The Top 10 World’s Hottest Peppers

Whether you’re a full-on spicy food aficionado or you feel that hot peppers are best seen and not tasted, you’ve got to admit, they are fascinating. How incredible is it that a simple—and in most cases quite small–fruit can have such an effect upon whoever dares to sample a taste. The burning sensation in your mouth, the tearing of your eyes, the way the oils linger on your fingers as a constant reminder for the next several days that you have survived a hot pepper encounter. 

Most folks know to be careful when handling common chili peppers such as jalapenos, and to be conservative when adding any type of pepper to a recipe. But just how hot can things get, especially when it comes to the absolute hottest peppers in the world?

Stick around because we’re walking our way through the fiery gates to reveal the hottest chili pepper to date, as well as 9 more of the hottest peppers in the world!

How We Rank Hot Peppers

Here’s the thing about nailing down the official hottest pepper in the world: it changes every year. How is this possible you ask? Well, the plant kingdom is ever-expanding, thanks to continuous discovery of new species, and perhaps more importantly, continuous creation of new varieties. 

As evidenced by the exploding base of spicy pepper fandom in recent years, pushing the limits on super sweltering peppers is a hot topic (in more ways than one!), causing many hot pepper breeders to spend their time developing more and more picante chilies in the quest to achieve the hottest of the hot.

Consider this: it was only in 2007 that a 1,000,000+ Scoville unit pepper was first developed! Today we have a few varieties that break the 2 million SHU mark, and one which is actually over three million SHU. 

A Word on Scoville Units

What actually are these little Scoville units? Scoville heat units–or SHU for short–were developed by a scientist of the same name, who devised a precision system for determining the concentration of capsaicin (the spicy compound!) in various types of peppers.

The downside of this system? It relied on live human subjects to actually taste test solutions which contained carefully proportioned amounts of the actual hot peppers themselves. Although the solutions were diluted, it still was a rather subjective method of measure and now, high-performance liquid chromatography is used as a much more objective way to measure Scoville units. 

Although the Scoville scale was developing specifically to measure capsaicin-containing foods such as chili peppers, these units are now also used to rate other spicy-hot foods such as horseradish, ginger, alliums, and peppercorns, which, surprise, are not at all related to the chili pepper! 

For reference as you read through our hot chili pepper countdown below, bear in mind that the average jalapeno pepper rings in at 5,000 SHU, while the hottest variety of habanero pepper lingers around 500,000 SHU!

The Top 10 Hottest Peppers in the World

It would be impossible to even count, let alone rank, all of the hot peppers out there which would be sure to set your world on fire. Nevertheless, we’ve assembled the most current, top ten hottest peppers of the bunch here!

Have you ever picked up a few jalapenos from the same spot at your market only to discover that one of them is barely hotter than a green bell pepper while the other once could trigger a five alarm fire? This goes to show that the exact number of Scoville units can vary widely from one particular pepper to another.

Therefore, for each pepper featured in our countdown, we’ve included the average level of Scoville heat units instead of featuring the highest, lowest, or range between the two.

1. Pepper X

3.18 Million Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

From the hot pepper mastermind Ed “Smokin’ Ed” Currie comes Pepper X, the latest in a long line of super hots! The minds of chili pepper-heads everywhere were blown when it was announced that this pepper rings in a whopping 3,180,000 Scoville units. For comparison, that is over six hundred times hotter than the average jalapeno. Now THAT, is some truly insane heat. 

There are still a few clouds obscuring the official world’s hottest pepper crown from the view of Pepper X however. Though many sources state that it is indeed currently the world’s hottest chili, this fact remains unconfirmed by Guinness World Records. While the world waits for official approval, Pepper X is available in hot sauce form only. You won’t be finding this whole pepper for sale anywhere soon, or in all likelihood, ever. They are simply too hot to put out to the masses! 

