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17 Types Of Peppers And How To Cook With Them

Spice up your cooking with this guide.

types of peppers

Let's talk peppers. They come in different shapes, sizes, and flavors, and can be hot, sweet, spicy, and mild. Peppers are the fruit from a flowering plant in the nightshade family. Despite all the varieties out there, every pepper is in the biological classification Capsicum. Peppers are used in just about every cuisine in the world, from green chile in Indian curry to red chile in Korean kimchi to the spicy salsas of Mexico.

A pepper's heat is measured using the Scoville scale. Peppers with no heat, like bell peppers, are zero Scoville heat units, while some of the world's spiciest peppers are three million units.

Zero to 4,000 units is considered mild; 4,000 to 15,000 is medium; 15,000 to 50,000 is hot; and 50,000 plus is absolutely on fire. A pepper's heat is mostly held in the seeds and ribs, so if you cut those out, the pepper will add less spice to the dish.

To give us the scoop on peppers, we chatted with Robert Schueller of produce distributor Melissa's. He wrote a book for the brand called The Great Pepper Cookbook. After all, there are thousands of types of peppers out there—plenty to write an entire cookbook about.

Below, we list all the common types of peppers by their Scoville heat unit and recommend some recipes you can use them in.

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Bell Peppers
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Bell peppers come in red, yellow, orange, and green colors. They are considered the most mild pepper and have varying levels of sweetness.

"Green is not sweet, yellow is mild, and red and orange are the sweetest," Schueller said. Try this classic stuffed pepper recipe or sausage, peppers, and onions.

Scoville heat units: 0

Shishito Peppers
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You probably recognize these guys from restaurants, where they're often served grilled. "Shishito peppers are traditionally served in Japanese cuisine, roasted and tossed with sesame oil and a dash of soy sauce," Schueller said. "Choose peppers that are bright green with no red tinge."

They are super thin and easy to eat with almost no heat. The smoke or sear from a grill or pan adds a nice flavor to their mildness. Try this recipe for blistered shishito peppers.

Scoville heat units: 50-200

Banana Wax Peppers
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These yellow peppers are pretty mild. On the tongue, they feel more like a tingle than a torch and have a delicate sweetness to them.

"Banana wax peppers have a fruity, sweet, gentle flavor, making them a delicious addition to salsa, sauce or salads," Schueller said. "This mild pepper is used for pickling, stuffing and often as a festive garnish."

Scoville heat units: 500

Cherry Bell Peppers
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These small, round, red peppers are almost too cute to eat. Also called pimiento or pimento, the cherry bell pepper is sweet in flavor. You'll find it stuffed in green olives or in pimento cheese.

Scoville heat units: 500

Piquillo Peppers
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You'll often see these mild red peppers in jars at the grocery store. The name comes from the Spanish word for "little beak." They are great in a salad or on a sandwich.

Scoville heat units: 500-1,000

Poblano Peppers
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These shiny, dark green beauties are a little spicy, but nothing crazy. Cooking them will mellow out their heat. In a dried form, they are called ancho chiles and can add a nice smokiness to a dish. Try them in Chiles Rellenos.

Scoville heat units: 1,000-1,500

Anaheim Peppers
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Like poblanos, Anaheim peppers have a little bit of spice. They're long and thin, about six to 10 inches in length.

"[They] are among the most popular and commonly available chiles in the United States," Schueller said. You'll see them canned in the store and are a mainstay of Southwest cuisine.

Scoville heat units: 500-2,000

Jalapeño Peppers
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Jalapeños have a happy-medium spice level. Their flavor is grassy, similar to a green bell pepper, but with more heat.

"Jalapeños can easily be seeded and added to soups, stews, and dips, or enjoyed whole when roasted with meats or stuffed with cheese," Schueller said. In dried form, they are called chipotle peppers. They are a perfect size for appetizers like these bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers.

Scoville heat units: 2,000-8,000

Fresno Chili Pepper
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Similar in texture and size to a jalapeño pepper, but more often red than green, fresno chili peppers have a fruity, slightly smoky flavor when fully matured.

"They are delicious in soups, stews, and dips, or roasted and enjoyed whole with barbecued meats and poultry," Schueller said. "They have a hot, sweet flavor and are often also pickled or blended into sauces."

Scoville heat units: 2,500-10,000

Serrano Peppers
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These peppers may be small, but they have a good kick. In fact, the smaller they are, the spicier they can be. They range in color from red to yellow-orange to green. You'll find them in recipes for giardiniera and Mexican dishes.

Scoville heat units: 15,000-30,000

Cayenne Peppers
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Cayenne peppers come in red and green, but they aren't "typically available fresh as they're very seasonal," Schueller said. "[It's] more common dried, ground, or in liquid form." Use it to spice up your chili or add some heat to a red pepper soup.

Scoville heat units: 30,000 to 50,000

Tabasco Pepper
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You probably know this pepper more from hot sauce than the pepper itself. Tabasco peppers have a bright red color and are mashed and mixed with salt and vinegar to create a tangy hot sauce. Use the hot sauce to spice up a hot chicken sandwich.

Scoville heat units: 30,000 to 60,000

Bird's Eye Chili Pepper

Also known as Thai chili, the bird's eye may only be an inch or two long, but it packs some serious heat. Piri-piri sauce is made of bird's eye chili, citrus peel, oil, garlic, and paprika, and is used in a popular chicken dish originating in Angola and Mozambique.

Scoville heat units: 50,000 to 100,000

Scotch Bonnet
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While this wrinkly pepper got its names from the hats men wear in Scotland, it's actually a commonly used in Caribbean cuisine. "[They] have an intense heat and a wonderfully distinctive flavor that mixes well with tomatoes and also many fruits," Schueller said. Past the heat, they have a slightly fruity and sweet flavor and work great in jerk chicken.

Scoville heat units: 100,000-350,000

Habañero Peppers
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These little guys may look pretty and bright, but beware. They are more dangerous than they seem. Behind the heat, you'll get hints of fruit, which is why they make a great mango hot sauce.

They can come in many colors, but they're predominantly orange or red. "Orange is most popular, [with] 95 percent of the crop," Schueller said. "Red is four percent of the crop. Red is hotter; orange is sweeter."

Scoville heat units: 100,000-200,000 for orange; 300,000-576,000 for red

Ghost Peppers
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The hottest peppers get the scariest names. The ghost pepper comes from northeast India and is 100 times hotter than a jalapeño. You will find it in the hottest hot sauces and in some super spicy chutneys and curries.

"Although this pepper is known for its heat, it does present layers of flavor that are expressed in different ways when pounded, sliced, or fermented," Schueller said.

Scoville heat units: 1,000,000+

Carolina Reaper
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The Carolina reaper is a hard pepper to find, and for good reason. These tiny bombs are so hot, your tongue might become numb if you eat one. They have a wrinkly exterior and a tiny tail. Consume with extreme caution.

Scoville heat units: 1,000,000-2,000,000

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