Types of chillies: mild & fiery hot varieties


I studied horticultural sciences at university and in my free time you can find me in my own patch of land, growing anything with roots. I am particularly passionate about self-sufficiency and seasonal food.

Favourite fruit: quince, cornelian cherry and blueberries
Favourite vegetables: peas, tomatoes and garlic

Jalapeño, tabasco, cayenne, and habanero are just some of the chilli varieties you may know and love. Discover the different types of chillies from mild and fruity to fiery hot.

A selection of harvested chilli varieties
Chillies come in many colours, shapes and sizes [Photo: Anastacia Petrova/ Shutterstock.com]

Experts estimate that there are 3000 to 4000 different types of chilli peppers in the world. Like peppers, chillies belong to the genus Capsicum, which contains more than 35 species.

The most well-known chilli species include:

  • Capsicum annuum: the most widespread species which includes sweet and mild pepper varieties, such as bell peppers, as well as the small and fiery hot chile tepin.
  • Capsicum baccatum: a type of chilli that is well loved in Central and South America and is known for its particularly fruity aroma. One of the better-known varieties of C. baccatum is the lemon drop pepper.
  • Capsicum chinense: this type of chilli does not come from China as the name would suggest. Varieties of this species are among the hottest, including habanero and bhut jolokia.
  • Capsicum frutescens: botanists are undecided whether this is an independent chilli species. Fruits of C. frutescens are always very spicy, especially tabasco peppers.
  • Other, but less well-known types of chilli plants include Capsicum buforum, C. cardenasii, C. eximium, C. pereirae and C. tovarii.

We have compiled a selection of the most delicious and fiery chillies of the four main species. The range of chilli varieties available is quite vast, so here is our list of the most popular ones.

Capsicum annuum: the most widespread species

The species Capsicum annuum is the most common type of chilli. It includes both sweet peppers and some extremely hot chillies. Did you know C. annuum is not an annual plant as its name would suggest but rather just frost tender? In the right conditions, this chilli species grows as a perennial. The best-known C. annuum varieties are:

