Most people who like spicy food have limits. For some, the jalapeño offers the perfect balance of heat and flavor. For people on the wilder side, the habanero offers much higher heat, and a unique flavor to go along with it.
And then there are the chiliheads. These are people like Johnny Scoville and Smokin’ Ed Currie. They eat the hottest peppers in the world and ask for more.
Wherever you fall on the scale, it is interesting to follow the hottest peppers in the world as more and more varieties come to light. You’ve probably heard of some of the more famous spicy peppers on this list. Others are newer and have yet to be officially placed on the Scoville scale leaderboard.
The limits of heat are being pushed every year by growers around the planet, and today we’re rounding up a ranked list of the world’s hottest peppers.
Related: Learn how to grow hotter peppers.
If you would like a more diverse list of some of the hottest peppers (and seeds) that are out there, see here.
1. Pepper X
Pepper X has officially dethroned the Carolina reaper as the world’s hottest chili pepper (according to Guinness World Records). The pepper tested an average of over 2.6 million Scovilles, more than 1 million more than the reaper. However, Pepper X has been nothing but controversial since this announcement.
Ed Currie, creator of both the Carolina reaper and Pepper X, has not allowed anyone access to seeds for the Pepper X. The only way to experience Pepper X is by purchasing a product that contians the pepper.
For pepper enthusiasts, that just isn’t acceptable. While we are all sure Pepper X is a spicy pepper, without experiencing it first hand from homegrown plants, pepper growers won’t be satisfied.
In fact, the pepper pictures in this article are all from our own plants that we grew from seed…with the exception of Pepper X. When we are able to grow our own, we will certainly share our thoughts, but for now we have to accept what Guinness has made official.
Apparently, Smokin’ Ed Currie is sitting on a stockpile of even hotter peppers, waiting for the right time to share his creations with the public. He has hinted at some of his peppers eclipsing the 4,000,000 SHU mark and beyond, but time will tell.
2. Primotalii Pepper
Although there is no official Scoville rating for this variety, some of the world’s most experienced chiliheads claim it is the hottest they have ever tasted. The primotalii is a cross between the 7 pot primo and fatalii pepper varieties.
If you’re looking for the hottest pepper you can experience first-hand, you’ll have to try growing your own primotalii plants. Seeds are available, though we found them to be a bit more difficult to grow than other superhot types.
3. Carolina Reaper: 2,200,000 SHUs
The former Guinness World Record holder for the world’s hottest pepper is the Carolina reaper pepper. It tested at an average of 1,641,183 SHUs on the Scoville scale, with individual peppers reaching over 2,500,000 SHUs.
Given its official status, the Carolina reaper was the hottest pepper in the world for many years. Not only does it look evil, but it packs some of the most intense heat we have ever tried.
The Carolina reaper was bred by Ed Currie of the Puckerbutt Pepper Company. He is known for breeding peppers and making hot sauces, obsessed with making hotter and hotter varieties.
The history of the Carolina reaper is not without controversy. Troy Primeaux of Primo’s Peppers bred the 7 pot Primo variety from Trinidad Capsicum chinense peppers. The Primo pepper is a strikingly similar pepper to the reaper.
It is also rumored that Smokin’ Ed received early seeds from the stabilized Primo pepper plants. Could it be that the reaper is just a poorly-altered 7 pot Primo pepper with a different name? No one can be sure, but either way, the Carolina reaper is the name people know and recognize. Grow 7 pot Primos >
The reaper is also said to be far less stable in terms of pod shape and size while the 7-Pot Primo has more consistency. Troy Primeaux also worked at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Horticulture Department, giving him some serious credentials in plant breeding.
The Carolina reaper is now easily accessible and can be grown by home gardeners. Seeds can be stubborn to germinate, and the plants require an exceptionally long growing season. However, you can grow your own reapers in a pot on your front porch.
Before you go and grow one of the world’s hottest peppers, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into! Try some hot sauces that use this pepper to get an idea of just how hot peppers can get.
4. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion: 2,000,000+ SHUs
Another (temporary) hottest pepper in the world was once the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper. With an average Scoville rating of 1,200,000 SHUs, the Moruga Scorpion easily outshines the Ghost pepper.
The hottest individual peppers reached just over 2 million Scoville heat units, meaning that a single Scorpion could be twice as hot as a typical Ghost pepper! Serious heat from a serious-looking pepper.
Watch Rhett & Link try the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion on Good Mythical Morning here. Spoiler: it doesn’t go well.
5. Chocolate Bhutlah: 2,000,000 SHUs
Once considered the hottest pepper on Earth, the chocolate bhutlah has a sinister appearance and ferocious heat. It is also a very large pepper, meaning with each pepper, there is more flesh to carry capsaicin.
While there is some variation in appearance, the chocolate bhutlah is a rich brown color when ripe and usually has a conical shape. The plant we grew produced fairly smooth pods that measured around 2.5″ long and 1″ wide.
Don’t be fooled by the name, as the word “chocolate” only refers to the appearance of the peppers, not the taste. These peppers are scorching hot, with Scoville ratings averaging rumored to reach as high as 2M SHUs! That is enough heat to challenge anyone, even veteran chiliheads.
6. 7 Pot Primo: 1,461,000 SHUs
The 7 pot Primo pepper has been known to reach over 1.4 million SHUs on the Scoville scale. That is serious heat from a deadly-looking pepper.
