43 Different Types of Hot Peppers to Grow This Season

Thinking of adding some hot peppers to your garden this season? There are many different types you can grow, depending on your local climate. In this article, gardening expert Kelli Klein shares her favorite types of hot peppers you can grow in your garden, organized by BTUs.

types of hot peppers

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Hot peppers are often thought of as the tastebud scorching relative of the bell pepper. This is true; however, there are 4,000 types of chile peppers around the world, with new varieties being cultivated all the time. Both sweet peppers and hot peppers originated in Mexico and Central and South America and were brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus. Their use and cultivation have since spread around the world. Hot peppers, specifically, seem to have their own cult following. 

The race to create the hottest pepper often results in the winner being dethroned shortly after being declared the hottest pepper around. For example, the Ghost Pepper became widely known in 2007 as the hottest chile pepper in existence at a rating of over 1 million Scoville heat units (SHUs).

This lasted until 2011, when it was surpassed by the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper, which in turn was beaten out by the Carolina Reaper in 2013. The Carolina Reaper is still officially the world’s hottest pepper, as declared by The Guinness Book of World Records, but peppers like the Komodo Dragon Pepper, Apollo Pepper, Dragon’s Breath Pepper, and Pepper X are claiming to have higher SHUs.

Fans of these spicy chile peppers are devout. Even taking part in chile pepper eating contests to prove it. Aside from biting directly into the raw pepper to prove your bravado, chile peppers have also given us one of the world’s most popular condiments: hot sauce!

Which has spawned its own set of spicy chicken wing eating contests. If you’re not a fan of the melt-your-face-off chile peppers, then fear not! There are plenty of chile peppers with a mild level of heat, similar to a jalapeno. Since there are literally thousands of hot peppers, it’s impossible to mention them all here.

It also gets a little tricky to put them into categories since so many are hybridized or otherwise unique. We’ll list them here by Scoville Heat Units or SHUs so that you can pick the perfect chile pepper based on your heat tolerance and preference. 

1,000-2,500 SHUs

The Poblano pepper is the most popular and widely available of the peppers in this category. They resemble bell peppers with a touch of heat. Peppers in this category are considered mild. This makes them a great place to start for those who may not have a high tolerance for heat but still want to grow something spicier than a garden-variety bell pepper.

Ancho/Poblano

Close-up of seven ripe Ancho/Poblano peppers on a white surface. The fruits are large, oblong, cylindrical in shape, with a shiny dark green skin.
Ancho/Poblano is mild and versatile, commonly used in Mexican cuisine.

This pepper is referred to as a “poblano” when it is fresh and an “ancho” when it is dried. This pepper is perfect for chiles rellenos, and mole sauces.

Biquinho Red & Yellow Blend

Close-up of ripening fruit on a Biquinho Red & Yellow Blend Pepper bush in a greenhouse. The fruits are small, round, with a smooth and shiny skin, mixed in red and yellow. The leaves are large, wide, heart-shaped, dark green.
Biquinho Red & Yellow Blend are small, sweet Brazilian peppers with a tangy flavor.

These Brazilian peppers are mild, tangy, and sweet. They are small and tear-drop shaped. Peppers will begin as yellow and slowly ripens to red.

NuMex Joe E. Parker

A close-up of a ripe NuMex Joe E. Parker pepper. The fruits are medium in size, oblong in shape with a glossy dark green and deep red skin.
NuMex Joe E. Parker is a medium-sized, mild pepper ideal for roasting and stuffing.

This Anaheim-type pepper is thick-walled and perfect for stuffing or roasting. These peppers can also be dried and are used in New Mexico to create decorative pepper wreaths.

Padron

Close-up of many ripe Padron peppers. Peppers are small, oblong, wrinkled, with a bright green shiny skin.
Padron are small Spanish peppers known for their occasional fiery heat.

This pepper was cultivated by the Spanish monks of Padron in the 1700s. Most of these peppers are mild, with an odd hot pepper in the bunch.

