for stuff.

Bird's Eye Chili

It is very fiery in taste and petite in size. It's hardly 1 inch long, but can be used in many non-veg dishes and sea foods to make them delectable.
This chili is believed to have therapeutic properties and consumed as a cure for upset stomach, toothache, etc. Though it's also called Thai chili and used commonly in South-Asian cuisine, the origin of this pungent chili can be traced back to Mexico. The leaves of this chili plant are also used as a vegetable.

Yellow Wax

Yellow or Hungarian wax chili is large, and as the name suggests, yellow in color. However, it matures into orange-red color. It looks similar to banana chili and is often misidentified by people.
Very popular as a garden chili, it is pickled and also used in salsa, salads, sandwiches, etc. It is medium hot in taste. Yellow wax pepper is about 3 to 5 inches long and quite meaty which makes it good for cooking.

Bell Peppers

It is a group of chili pepper varieties which are roundly shaped. They come in varied sizes and colors like red, green, red, orange, yellow, purple, brown and black.
They are not considered hot, whereas some of them are even sweet in taste, as they contain little or no capsaicin. Red bell pepper is the sweetest compared to other bell peppers and contains more nutrients too. Green pepper is the least sweet among them. China leads in producing these types of bell peppers and a close second is Mexico.

Scotch Bonnet

It is quite popular in Caribbean cuisine as it is mainly grown in Caribbean Islands along with Guyana and Maldives Islands. This plant grows best in tropical climate and usually found in red, orange and yellow color.
It's flavor resembles habanero pepper and both can substitute each other in cooking. The sauce of this pepper is used worldwide for seasoning meat and fish. The 'heat' of this pepper can be reduced by removing the seeds and the ribs inside it.

Naga Jolokia Pepper

After competing with scotch bonnet, naga jolokia won to be crowned as the world's hottest chili. It is grown in the Assam region of India and named as ghost pepper or king cobra pepper by the native people due to its fiery taste.
It is believed to be one million times hotter than the bell peppers which hardly contain any capsaicin. So are you game to try the hottest chili in the world? Well, some poor souls have and for at least 30 minutes, they were completely stricken by pain. Take upon this task, only if your daredevilry and foolhardy nature compels you.

Fresno Pepper

Very similar to jalapeno in looks, this chili is considered a lot hotter. It's red in color when ripe. Due to its thin skin, it is consumed widely in the form of sauce and also used in salsa.
However, it's not good for drying, so it's hardly a preferred choice for chili powders. The flavor of this pepper is quite similar to red bell's with a lot of hotness. Native to South America, this chili is conically shaped and has a glossy skin.


It is a small type of pepper which is 4 to 5 inches long and called guajillo after drying. Its color is orange-red and has an intense flavor which is maintained even after drying.
The word "Mirasol" is derived from Spanish language which translates into "looking at the sun". This is a reference to the erect fruit pod which faces the sun. Guajillo is used to make flavorful sauce and chicken dishes.

Hatch Chili Pepper

These chilies are an umbrella term for all the chilies which are grown in Hatch, New Mexico a.k.a Chili Capital of the World. These chilies are considered to be the best in the United States.
Similar to aneheim, these chilies are long as well as curved shaped and used in cooking after roasting or drying. Good for stuffed dishes, these chilies have a great aroma when they are uncooked.


This chili is in the shape of a cone and is often used in cooking after powdering it. Native to Hungary, it is up to 8 inches long and used by Americans more for adding color to the dishes than for its actual flavor.
However in some parts of the world, the flavor of this chili is quite revered. There are six types of paprika pepper in Hungary. Out of which, tomato pepper is quite sweet. Paprika powder is quite popular in cooking and is often made from many mild peppers.


This chili is not dry from inside unlike other chilies. Moreover, tabasco plant grows straight whereas most other chili pods hang from the branches.
Another native to Mexico, this chili is widely grown in Tabasco and hence the name. A hot sauce product named Tabasco sauce is also quite famous and is prepared with tabasco peppers along with vinegar and white oak.

Chili Pequin

Also known as bird pepper, a chili pequin is loved by all kinds of birds. It is both fiery and tiny, making it ideal for pickles. It is indigenous to Mexico and has an elongated oval shape.
Its nutty and citrous-like flavor is responsible for its usage as liquid hot pepper seasoning agent. Pequin plants are suited to grow in any kind of climate, being both heat and drought tolerant.


Native to Pakistan, it resembles scotch bonnet and is small and also fiery in taste. However, it's not related to scotch bonnet and is significantly milder too. It is powdered and used as a spice. It is also used as parrot food (birds can't taste the hotness of the pepper).
Now that you are aware of the different peppers, next time you go to the supermarket you can easily pick out the kind of chili you want to use in your cooking.