Types of Peppers for Cooking

If you do a web search, you’ll learn that there are a lot of different types of peppers. Seriously, something like 50,000. Yikes, that’s a lot of spicy goodness! How hot are you willing to get? Let’s dive in and learn about some of the most popular pepper varieties. Peppers can add flavor and heat to a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to sauces and marinades.

Types of Peppers

Are peppers a fruit or vegetable? Technically, peppers are fruits because they have seeds that grow on the inside.

types of peppers

Pepper plants grow best in the heat of the summer so that they can soak up all of the sunlight. Because a pepper plant will grow in dry weather, growing peppers can be done almost anywhere. In other words, peppers don’t just like to grow in the heat. They also bring the heat.


A Fresno pepper is a pepper variety similar to a jalapeño pepper, but it’s both sweeter and a tiny bit spicier. These peppers are usually red, and they have firm flesh with a medium thickness.

Fresno peppers are delicious in Latin dishes such as soups, stews, and dips. You can also fire-roast them or use them in any recipe that calls for jalapeño peppers.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 2,500-10,000

Bird’s Eye

It has a sweet-sounding name, but the bird’s eye pepper is not to be trifled with. They are about the same spiciness as cayenne and habanero, and they’re one of the chili peppers from Thailand.

This Thai pepper is used in Thai cuisine, but the chefs there only use the peppers to make hot sauce or chili powder.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 50,000-100,000


In most cases, you can find piquillo peppers jarred or canned at specialty grocery stores. Piquillo peppers can be stuffed with cheese, pureed for sauces, eaten as an appetizer, or baked.

These peppers aren’t as mild as banana peppers, but they’re comparable to a poblano pepper or Anaheim pepper. The heat index on piquillo peppers can vary widely.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 500-1,000

Bell Peppers

The sweetest green pepper on our list is the well-known green bell pepper. Bell peppers don’t pack any heat, and you can eat them raw even if you don’t like spicy food. One thing you can do is cut up bell peppers with sweet flavor and eat them with dips such as hummus or ranch dip.


In cooking, bell peppers are excellent recipe additions, and you can make stuffed peppers as a main dish. Stuffed bell peppers can be made as a vegetarian dish with rice, or with meat, rice, and cheese.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 0

Yellow Chile

The yellow chile may be the most unpredictable chili pepper on our list because it can be either very mild or extremely hot. These peppers are yellow with a shiny surface and smooth texture.

Yellow chile peppers can be roasted and used to make salsa, or you can stuff them. These chili pepper are also delicious when pickled, seared, grilled, and eaten raw in salads.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 100-15,000

Cubanelle Pepper (Cuban Pepper)

Fried cubanelle peppers are considered to be a delicacy in many locales, and you can also use them in recipes that call for bell peppers. Because they’re not as hot as many other peppers, cubanelle peppers are considered to be a sweet pepper.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 1,000

Piri Piri

Piri Piri peppers are hot, but they’re edible. You’ll find these peppers used in Portuguese and African cuisines.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 50,000-175,000


Roasted shishito peppers are delicious as an appetizer. Be careful with a shishito pepper. They’re usually not overly spicy, but now and then, one of them will surprise you.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 50-100


Serrano peppers aren’t as hot as habanero peppers, but they’re somewhat hotter than jalapeno peppers. It’s common to see serrano pepper strung up to dry after they ripen to become a fully red pepper.

This chile pepper is great for using in salsa with other peppers such as tabasco pepper, cherry peppers, and hatch pepper. Also, you can chop them up to make guacamole, too.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 8,000-22,000

Poblano Pepper

If you’ve ever had an ancho chili pepper, you’ve had a poblano because ancho chiles are poblano peppers that have been dried. With mild to medium heat, poblanos are slightly hotter than a pimento pepper and a banana pepper.

Poblano peppers are great for roasting, and it’s this pepper that’s used to make the popular Mexican recipe, chile relleno.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 1,000-1,500

different types of peppers


Long considered to be one of the hottest edible peppers, the habanero pepper ranks just under a ghost pepper in terms of hotness.

Even though this is a hot pepper, habanero peppers have a touch of sweetness to them, and it’s common to see them used to make jelly.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 100,000-350,000

Banana Pepper

Usually, banana peppers are sweet. In fact, in the southern part of the United States, they’re frequently called sweet peppers or sweet banana peppers. Sliced banana peppers are delicious on pizza, and they’re a welcome addition to an antipasto salad at Italian restaurants.

Although these peppers are usually sweet, they’re not as reliably sweet as bell peppers. You might end up with one that bites you back.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 0-500


The guajillo pepper has a fancy and exotic name, but it’s not as hot as some of the other peppers on our list. The heat in this hot pepper is similar to a jalapeno pepper, but it’s much sweeter than jalapenos.

Guajillo peppers are often dried to grind up for use in recipes, and this is one of the peppers used to make mole sauce.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 2,500-30,000

Anaheim Pepper

Anytime you buy green canned chiles, you’re probably buying Anaheim peppers unless the label says something different. The heat in Anaheim peppers is similar to that of poblano pepper. However, hatch chiles are Anaheim peppers, although they’re from Mexico. Hatch chiles are hotter than the Anaheim variety.