Pot-a-Peno

A close-up of many ripe fruits on a Pot-a-Peno pepper bush. This is a compact type of pepper with small, oblong, smooth fruits tapering towards the ends. The fruits are bright red and green. The leaves are lanceolate, dark green.
Pot-a-Peno is a compact pepper that resembles a jalapeno but with a slightly milder flavor.

This container-friendly jalapeno hybrid is perfect for small spaces. Green peppers that are mildly hot are ready to harvest in 45-50 days, or you can leave them to turn red and even spicier in about 60-65 days.

Orange Pepperoncini

Close-up of ripening Orange Pepperoncini pepper fruits in a sunny garden. The bush has large dark green heart-shaped leaves and large fruits. The fruits are oblong, block-shaped with distinct ribs, with a wrinkled and bright orange skin.
Orange Pepperoncini is a mild, tangy pepper often used in pickling or as a pizza topping.

This is one of the oldest Italian pepper varieties. The yellow fruits slowly turn orange when they fully mature. They are slightly sweet and can be eaten fresh, but their flavor is intensified when pickled. It makes a great pizza topping!

Big Boss Man

Close-up of ripening Big Boss Man pepper fruit on a bush in a sunny garden. The bush has large oblong, broad, dark green leaves with smooth edges and tapered tips. The fruits are large, oblong, with a dark green glossy skin.
Big Boss Man is a large, moderately hot pepper with fruity undertones.

This is an ancho/poblano hybrid that produces large 7-inch-long fruits. This hybrid variety is resistant to the tobacco-mosaic virus.

Beaver Dam

Close-up of ripe Beaver Dam peppers. The fruits are large, distinctly wrinkled, with pale green skin fading to orange and red.
Beaver Dam is an heirloom pepper with a unique smoky and sweet flavor.

This Hungarian variety was brought to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, in 1912. These peppers are mildly hot and make a great slightly spicy stuffed pepper.

2,500-10,000 SHUs

Jalapenos are the most popular peppers in this category. They are considered medium hot. Chile peppers in this category are perfect for adding heat to salsa, like pico de gallo, salsa verde, and guacamole.

Early Jalapeno

Close-up of ripe fruits of the Early Jalapeno pepper on a bush in the garden. The fruits are small, oblong, with a smooth, shiny skin of bright green and bright red. The leaves are large, wide, heart-shaped, dark green.
Early Jalapeno is a quick-maturing jalapeno variety, typically harvested green and moderately spicy.

This early maturing variety is ready to harvest in 63 days and grow on compact plants. These peppers are perfect for stuffing, pickling, or eating raw.

Jalafuego

Close-up of ripening Jalafuego pepper fruits in the garden against a blurred sky. The bush has medium-sized leaves, oval in shape with narrowed tips, dark green in color, with smooth edges. The fruits are medium in size, slightly oblong in shape, with a smooth dark green skin.
Jalafuego is a hot jalapeno hybrid known for its fiery heat and intense flavor.

These extra-large jalapenos are perfect for making jalapeno poppers—very productive plants. They’re a bit hotter than an average jalapeno, but not by much!

NuMex Lemon Spice

Close-up of ripening NuMex Lemon Spice peppers on a bush with dark green foliage and small blooming white star-shaped flowers. The fruits are small, oval, slightly oblong, with a bright yellow smooth skin.
NuMex Lemon Spice is a citrusy and moderately hot pepper with a hint of spiciness.

This pepper has jalapeno-level heat with a slight citrus flavor. These peppers are yellow when fully mature and make excellent pickled peppers.

Big Guy Jalapeno

Close-up of many ripe Big Guy Jalapeno peppers. The fruits are large, oblong, with a smooth shiny skin of bright green color.
Big Guy Jalapeno is a larger jalapeno variety with a milder heat compared to traditional jalapenos.

This large jalapeno comes in at 5 inches long which makes it perfect for stuffing. These peppers are dark green, glossy, and thick-walled.

Jalapeno Gigante

Close-up of many ripe Jalapeno Gigante peppers. The fruits are large, oblong, plump in shape, with a smooth, shiny dark green skin.
Jalapeno Gigante is an extra-large jalapeno pepper with a moderate heat level.

