People are obsessed with hot food these days. No, we don’t mean hot as in straight out of the oven, but hot in taste. The hot sauce business is in overdrive as regular folk’s appetite for a spicy kick to their meals continues to rise. There’s no real reason why people are obsessed with chowing down on the hottest pepper in the world, but there are a few factors that may have had an influence.
While it often comes down to science, pop culture has also played a role. Shows like Hot Ones, where celebrity guests are interviewed while eating chicken wings doused in varying hot sauces, have helped the hot sauce industry become a force. Adding hot peppers to a meal or splashing a dollop of hot sauce is the norm now. People are more open to trying other food from other cultures, with hot peppers and sauce becoming more widely used by your everyday Joe at home.
Then there are pepper creators who are continually coming up with hotter breeds of chillis for people to try. Many chili growers are crafting these tongue-numbing peppers for the dedicated chili lovers who want to push their tastebuds to the extreme. Others are just aiming to break the record for the hottest pepper in hopes of making the Guinness Book of Records.
So how do you know if a pepper is hot? You refer to the Scoville scale.
What Is the Scoville Scale?
The Scoville Scale is a way of measuring just how hot and spicy a pepper really is. It calculates the amount of capsaicin (the chemical compound that causes spicy heat) in a pepper and assigns it a number to determine just how hot it is.
It was invented by American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville way back in 1912. His early version of the test involved mixing capsaicin oil from a pepper with a solution of sugar water. Scoville would then slowly dilute the solution after each had been tasted until there was no longer any heat. He then gave each pepper a numerical value based on the number of times he had to dilute the solution. So a pepper with a Scoville rating of 100,000 has been tested 100,000 times before it was no longer hot.
Science has advanced over the years and the pungency of peppers is now determined using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). While this method doesn’t give a numbered rating, a formula has been created that allows for the Scoville Scale to still be used when assigning the heat of a pepper.
So What is the Hottest Pepper in the World?
While you have probably heard of the Carolina Reaper, a pepper widely regarded as the hottest chili on the planet, its hold on the title isn’t as strong as once thought. The Carolina Reaper pepper was declared the world’s hottest pepper by Guinness World Records in 2017, but that has been disputed since then.
Many other chili growers have produced significantly hotter peppers without gaining recognition. Some of the world’s other hottest peppers include the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, the Naga Morich, the Ghost Pepper, the Komodo Dragon, and the 7 Pot Barrackpore Pepper.
It’s rumored amongst the chili-growing fraternity that Guinness doesn’t want to keep awarding new records in case it diminishes the award. The heat and strength of chilis continue to change at an alarming rate, with a new variant claiming to be hotter than the last seemingly appearing every few months.
Despite Guinness’ stance, we are including hotter chilies not sanctioned by the record books. Some of these peppers will have you skulling milk and never wanting to eat another chili in your life. So without further ado, here are the 11 hottest peppers in the world.
12. Ghost Pepper (Bhut Jolokia) – 1,041,427 SHU
The Bhut Jolokia pepper is often known as the Ghost Pepper. It topped the Red Savina Habanero in 2006 and was awarded the Guinness World Record for the hottest pepper in the world. Of course, it is nowhere near the level of heat of the top chilis created over the past decade but it still commands a presence on this list.
It became well known after someone ate an entire Ghost Pepper on YouTube and it blew up. Cultivated in India, it is a hybrid of many different chilis. They come in a variety of different colors but are all the same wrinkle shape. They are great for cooking, with many Indians using them in curries to add an extra kick.
11. New Mexico Scorpion – 1,191,595 SHU
The New Mexico Scorpion is one of the hottest chilis from the New Mexico range of peppers. These peppers are generally not very hot and are used in everyday cooking by Mexican locals. The New Mexico Scorpion was discovered by National Fiery Foods Show producer Dave DeWitt, chemical engineer Marlin Bensinger, and chili grower Jim Duffy.
They had the pepper tested independently by Analytical Foods Laboratory, which found the New Mexico Scorpion has a Scoville Heat Unit of 1,191,595.
10. Naga Viper – 1,382,118 SHU
Long before the Carolina Reaper was classed as the hottest pepper in the world by the Guinness Book of Records, that title was held by the Naga Viper. This exceptionally hot red pepper comes from England. It was created by chili farmer Gerald Fowler of The Chilli Pepper Company.
He created this ghastly pepper by combining the Naga Morich, the Bhut Jolokia (also known as the Ghost Pepper), and the Trinidad Scorpion. These are three of the hottest peppers on the market, so there’s no surprise it ended up on this list.
It’s a great chili to start with if you are just beginning your journey eating hot peppers. Obviously, there are peppers with much less heat, but this is still a great way to kick things off. If you are keen on growing your own, you can purchase Naga Viper seeds for just $4.20 online. Give it a go and see if you can handle the heat.
9. Trinidad Scorpion Butch T – 1,463,700 SHU
Butch Taylor, the man behind Zydeco Hot Sauce, is the mastermind of this heat-seeking chili. Grown by the Chilli Factory down in Australia, this pepper is classified as “super hot” and is a real bum burner. It once held the Guinness record for the hottest chili in the world for three years before being dethroned by the Naga Viper.
This chili pepper is very red in color with a roundish shape. It gets the name “scorpion” because the tip of the pepper resembles a scorpion’s tale and “Butch T” after its creator. It might not have as much heat as some of the peppers on this list, but it’s still recognized as a real spicy pepper.
