Medium, mild or hot – can you handle the heat? From spicy chicken wings and flaming taco seasonings to ghost pepper cheeses, Tabasco inspired dips and everything in between, people around the world have proven that, when it comes to spicy, the hotter the better. Ignoring runny noses, watering eyes, burning lips and scorching stomachs, millions of people are happy to up the ante when it comes time to bring the heat as the rest of us ask, “How hot it too hot?” while they excitedly yell, “Come on! Make it hotter!”
So what’s behind some of the hottest foods in the world that are notorious for kicking the heat up a notch? Grown and sold around the world, chili peppers take the spotlight as the main ingredient for hot sauces and spices that leave even the bravest begging for a sip of milk. And, while you may know plenty about jalapenos and other more popular peppers, you might not be familiar with some of the hottest in the world.
What are the hottest peppers, where are they grown and just how hot are they? Measured by the Scoville scale, which was created by pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912, we found 10 of the hottest peppers in the world that measure well into the millions. With jalapenos ranking anywhere from 2,500 to 10,000 units on the scale, get ready as we bring the heat with peppers that are sure to set your mouth ablaze! Are you sure you can handle it?
#10 – Red Savina Habanero
Hotter than hot, the first pepper to make the list comes from the Habanero family of peppers and was specifically created to be hotter than any of its pepper predecessors. Developed by Frank Garcia in Walnut, California in the early 1990s under methods that remain secret even today, the Red Savina Habanero was protected under the Plant Variety Protection Act until just five years ago in 2011. As for our list, it is the only pepper not to have an average of at least one million on the Scoville scale as it sits at 248,556 Scoville heat units (SHU).
Holding the Guinness World Record from 1994 until 2006 as the hottest chili in the world, the Red Savina Habanero Pepper lost its title in February 2007 to the even hotter Naga Jolokia Pepper. Throughout its history, the Red Savina has seen a variety of Scoville readings with some reports scoring the pepper as high as 580,000 units on the scale. Though an official reading at New Mexico State University in 2005 confirmed the Red Savina’s fate as no longer the hottest pepper in the world, it is still one of California’s favorites!
#9 – Naga Morich
Jumping to the millionaire’s club of the pepper world, we turn our attention to the exceptionally hot Naga Morich that has exactly one million units on the Scoville scale. First grown in Bangladesh and Northeast India, the Naga Morich is better known as the Dorset Naga in the United Kingdom and comes from a variation of the Chinese species of peppers. Unlike many other peppers, the Naga features a ribbed texture and a smaller pod and is picked from medium-sized shrubs that are distinguishable by their large leaves and delicate flowers.
Though most commonly found in India, the Naga Morich has become widely popular around the world thanks to its unique flavor apart from being blisteringly hot. Grown in the United States, Australia, Finland, West Africa and the United Kingdom, the peppers are commonly used in Australia for hot sauces while Finland and Bangladesh residents buy the peppers fresh at the supermarket and eat them plain. Now that’s something we definitely need to see!
#8 – Ghost Pepper
Undoubtedly the most famous pepper on our list, the Ghost Pepper is often considered by many unofficial experts as the hottest pepper in the world but that isn’t entirely the case. Originating in Assam, India, the Ghost Pepper was given the title as the World’s Hottest Chili Pepper by Guinness World Records in 2007 after clocking in at 1.041 million units on the Scoville scale. Recognized as being 400 times hotter than any Tabasco sauce, the Ghost Pepper surprisingly lost its title in 2011 to the Infinity Chili, which we’ll see next on our list!
Coming in a variety of colors from reds and yellows to oranges and even a deep chocolate hue, Ghost Pepper plants also grow in a variety of sizes from one foot to nearly four feet with the climate directly affecting their heat level. Obviously most common in India where the plants are the hottest, the peppers are typically used in cooking to spice curries, chutneys, pork and fish, but that isn’t all. In 2009, India began using the tear-inducing peppers for non-lethal hand grenades to fight terrorism and control crowds as well as in marketing self-defense pepper sprays that are widely available today.
#7 – Infinity Chili
Beating out the Ghost Pepper as the World’s Hottest Chili was a pretty big deal in 2007 but the Infinity Chili pepper only held the title for two short weeks before being replaced by the Naga Viper pepper. The Infinity Chili still brings the heat, however, with its Scoville ranking at 1.067 million units that makes its creator, Englishman Nick Woods of Grantham, extremely proud after five years of perfecting the Chinese hybrid species and its cultivation before finally getting it right.
After years of growing chili peppers for his hot sauces, Woods was inspired to create an even hotter pepper when he developed the Infinity Chili. Trying it for the first time, Woods admitted that it had an odd fruity taste before getting unbearably hot. “I began to shake uncontrollably, I had to sit down. I felt physically sick.” Even Dr. Ian Rothwell, who took on (and won) the Infinity Pepper eating challenge at a Grantham restaurant, said that he hallucinated for several minutes after eating 20 of the peppers in a curry that was aptly named “The Widower.”
#6 – Bedfordshire Super Naga
No stranger to bite-sized firecrackers, English pepper farmer Salvatore Genovese of Bedfordshire was inspired to up the ante and bring the heat to the United Kingdom once again with his next creation. After spending several years crossbreeding a variety of peppers, Genovese found the perfect combination when he “unleashed the hell-raising” Bedfordshire Super Naga that measures 1.12 million units on the Scoville scale and comes with warning labels like “The Hottest,” “Super, Super Hot” and to “never be touched without gloves!”
