Items on the scale are ranked by their Scoville Heat Units SHU , which measure the concentration of capsaicin the active compound responsible for spice. The SHU range from zero up to the millions, each one representing how many cups of sugar water it would take to dilute a cup of the food to a neutral spiciness level. When the Scoville Scale was created by Wilbur Scoville in , he never could have imagined the human-engineered peppers that can be hundreds of times hotter than anything that occurs in nature.
Its smooth, yellow pod packs a surprising punch. The Madame Jeanette can commonly be found in traditional Suriname and Antillean cuisine, often tossed into dishes whole to add spice to every bite. It has a little bit of sweet to go along with all that spicy and is most commonly found in hot Caribbean dishes like jerk chicken or jerk pork, though it crops up in recipes as far away as West Africa. The first of many varieties of the famed habanero to make the cut, the white is particularly rare and difficult to cultivate.
These peppers grow on tiny bushes, but each one produces an exceptionally high yield. Originating in the Amazon, this pepper was brought northward through Mexico where most of them are grown now. The first pepper on the list from the Eastern Hemisphere, the Fatalii is a chili from central and southern Africa. Just beware when confronted with this pepper as the heat starts early, covers your whole mouth, and takes quite a while to dissipate. This new type of habanero pepper was scientifically engineered, rather than naturally cultivated.
Be cautious: It tends to pack a bigger burn than its more traditional relative. Chocolate Habaneros originated in Trinidad and in fact have absolutely nothing to do with the Congo. The name comes from the color of the pepper, not the flavor. An upgraded version of the habanero, clocking in at almost twice the spice, this adorably small pepper approaches sinister levels of heat.
Like many of the other contenders on this list, the Caribbean Red likely hails from the Amazon basin though some argue for Yucatan origins and is a staple in Mexican cooking, where it can be commonly found in salsas and hot sauces. As a close relative of all the habanero peppers, the Red Savina shares the well-established Central American origin story but was developed further in California.
It was discovered by accident when a farmer trying to grow domestic habaneros found a bright red pepper different from the orange habaneros in his field. He kept it, bred it, and started selling it as its own product. The Dorset Naga is a particular strain of the Naga Morich pepper that was selectively bred for maximum heat — the first pepper on earth to break one million SHU double the rating of the Red Savina.
Aside from mind-numbing heat, they also boast a fruity flavor; some claim to taste notes of orange and pineapple, but personally, I find the idea of being able to taste anything amidst the mouth-fire highly suspect.
The Trinidad Scorpion gets its name from its homeland and its appearance. The latter half of the name makes sense once you get a look at one. The peppers have a little stinger opposite the stem, which looks like the poisonous barb on the tail of a scorpion. But I guess you could put it in your food if you really wanted to. The chocolate variant of this pepper is a very rare naturally occurring permutation of the standard red and is named not only for its rich coloring but also for its notoriously sweet flavor.
Native to India, the Ghost Pepper is responsible for some of the most brain-searing, tongue-sizzling curries and chutneys in the entire world. The Bhut Jolokia, or Ghost Pepper, is the fiery, less sweet original that spawned the Chocolate Ghost Pepper bhut means ghost or supernatural creature. The standard red variant of this pepper is much easier to find than the chocolate variety, and is the fuel for restaurant challenges and idiotic YouTube videos worldwide.
Fun fact: The Ghost Pepper is an inter-species hybrid between the species containing all of the habanero cultivars and the species containing the Tabasco pepper. Most of the rest of the peppers on this list have been engineered by humans.
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I guess once we identified the hottest pepper in the world, all we could do from there was make them hotter ourselves. The Infinity Chili was engineered in the UK by breeder Nick Woods, but it only held the world record for two weeks before it was ousted by the next contender, the Naga Viper. Like the previous two, this pepper is red and wrinkly and shriveled and horrible looking — as would you be after eating it. Nature never intended this pepper to exist. If you want to grow it, you have to get the seeds from its human creator, Gerald Fowler and the waiting list is several thousand people long.
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