Anaheim peppers do well when used to make salsa or Mexican soups.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 500-2,500

Pepperoncini (Sweet Italian Pepper)

Pepperoncini have become popular ever since the Olive Garden restaurant chain started putting a couple of pepperoncini peppers in every bowl of their addictive salad. These peppers are often confused with similar-looking banana peppers., but they’re actually a different pepper.

Nevertheless, the two peppers get used interchangeably, and the heat scale rating is similar. Pepperoncinis usually have a little more heat than banana peppers.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 100-500


Cayenne peppers are hotter than serrano peppers, and this pepper is commonly ground up to make a bottled spice that can be used in cooking. Most of the time, we see red cayenne peppers, but there is also a gold variety that is a bright yellow.

A dash of cayenne pepper adds lots of flavor to chili and soups.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 35,000-50,000

pepper types

Scotch Bonnet

You’ll find the scotch bonnet pepper in Caribbean recipes, and these peppers are often compared to the habanero pepper. Be careful eating these guys.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 80,000-400,000


The pasilla pepper is used to make mole sauce, and they are the dried form of chilaca peppers. These peppers are much milder than jalapeño peppers.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 500-2,500

Pimento Pepper

If you’ve ever had authentic pimento cheese, you’ve probably eaten pimento peppers. This pepper is also called a cherry pepper, and it makes up the little red pieces you find in pimento cheese.

Pimento peppers often get confused with red bell pepper because when people can’t find these, they will use red bell peppers to make pimento cheese.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 100-500


Because they look similar to bell peppers on the outside, rocoto peppers can fool you. Don’t get tricked because the rocoto pepper is nearly as hot as a habanero.

A little bit of the rocoto goes a long way, but it makes a nice addition to kick your salsa up a notch.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 30,000-100,000


This little guy is perhaps the most famous pepper in North America, Central America, and South America, and it became even more famous because it’s such a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex food. Texas A&M University developed a jalapeño pepper with mild heat that brings the wonderful jalapeño flavor without burning your tongue.

Jalapeño peppers are great for stuffing with cheese. You can also use this spicy pepper to make salsa, chili, soup, and more. A chipotle pepper is a jalapeno pepper that has been smoked.

  • Scoville Heat Units: 2,500-8,000

Notable Super Hot Peppers

  • Ghost Pepper: Although ghost peppers aren’t as lethal as peppers such as the Carolina Reaper, these peppers pack a punch. Don’t make a bet with anyone that you can eat one of these bad boys raw. Scoville Heat Units: 1,000,000
  • Dragon’s Breath: Some people believe that the dragon’s breath pepper is the hottest pepper in the world, but this hasn’t been officially confirmed by lab testing. These peppers are tiny, but that doesn’t slow them down. They are so hot that they’re not recommended for human consumption, and they aren’t available commercially. Scoville Heat Units: 2,480,000
  • Carolina Reaper: The Carolina Reaper is one of the hottest peppers on our list, and this hot pepper is about the closest you can get to spraying pepper spray all over your food. Good luck finding this pepper unless you grow it yourself. Scoville Heat Units: 1,000,000 to 2,000,000
  • Komodo Dragon: Komodo dragon peppers are hotter than ghost peppers, but they’re sneaky. When you bite into the Komodo dragon pepper, it’s sweet at first. Then, the heat kicks in, and you will quickly regret playing the pepper game. Scoville Heat Units: 1,400,000
  • Trinidad Scorpion: The Trinidad scorpion is indigenous to the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. For a long time, this pepper was ranked the hottest pepper in the world before the Carolina reaper overtook its spot. Scoville Heat Units: 1,463,700

What Is the Scoville Heat Unit Pepper Grading Scale? 

To measure the heat index of peppers, pepper enthusiasts and food experts use the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) scale, which is named after Wilbur Scoville, who developed the scale for testing the heat in peppers. The Scoville scale starts with the bell pepper at zero points, and it goes up to 16 million heat units. Once it gets up that high, it’s pure capsaicin. It’s not easy to find commercially available peppers that rank higher than the range from 300,000 to 500,000.

Nutrition in Peppers

Pepper nutrition facts vary depending on the pepper, but most peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C. Many peppers also have a nice dose of vitamin A. For centuries, capsaicin—the element that makes peppers spicy—has been used medicinally.

We need to point out that peppers belong to the nightshade family, and this plant family has been associated with causing inflammation. If you have an autoimmune condition, please speak with your physician before eating peppers.

How to Cook with Peppers

You can use peppers to make many different foods in addition to the condiments and sauces that peppers are famous for. Peppers can be used to make dips, soups, chili, jelly, stir-fry, stews, salsa, and more. You can char or stuff some peppers to serve them as a tasty appetizer, and other peppers can be minced so small that you may not even realize they’re in your food.

How to Use Dried Peppers in Cooking

One popular way to preserve peppers is to dry them. Dried peppers are delicious to add to a pot of cooking pinto beans. You can also grind up the dried peppers to use in recipes. Dried peppers can be added to marinades and sauces to give more heat than you get from pre-ground peppers.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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