Pepper Heat Levels

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Tabasco peppers are rated hot.

Tabasco is one of the most popular hot peppers with a Scoville heat level of 30,000 to 50,000. These peppers will get hotter as they turn from green to orange to red.

While you can blindly taste a pepper to determine its heat, that’s not a recommended method—ouch! Instead, use the Scoville scale. Pepper heat is measured in Scoville Heat Units with the hottest peppers having the highest numbers. You’ll see these numbers listed for all our hot peppers.

The ranges of Scoville units typically used to call a pepper mild, medium, hot, or extra hot are:

  • Mild (100 to 2,500)
  • Medium (2,500 to 30,000)
  • Hot (30,000 to 100,000)
  • Extra Hot (100,000 to 300,000+)

Here’s a glance at heat levels for some popular hot peppers:

How does the Scoville test work?

Devised by Wilbur L. Scoville in 1912, the Scoville test was the first lab approach to measure heat in peppers. In this method, which was widely used until recently, human subjects taste a pepper sample and record the heat level. The samples are then diluted in the lab until heat is no longer detected by the tasters. This dilution is called the Scoville Heat Unit. The method, though, is subjective, as it depends on the taster’s palate and sensitivity. Many now believe that a process developed by scientists to determine a pepper’s Scoville rating by measuring the presence of alkaloids, which cause the heat, is a more accurate assessment.

What’s the hottest pepper?

Pepper breeders are trying all the time to surpass the hottest levels and claim the title of World’s Hottest Pepper. Recently, a pepper originating from India called Bhut Jolokia was believed to be the hottest pepper, with a Scoville rating of 855,000 to 1,300,000+, but other peppers may have inched beyond this one now. The hottest pepper we sell is the Habanero. It’s plenty hot, with a rating of 100,000 to 300,000 Scoville Heat Units.

Plant genetics determines pepper heat levels, but environment also plays a role. Hot peppers grow hottest during drought and high temperatures. Allow hot peppers to ripen fully on the vine to obtain their greatest heat potential.

22 thoughts on “Pepper Heat Levels

  1. I am with the other 2 posters who say they bought a plant labeled habanero (the standard orange kind) and are now getting something that looks exactly like a ghost pepper, or yellow bhut jolokia. I also bought from Lowes this spring.

    I do not still have the packaging so I can’t prove it. But I bought 3 of these plants and they are all definitely not average habenaros. I took photos of a normal habenaro plant I am also growing this year that I bought from a local nursery (first link) next to the plant I bought from Lowes. There is no doubt about it. Here are the links to my photobucket check it out.

    http://i1146.photobucket.com/albums/o534/Mallory8502/6aa37769.jpg

    http://i1146.photobucket.com/albums/o534/Mallory8502/bc5bfb80.jpg

    • Hi Ashley, Yes, the second photo is a habanero but with a more tapered shape (rather than a blocky shape like your other plant). You can rest assured it’s not a ghost pepper. Both plants look very pretty and like they’re growing well. I hope you enjoy them. Happy growing! Kelly, Bonnie Plants

  2. I bought a Bonnie Plants Habanero from Walmart, and it’s turning out quite unlike any other hab that I’ve grown. It certainly does appear to be a Jolokia, or perhaps a habanero cross.

    Are Bonnie’s habanero strains stable, or are they known to crossbreed easily?

    • Hi Joel, We carry a few different colors of habanero seed, so you might be seeing one that’s different from the orange pepper we show on our tag and website. It should still be a habanero though! Kelly, Bonnie Plants

  3. Hi Kelly, We bought six plants labeled Habanero at Lowes very recently ~ We have grown many Orange Habanero from Bonnie Plants the last few years ~ But these look exactly like Bhut Jolokia (The Ghost) The leaves are much larger and fruit much longer than Habanero ~ Debbie just went outside to take a pic to send you ~ We would be thrilled to know they really are Jolokia as we can’t find them anywhere locally ~ Is this possible? Thanks ~ Peyote ~

    • Hi Peyote Sky,

      Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t think they’re the elusive Bhut Jolokia. They should be a habanero of some kind. Most of our seed should be the orange pepper like we show on our habanero page, but a few other types of habanero could make it into the mix. You should treat the plant just like a habanero and see what comes out. Let me know how it grows!