8. 7 Pot Primo – 1,473,480 SHU
When it comes to hot peppers, 7 Pot peppers are always part of the conversation. These peppers come from Trinidad and are well known and loved by chili aficionados. The 7 Pot Primo was created by horticulturist Troy Primeaux, who goes by the nickname Primo, hence why this particular pepper is known as the 7 Pot Primo.
Primeaux created this hot pepper by combining a Naga Morich pepper with a Trinidad 7 Pot pepper. The result is a super hot pepper with a Scoville Heat Unit of 1,473,480. Although not as hot as the famous Carolina Reaper, the 7 pot Primo has a similar taste to the record-setting chili.
7. Dorset Naga Pepper – 1,500,00 SHU
This super hot pepper is a versatile pepper that can be eaten by itself or used in everyday cooking for those who want to add a little something something to their meals. English couple Joy and Michael Michaud of Peppers by Post are the dup responsible for creating this famous pepper. They purchased a Naga Morich planet from a local store. Over the years they mixed the seeds of the pepper plant with those of other fruits to come up with the Dorset Naga Pepper, named so because the two live near the English county of Dorset.
The Dorset Naga Pepper is very different from the original Bangladesh version in terms of shape and texture. It’s also much hotter, with a Scoville Heat Unit rating of 1,500,000.
6. 7 Pot Douglah – 1,853l 936 SHU
The 7 Pot Douglah is one of the hottest variants of the 7 Pop Pepper range of peppers. Not only is it one of the hottest peppers on the planet, but it is regarded as the hottest pepper that isn’t red. While it starts off green, it turns brown as it matures. The brown color and shape of the chili often make people think of a prune. But don’t let that fool you. This pepper means business.
The 7 Pot Douglah has many different names, including Chocolate 7 Pod and the 7 Pot Brown. Like most peppers, it has a fruity taste that lingers long after the pepper is devoured.
5. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion – 2,009,231 SHU
Before the Carolina Reaper pepper claimed the Guinness World Record for the hottest pepper in the world, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper held that honor. This firey pepper was announced as the world’s hottest by the New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute in 2012. It originates near the village of Moruga in Trinidad and Tobago and has a sweet flavor that combines well with the heat of the pepper.
Director of the Chile Pepper Institue, Paul Bosland, told the Associated Press; “You take a bite. It doesn’t seem so bad, and then it builds and it builds and it builds. So it is quite nasty.” It might not be the hottest chili, but the Trinidad Scorpion is still one pepper that will cause havoc once it hits your stomach.
4. Carolina Reaper – 2,200,000 SHU
The pepper officially recognized by Guinness World Records as the hottest pepper in the world, the Carolina Reaper pepper is an icon amongst peppers. Officially recorded at 1,569,383 Scoville Heat Units by Guinness, recent tests have shown a SHU of 2,200,000. That’s 200 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper!
This deadly pepper was invented by pepper king Ed Currie. He mated a Pakistani Naga with a Red Habanero type from St Vincents Island in the West Indies to produce this tasty treat. If you ever attend hot pepper eating competitions, the Carolina Reaper pepper always features, often as the final hurdle for contents to pass.
3. Dragon’s Breath Pepper – 2,480,000 SHU
This super hot pepper is the brainchild of chili farmer Neal Price, Nottingham Trent University, and NPK Technology. The three got together to try and created a skin anesthetic using the capsaicin procured by the pepper. It was later cultivated by Welsh chili breeder Mike Smith who was trying to grow an attractive pepper plant to enter in a competition. He ended up crafting one of the world’s hottest peppers that he named the Dragon’s Breath Pepper after the Welsh dragon.
The third hottest pepper in the world has a SHU of 2,480,000 and is sure to cause serious damage to those not used to eating peppers.
2. Apollo Pepper – 3,000,000 SHU
Another Ed Currie creation, Apollo Pepper will blow your minds. The pepper made its debut as a hot sauce on the 14th season of the famed interview program Hot Ones. It’s the 10th sauce used on the program, which is used as the “Last Dab.”
A collaboration between Currie and Hot Ones, the pepper is a hybrid of the Carolina Reaper and the Pepper X, two of the hottest peppers on the planet. The result is an eye-watering pepper unlike anything you’ll ever try. The sauce is made of just four ingredients; Apollo Pepper, distilled vinegar, Apollo Pepper powder, and Apollo Pepper distillate. It combines the fruity flavor of the Carolina Reaper with the earthy tinge of the Pepper X. This one is only for those with a strong stomach.
1. Pepper X – 3,180,000 SHU
The unofficial hottest pepper in the world goes by the name Pepper X. This fire-burning pepper comes from the mad mind of Ed Currie, the man responsible for the world record-holding Carolina Reaper. Currie came up with this heat-seeking missile of a chili by crossing multiple variants of extremely hot peppers. It is said to have recorded a score of 3.18 million on the Scoville Heat Unit. Trying this hot pepper is likely to have you running to the bathroom and shooting fire out of your ass.
If you think you can handle this heatwave, Heatonist has released The Classic Hot Sauce: Pepper X Edition. This 5 oz bottle of chili sauce is only for those who are true pepper lovers. Heatonist describes it as “a powerful slow-building burn combines with tart apple cider vinegar, garlic, and turmeric for a craveable heater you can throw on anything.” Yummy!