Chili peppers have fascinated humans for the longest time. Having that extra ‘zing’ in your cuisine seems to be something that many cultures have adopted. The biochemical that causes chilies to ‘burn’ your tongue is called capsaicin and it has been studied extensively for its use in pharmaceutical and safety products.
Some of these chilies are found naturally, while others have been specifically bred to have an increased spiciness.The spiciness or heat level of any chili pepper is measured using Scoville heat units, or SHU. The higher the SHU, the hotter a chili pepper is.
Here are the hottest chilies in the world today. Remember that if you’re interested in trying them, you should have a lot of milk and water on hand.
1.The Carolina Reaper ( SHU: 2.2 Million)
The Carolina Reaper is officially the hottest chili in the world as of 2017. The best way to recognize this pepper is to look for a sharp ‘tail’ that looks almost like a stinger. This pepper is a fairly new breed that was produced in about 2013 by cultivator Ed Currie who owns the PuckerButt Pepper Company.
He actually crossed two other extremely hot peppers called the Red Savina habanero and the ghost pepper to come up with this cultivar that totally blows the competition away.
2. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion ( SHU: 2 Million)
The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion used to be the record holder for the world’s hottest chili before the Carolina Reaper was bred and cultivated. It’s just as hot as the Reaper, and those who have tasted it have said that the heat builds up even after you’ve chewed and swallowed it.
As its name implies, the pepper comes from the Moruga district in Trinidad and Tobago. It’s characteristically rounded bottom is what helps identify it.
3. Chocolate Habalokia (SHU: 800,000)
Although this pepper looks relatively harmless, it’s one of the most potent peppers to be developed in recent years. The pepper is a cross between a Bhut Jolokia and a Chocolate Habanero and has both the rounded bitterness and slowly stinging heat that characterized both its parents.
4. 7 Pot Douglah (SHU: 1.8 Million)
There is actually and entire series of peppers from Trinidad and the main breed is the 7 Pot Douglah. In addition to being scorching hot, it also has a rather full flavor. Earthy with a hint of umami in the background. Its name comes from an old saying in Trinidad that one piece of this pepper is able to spice up at least 7 pots of stew.
Apart from the Douglah, there’s the 7 Pot Brown, Primo, Jonah, Brain Strain and Infinity. All of these are variations of the original, but none as hot the Douglah.
5. Bedfordshire Super Naga (SHU: 1.12 Million)
The Bedford Super Naga is one of the only chilli pepper cultivars from the UK. No one would expect that one of the world’s hottest peppers would actually come from this part of the world, seeing as how Europeans aren’t known for their love of wildly spicy food.
However, Salvatore Genovese who bred this particular cultivar is now striking it big. He’s growing at least half a million of these peppers every week and exporting them all over the world. In the UK, the Super Naga is carried by Tesco supermarkets.
Genovese has previously developed another super hot chili, called the Komodo Dragon that has a SHU of about 1.4 SHU.
6. Naga Viper (SHU: 1.4 Million)
The Naga Viper is another breed that comes from the UK. It was cross bred by Gerald Fowler from Cark, Cumbria for the Chili Pepper Company. The body of the Naga Viper is elongated but its still quite round, and its bright red colour is often what characterizes its appearance.
This pepper is a cross between three hot peppers, namely the Naga Morich, Bhut Jolokia and Trinidad Scorpion. However, the breed is slightly unstable and it’s difficult to get seeds with health fully formed fruits.
7. Red Savina Habanero ( SHU: 577,000)
The bright red colour of the Red Savina Habanero makes it look like little hearts. One of its key features is its rounded and smooth body.
It’s relatively not as hot as many other cultivars, but it still manages to hold its own. Frank Garcia of GNS spices developed this pepper in California. The Red Savina held the honor of being the world’s hottest pepper from 1994 until 2006. It was dethroned by the Naga Jolokia Pepper in 2007.
8. Bhut Jolokia ( SHU: 1 Million)
Bhut Jolokia is also known as the ghost pepper, ghost chili, red naga and naga jolokia. They’re most commonly cultivated in the Assam region of India, but can also be found in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur. This chili is quite recognizable as it has a flat and elongated body.
The peppers themselves can come in a variety of colours, including red,orange, yellow and brown. It’s also quite easily available for sale online in dried and powdered form.
9. Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” (SHU: 1.47 Million)
The Butch T is a pepper that’s relatively small in size compared to many other similar peppers. Unlike its name, this pepper was actually discovered in Australia by a guy called Butch Taylor in his garden of Trinidad Scorpion peppers. He noticed that they looked different from the rest and he isolated them.
The seeds were replanted and a new variation of the Trinidad Scorpion was born. It held the distinction of being the hottest pepper in the world from 2011 to 2013 when it was dethroned by the Carolina Reaper.
As the years progress, chili pepper farmers all over the world compete to see who can breed the hottest chili in the world. There’s even a rumor that an as yet unnamed chili pepper has been submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records and it will unseat the current king of chili peppers, the Caroline Reaper.
Many of these peppers usually come with a warning that they’re not to be eaten whole or raw and should only be tested in very small amounts while added to other foods. Trying any of these peppers is fine, just be sure to have some self control in order to avoid unwanted consequences.