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10 Hottest Chile Peppers

A chile's heat is a complex matter. Depending on environmental conditions, a pepper can be hotter one year, milder the next. The hottest peppers also tend to be the most flavorful, making them popular additions to salsas and spicy dishes. A little bit goes a long way.

A pepper's heat is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). A green pepper would be a bland zero, and a jalapeno would rate about 5,000 SU. The amount of capsaicinoids (capsaicin) in parts per million gives chiles their heat. The heat of any variety can vary, and the SHU numbers given below are at the higher end of the variety's scale.

Next time you bite into a jalapeno, remember they don't have nearly the heat of the peppers below. 

Would you try one?

10. Red Savina Habanero

The tenth hottest pepper was king just a few years back, so some refer to it as the oldest hottest chile pepper champ. It was developed from a mutant red pepper found in a field of orange habaneros. 

In 1994, the Red Savina set a world record for heat, and kept the record until 2007.

This is the hottest habenero in the world.

Peppers at this level SHU are flavorful, but cause tears, sweating and burning. Talking may be difficult.

577,000 SHU

9. Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Pepper

Hailing from India, this pepper has been around for centuries. It is thought that it's called "ghost" pepper because of the way its heat sneaks up on you.

In 2007, it made the Guinness Book of World Records as the hottest chile in the world.

1.04 million SHU

8. Barrackpore

Hailing from Trinidad, this pepper is called a 7 pot,  meaning one pod provides enough heat and spice to flavor up to seven pots of stew.

1.3 million SHU

7. Naga Viper

The Naga Viper took over the Guinness Book of World Records "hottest chili" designation in 2011. It was created in England by a farmer.

The Naga chile cultivars have been used in a chile grenade developed by the Indian army.

1.349 million SHU

6. Trinidad Scorpion Butch T

The Trinidad Scorpion was ranked the hottest pepper in the world in 2012 by the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. 

The Institute set the tone for deciding how hot a pepper was, since many were calling certain peppers the hottest without data to back up their claims. Thanks to the Institute, peppers are now tested in batches to find the average heat range.

Cooking chile at this level SHU and higher requires protective gear.

1.463 million SHU

5. 7 Pod Douglah

This scorcher is also called the Chocolate Douglah because of its color. 

1.85 million SHU

4. 7 Pot Primo

Created by a horticulturist at the Louisiana Plant Initiative, the Primo's tail is reminiscent of a scorpion's.

1.9 million SHU

3. 7 Pot Brain Strain

The pepper got its name from its distinctive wrinkling, which resembles that of a brain.

2 million SHU

2. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

In February of 2012, the Chile Pepper Institute noted the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion was the hottest chile in the world. 

Known for its sweet-hot combination, it has the kind of heat that builds over time, much like the ghost pepper.

El Pinto has a limited edition Scorpion Salsa that has unfortunately run out. Most salsas register at 5,000 SHU but this salsa clocks in at 12,000 SHU. One pound of the peppers makes 100 gallons of salsa.

2.09 million Scoville Heat Units

1. Carolina Reaper

The Carolina Reaper made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2013 as the world's hottest pepper. A batch of this pepper averages 1.6 million Scoville Units. 

You can pick up the Carolina Reaper seeds and hot sauces at the aptly named PuckerButt Pepper website. Those who don't fear the Reaper will suffer the repercussions. 

The pepper's stinger is fair warning.

2.2 million SHU

Ted the Fire Breathing Idiot Eats a Carolina Reaper