2. Apollo Pepper

3 Million Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

In the battle of the world’s hottest peppers, being in the number 2 spot is still nothing to sneeze at. Although truth be told, even a tiny exposure to a bit of the Apollo pepper might, quite literally, leave you sneezing!

Interestingly enough, this pepper is the spawn of two other peppers in our top 10 list: the number 1 place holder, Pepper X, and the number 4 winner, the Carolina Reaper. When these two spicy chilis got together, it surely came as no surprise that they yielded a new cultivar that packed a comparable level of extreme heat.

The Apollo pepper is used for making hot sauces and is exclusively available through The Hot One’s line of sauces, which also features a line of hot sauces made from top dog Pepper X as well!  

3. Dragon’s Breath Pepper

2.48 Million Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

The Dragon’s Breath chili is so hot, it was originally developed as an anesthetic. That’s right, it has been shown to numb skin on contact, leaving scientists to theorize that it could prove useful for pain relief (just don’t touch your eyes!) and desensitization of tissues prior to certain medical procedures. 

The Dragon’s Breath pepper was further cultivated by a Welsh farmer named Mike Smith who claims to have arrived at its nearly 2.5 million Scoville unit heat level completely by accident, causing the Carolina Reaper to be knocked off of top spot it previously held. Accident or not, it seems Smokin’ Ed Currie took the arrival of the Dragon’s Breath as an act of pepper war, announcing the existence of his Pepper X just a few short months later.

Its time at the top may have been short-lived, but the Dragon’s Breath pepper is still one to take your breath away, should you ever find yourself taking a taste. 

4. Carolina Reaper Pepper

1.57 Million Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

After working our way through the top three hottest peppers in the world, each of which contains well over 2 million Scoville units of fiery heat, the Carolina Reaper pepper almost looks a bit tame. Don’t let this fool you though. Coming in at nearly 1.6 million SHU, one dab of the Carolina Reaper will still blow your socks off. This chili is yet another one from Ed Currie, and fondly named for the state of its cultivation: South Carolina!

It was the world’s hottest chili pepper in years past but sadly, the doom-inducing Carolina Reaper has fallen all the way to the number 4 spot in recent years. Interestingly though, the Carolina Reaper is still the official hottest pepper as far as Guinness world records is concerned, as they have yet to validate any claims made by any of the top three. We’re guessing that just like everyone else, they might have quite a lot on their plate and will get to validating those pepper records in due time. 

5. Komodo Dragon Pepper

1.4 Million Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

Halfway through our countdown and we arrive at number five: the Komodo Dragon pepper! Perhaps most infamous for the way it lulls you into a false sense of security at first, delivering a tasty bite of bright, fruity flavor before cranking up the dial to torch your tongue and taste buds! 

This spicy chili pepper hails from the United Kingdom, and unlike other peppers that have Scoville counts in the millions, the Komodo Dragon pepper was actually stocked by regular everyday supermarkets! Imagine walking into your local grocery store and scoring a pack of peppers with this level of heat?

Luckily, its appearance is just like that of other extremely hot peppers–no surprises there. Komodo Dragon peppers start out green, maturing into a fire-engine red, and have a squat, rumply shape much like that of a habanero. The shocking part? It is over 6 times hotter than the red savina habanero–the hottest habanero out there. Needless to say, don’t go mixing the two up.  

6. 7-Pot Douglah Pepper

1.39 Million Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

If you have done any reading or research on hot peppers prior to arriving here at our humble article, you have likely encountered the term “7-pot” before. The 7-pot pepper originated and evolved on the island of Trinidad, where it earned its name for the fact that 1 single pepper packs plenty of heat to season seven pots of stew. 

There are now many different strains of 7-pot peppers, including this one, the 7-pot Douglah. Also known as the Chocolate 7-pot, this alternative name gives away one of the best surprises that this hot pepper keeps. Initially green in coloring, this little pepper ripens to a deep, chocolatey-brown with tinges of red as it ages. Various 7-pot peppers have held places on the top 10 lists over the years but with an average of almost 1.4 million SHU, the Douglah is one of the hottest ever produced by this small island country. 