The Bedfordshire Super Naga is not only one of the hottest peppers to get your hands on, it’s also one of the hardest to find. Giving exclusive selling rights to notable chili buyer Tesco, Genovese is accustomed to producing around 500,000 blazingly hot peppers each week but the Super Naga is a different story as it takes several months to produce one small batch. Regardless, Genovese is thrilled with his creation that has a deceptively fruity flavor that transitions in a matter of seconds to a devastating level of heat that is not for the faint of heart.
#5 – Trinidad Moruga Scorpion
Traveling to the Western Hemisphere for the next pepper on our list, we start our top five countdown with the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. Native to the Moruga district in the Trinidad and Tobago region, the Moruga Scorpion was developed by Trinidad native Wahid Ogeer and was named the hottest chili in the world in 2012 by New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute. Ranked as exceptionally hot and clocking in at over 1.2 million units on the Scoville scale, we have no doubt that this pepper definitely brings the heat!
Described as a balancing act of sweet and hot, the Moruga Scorpion is known for its fruity taste that quickly builds into an overwhelming spiciness that is dangerous for anyone who dares to take a bite. In fact, pepper expert Paul Bosland of New Mexico’s Chile Pepper Institute said, “You take a bite. It doesn’t seem so bad, and then it builds and it builds and it builds. So it is quite nasty.” We’ll just have to take his word for it!
#4 – Naga Viper
Returning to England for the fourth hottest pepper in the world, the Naga Viper was the mastermind of farmer and pepper genius Gerald Fowler. Working for the famed Chili Pepper Company of Cumbria that is known for trying to top itself by developing hotter and hotter peppers, Fowler surprised even himself when he created the Naga Viper. Surpassing the Infinity Chili on the Scoville scale, the Viper reached a record-breaking 1.382 million Scoville units and took its title as the hottest chili pepper in the world in 2011.
Determined to bring new meaning to the words “exceptionally hot,” Fowler combined three of the hottest peppers in the world – the Naga Morich, the Ghost Pepper and the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion – to create his hybrid pepper. As a result, the Naga Viper is one of the hardest peppers to grow because its offspring produces a different variety of pepper and heat. Nevertheless, this hasn’t made it any less of a “hot commodity” in the spicy food industry as it is known to be well worth the wait.
#3 – Komodo Dragon Chilli Pepper
Brits obviously love their peppers as we stay in the United Kingdom for the third hottest pepper in the world, the Komodo Dragon Chili Pepper. Making his second appearance on our list, Bedfordshire pepper farmer Salvatore Genovese rose to the challenge of creating the hottest pepper in the world once again when he developed the Komodo Dragon. Sold by Tesco, the peppers measure at an incredible 1.4 million units on the Scoville scale and come with a warning, “Do not consume whole. Do not touch without gloves.”
Described as having a hot fruity flavor that sets the mouth on fire in all of ten seconds, Genovese says that the Komodo Dragon is not for curious pepper enthusiasts but that hasn’t stopped grocery stores throughout the United Kingdom from selling them. The Daily Mail even managed to find two pepper connoisseurs whose curiosity got them best of them when they took a bite of the Dragon. Describing the first bite as momentarily “fine,” the two got far more than they imagined as their mouths were set aglow from the Komodo’s crippling heat!
#2 – Trinidad Scorpion Butch T
Returning once again to the country of Trinidad and Tobago, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion from earlier on our list is the proud pepper father of the second hottest pepper in the world, the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T. Named by Neil Smith and propagated by seeds from Zydeco Farms owner Butch Taylor of Crosby, Mississippi in the United States, the Butch T brings an entirely new meaning to “pungent” with an impressive Scolville ranking of 1.463 million units.
Ranked by the Guinness World Records as the hottest pepper in the world in 2011 and holding the title for three years, the Butch T is the second (but not the last) native American pepper on our list. So what makes it so hot? According to Taylor, the secret to the Butch T’s heat is the liquid runoff from a worm farm that was used to fertilize the pepper’s soil. From the worms to the hottest traits of the Trinidad Moruga, it’s no wonder why the Butch T lands near the top of our list!
#1 – Carolina Reaper
The hottest pepper in the world was born and bred in the United States and is the famed Carolina Reaper. Created in a greenhouse by Ed “Smokin’” Currie who runs the PuckerButt Pepper Company in Fort Mill, South Carolina, the Carolina Reaper officially earned its title in the Guinness World Records in the summer of 2013 when it clocked in at 1.569 million units on the Scoville scale. Needless to say, it’s been king of the pepper world ever since.
Described by some as a “good all-rounder to try at home,” the Carolina Reaper has seen readings reach all the way up to a tongue-melting 2.2 million on the Scoville scale (though it has yet to be officially verified). In 2014, Currie accepted the world record at the 2nd Annual New York City Hot Sauce Expo that featured an eating competition to see who could finish three Carolina Reapers the fastest. Russel Todd won the title and set a new world record at 12.23 seconds but has since lost his title to Jason McNabb who gulped down the peppers in 10.95 seconds in a record that we definitely won’t try to top!