World’s Hottest Peppers – Top Ten To Try… If You Dare!

When you think of hot pepper, what springs to mind? 

Depending on how brave you are, it’s possible you’ve tried a jalapeno or habanero in your time, possibly even had a nibble on a Scotch Bonnet.

Most folks are sensible and steer clear of overly spicy food altogether, because of the unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects if anything else.

Red chilis

Today we’ll be taking a look at some of the hottest peppers the world has ever seen, as decided primarily by the Guinness Book Of World Records.

There are even some peppers that are so new, they haven’t even had a chance to try for the record yet!

As technology advances, so too does our ability to explore and investigate more of the world.

This is pleasing to chiliheads, who are always seeking the euphoria of the next hot challenge. Ready to make a bucket list? 

Let’s go.

First Things First - How Is A Pepper’s Heat Measured?

First proposed by - and named after - Wilbur Schoville back in 1912, the Scoville Test determines how hot or “pungent” particular chili peppers are, with a measurement given on a scale of Scoville Heat Units (SHU) as a result.

Each pepper’s unit of measurement is determined by how many capsaicinoids are found inside - this is a substance present in capsaicin molecules, an irritant that creates a burning sensation when ingested, resulting in the hot, sweaty feelings we humans associate with eating spicy food.

The higher the concentration of these punchy little molecules, the hotter the pepper is sure to be: you’ll find they are at their most pungent in the white pith that encases the seeds, which themselves don’t actually contain any heat.

In 1994, the first pepper in our list, the Red Savina, unknowingly sparked what would soon be an intrepid race to develop the world’s hottest pepper.

After Paul Bosland grew a ghost pepper that hit over a million Scovilles in 2001, the floodgates really opened.

This resulted in huge competition, with the Guinness Book Of World records regularly being updated according to the latest facts and figures.

The Savina was christened World’s Hottest Pepper in 1994, only to be overtaken by the Dorset Naga in 2006, then quickly pipped by the Ghost Pepper in 2007.

2011 was a big year for peppers, as the title was switched over three times: first to the Infinity, followed by the Baga Viper, and finally the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T variant.

No new peppers were recognized until 2013 when the Carolina Reaper was commemorated - it has retained the title ever since… but there are said to be even hotter peppers out there just waiting to burn up your tastebuds. Take a look...

Top Ten World’s Hottest Peppers (In order of SHU)

1. Red Savina

Red Savina Pepper

Heat Rating: 350,000- 577,000 Scovilles

Capsicum Species: C. Chinense

Holder of the Guinness World Record for World’s Hottest Pepper for over a decade, 1995-2006, the Red Savina was developed by Frank Garcia in Walnut, California.

Wrinkly in appearance and looking kind of like a Chinese lantern, it is a descendant of the habanero chili, with several batches being selectively bred in order to create these larger, heavier, and ultimately much spicier versions.

Unlike their conventional orange counterparts, as the name suggests, a Red Savina is dark red in color, which suggests there was breeding with spicy red habanero mutation.

It is entirely unknown what methodology Garcia followed to breed!

They are believed to score approximately 577,000 on the Scoville scale, though there was never any official verification for this figure.

The Chile Pepper Institute of New Mexico State University lists their spiciest Savina samples as being around 500,000 SHUs.

Unfortunately, the Red Savina’s lead was very quickly overtaken by...

2. Ghost Pepper (Bhüt Jolokia)

ghost pepper

Heat Rating: 1,001,000 Scovilles

Capsicum Species: C. chinense x C. frutescens

Rated approximately 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce, the Ghost chili pepper easily doubles the Scoville rating of the previous record holder, claiming the title officially in 2007 with a whopping 1.1 million SHU.

Where most peppers only contain capsaicin in their placenta, a ghost chili also has capsaicin in the placenta around the seeds themselves and even in its skin, so the spice deeply permeates throughout the entire thing.

You’ll find them in orange, yellow, chocolate, or red - the unselected ghost pepper strains in India vary widely in shape, color, and the number of fruits per plant.

They have much thinner skin compared to other chilis, as well as coming in rough and smooth varieties.

Its English title is a mistranslation, owing to the fact that the very similar word bhut (note the lack of umlaut over the letter u!) which means ghost.