This is another large jalapeno variety. These peppers grow on bushy plants that are perfect for containers on a patio or a deck.

Blazing Banana

Close-up of many ripe Blazing Banana peppers on a blue surface. The fruits are medium in size, elongated, resembling a banana, with a smooth and shiny yellow skin.
Blazing Banana is a sweet and spicy banana pepper with a medium level of heat.

This pepper has the heirloom flavor of the banana flavor, plus it packs a punch when it comes to heat! These 9-inch long yellow fruits are perfect on the grill. These plants are resistant to bacterial leaf spot.

Black Hungarian

Close-up of a ripening Black Hungarian pepper fruit on a bush in a garden. The fruit is small, conical in shape, with a wrinkled skin, dark purple. The leaves are small, oval, smooth, dark green in color with narrowed tips.
Black Hungarian is a dark-colored pepper with a slightly smoky and spicy flavor.

This early maturing variety (70 days) starts out black and eventually ripens to red. Similar in appearance to jalapenos and a good substitute for them as well.

Georgia Flame

Close-up of the ripening fruit of Georgia Flame peppers on a bush in the garden. The fruits are medium in size, oblong, with a wrinkled skin of bright red color. The leaves are small, oval, dark green, with pointed tips.
Georgia Flame is a hot pepper with a fruity taste and high heat.

This variety originated in the Republic of Georgia. 8 inch-long red fruits are thick-walled and crunchy. They make an excellent addition to salsas!

10,000-25,000

The most popular pepper in this category is the serrano pepper. These are similar in flavor to a jalapeno but with more heat. Peppers in this category are considered to be medium hot to hot. These peppers can add some heat to soups and stews.

Serrano

Close-up of ripening Serrano pepper fruit on a bush in a mulched garden. The fruits are small, oblong, thin, with a smooth, shiny dark green skin. The leaves are large, oblong, oval in shape with narrowed tips. Some leaves are damaged, with yellow-brown margins.
Serrano is a moderately hot Mexican pepper with a crisp and bright flavor.

These peppers are most commonly eaten when green. However, you can wait until they turn red if you want more heat. Each plant produces dozens of peppers, and the more often you pick them, the more they will produce.

Bulgarian Carrot

Close-up of ripening Bulgarian Carrot peppers in a sunny garden. The bush has oval, green leaves with smooth edges and tapered tips. Carrot-shaped fruits with slightly wrinkled and bright orange skin.
Bulgarian Carrot is a fiery and crunchy pepper with a vibrant orange color.

Very hot yet fruity, these peppers resemble 3-inch-long carrots with their yellow-orange color and shape. They make an excellent addition to chutneys.

Challeano

Close-up of ripening Challeano peppers in the garden. The bush and fruits are covered with raindrops. The leaves are large, oval oblong in shape with pointed tips, dark green in color with white edges. The fruits are large, long, narrow, with slightly curved tips, covered with a smooth and shiny skin of red and yellow.
Challeano is a hot pepper with a fruity and tangy taste, often used in salsas and hot sauces.

These small peppers are very hot with light citrus and berry overtones. Plants are highly productive and mature in the mid-to-late season.

Ralph Thompson’s Squash

Close-up of ripening Ralph Thompson's Squash peppers in a sunny garden. The fruits are small, pumpkin-shaped, with distinct ribs and a smooth, shiny, bright red skin. The leaves are oval, smooth, pale green.
Ralph Thompson’s Squash is a rare and unique variety of pepper with a mild heat and squash-like flavor.

Despite its name, this is a pepper variety, not a squash! This variety was originally brought to the United States by Italian immigrants when they arrived in Boston as indentured servants. These red fruits are small, stout, and saucer-shaped with strong ribbing.

25,000-50,000

The most popular pepper in this category is the cayenne pepper. Peppers in this category are considered hot and are great for making hot sauces or dehydrating for use as red pepper flakes!