It was bred by Troy Primeaux back in 2013. It is known to be a cross between the naga morich and the Trinidad 7 pot pepper.
One of our favorite superhots is the yellow/orange variant of the 7 pot primo (pictured above). These pods are not quite as hot as the red 7 pot primo, but they have a delicious, citrus-like flavor and plenty of heat for us!
7. 7 Pot Brain Strain: 1,350,000 SHUs
Allow me to share a personal experience with the 7 pot brain strain pepper.
I had the lovely opportunity to try a bite of a 7 pot brain strain pepper at the annual Chilifest in Sunderland, MA. They had a table full of superhot peppers for sale, and tiny samples for daring guests to taste.
I ate a small square (roughly 1 cm x 1 cm) from the ‘free samples’ table and had quite a reaction. The explosive heat was shocking from such a small piece of pepper and continued to build in intensity for 5-10 minutes. It was a hot and sunny day outside, but now the real heat was coming from within.
At this point, nothing could help. Not ice cream, not milk, nothing. As the pain eventually subsided, I felt a wonderful ‘euphoria’ that many people mention after eating a really hot pepper. It went from excruciating to enjoyable in a matter of minutes.
All this from a tiny slice of pepper!
This experience was eye-opening to me. It showed just how highly-concentrated the capsaicin can be in these next-level superhot peppers.
The New Mexico State University has been crossbreeding and testing chili peppers for decades and has shared interesting info on exactly how peppers can get this hot. For peppers with Scoville ratings over 1 million SHUs, it comes down to ‘capsaicin vesicles.’
These are tiny yellow sacs that contain capsaicinoids. They are usually found concentrated on the placenta of a typical pepper, like a jalapeno. However, in superhot peppers, they are found almost everywhere. This is why I experienced such intense heat from the 7 Pot Brain Strain pepper.
8. Bhut Jolokia Ghost Pepper: 1,000,000 SHUs
You’ve heard of the ghost pepper. If you haven’t, you’re probably just coming out from living under a rock. The ghost pepper was crowned the world’s hottest pepper in 2007, reaching over 1,000,000 Scoville heat units. However, on average, the number is lower (around 600,000 SHUs).
At the time, the ghost pepper seemed absurdly spicy. 2-3x hotter than a typical habanero seemed out of this world. The internet exploded with “ghost pepper challenge” videos. Anyone crazy enough to try it would pay good money for seeds or whole peppers.
However, since 2007, growers have found that, by crossbreeding, the upper limits of heat levels weren’t even close to being reached with the ghost pepper.
9. Red Savina Habanero Pepper: 500,000 SHUs
If you have tried a habanero, you’ll have a rough idea of how hot the Red Savina is. This extra-hot, unique variety of habanero comes in around 500,000 SHUs. That is roughly twice as hot as a common habanero, but still relatively tame when compared to the rest of the peppers on this list.
This is by no means the hottest pepper in the world. However, it is the hottest of the habanero-type varieties. This is the baseline, a point of reference to compare to the much hotter peppers that exist.
You can get seeds for the Red Savina here. Even this pepper, the least spicy pepper on this list, is far too spicy for most to handle. A prolific producing plant could leave you with 100s of Red Savina habaneros at the end of a single growing season, so be sure you have a plan for what to do with your peppers!
Read Next: Simple habanero hot sauce recipe.
Since the world of crossbreeding is so active, new superhot peppers are invented every day. From heavyweights like Ed Currie, to passionate hobbyists, these new breeds come from all around the world. Here are a few impressively spicy peppers with unconfirmed heat levels:
Jay’s Peach Ghost Scorpion: 1,000,000+ SHUs (Unconfirmed)
The Jay’s peach ghost scorpion pepper was an accidental cross between the bhut jolokia and scorpion peppers. The origin story is interesting to read about, and the resulting peppers are gorgeous.
They’re also fiery hot, and that is no surprise given the two peppers that crossed to create it. Without an official Scovile rating, it can’t accurately be placed on the list, but there is no question it is a scorcher!
Dragon’s Breath: 2,480,000 SHUs (Unconfirmed)
Bred by a farmer in Wales, the dragon’s breath pepper was originally meant to be used as a topical anesthetic, not as a food. The initial findings show Scoville ratings of just under 2,500,000 SHUs, trouncing the Carolina reaper by almost 300,000 SHUs.
This means that eating an equally large dragon’s breath pepper would be like eating a highly spicy Carolina reaper and a habanero. Yikes.
However, there has been speculation that this pepper is just an overwintered Carolina reaper pepper plant with smaller pods. Testing has been limited and there hasn’t been much research to confirm this as a new variety or a consistent pepper.
We’re including this pepper on the list despite it not having an official status on the records. We assume that, through testing and stabilization, the dragon’s breath pepper will find its way onto the record boards, but for now we can just agree that this small pepper packs a punch.
As pepper breeders around the world continue to grow hotter and hotter peppers, pepper geeks will be eager and ready to try them. Right now, you might be asking, “Why?”
What is the point of eating intolerably spicy food? Some people do it for the endorphin rush that brings one to a spicy-happy-place (we agree). Some people simply want to know how much pain they can tolerate.
No matter your reason, we understand the drive, and we will always look forward to more!
- Learn to grow your own peppers here.
- Learn more about the Habanero pepper here (the perfect level of usable heat).