How hot do you want it? Chili peppers range from mild to wild so we present our guide. They add delicious, complex flavors to a variety of dishes. A simple bit of chili pepper can add great distinction and depth to your recipes.
Chili Peppers

Remember, water activates the heat qualities of chilis, so, if the heat’s too much, quickly eat a simple starch like white bread or mashed potatoes, which neutralize the effect.


Appearance: thick-fleshed, shaped like a bell pepper with collapsed sides tapering to a point; 3″ to 5″ long, 2″ to 3″ wide near the stem; grows dark green and becomes dark red when fully matured.

Flavor: smoke-roasted and earthy with full, green flavor.

Firepower: tropical; a comfortable “3” on the heat scale.

Best uses: roasted and peeled in casseroles and soups and sauces; stuffed for chiles rellenos.

Anaheim (New Mexican)

Appearance: long, smooth and bluntly pointed with medium-thick flesh; 5″ to 7″ long, 1″ to 2″ wide; glossy green, orange-red or bright scarlet.

Flavor: clear-cutting, sweet, earthy flavor.

Firepower: lukewarm; ranges between “4” and “2” on the heat scale.

Best Uses: in most Southwestern dishes including beverages, sauces, salads, stew chilies rellenos, tamales, casseroles, dressings, candies and desserts.

Note: dried crushed red New Mexican and Anaheim are commonly sold as crushed red pepper flakes; Anaheims are milder than New Mexican and are often sold whole or chopped in cans as generic “mild green chilies”.


Appearance: long, thin-fleshed, sharply pointed pods, either straight or curled at the tip; 6″ to 10″ long, 1″ wide; ripens to brick red.

Flavor: acidic and tart (also exudes smoky undertones when dried).

Firepower: incendiary; a dangerous “8” on the heat scale.

Best Uses: fresh in salsa or salads; dried and crushed in Creole dishes or whole in Asian stir-fry dishes.

Note: dried red cayenne is commonly ground into a spice known as cayenne pepper or processed into hot pepper sauces such as Tabasco; in world commerce, dried cayenne pods are known as Ginnie peppers.


Appearance: torpedo-shaped and thick-fleshed, but longer than Jalapenos; 1 to 3-inches long” to 1-inch wide; grows dark green and usually ripens to red, but sometimes brown, orange or yellow.

Flavor: pleasantly acrid flavor with clean, biting heat.

Firepower: blazing, but less explosive than de arbol; a low “7” or high “6” on the heat scale.

Best Uses: fresh in salsa; roasted in sauces; pickled with carrots and onions.

Pasilla (Chilaca)

Appearance: long, cylindrical and furrowed; over 6″ long, 1″ wide; grows dark green; ripens to dark brown.

Flavor: raisin-like aroma with sweet berry overtones.

Firepower: tepid; an unobtrusive “3” on the heat scale.

Best Uses: dried or powdered in sauces or moles such as guacamole.

Note: in California and northern Mexico, fresh and dried Poblanos are often mistakenly named Pasillas.

Habenero (Bahamian, Scotch bonnet)

Appearance: short, stocky, lantern-shaped; 1″ to 2-?” long, 1″ to 2″ wide; ripen to red, yellow, orange or white; most frequently dark orange.

Flavor: distinctly floral and fruity with delayed-action nasal flame that sneaks up on you, then persists.

Firepower: infernal, the hottest pepper known; a “10” on the heat scale and estimated to be 100 times hotter than Jalapenos.

Best Uses: with tomatoes and tropical fruits; in fresh salsa, chutney, marinades and jerk sauces; for persistent heat in any dish.

Note: although very similar to the habanero, the Scotch bonnet pepper is usually yellow in color and slightly more bonnet-shaped than lantern-shaped.


Appearance: plump, blunt and bullet-shaped, sometimes with dry cracks along the thick-fleshed skin; 1″ to 2″ long, -?” to 1″ wide; shiny medium green, red or purple when ripe.

Flavor: green vegetable flavor with back-or-the-throat heat. Firepower: flaming; a fiery “5” on the heat scale.

Best Uses: fresh in salsa, stews, sauces, breads or dips; stuffed with cheese for a snack; as a topping for nachos.

Note: known as Chipotle Chile when smoke-dried.

Ancho (dried Poblano)

Appearance: broad, flat, wrinkled and heart-shaped with medium-thick flesh; 3″ to 6″ long, 2″ to 3″ wide; dark reddish mahogany (sometimes called “mulato” when dark brown or “negro” when black)

Flavor: mild fruit flavor with smoky, earthy hints of coffee and dried plum.

Firepower: cozy and warm; a modest “3” on the heat scale.

Best Uses: chili, sauces and moles.

Note: the Spanish mole means “mixture”, as in guacamole, which is a mixture of vegetables or guaca.

Hungarian Cherry

Appearance: fleshy and round or slightly heart-shaped; 1-?” long, 1 ” wide; ripen to orange or red.

Flavor: medium sweetness with bright, piquant warmth.

Firepower: warm; ranges between “4” and “1” on the heat scale.

Best Uses: often pickled, sliced and served with sandwiches or salads; also good when chopped fresh in salsa.

Note: especially good pungent varieties include red cherry and hot apple.

Mirasol (Aji)

Appearance: elongated, pointed and thin-fleshed with a tough skin; 3″ to 4″ long, 3/4″ to 1″ wide; shiny dark red or orange.

Flavor: superb tropical fruit flavor with clear, direct heat.

Firepower: naughty; a respectable “5” on the heat scale.

Best Uses: in sauces, stews and corn dishes; pickled with carrots and onions.

Note: the gualilo chile is a variety of the mirasol chile.

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