7. Naga Viper Pepper

1.38 Million Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

The Naga Viper pepper. Yet another fallen champion! Previously holding the Guinness World Records title of world’s hottest chili, it was kicked out of first place in 2017 by the Carolina Reaper. Despite this fall from grace, the Naga Viper chili remains one of the absolute hottest peppers in the world, essentially on par with the 7-pot Douglah in the number 6 spot. 

As another product of the United Kingdom, the Naga Viper is the result of crossbreeding several other super-hot chilis, namely the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and the Ghost pepper, both of which we’ll have more on in a moment! 

8. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper

1.2 Million Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

Speaking of the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper, here we are! Straight out of prime hot pepper (and hot weather, for that matter!) territory comes the Trinidad Scorpion pepper. In a manner similar to that of the Komodo Dragon pepper, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion has a rather sweet taste out of the gate, but then slowly turns caustic as the capsaicin within the chili works its way into your taste buds.

It was not for the pain-inducing 1.2 million SHU that this pepper earned its venomous name, rather, it was thought that the pointed end of this chili pepper resembled that of a scorpion. Whether you agree with the resemblance, it doesn’t take a pepper expert to take a glance at this thing and feel at least a small pang of fear.

There are several pepper variations within the Trinidad Scorpion family, including the Trinidad Scorpion Butch pepper as well as the Trinidad Chocolate Scorpion, which tends to be the hottest of all. While it’s true that Scorpion peppers originated in the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad & Tobago, the peppers actually grow quite well in most regions of the world. 

9. 7-Pot Infinity Pepper

1.07 Million Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

Yet another 7-pot pepper makes our top 10 list! This superhot chili pepper, although it shares roots with the other 7-pot peppers from Trinidad, is considered to have been created in England by a breeder named Nick Woods. The other pepper varieties in his greenhouse happened to crossbreed themselves, the result of which took him by surprise when he went to taste the new pepper that showed in his row of pepper plants.

Once again, this chili is sweet at first, and then the true colors show themselves. In his own words as told to The Telegraph “…I had to sit down, I felt physically sick.” If that’s not enough to deter you from attempting to down an Infinity pepper in its raw form, then you are a true daredevil! 

10. Ghost Pepper

1.04 Million Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

The Ghost pepper hails from Northeast India where it grows wildly and is known as the bhut jolokia. “Bhut” is Assamese (the language of the region) for “ghost” while “jolokia” translates to “pepper”! Ghost peppers have since been crafted into many different cultivars, including white, purple, green, peach, orange, and yellow varieties. Like so many other hot chilis however, the typical ghost pepper remains to be red, and this tends to be the spiciest as well. 

As the first pepper to surpass the 1 million Scoville unit mark, the ghost pepper was actually verified as the world’s hottest pepper way back in 2007. Now, just 15 years later, the humble ghost pepper is barely hanging onto the number 10 spot. You’d think 1 million of anything would be enough to keep you at the top of the charts but unfortunately for the infamous ghost pepper, it’s just not enough to keep up with the ever changing landscape that is the world of chili peppers.

Even though the ghost pepper may fall off of the top 10 list in the near future, the pepper itself is here to stay. The ghost pepper is one of the most popular and commonly used hot chilis worldwide, used in its whole form as well as being made into a deluge of hot sauce options. One such example is the ever-popular Zydeco hot sauce, made with ghost pepper, red habanero, and scorpion pepper!

Other Burning Hot Pepper Questions Answered!

Does the Ripeness Affect the Heat of Chilis?

This is an interesting issue! As a chili pepper ripens, the heat level does increase, but like any ripening fruit, the natural sugar content increases as well. Therefore, in an under ripe chili, you are likely to taste only spice (along with any vegetal flavors the chili possesses) but in a fully ripe chili you will taste some sweetness in addition to a greater load of heat. 

