Skip to Content

Aji Charapita Peppers – The Wild, Expensive Peruvian Chili

The Aji Charapita pepper looks more like a wild berry than a spicy chili. However, it is indeed the latter, and has a rich history and cultural significance in Peru.

In this article, I’ll share an overview of the Aji Charapita pepper. From the origin, to heat level and flavor, to how to grow and use Charapitas yourself. We love this tiny pepper, and I think you will too!

Pepper Geek participates in various affiliate programs, meaning links contained in this article may provide us a commission should you make a purchase on the linked website.

Ripe Aji Charapita Peppers with Plant
Aji Charapita peppers and plant.

Aji Charapita Origin

The Aji Charapita has origins in Peru, specifically the Amazon rainforest regions of Loreto and Ucayli. Contrary to what most people think of pepper plants, they are primarily tropical plants that enjoy warm, humid weather.

Peru, along with Bolivia, are considered the “primary centers of diversity” for the Capsicum genus. Basically, Peru is thought to be the original birthplace of the chili pepper. Chili peppers were cultivated over 4,000 years ago in Peru!

As a result, the Aji Charapita has gotten the nickname ‘The Mother of All Chilis.’ It still has the appearance of a wild pepper type, but its popularity likely drove growers to cultivate and breed new types.


The Most Expensive Pepper

Considered an essential spice in countless Peruvian households, this pepper has been known to fetch high prices by weight. It is rumored that chefs around the world will pay up to $25,000 for about 2 lbs. of dried Aji Charapitas.

Aji Charapita peppers on plant
Closeup of Aji Charapita peppers on plant.

However, before you start growing your own Aji Charapita plants for profit, know that 2 lbs. of dried Charapitas is equivalent to about 75,000 individual peppers! The tiny pod size and labor-intensive cultivation is what contributes to the high price tag.

Still, this plant is certainly worth growing at home for its amazing flavor, usefulness in the kitchen, and perfect heat level. The tiny berries make for a great snack, or for dialing in the perfect heat and flavor to home-cooked meals.


Growing Aji Charapita Peppers

Given the value of these peppers, it can be especially rewarding to grow your own at home. The plants are compact and bushy, producing hundreds of peppers in a single season. Get Aji Charapita seeds here.

Learn how to grow Aji Charapitas from seed here >

Aji Charapita plant in the ground.

The pods are tiny, but come in great numbers, making the Aji Charapita a perfect potted pepper plant. The plants can also be overwintered, and will produce year after year when kept away from freezing temperatures.

If you have a very sunny kitchen window, the Aji Charapita may be the perfect kitchen houseplant. I could see these being grown next to culinary herbs, kept within reach of the stovetop.

They would also be a great plant to grow in an AeroGarden!


Aji Charapita Pepper Flavor

Like many other C. chinense species peppers, the Aji Charapita has a fruity, floral flavor. The tiny pods are perfect for perfectly metering out both flavor and heat into home cooking.

When eaten fresh, the peppers remind me of a habanero for flavor, but with less heat. They are juicy and fruity, with very little bitterness. The seeds are tiny, so they don’t get in the way of the flavor or texture.

When dried, Aji Charapitas become the perfect spice for seasoning. Mix some into a pot of soup or chili, or make your own spice blends or meat rubs. The versatility of the Charapita is endless, and definitely a major part of this pepper’s appeal!


Aji Charapita Scoville Heat Scale

When it comes to heat, the Aji Charapita is no slouch. Despite its small size (about the size of a pea), this pepper packs a respectable punch.

In short, the Aji Charapita comes in around 50,000 SHUs on the Scoville Scale. This is on par with the popular Cayenne pepper, but is well below the heat of a habanero.

The medium heat level paired with a smaller size is what makes the Aji Charapita so appealing. Adding just 1-2 peppers at the end of a meal adds noticeable heat and plenty of fruity, flowery flavor.


How to Use Aji Charapita Peppers

Aji Charapita peppers are used primarily as a finishing spice, added to meals just before serving. According to RareSeeds, in Peru, the fresh peppers are crushed and added to soups, meat dishes, and rice.

If you have an abundance of peppers from your plants, you can of course use them fresh, but they are also great dried. The tiny pods dehydrate quickly, and can then be ground into a powder.

Aji Charapita plant with unripe peppers.

You can also dry them whole and rehydrate for use in your dishes. Dried peppers will keep for a long time, so it is a great way to avoid letting any of your Charapitas go to waste.


I hope you enjoyed learning about the Aji Charapita, and perhaps plan to grow them yourself! This tiny pepper may just be the perfect plant for home cooks and gardeners alike.

Calvin Thumbnail

Calvin

One of the original Pepper Geeks! When Calvin isn’t gardening or learning more about peppers and botany, he might be traveling new places or playing some music.

Rich

Saturday 18th of September 2021

If you were to grow this indoors, such as in the kitchen, what would you recommend the final pot size be?

peppergeek

Thursday 23rd of September 2021

Maybe a 1 gallon pot or so? You can always prune the plant if it gets too large, or up-size the pot if it isn't growing large enough

Cruz

Tuesday 31st of August 2021

Do you know if these also go under the name "BB Habanero"? I bought seeds on Etsy by that name, and the plant and fruit looks exactly like the Aji charapita you show here. I plan on selling seedlings of the plant next year and would love to have more information on the plant to include for my customers.

Love the channel by the way!

Cruz

Sunday 5th of September 2021

@peppergeek, thanks! I love your page and channel. Stay geeky.

peppergeek

Tuesday 31st of August 2021

I haven't heard that, but it certainly is a fitting name for what the Charapita looks like. Good luck!

Mike

Monday 30th of August 2021

I have grown these peppers the last 3 years. Plants become very bushy and tons of this little pods. Spicy too!

Thank you for the article and I always look forward to them…

Mike

Lennus Hinds

Sunday 29th of August 2021

Hi, Did not realize that you were so close to me. I have about ten (10) Moruga scorpion seedlings from seeds I brought directly from Moruga, Trinidad. It is too late to plant them . I am willing to give them away to anyone (you) who is able to keep them over the winter. Let me know.

David Niemi

Sunday 29th of August 2021

I also grew Aji Charapita for the first time this year, from the same source. I concur they have a nice fruity taste, and mine were clearly hotter than a cayenne (perhaps due to hotter growing conditions). You get one potent burst of flavor and heat, and then it's gone. I'm curious how they taste when dried.

The pods are the size of a small pea. Unlike ornamental peppers with small pods, the seeds are small so you don't notice them when eating. The downside of having small seeds is that they take longer to germinate and grow --mine got outcompeted by every other kind of pepper in my bed, and as a result were not very productive -- so putting them in containers makes good sense, and they may need more sun than your average pepper.