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Types of Chile Peppers

Slofoodgroup Team mars 07, 2024

Chile peppers—their versatility and variations in heat level are astounding. All chile peppers are part of the Capsicum genus, the fruiting body of a chile plant, and they range from the sweetness of a bell pepper to the potent heat of a ghost pepper and beyond. Primarily renowned in as a staple in Asian and Mexican cuisines, they have become a beloved ingredient in kitchens worldwide. Despite the widespread us of the ingredient, though, very few varieties from the expansive list of chiles are recognized.

Because there are so many chile pepper types (and continuously expanding, due to hybridization), it would be nearly impossible for us to cover all varieties in a single post. The goal of this article is to help you better understand the chiles that are easy to source. We’ll cover heat levels, flavor profiles, and uses, including the varied forms of fresh, dried, and powdered chiles.

Understanding Heat Levels of Chile Pepper Varieties

When it comes to chile peppers, you don’t just need to cautiously take a bite and hope for the best. Each pepper type has a rating on a heat scale called the Scoville Scale, which provides a heat range that each chile type will fall into. This scale will give you a basic idea of what to expect but a range is given for a reason—the heat variation will be different from one chile to the next, even if they are the same type. Take Jalapeños, for example, most are quite mild, but every once in a while, you may bite into one and feel like your face might melt off.

If you have curiosity surrounding a particular chile pepper variety, starting with their Scoville score is never a bad idea, but let’s look at some of the most popular mild, medium, and spicy peppers.

Types of Mild Chile Peppers

If you are looking for a chile pepper flavor with little to no heat, or maybe even an element of sweetness, consider the following popular, mild peppers: Bell Peppers - Bells are not often thought of as being a chile pepper, but they are in the same family as all chiles. Bell peppers rarely have any heat to them and are known for their sweetness. Poblano peppers, or their dried counterpart—Anchos - Poblanos are rich and earthy in flavor and are commonly used in popular Mexican dishes like Chiles Rellenos. When dried, they take on a more complex, almost smokey flavor. Shishitos - These small, brightly colored peppers rarely have any heat to them, yet are extremely fragrant and flavorful. Though most are extremely mild, every once in a while, you’ll come across one that packs some serious punch. Shishitos are often slightly toasted on an ungreased skillet and then tossed in little more than a bit of lemon juice and salt, before eating whole as an appetizer or snack. Banana Peppers - Known for their mild and slightly sweet taste, banana peppers add a delightful flavor to various dishes. They are often used in salads, sandwiches, and pickled for a tangy kick. Pasilla Peppers - With a mild to medium heat level, pasilla peppers offer a rich and earthy flavor profile, making them a versatile choice for both fresh and dried culinary applications. They are commonly used in Mexican cuisine, imparting a depth of flavor to sauces, stews, and salsas.

Types of Medium-Heat Chile Peppers

Jalapeños and Chipotle Peppers- Jalapeños may just be the pepper that is most commonly used to compare other peppers to. They have a bright, with what many people deem to be the “perfect kick” for spicing up dishes with a manageable heat level. They are often can be sliced, pickled, grilled, or stuffed. As they dry, they transform into chipotle peppers, adding a smoky essence to the heat. Serranos - These are very similar to Jalapeños in flavor and spice level but tend to be a bit smaller. They are frequently used in sauces and spice blends. Chile de Árbol - Known for their slender, red appearance and a slightly nutty, yet grass-lake flavor, Chile de Árbol peppers bring a moderate to high level of heat, making them a suitable choice for salsas, hot sauces, and marinades. Guajillo Peppers - Guajillo peppers are a rich, red color and, despite their medium-hot spice level, lend a slightly sweet taste to dishes they are added to. They are a popular pepper choice in Mexican cooking, contributing a warm, smoky flavor to sauces, salsas, and traditional dishes like mole. Puya Peppers - Puya peppers are slightly fruity and smoky. Their rich taste adds depth to the dish without overwhelming the palate, and though they are not quite as popular as some of the other peppers in the medium-heat category, they should not be overlooked when looking to create a perfectly spiced and flavorful dish.

Types of Hot Chile Peppers

Habaneros - Habaneros are a special pepper in that they pack an extremely fiery punch but are somehow also refreshingly bright and citrusy. Try using them alongside fruit in salsas or utilizing the dried version in spice blends, marinades, or stews. Thai Chiles - Small yet mighty, Thai chiles bring intense heat and a distinctive fruity undertone to dishes. Widely used in Southeast Asian cuisines, these peppers are often used in curries, stir-fries, and sauces. Scotch Bonnet Peppers - These peppers are vibrant in color and extremely hot. With a fruity and slightly sweet flavor, they are often used in hot sauces, jerk marinades, and spicy Caribbean dishes.


The spectrum of flavors and heat levels of chiles is extreme, offering something for everyone. Whether you're seeking a subtle warmth or a fiery explosion, the diverse types and forms of chiles can turn any meal into a flavorful and memorable experience, allowing chefs to play with textures and intensities to create the perfect dish. We love working with ground-dried chile powders because they allow for more control when it comes to flavor and heat. You can find an array of dried chile powders in our online spice shop.