Chile Pepper Heat Rating - The Scoville Scale

editor's picture

Chile peppers add a special flavorful dimension to cooking. Not only just the heat and spice, but a variety of flavor sensation too!

When you visit the grocery market today, you'll find more variety of chile peppers than ever. Some peppers are more on the mild side and other chili peppers pack enough wallop of heat, they can take your breath away.

There's actually an somewhat standard and commonly used method to rate the heat level of chili peppers. Although you may not see these ratings on display at the supermarket, "Scoville Units" are a useful way to classify the various levels of heat from one variety of chile pepper to another.

The Scoville method was developed almost 100 years ago by Wilbur Scoville, a pharmacist,  in 1912. Originally, the method employed human tasters to determine by how much an extract of a pepper's pungency would have to be diluted by sweetened water to neutralize the sensation of heat from the chile peppers on the tongue.

Today, a more modern process is used called "High Performance Liquid Chromotography" (or HPLC) which measures the amount of capsaicinoids (capsaicin) in parts per million. Capsaicin is the compound found in chiles that is responsible for the heat.

The absolute hottest chile pepper on earth is the Indian Tezpur coming in at a searing 855,000 Scoville Units. Followed by the second hottest chili, Mexico's Red Savina Habanero that burns in at around 550,000 Scoville Units. Be forewarned, consume these hottest chiles at your own risk!

Here's a handy quick-glance chart to help you understand the levels of heat associated with different varieties chili peppers.

Level Chili Pepper Description Heat Rating - Scoville Units
0 Sweet Bell Peppers (Green, Red, Yellow, Orange), Sweet Banana Peppers, Pimento

Less than 100              

1 Cherry, Mexi-Bells, New Mexica, New Mexico, Anaheim Chiles, Big Jim 100 to 1,000chile pepper - 100 to 1000 Scoville Units
2 Ancho Chiles, Pasilla, Espanola 1,000 to 1,500chile pepper - 1000 to 1500 Scoville Units
3 Cascabel, Sandia 1,500 to 2,500chile pepper - 1500 to 2500 Scoville Units
4 Jalapeno, Mirasol, Chipotle, Poblano 2,500 to 5,000chile pepper - 2500 to 5000 Scoville Units
5 Yellow Wax Chiles, Serrano  5,000 to 15,000chile pepper - 5000 to 15000 Scoville Units
6 Chile de Arbol 15,000 to 30,000chile pepper - 15000 to 30000 Scoville Units
7 Aji, Cayenne, Tabasco, Piquin 30,000 to 50,000chile pepper - 30000 to 50000 Scoville Units
8 Santaka, Chiltecpin, Thai 50,000 to 100,000chile pepper - 50000 to 100000 Scoville Units
9 Habanero, Scotch  Bonnet 100,000 to 350,000chile pepper - 100000 to 350000 Scoville Units
10 Red Savina Habenero, Indian Tezpur 350,000 to 850,000chile pepper - 350000 to 850000 Scoville Units


If you're looking for a more mild chile pepper, choose the Anaheim or New Mexico chile. The Jalapeno, Chipotle and Serrano come in at the middle range, but make no mistake, these are hot chiles. And if you dare, try the Indian Tezpur if you're looking for a meltdown (but you might be a glutton for punishment).

Your rating: None