It is regionally referred to as a Naga morich (Naga chili) in Bangladesh and Nagaland, as well as Indian mystery chili and Indian rough chili).

3. Dorset Naga / Naga Morich

Dorset Naga

Heat Rating: 1,000,000+ Scovilles

Capsicum Species: C. chinense

A sister to the Ghost chili plant, the Naga Morich is grown natively in Bangladesh and Northeast India.

Once they are grown outside of these hotter regions, however, they tend to lose their more extreme heat levels.

Dorset Nagas are similar in appearance to their siblings, but very different genetically.

For instance, its flavor is sweet and slightly tart, but also offers a smokier, wood-burning kind of aftertaste, making it a popular choice at barbecues (for the brave!) 

It is actually the world’s only naturally occurring chili pepper to be rated at or exceed 1,000,000 Scoville Heat Units.

They tend to be small in size, with a ribbed and pimpled texture, distinctive from their smoother spicy counterparts.

Currently, the hottest Naga on record is the subspecies Dorset Naga, grown in the United Kingdom by Joy and Michael Michaud back in 2001.  

4. Armageddon

Armageddon pepper

Heat Rating: 1,300,000 Scovilles

Capsicum Species: C. chinense x C. frutescens

Lovingly grown by Salvatore Genovese (who runs the popular website in Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom, the Armageddon pepper is definitely up there with some of the hottest chili peppers of all time.

Developed as a hybrid via traditional breeding methods, the shrubs that the Armageddon fruits on are actually much easier to grow, can be picked earlier, and tend to yield a whole heap more chilis than those of the Carolina Reaper.

Interestingly enough, it is the first hybrid, British bred chili to be notorious worldwide, with Mr. Genovese now growing a whopping one million chillies per week in order to satisfy the high demand of those awesome English chiliheads.

It is believed that it will only grow hotter the more they are bred in hotter, sustained climates, so it’s possible they might pip the California Reaper (more on that bad boy later) and one day attain recognition as the World’s Hottest Chili by Guinness.

5. Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon

Heat Rating: 1,400,000 Scovilles

Capsicum Species: C. chinense

Another impressive little chili grown regularly in Blunham, Bedfordshire by Salvatore Genovese is the Komodo Dragon, first announced in 2015. 

What is particularly special about this bad boy is the “delayed” reaction described by those who have been brave enough to give it a try.

For the first ten seconds, you’ll enjoy an intense fruity flavor, which all of a sudden explodes into a spicy sensation.

Similar in appearance to naga and ghost chilis, you’ll find them small and stubby, though a little slimmer and slightly pointier than the others.

They start out green and mature into a vivid and vivacious red once completely mature.

The sneaky heat that it possesses is kind of like getting blasted in the face by a dragon’s flames, which makes the name even more appropriate, right?

Like Genovese’s other creations, the Komodo is actually packaged and sold in Tesco, a UK-based supermarket, where brave adrenaline junkies can pick up two peppers for less than a buck!

6. Trinidad Scorpion Butch T

Trinidad moruga scorpion

Heat Rating: 1,463,700 Scovilles

Capsicum Species: C. chinense

From 2011-2014, the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper ruled the scene, holding the Guinness World Record title for a couple of years during the famous worldwide race to grow the hottest possible pepper.

So named because its highly pointed end is similar to the stinger of a scorpion, these babies are indigenous to Trinidad and Tobago. 

The hottest Butch T variant was bred by Butch Taylor of Zydeco Farms in Mississippi back in 2011 and christened the Scorpion by Neil Smith at The Hippy Seed Company, who got some seeds from Butch and grew his own.

It is believed by cultivators of the Scorpion Butch that fertilizing the soil by using liquid runoff from a worm farm is a possible key to achieving the maximum possible hotness when growing your own.

They are genetically similar (and hail from the same place as) the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, which held the title of World’s Hottest Pepper very briefly back in 2012 but was not quite able to reach the same heights as Butch T’s experiments.

7. Carolina Reaper

carolina reaper

Heat Rating: 1,569,300 Scovilles

Capsicum Species: C. chinense

Notorious for being the hottest pepper in the world, stealing the record from Butch T’s Trinidad Scorpion back in 2017, the California reaper is a distinctively gnarly pepper, created by breeding the Ghost chili with habaneros for the ultimate spice.

