Cobanero Pepper (A Rare Mayan Variety)

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Whenever I hear that a chili pepper is great for using in the kitchen, it piques my interest immediately. When I learn that chili pepper is also rare, it’s even better. Cobanero chile peppers (sometimes called Cobano chiles) are a rare variety of Capsicum annuum.

Cobanero pepper ripe on plant
NameCobanero, Cobano
SpeciesCapsicum annuum
Heat level (Scoville)30,000-50,000 SHUs
FlavorSmoky, fruity, sweet
UsesDelicious smoked powder, hot sauce
LightFull sun or afternoon shade
WateringEvenly moist, good drainage
SeedsSemillas La Palma, Refining fire

Named after the city of Cobán in Guatemala, cobanero peppers have been grown since Mayan times. Unless you’re planning a trip to the city of Cobán anytime soon, the seeds can be difficult to source. Being so geeky about rare and unique pepper varieties, we had to get our hands on this pepper to see what it was about.

How hot are cobanero chile peppers?

Cobanero peppers are similar in heat level to cayenne peppers. Clocking in at 30,000-50,000 Scoville units, the cobanero is a spicy pepper! The heat is intense and short lived, making it popular for various culinary uses. Despite their small size, the pods really pack a punch.

What do cobanero chile peppers taste like?

Typically, cobanero peppers are dried, smoked, and ground into a spice similar to hot paprika. This pepper is known for their role in flavoring “kak’ik,” a spicy Turkey stew that coincidentally serves as the national dish of Guatemala.

Cobanero peppers dried out

Eaten raw, the ripe pods have a sharp, flavorful and spicy bite that burns immediately. The initial heat is followed with subtle fruity notes.

While you can use these peppers raw to flavor various dishes, the magic really happens in the process of drying and smoking the pepper. Traditionally, Cobanero peppers are smoked on a wooden griddle, giving them a unique and desirable flavor.

However, I have enjoyed using the unsmoked dried powder anywhere you would use cayenne peppers in cooking. Both the flavor and heat are impressive! Unless you live in Guatemala, you’ll have to grow your own cobanero peppers to taste them first-hand.

Growing cobanero peppers

Growing cobanero peppers is a fun and unique experience. The plants are tall, sturdy, and very prolific, tempting us to try crossbreeding it with another pepper. The pods ripen from deep green, sometimes dark purple from sun exposure, to red, and are edible at any stage during their growth.

I started our plants indoors over the winter to give them an early head start for the growing season. The plant will reward you with handfuls of tiny, delicious pods through the harvest season.

cobanero peppr in raised garden bed

Note: When ripe, cobanero pods easily fall away from the plant. You will want to keep on top of harvesting so you don’t lose out any peppers!

I have now grown this pepper variety in raised beds, in containers, and directly in the ground. The plants always do exceptionally well and it has quickly become a favorite of ours. It’s been so impressive to watch these plants thrive despite strong storms and poor growing conditions.

Cobanero pepper unripe
The pods start off purple and will ripen to bright red.

Where to buy cobanero seeds

Without question, these seeds can be difficult to find. Of course, the best place to source these seeds would be from fresh pods purchased in Coban. We purchased our seeds online and then saved seeds from pods for future growing.

Here are some online retailers currently selling cobanero seeds:

If you’re lucky enough to get seeds for this pepper, it is rewarding and fun to grow. We’ll be growing at least one of these plants every year in the garden. You can’t beat how sturdy and productive they are, along with the amazing flavor. This is truly a great variety to grow at home!

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  1. Great article and these pique my interest as well! Plan to buy some seeds for next year. Thank you!

  2. I grow hot and very hot peppers every year, then give most of them away. I keep what I need. I want to try some. Do you sell the seed?

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