      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

      • Kelly,
        I too have been buying your Habanero peppers for at least 4 years at Home Depot, and this year the plants grew fine, very healthy, but no peppers. I was thinking it was going to be a bad year when all of a sudden the flowers bloomed and the peppers are finally growing. By every indication after searching for a pepper that resembled what is growing in my garden, they look identical to Bhut Jolokia peppers (and nothing else I could find), as well as the plants. After researching the Bhut Jolokia, I discovered the fruit doesn’t grow for 31/2 – 5 months after planting. I bought my plants Memorial Day weekend and started getting peppers about a week ago 8/12/12. A coincidence? I’m wondering if you have an employee with a warped sense of humor.

        • Hi Mark, No, it’s no joke, we promise! This is a habanero type that is tapered, not blocky like the habanero photo we show on the plant tag and website. It might look a bit like the Bhut Jolokia, but it’s not. Habanero peppers can come in various shapes and colors. Let us know how you like this one. Happy growing! Kelly, Bonnie Plants

  4. That has already happened. The ghost pepper has been “out-hotted” 3 or 4 times already. The current hottest pepper is the trinidad scorpion. I have never eaten the pepper itself, but I have eaten some in a hot sauce, and it is no joke. It is hotter than hell.

  5. It doesn’t look like this was well researched. Bhut Jolokia is, by all acounts, the world’s hottest. (I doubt this company carries it.) These babies are HOT: 1MM Scovilles.

    • Hi Geoffrey,

      Yes, as the article says, the hottest pepper Bonnie Plants carries is Habanero. Bhut Jolokia is the hottest but breeders across the world are trying to surpass it so don’t be surprised if that happens soon.

      Happy growing!
      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

      • The Trinidad Scorpion has already surpassed the Bhut Jolokia in the Guinness World Book of Records at about 2,000,000 on the Scoville scale.

  6. CAN YOU SHOW ME A PICTURE OF THE SCOTCH BONNET? I HAVE HEARD OF THEM, BUT OBVIOUSLY YOU DON’T SELL THEM, SO I NEED A PICTURE TO KNOW WHAT TO BUY. tHANK YOU, CAROLYN

  7. Better update your web site…..I have a Bonnie Plant’s Ghost Pepper…it is the hottest you can get and you folks sell them down here in Texas. So we shall see. Polly

    • Hi Polly,

      As far as we know, we’re not selling the Ghost Pepper in any markets. Can you take a picture of the plant tag and send it to us through our Customer Service form?

      Thank you!
      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

    • Hi Robert,

      Thanks so much for the compliment! Please continue to come back to the Bonnie Plants website for gardening information throughout the season. If you have more questions or problems, you can use our Ask an Expert service. Also, if you are on Facebook, you can get news about new articles, blog posts, and more if you “Like” our Bonnie Plants Facebook page.

      Happy growing!
      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

  8. It would be nice if this info was on the tags when we buy them, Need more info on the packaging on the plants
    thanks

    • Hi Melinda,

      Thanks for the suggestion! Do you have a smartphone? If so, try snapping the QR codes on our tags and getting more info than the little tags allow.

      Happy growing!
      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

  9. I would like to grow some really Hot Peppers, to use as an Organic Mole Control. Any advice.

    • Hi Curtis,

      Here’s a link that discusses effective mole control: http://ohioline.osu.edu/w-fact/0011.html It says the most effective and practical method of mole control is trapping. It says the other home remedies such as red pepper, have little value in controlling moles. Hope this helps!

      I got this answer through our Ask an Expert service. You can use this service to get quick, informed answers to questions about plant problems.

      Happy growing!
      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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