Bred by Smokin’ Ed Currie, famous for running the PuckerButt Pepper Company in Fort Mill, its official world record heat level was considered 1,641,184 SHU when measured by Winthrop University out in South Carolina.

That was, in actual fact, an average for the whole group tested: one individual pepper was believed to have a whipping Scoville measurement of over 2.2 million.

Upon the first bite, it doesn’t actually feel like it’s going to be too bad, actually offering notes of sweetness. That is, until a few seconds later... when it erupts to molten lava inside your mouth. Ouch!

Interestingly enough, if you’re looking to try pepper growing yourself, the Reaper might actually be a good place to start! Ethnobotanist James Wong describes them as “a good all-rounder to try at home” - that is, if you think you can handle the heat!

Although it is believed that there are hotter peppers out there, they still currently hold the record for World’s Hottest Pepper according to Guinness - only time will tell whether they can be outshined!

8. Chocolate 7-Pot / 7-Pot Doulagh

Chocolate 7 pot pepper

Heat Rating: 1,800,000 Scovilles

Capsicum Species: C. chinense

Another pepper hailing from the impressively hot Trinidad and Tobago, the chocolate 7-pot is one spicy Caribbean chili.

They can be nicknamed “Doulagh” chilis as this is close to the Trinidad word dougla, which refers to those of mixed racial heritage.

So-called because the average Caribbean might season up to seven pots of their food with just one pod of this pepper, you’ll find many different varieties of a 7-pot, but this sweet-sounding variant is the hottest one around.

Unlike many other super hot chilis, they become an interesting chocolate brown color once fully ripened, where usually you might expect a bold, bright red.

Otherwise, they’re very similar in appearance to the habanero, though with more wrinkles and pockmarks.

Distinctively, though they carry the same initial fruitiness of most mega spicy chilis, you can also note a nutty aftertaste… until the whole of your mouth is overtaken by an extraordinary and very sudden fireball of heat, that is!

It’s pretty difficult to get your hands on seeds for these bad boys, so you might want to pin your hopes on getting yourself some Reapers to grow instead.

9. Dragon’s Breath

Dragon's breath

Heat Rating: 2,480,000 Scovilles (Unofficially) 

Capsicum Species: C. Chinense

Cultivated by Neal Price in collaboration with NPK Technology and Nottingham Trent University, the Dragon’s Breath plant was later taken over and officially cultivated by Mike Smith, who resides in Denbighshire in Wales.

It was not actually intended to be grown for its record-breaking measurements, according to Mr. Smith, who was actually trying to create an attractive-looking plant; it is his Welsh heritage that led the pepper to receive its very fitting name.

They aren’t really encouraged for eating by breeders, given they match up to the heat packed by pepper sprays utilized by the US Military when deployed in action, which isn’t really something you want to put in your mouth!

Although it has yet to be recognized by the Guinness Book Of World Records, it was tested to hit 2.48 million SHU, vastly surpassing the Carolina Reaper, which currently holds the record. Unfortunately, it might not get a chance, because of...

10. Pepper X

Pepper X

Heat Rating: 3,180,000 Scovilles (Unofficially)

Capsicum Species: C. chinense

Smokin’ Ed Currie wasn’t satisfied enough with the legacy that developing the California Reaper brought to him - especially when the SHU record was broken by other peppers pretty quickly! - this cultivar of the Capsicum chili pepper was a result of multiple cross breedings.

Said breedings were found to produce incredibly large amounts of capsaicin in the locules (inner compartments) of the pepper, which is the result of over a decade of careful and clever cultivation projects. 

Believed to be two times hotter than the Reaper, if this is proven to be true then it will swiftly take Guinesses’ World Hottest Pepper title 

Currie himself actually said that Pepper X was developed because he found existing peppers were too mild, so he wanted to create a pepper that was much hotter, but still managed to maintain some distinctive flavors.

Pepper X is one of the ingredients in The Last Dab, a hot sauce developed to replace Blair’s Mega Death Sauce as the hottest lineup in Season 5 of Hot Ones, a YouTube show in which celebrities are interviewed whilst eating chicken wings (or a vegan alternative) that get coated in increasingly hotter sauce.