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Death Spiral Peppers – A Beautiful Superhot

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When you hear the words “death spiral,” your mind probably doesn’t jump to “food.” There is one instance where these two things collide, and it is with a mean-looking pepper: the death spiral.

Death spiral pepper on plant
Death spiral pepper ripening.

In case you’re new to the world of superhot peppers, names like death spiral are not uncommon. Other popular superhots include the scorpion, leviathan, and devil’s tongue. They all have one thing in common: they’re incredibly spicy!

So in this article, I’ll share everything there is to know about the infamous death spiral pepper. I have grown these plants for several seasons, and now have a personal experience with the heat, flavor, and uses for various recipes. Let’s get started!


Death Spiral Info

NameDeath spiral
TypeOpen pollinated
SpeciesCapsicum chinense
Heat level (Scoville)1,000,000+ SHUs
FlavorFruity and citrusy, slightly floral
UsesHot sauce recipes, superhot powder
LightFull sun or afternoon shade
WateringEvenly moist, good drainage
SeedsBohica pepper hut, Refining fire, Rare Seeds

The death spiral pepper was created when UK grower Terry Smith crossbred the naga chili with the bubblegum red pepper. These two parent varieties are both extremely spicy, and have unique traits.

  • Bubblegum peppers are wrinkly and blocky with a fruity flavor. They also have the special characteristic of the “bleeding calyx” where the bottom of the stem turns red. This trait did not carry over to the death spiral. Learn more about bubblegum peppers here.
  • Naga chilies are one of the hottest peppers with origins in India. It is similar (and some believe identical) to the ghost pepper, coming in at a whopping 1M SHUs.
  • Death spiral peppers are very wrinkly and bumpy, coming to a rounded point at the end like the naga. The folds and wrinkles are similar to the bubblegum, but the overall conical shape is owed to the naga.
Dorset naga, bubblegum, and death spiral peppers
Naga peppers (left), bubblegum pepper (center), and death spiral pepper (right).

If you’d like to try the death spiral, chances are you’ll have to grow your own. The process is identical to growing ghost peppers from seed. They grow very well in containers or raised beds, and need plenty of sunlight, warmth, and even moisture to thrive.


Death Spiral Heat and Flavor

The death spiral is a superhot, meaning it is among the world’s hottest peppers. In this particular case, no official Scoville rating has been tested. Having tasted it myself, and given its ancestry, I believe the death spiral is around 1,000,000 SHUs or higher on the Scoville scale.

Death Spiral pepper partially ripe
Death spiral pepper beginning to ripen on plant.

If you can handle the heat, the flavor is actually delicious. The death spiral has a fruity, almost tropical aroma and taste, with slight undertones of tangy citrus. It is a perfect ingredient for making tasty, fiery hot sauces and salsas.

But, a little goes a long way, so I’d recommend keeping this plant on the small side! These plants can easily grow to 4 feet or taller, producing hundreds of fruits in a big enough space.


Death Spiral Pepper Recipes

If you want to use your death spiral pepper harvest, you have some great options. Assuming you like the heat, there are plenty of great recipes and preservation methods for these amazing chilies:

  • Hot sauce. The most obvious use case for these peppers is to make homemade hot sauce. Beware, even a single death spiral pepper is enough to add significant heat to a small batch of hot sauce. Start small and add more to meet your heat standards.
  • Fermentation. If you want to create bold flavors for your hot sauce, try fermenting the fresh peppers first. Every year, I create a simple fermented pepper mash using a mix of hot peppers from the garden. After fermenting, you can make hot sauce or use the mash as a flavor enhancer for spicy meals.
  • Dried powder. If you have too many death spirals on hand, one of the best ways to preserve them is to dehydrate them. We use a food dehydrator to quickly dry our superhots, but if you live in a dry climate you can simply air dry them for a few weeks. Poke a few holes in the peppers or slice them in half before drying. From there, making powder is as simple as grinding the dried pods in a spice grinder (outside, ideally!).
  • Freezing. The easiest way to preserve death spirals is to freeze them whole. Throw them in a freezer bag or vacuum sealer and pop them in the freezer for up to a year or longer.
Death Spiral and Olive Nagabrain Pods
Ripe death spiral pepper (left) and other superhot (right).

The death spiral pepper is a beautiful and tasty superhot pepper that is worth trying (if you like your food very hot). If you grow them, you’ll be rewarded with enough heat to last until the next season!

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.

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