Is Pepper Spicy? 19 Popular Peppers, Their Uses, And Spice Level

Is pepper spicy? The answer is yes. But not all peppers are spicy.

Pepper is a fruit that comes in over 600 varieties, each with a different level of spiciness. 

In this guide, you’ll see the different types of peppers, their level of spiciness, and everything in between. Also, you’ll know which peppers best suit your meals and the ones to avoid.

What is pepper?

Pepper is a hot, pungent spice that adds flavor to meals. It comes from the dry berries of the pepper plant.

Additionally, pepper is also used to add heat to both sweet and savory dishes.

Why is pepper spicy?

Capsaicin is the active ingredient in peppers that is responsible for their spiciness. When capsaicin comes into contact with your tongue, it activates a receptor called TRPV1. 

This receptor is activated by high temperatures and is responsible for the sensation of heat and pain. In other words, when you eat something spicy, your brain thinks you are eating something hot!

Capsaicin is present in the highest concentrations in the inner parts of the pepper. This is why it is advised that you remove the seeds and white ribs of the pepper to reduce the spiciness.

Capsaicin is present in different levels in different types of peppers. This is why one pepper is spicier than another. The Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) measures capsaicin concentration and level of spiciness.

In essence, the high the SHU rating, the spicier the pepper.

Different types of peppers and their SHU rating

1. Yellow chili

yellow chili - millenora

SHU rating: 30,000 – 50,000 Scoville units.

Yellow chili peppers are also called Guero chiles. They have a bold flavor that comes off as peppery. Also, they have a smooth texture and add a crunch of spiciness to many dishes. 

2. Pimiento pepper

pimiento pepper - millenora

SHU rating: 100 – 500 Scoville units.

Pimiento pepper is often called a cherry pepper because of its heart-shaped form, red color, and short thick stem.

It has sweet, aromatic, and succulent flesh you can eat raw, stuffed, roasted, or pickled. It comes in green, red, and yellow colors.

Additionally, pimento peppers look like small bell peppers but are sweeter.

3. Shishito

shishito pepper - millenora

SHU rating: 50 – 200 Scoville units.

This pepper is hotter than a bell pepper but is not as intense as jalapenos. Shishito originates from Japan and has a smoky yet not-so-spicy taste when used in moderation.

Shishito peppers are known for their wrinkly appearance. They are one of those peppers you can eat raw or roasted. 

4. Poblano pepper

poblano peppers - millenora

SHU rating: 1,000 – 1,500 Scoville units.

Poblano falls among medium-heat peppers, but it is spicier than banana pepper. Also, it tastes like green bell pepper and comes in green (unripe) and red (ripe) colors.

Red poblano has more spice than the green variant but is not as spicy as a jalapeno. You can also eat this pepper raw or incorporate it into your meals.

5. Bell pepper

bell peppers - millenora

Spice level: 0 Scoville unit.

Bell peppers, though fruity, are often used as a side dish or vegetable ingredient. They are a type of sweet pepper you can enjoy grilled or in soups and sauces.

They come in red, yellow, orange, chocolate, and white colors, with red bell peppers being the healthiest. 

6. Fresno chile

 fresno peppers - millenora

SHU rating: 2,500 – 10,000 Scoville units.

Fresno has a striking resemblance to a jalapeno. However, it has thinner walls and is not as hot and spicy as a jalapeno. Additionally, Fresno gives off a more fruity and smoky taste and falls within the slightly spicy medium-heat peppers.

7. Cayenne

cayenne peppers - millenora

SHU rating: 30,000 – 50,000 Scoville units.

This pepper has a slightly hot and spicy flavor like dried chili peppers. It looks and tastes a lot like paprika, but its spice levels vary.

Furthermore, cayenne is a popular spice in Mexican cooking used for meat marinades, fajitas, and spicy dishes.

8. Scotch bonnet

scotch bonnet - millenora

SHU rating: 100,000 – 350,000 Scoville units.

A scotch bonnet is hotter and spicier than a habanero. It is often referred to by other names such as flower pepper, Bonney pepper, fresh pepper, etc.

Scotch bonnet is a variety of chili pepper with an almost sweet, flimsy fruity taste that adds a spicy flavor to many foods. It also offers a wide range of medicinal benefits.

9. Guajillo chili

is pepper spicy - millenora

SHU rating: 2,500 – 5,000 Scoville units.

This pepper closely resembles pasilla pepper in terms of its flavor. It is fruity, smoky, and sweet, and gives off a mild form of heat.