What’s the official take then? For that, we must go: to science! Researchers conducted an experiment in which they grew ghost peppers along with two other superhot chili peppers, then tested the capsaicin content of each at different points during ripening. Interestingly, most of the peppers did not return with any capsaicin content until 20 days after flowering, and then reached peak heat around 40 days, indicating that ripeness is an important factor for chilis to develop their heat. 

What Makes Chilis “Hot”? 

So we know chilis are spicy and truly leave us feeling the burn, but what actually causes this sensation? That word “capsaicin” we’ve been tossing around is a compound in the capsaicinoid family. These types of compounds are special in the sense that exposure to them triggers a very specific heat-sensing protein in the brain, when in reality, there is actually no heat present!

Triggering this protein signals the brain to respond as if the body is in a situation where it could receive injury from an intense heat source, such as taking a swig of a very hot liquid or touching a hot stove. Therefore it triggers a pain response as a means to encourage you to move away from the said heat source and get to safety.

The real kicker? It’s believed that after this blast of pain-inducing chemicals are released, there is a subsequent release of feel-good, pain-relieving chemicals, potentially explaining why people who love spicy food really loooove spicy food. 

Can Hot Peppers Actually Injure You?

Along with conversation about the world’s hottest peppers, there always comes the inevitable question on whether or not consuming one (or a few!) of them can do lasting damage–or worse–to the human body.

Unfortunately, the jury is still out on this one as it proves incredibly difficult to test how much chili burn the human body can handle. This is because as soon as it is exposed to capsaicinoid compounds, the body starts working extremely hard to eliminate the offending stuff by flushing the mucous membranes with extra fluid–you know, the pesky eye and nose watering–and inducing digestive distress to move the spicy stuff out and through as quickly as possible. 

Nevertheless, the theory stands that if you do consume a great deal of capsaicin–and with about 3 million SHU in some of our top 10 hottest peppers here, it wouldn’t take that many peppers!–in one sitting, it’s possible your body would not be able to survive the toxicity. The more likely outcome however, is that the body would be rendered incapable of swallowing more or that you would straight up pass out long before that threshold is approached.

Can You Tame the Heat of a Chili Pepper?

While we can’t speak for all of the super-hot peppers on our top 10 list (millions of Scoville units sounds a little untamable if you ask us!), there are a few tricks you can employ if you have a hot pepper on your hands that’s simply too hot.

First and foremost, forego the seeds and ribs inside the pepper. Once you slice the pepper open, use a small paring knife (pro tip: wear kitchen gloves for this task!) to remove the seeds and any white, spongy membranes to be found. This is the stuff that carries the majority of the capsaicin oils so you want to get it on out of there. 

And, when it comes to cooling down the effect of hot chili peppers, dairy is your BFF. It might seem second nature–sour cream on spicy Mexican tacos, a dollop of yogurt alongside Indian curry–but making use of dairy ingredients is one of the best ways to chill out a dish that has become too spicy. 

Final Thoughts on the World’s Hottest Pepper 

From the flame-throwing Pepper x all the way to the original Scovillionaire, the Ghost pepper, we have worked our way through (not by tasting them, thankfully!) 10 super spicy members of the capsicum family. With names like Scorpion, Viper, Reaper, and Dragon, it’s no surprise that the peppers on our top 10 list are some of the hottest peppers you’d ever encounter.

The first place winner is unlikely to remain the world’s hottest pepper for too long though, and certainly not forever! You can bet it’s only a matter of time before even the record is broken and yet another hot pepper takes the number one spot on the podium. 

Thanks to our undying love of spicy food, and of course the unrelenting competitive spirit of human beings, the limits of hot peppers will continue to be pushed. No judgment if you are happy to stick to your standard issue jalapeno though. After taking a deep dive into this hot topic, we’re right there with you!