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How Hot are the World's Hottest Peppers?

Where do the world's hottest chili peppers come from?

For a while there, it was India and Bangladesh, home of the ghost pepper (bhut jolokia). Back in 2007, the Guinness Book of World Records declared the ghost chili pepper to be the hottest in existence: The Scoville scale of pepper heat measures its spiciness at more than 1 million heat units.

The ghost pepper was unseated by a Caribbean chili in 2012, when the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper (1.2 million Scoville heat units) was named the worlds hottest by the Chili Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University.

The following year, for the first time, an American pepper took the title when the Carolina Reaper made the Guinness Book. Developed by a South Carolina grower, the hottest Carolina Reapers measured a flaming 2.2 million Scoville units.

How hot are these peppers?

Ghost pepper: "When you eat just one, it's like dying; it's so hot you can't imagine," said one farmer who grows the crop.

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper: "Imagine chewing an entire jalapeño pepper at once. Now multiply that by 400." (hellawella.com).

Carolina Reaper: "It takes you to the depths of chile pepper hell," writes Dan Myers for USAToday.

What makes them so spicy? A substance called capsaicin, which in its pure form is rated at more than 15 times the Scoville units of the ghost pepper. That's really hot.

But while you wouldn't eat pure capsaicin, its presence in hot peppers can produce an almost euphoric "endorphin high" in people who eat them. That's because the body reacts to the peppers extreme heat by blocking the pain with brain chemicals called endorphins.

"I feel really good after all the pain and craziness," one hot-chili aficionado told ABC News.

Drug-makers have taken note, using capsaicin to treat arthritis and skin problems. It may even be helpful in fighting prostate cancer, according to the ABC News report.

At Whole Spice, we carry dozens of chilis from around the world, including the ghost and scorpion peppers as well as others with high Scoville ratings, such as African birdseye and habanero.

This dip recipe pairs our hottest dried chili Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper with the mildest fresh pepper you can buy. You can adjust it to your personal heat tolerance; just be sure to warn your guests.

Get the recipe: »»Trinidad Moruga Scorpion-Bell Pepper Dip