Guajillo is a versatile spice in Mexican cuisine used in making salsas, sauces, etc. It is known for its leathery skin and is gotten from dry mirasol pepper.

10. Pasilla

pasilla peppers - millenora

SHU rating: 500 – 2,500 Scoville units.

In the US, Canada, and Mexico, the pasilla pepper is also called poblano. Pasilla is a dried chilaca pepper with mild heat and spice in other parts.

It is often crushed into powder and used as a seasoning in Mexican dishes like moles and salsas.

11. Cubanelle 

is pepper spicy - millenora

SHU rating: 100 – 1,000 Scoville units.

Cubanelle falls under the category of sweet peppers, but it can be slightly hot. Another name for it is Cuban pepper.

It has thinner flesh than bell pepper and gives off a sweet and low-heat flavor when used in dishes. It can be consumed raw in a salad or added to pizzas and steak.

12. Banana chili

is pepper spicy - millenora

SHU rating: 0 – 500 Scoville units.

Banana chilis are shaped like bananas and come in bright yellow or pale green colors. These peppers have a mild sweet taste that cannot be described as spicy.

They are used in making dishes like salsa, buffalo chicken, and more.

13. Anaheim

is pepper spicy - millenora

SHU rating: 500 – 2,500 Scoville units.

They are a type of chili pepper that can easily be substituted with poblano, bell pepper, or cubanelle pepper while cooking. Anaheim is not as spicy as poblano green chiles.

You can eat this pepper roasted, grilled, or as preferred. It has relatively mild heat and tastes like bell pepper.

14. Rocoto

is pepper spicy - millenora

SHU rating: 30,000 – 100,000 Scoville units.

The outer wall of the rocoto peppers has about the same level of spice as bell peppers, but the inner parts are fruity and fresh. Rocoto is a type of chili pepper that is grown in Bolivia and Peru.

They are classified under hot peppers and are hotter than a jalapeno.

15. Pepperoncini

pepperoncini - millenora

SHU rating: 100 – 500 Scoville units.

Pepperoncini and banana pepper measure the same value on the Scoville scale. However, they do not have the same flavor and appearance. 

Pepperoncini is popularly used in Italian cuisine. It has a sweet, tangy vinegar taste and gives off medium heat.

16. Bird’s eye pepper

bird's eye pepper - millenora

SHU rating: 50,000 – 100,000 Scoville units.

This Thai chili is smaller than many peppers. Its name comes from its small, round shape. It is also known as piri-piri or peri-peri. The small round shape is a disguise for how much heat it packs.

Bird’s eye chili has a fruity and peppery taste that perfectly compliments sauces, marinades, chilis, salads, and soups. People who can withstand the heat also dare to eat them raw.

17. Chipotle pepper 

chipotle pepper - millenora

SHU rating: 2,500 – 8,000 Scoville units.

Chipotle pepper is another type of chili pepper. It is also referred to as smoked jalapeno. The pepper is dried and smoked before being sold to retain its smoky and spicy taste.

However, it is not as hot as your usual jalapeno pepper.

18. Jalapeno

jalapeno peppers - millenora

SHU rating: 4,000 – 8,500 Scoville units. 

Jalapeno is a South American medium-hot, medium-sized pepper. It is much smaller than many other peppers, especially those within its Scoville value. This is one of those spicy peppers you can eat raw, cooked, or smoked.

19. Serrano

serrano peppers - millenora

SHU rating: 10,000 – 25,000 Scoville units. 

Serrano pepper tastes like jalapeno pepper but is about 5 times hotter. Moreover, serrano has an earthy and grassy flavor, and you may not want to eat it raw because of its spice.

It is rich in vitamin C, copper, potassium, and manganese and can add lots of spice to any dish.


What is the spiciest chili in the world?

Carolina reaper. It has a Scoville heat unit of 2.2 million and gives a mouth-burning sensation.

What is the least hot pepper in the world?

Cherry peppers and sweet bell peppers. They have a sweet and very mild heat and can be added to salad and other dishes.

What is the sweetest pepper?

Red bell pepper. It has a fruity and sweet flavor that comes from its full ripening process. This is one of the reasons it is called the king of the grill.


Pepper is a spice but not all types of peppers are spicy. From bell peppers to Scotch bonnet peppers, different peppers are on different levels of the Scoville scale.

All peppers are great, but each works differently in different meals. The different levels of heat should help you know which pepper best suits your preference and spice tolerance.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Learn further with this comparison of the spice levels of peppercorns and peppers.

Thank you for reading.