When it comes to spice, either you love it or you don’t. Some people will be sweating after eating a jalapeño-laced nacho, while others will seek out the spiciest curry in the city and down it with gusto. Either way, super-spicy chile peppers are a thing of fascination and we tracked down the 10 peppers that are currently the spiciest in the world.
It wasn’t so long ago when the habanero pepper was the spiciest on earth. For a novice, it’s pretty darn difficult to eat: it really burns, and for many it’s way too spicy. Today, however, the spiciest variety of habanero, the Red Savina, packs less than a quarter of the mouth-scorching power of the hottest chile on the planet.
Once you get up to the stratospheric levels of heat that the world’s spiciest chile peppers possess, it’s impossible to gauge actual spice just by tasting it. That wouldn’t be very scientific anyway. Instead, there’s a rating system called the Scoville scale, which measures the amount of capsaicin (the active ingredient) in a given pepper. Scoville units are measured through a complicated dilution process; for example, a pepper whose extract needs to be diluted 10,000 times before capsaicin is undetectable will have a rating of 10,000 Scoville Units.
For a little perspective, a pepperoncini (one of those little green peppers you find in antipasto) is at the bottom of the Scoville scale, at about 900 units. Further up the scale you find jalapeños clocking in at about 8,000, and the Tabasco pepper (the main ingredient in Tabasco sauce) is about 50,000 units. The standard habanero, which is far too hot for most people to handle, tops out at about 350,000. And as for pure capsaicin? That’ll melt your face with a blistering 16,000,000 Scoville units.
Every year it seems like a new chile pepper comes along to claim the title for the world’s spiciest, and there are in fact teams of researchers all over the world dedicated to creating hotter and hotter chiles. For the time being, though, the folks at CrazyHotSeeds.com have determined that the following peppers are currently the spiciest ones on earth. So put your seatbelts on, because it’s going to be a spicy ride.
10) Red Savina Habanero
With 500,000 Scoville units, this pepper was the world’s spiciest for a long time before the “spice wars” of the 1990s. Today, it barely makes the top 10!
9) Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper)
Bobby Flay once told us that after being gifted a ghost pepper he finely diced about a fingernail-sized portion and added it to a big batch of risotto, and that tiny amount completely overpowered and ruined the dish. Clocking in at about 1,000,000 Scoville units, a ghost pepper is nothing to fool around with. While many still believe it’s the world’s spiciest, it actually doesn’t even come close.