Cayenne Blend

Close-up of ripe Cayenne Blend peppers on a white background. The fruits are thin, elongated, with a smooth shiny skin of bright red, yellow and green colors.
Cayenne Blend is a spicy and versatile blend of cayenne peppers with varying heat levels.

This blend of cayenne seeds produces both yellow and red cayenne. These peppers are great for adding heat to soups and stews. They can also be dehydrated and ground up to produce cayenne powder.

Santaka

Close-up of ripening Santaka peppers on a bush in the garden. The fruits are small, thin, oblong, with a smooth, shiny skin of bright red and green colors. The leaves are lanceolate, dark green, oblong, with smooth edges.
Santaka is a small, fiery Japanese pepper commonly used in Asian cuisine.

This Japanese pepper is very hot! The small peppers grow in an upside growth habit, similar to ornamental peppers. This makes the plant beautiful enough for not only the vegetable garden but as a landscaping border as well.

Tabasco

Close-up of a Tabasco bush with ripening fruits. The bush is lush, has oval dark green leaves with pointed tips. The fruits are small, conical in shape and range in color from yellow to orange to red.
Tabasco is famous for its use in the iconic hot sauce, it has a bold and tangy flavor.

This pepper originated in Mexico but quickly became a favorite in the Southern United States. This pepper is widely used to make the hot sauce of the same name first produced in Avery Island, Louisiana.

Hot Lemon

Close-up of ripe Hot Lemon peppers in female hands on a blurred background of a green garden. Peppers are covered with drops of water. The fruits are small, oblong in shape, with a bright yellow shiny skin.
Hot Lemon is a zesty and hot pepper with a citrusy twist.

These peppers have a unique citrus-smoky-spicy flavor. They are yellow and 3-4 inches long when fully ripe. They can be eaten fresh but also make a uniquely yellow dried chili flake.

Real Deal

Close-up of a pile of ripe Real Deal peppers at a market stall. The fruits are large, irregular in shape, with a wrinkled and bumpy peel of a bright red color.
Real Deal is a genuine and intense pepper with a heat that lives up to its name.

This hybrid variety boasts the flavor of habanero but without the intense heat. The fruits begin green and turn red when fully ripe. Each plant can bear up to 40 fruits.

Dragon Cayenne

Close-up of a growing Dragon Cayenne pepper on a bush. The fruit is long, thin, with a smooth, shiny skin of fiery red color, with a characteristic curved shape. The leaves are green, with yellow spots, oval in shape with narrowed tips and smooth edges.
Dragon Cayenne is a fiery cayenne pepper with a distinctive, dragon-like appearance.

This pepper is 5 times hotter than a jalapeno! These peppers are perfect for drying and tossing whole into soups and stews or crushing into red pepper flakes.

Aurora

Close-up of ripening Aurora pepper fruits in the garden. The fruits are small, block-shaped, with a smooth, glossy skin that is bright red, orange, and purple.
Aurora is a vibrant and hot pepper with a fruity flavor.

These peppers begin a deep purple and slowly ripen from yellow to red. This variety can be grown as an ornamental, but the peppers are also spicy and delicious! It is a dwarf-sized plant which makes it perfect for containers.

Ausilio Thin Skin Italian

Close-up of ripe Ausilio Thin Skin Italian peppers in a crate outdoors. The fruits are large, block-shaped with bumpy wrinkled skin of bright red color.
Ausilio Thin Skin Italian is a mild and thin-skinned Italian pepper perfect for stuffing and frying.

This Italian-style thin-skinned frying pepper is medium hot and has excellent flavor when roasted. This pepper has been passed down for 5 generations by the Ausilio family.

Fish

Close-up of a Fish hot pepper bush with ripening fruits in a sunny garden. The bush is lush, has large oval dark green leaves with smooth edges and pointed tips. The fruits are oblong, wrinkled, conical in shape, bright red, orange with dark stripes and yellow with green stripes.
Fish is a small, wrinkled pepper with streaks of color and was popularized by seafood restaurants.

This 19th-century African-American heirloom produces striped peppers. The plants themselves also have variegated foliage. They were traditionally used in oyster and crab houses in the Chesapeake Bay, hence the name Fish.

