The Peppers!

What kind of pepper festival would we be if we didn’t actually discuss this versatile vegetable itself? Contrary to what our logo may represent, The Pepper Festival celebrates ALL types of peppers; sweet, mild, hot and “OMG, I’m going to die!!”

In this section of our site, we’ll describe the different types of peppers and go into detail what makes the hot ones hot (capsaicin) and how they are rated (Scoville Heat Unit – SHU) so you know which ones to stay away from…or “gotta try”.


Botanically speaking, the Bell Pepper is a fruit, but in the culinary world, they are considered and treated as vegetables.

Why are they called peppers?

As with many things that Christopher Columbus screwed up (thinking Native Americans were Indians, for example), he’s also responsible for all of us calling these plants peppers – confusing the black pepper (peppercorns) originating in, you guessed it, India. Columbus had brought back pepper plants to Europe where all known spices with even a hint of hotness were called “pepper”.

The most commonly known name for hot peppers around the world is “chile” of Mexican origin from the Nahuati word “chilli” while others spell it “chili”. We’ve decided as an organization to spell it “chile” considering it’s the most common spelling in Mexico and America’s southwest region.

Types of Peppers

Bell Peppers

Bell (Sweet) Peppers

The mildest pepper coming in at 0-25 SHU (Scoville Heat Unit) and the only member of the pepper family that does not produce capsaicin. Bells come in many different colors including green, red, yellow, orange, brown, white and purple. Red bells are the sweetest.

By far the most popular of all peppers when it comes to American foods and recipes due to their mildness.

Bell Peppers are also known as capsicum in countries such as Australia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore and New Zealand.

Mild Peppers

Mild/Medium Chile Peppers

There are many, many mild to medium peppers for those who either don’t like hot peppers or for dishes that are going to be shared among a group that may or may not like spicy foods.

While there are hundreds of different types of mild to medium heat chile peppers, we are only listing the most commonly available at your local grocery store, deli or restaurant.

Here are a few in order of their average Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating:

Pepper Average SHU
Banana 0-500
Aji Panca 500
Pepperoncini 100-500
Pimiento 100-500
Sonora 300-600
Ancho 1,000-2,000
Poblano 1,000-2,000
Anaheim 500-2,500
Cascabel 1,000-3,000
Pasilla 250-4,000


Pure capsaicin is 16 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU).

Hot Chile Peppers

Hot Chile Peppers

With the world’s obsession with finding (and eating) the hottest chile peppers, there is virtually no end to the number of ultra hot peppers being developed each year. Guinness World Records is the official record keeper of the absolute hottest peppers by using the Scoville Heat Unit scale to record the official numbers.

Developed by (Smokin’) Ed Currie, owner of Puckerbutt Pepper Company in South Carolina, the Carolina Reaper officially became the world’s hottest pepper (see official Guinness info here) clocking in between 1.5 million and an incredible 2.2 million SHU in 2013, beating previous record holder the Trinidad Scorpion (1.4 million SHU) developed by The Chilli Factory in Australia in 2011.

The word out there is that Ed Currie is currently developing an even HOTTER pepper code named HP56 which is rumored to weigh in at an insane 3 million SHU! We’ll let you know more when information becomes available.

Below are some of the more famous ultra hot peppers officially recognized in the worldwide pepper community. We through in popular peppers like the Jalapeño, Cayenne, Serrano and Habanero for comparison.

For more on Hot Peppers, check this out.

Here are a few in order of their average Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating:

Pepper Average SHU
Jalapeño 2,500 – 10,000
Serrano 10,000 – 20,000
Cayenne 30,000 – 50,000
Habanero 100,000 – 350,000
Ghost (Bhut Jolokia) 1,000,000
Naga Viper 1,300,000
Komodo Dragon 1,400,000
7 Pot Primo 1,500,000
7 Pot Douglah 1,800,000
Trinidad Scorpion 1,400,000
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion 2,000,000
Carolina Reaper 2,200,000