Hinkelhatz

Close-up of a bunch of ripe Hinkelhatz peppers in a plastic container. The peppers are small, slightly wrinkled, with a glossy bright red skin.
Hinkelhatz is an heirloom pepper with a complex and fruity taste, originating from Pennsylvania.

This pepper has been cultivated by the Pennsylvania Dutch since the 1880s. The name translates to “chicken heart.” These small 1-2 inch fruits were traditionally used for pickling and making pepper vinegar.

Hot Portugal

Close-up of ripening Hot Portugal peppers on a bush in the garden. Peppers are medium in size, conical in shape, long, curved, bright red in color with a smooth, glossy skin. The leaves are green, oval, oblong.
Hot Portugal is a spicy pepper popular in Portugal, with a medium heat and rich flavor.

Sturdy upright plants are very productive. These vivid red peppers grow to about 6 inches long. They can be eaten fresh but also dry well.

Rooster Spur

Close-up of a ripening Rooster Spur pepper on a bush among large dark green leaves with smooth edges and pointed tips. The fruit is small, upright, thin, elongated, bright red.
Rooster Spur is a compact pepper with a fiery kick, often used in Asian dishes.

This rare variety has been grown in the family of Virgil T. Ainsworth of Laurel, Mississippi, for the last 100 years. These small 2-inch long bright red peppers are traditionally used to make Rooster Pepper Sausage.

50,000-100,000

The most popular pepper in this category is the Thai bird chile. These peppers are considered very hot. These peppers are common in Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Indonesian cuisine.

Thai Hot

Close-up of a Thai Hot pepper bush with many ripe fruits. The fruits are small, thin, with a pointed shape. The fruits are covered with shiny bright red skin. The leaves are lanceolate, with a pointed tip and a wide base.
Thai Hot is an extremely spicy pepper widely used in Thai cuisine.

If you love spicy Thai food, then this is the pepper for you to grow! It is delicious in curries, soup, and stir-fries.

Joe’s Long Cayenne

Close-up of Joe's Long Cayenne pepper bush with ripe fruit. The bush is lush, has many large oval dark green leaves with pointed tips. Peppers are long, thin, slightly wrinkled, with a smooth, shiny skin of bright red and dark green.
Joe’s Long Cayenne is an elongated cayenne pepper known for its heat and versatility in cooking.

This variety is originally from Calabria, Italy. Finger-width peppers can grow to be 12 inches long! Great for fresh eating or for drying.

Martin’s Carrot

Close-up of ripe Martin's Carrot peppers against a blurred background. The fruits are medium-sized, carrot-shaped, with a smooth, shiny orange-red and green skin.
Martin’s Carrot is a spicy pepper with a carrot-like shape and a fruity, tangy taste.

This variety was developed in the 19th century by Mennonite horticulturalists Jacob B. Garber. These plants produce carrot-shaped, 3-inch long, deep orange-red fruits that are slightly smoky and hot.

Maule’s Red Hot

A close-up of ripening fruit on a Maule's Red Hot pepper bush. Peppers are long, thin, twisted, with bright red and bright green shiny skin. The leaves are large, oval-shaped, with pointed tips, dark green.
Maule’s Red Hot is a hot pepper variety with a vibrant red color and intense heat.

This pepper was first introduced by the Wm. Henry Maule seed company of Philadelphia. It is ideal for making hot sauce or dried red pepper flakes.

McMahon’s Texas Bird

A close-up of ripening fruit on a McMahon's Texas Bird pepper bush against a blurred background. The bush has small and slightly oblong peppers of bright red color with a smooth and shiny skin. The leaves are oval, smooth, dark green.
McMahon’s Texas Bird is a small and hot pepper commonly used in salsas and sauces.

This variety is native to southwest Texas, and these small plants are ideal for containers. These plants are easy to overwinter indoors. Produces small, round red peppers that are exceptionally hot.

100,000-350,000

The most popular pepper in this category is the Habanero pepper. These peppers are considered to be extremely hot. These peppers are small in size but pack a punch! Habanero-mango has become a popular flavor combo since the mango’s sweetness helps tame the heat from the habanero. And habaneros also have a slightly fruity, divine flavor once you get past its fire.

Habanero

Close-up of ripening fruits on a Habanero pepper bush in a sunny garden. The peppers are small, lantern-shaped, wrinkled, with a shiny bright orange skin. The leaves are large, oval, smooth, with pointed tips.
Habanero is famed for its intense heat and fruity flavor.

These peppers start out green, then turn yellow, and finally turn orange when fully mature. They can be eaten at any stage, but to get the full heat and flavor, wait until they turn orange. Very hot with a mild citrusy sweet flavor. A thin slice adds a lot of heat.

Scotch Bonnet

Close-up of ripening fruit on a Scotch Bonnet pepper bush against a blurred background of a green garden. The fruits are round, plump, similar to Habanero, with a wrinkled, glossy red skin.
Scotch Bonnet is a Caribbean pepper with a fiery heat and a sweet, tropical taste.

This pepper is commonly used in Caribbean and Latin dishes. Intensely hot with a slight citrus flavor.

Habanero, Red

Close-up of ripening fruit on a Habanero, Red pepper bush in a greenhouse. The fruits are large, lantern-shaped, with a wrinkled, glossy, bright red skin. The leaves are oval, dark green, waxy, with slightly wavy edges.
Habanero Red is a riper version of the habanero pepper, known for its increased sweetness.

This pepper is also known as Lucifer’s Dream. These small, fruity, rippled, red peppers resemble Habaneros, except they are red instead of orange. They are a favorite in Caribbean dishes, and they are sizzling hot!

350,000-750,000

The peppers in this category are considered fiery hot! These are not for the faint of heart, but they can make a very spicy hot sauce.

Fatalii

Close-up of ripening fruit on a Fatalii pepper bush in a sunny garden. The fruits are lantern-shaped, shriveled, with a shiny bright yellow and dark green skin. The leaves are large, oval-shaped, dark green in color with pointed tips and slightly wavy edges.
Fatalii is an extremely hot pepper from Central Africa, characterized by its fruity and citrusy flavor.

This pepper originated from the Central African Republic. These habanero-type peppers are golden orange, 3 inches long, and have very few seeds. They are a great choice for containers, making them easy to overwinter indoors in pots.

750,000-1,500,000

The most popular pepper in this category is the Ghost Pepper. Peppers in this category are approaching the hottest peppers in the world.

Ghost/Bhut Jolokia

Close-up of ripening fruits on a Ghost/Bhut Jolokia pepper bush in the garden. The bush has many small ripe fruits of irregular shape, elongated, with wrinkled, bright red and shiny skin. The leaves are lanceolate, oblong, light green in color with wavy edges and pointed tips.
Ghost/Bhut Jolokia is infamous for its extreme spiciness.

This is one of the hottest peppers in the world. If your heat-loving taste buds can’t be satisfied by any other chili pepper, you might want to try growing ghost peppers. They are fiery and fruity and can be used for everything from dried chili flakes to hot sauce to fresh salsas.

1,500,000+

When it comes to the hottest of the hot, there are few to choose from in this category. Peppers in this category are the hottest you can grow.

Carolina Reaper

Close-up of a ripe Carolina Reaper pepper on a bush in a garden. The fruit is medium in size, has a distinct bumpy appearance with a rough and textured skin of deep red color. The fruit has a unique oblong shape, tapering towards the end at the bottom, resembling a knotted and twisted horn.
Carolina Reaper is the world’s hottest pepper, known for its blistering heat and distinctive shape.

The Carolina Reaper is the most popular pepper in this category. However, the Carolina Reaper is a registered trademark, making it illegal to sell these seeds for profit.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve learned about all the different types of hot peppers to grow in your garden, the next step is to settle in and pick one! Whether you aim for something a little more tame or decide to tempt fate with a Ghost Pepper, there are many different options you can choose from, no matter your garden goals.

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