  • ‘Anaheim’: this thick fleshed chilli is one of the most popular varieties and not just because it is associated with the city of Anaheim in California. The moderately hot fruits can be harvested green or red. Great for grilling, stuffing, eating raw and much more.
  • ‘De Arbol’: means ‘tree pepper’ in Spanish; this chilli variety is named after its tree-like and woody growth. ‘Chile de Arbol’ has very hot fruits that are narrow and curved. They turn from green to red when ripe and have a slightly smoky aroma when dried.
  • ‘Black Namaqualand’: is a bushy, compact variety with upright, raindrop-shaped fruits. The quite hot peppers start out black and turn red when ripe. With its dark purple flowers and shoots, it looks great grown in a pot on the windowsill.
  • ‘Bolivian Rainbow’: is a beautiful chilli to grow as a houseplant because of its dark purple leaves, purple flowers and colourful chillies. The small upright fruits turn from violet to orange until they reach a rich red and have some surprising heat similar to cayenne peppers.
  • ‘Bulgarian Carrot’: is a chilli variety with bright orange thick fleshy fruits that look like carrots. This medium hot chilli is wonderful in chutneys, sauces and salsas due to its pungency and sweet aroma. 
  • ‘Cascabel’: this Mexican pepper variety is nicknamed ‘rattle’ because of the rattling sound of the dried fruits. Cascabel has small round red fruits with a smoky and slightly fruity taste. Delicious in salsas and as chilli powder.
  • ‘Cayenne’: this pepper variety is known for its spiciness with a slightly smoky aroma. Cayenne pepper has long, thin, slightly curved fruits. It changes colour from green to red when ripe.
  • ‘Cayenne purple’: not only tasty but decorative too. This chilli plant displays beautiful white and purple flowers. The fruits are dark purple and turn red when ripe, they make an excellent addition to any dish.
Cayenne chilli plant
Cayenne chilli has long, slightly curved, thin fruit
  • ‘Chilhuacle Negro’: has bell-shaped brown chillies, which are very popular in spicy sauces or dried due to their smoky aroma. The plant is also resistant to tobacco mosaic virus.
  • ‘Corno di Toro’: its slightly curved sweet peppers are reminiscent of a bull’s horn. The thick fleshy heatless fruits are ideal for salads and salsas or for stuffing, roasting, marinating and much more.
Red chilli peppers bound together
Chilli peppers are commonly red, long and pointed [Photo: Chayasit Fangem/ Shutterstock.com]
  • ‘Elephant’s Trunk’: has thick fleshy, pointed conical fruits with grey cracks. As the name would suggest, the chillies’ appearance is like that of an elephant’s trunk.
  • ‘Firecracker’: is a compact chilli variety that grows well in pots. The hot elongated fruits start purple, turning yellow, then orange and finally red when ripe.
  • ‘Fish Pepper’: has green, white striped chillies that eventually turn red. Often used to refine fish dishes. Due to its compact growth, this decorative variety is also fantastic to grow in pots.
  • ‘Fresno’: is one of the more eye-catching chilli varieties and a very popular all-purpose chilli in the USA. It has white flowers with violet stamens and pistils. The medium-hot conical green fruits have a violet grain and turn red as they ripen.
  • ‘Golden Cayenne’: are wider than regular ‘Cayenne pepper’ and bright yellow in colour. The two varieties are very similar in spiciness and aroma.
  • ‘Jalapeño’: is one of the best known and most popular chilli varieties! The fleshy, juicy fruits are pointed and turn from green to red with black spots and cracks. Their great aroma makes them popular in salsas and pickles, as well as for stuffing, roasting and grilling.
Green chilli plant
The colour of this chilli pepper says little about its pungency on the Scoville scale
  • ‘Marconi Purple’: is a sweet, pointed pepper from Italy. The juicy, violet, thick fleshy fruits are characterised by their sweetness and low pungency. Great in salads and salsas or for stuffing.
  • ‘Medusa’: is an ornate sweet chilli variety that bears many small mild fruits. Great for eating raw. Its compact growth and beauty make it an ideal houseplant.
  • ‘Mulato Notturno Grande’: is a large slightly pointed mild pepper with an excellent smoky aroma. Often used in chocolate dishes as well as stuffed.
  • ‘Mushroom Red/Yellow’: are mushroom-shaped thin-fleshed chillies. Mushroom red chillies are very hot and mushroom yellow chillies are milder. Make great sauces, salsas, and stuffed peppers.
  • ‘NuMex Big Jim’: bears extremely large fruits weighing up to 100g and is one of the world’s largest chillies. Fairly hot when fully ripe and is known for its great flavour as well as size.
  • ‘Orange Thai chilli’: this extremely high-yielding variety is also ideal as a decorative pot plant. The fruits turn from green to orange in late summer and are ideal for drying.
  • ‘Pequin’: bears numerous small, conical fruits. ‘Pequin’ peppers are very hot and have a citrusy flavour. They are popular in sauces, soups, salsas and ground.
  • ‘Peter Pepper’: is a very striking plant! Also known as ‘Penis Pepper’ because of the shape of the fruits. These medium hot chillies are suitable for sauces and as a seasoning.
  • ‘Purple Tiger’: the variegated leaves and striking flowers make this chilli plant a real eye catcher. The fruits are black to purple in colour before slowly turning red.
  • ‘Royal Black’: the colours of the royal black make this a decorative edition to any garden bed. The bullet shaped fruits are tasty and hot with a Scoville rating of 5000 to 12000.
  • Santa Fe Grande’: this variety has a sweet to medium spice level with an enticing aroma. The fruits are yellow to orange in colour, turning red as they ripen. They are mainly used to make salsas and served with salads.
  • Sarit Gat’: this chilli is easy to grow with high yields. The fruits are elongated, yellow in colour and with a medium heat. They are great for making chilli powders and hot sauces.
  • ‘Serrano’: a classic in Mexican cuisine, the serrano chilli is not one to be missed. The fruits are commonly harvested while still green and slightly under ripe, with a slightly hotter taste than the Jalapeño chilli.
  • ‘Sweet Chocolate’: characterised by the chocolate brown colour of the fruits when ripe. This sweet chilli is delicious roasted or atop a salad. It is great for growing in cooler climates.
  • ‘Tepin/Chiltepin’: these small, pea-shaped chillies have a Scoville rating of 50,000 to 100,000. While the heat of these chillies is intense, it does not last long.
Red chilli plant
Chilli plants prefer warmer temperatures [Photo: giedre vaitekune/ Shutterstock.com]

Capsicum baccatum: species with a particularly fruity aroma

Capsicum baccatum is widely adored in Central and South America. The species stands out due to its particularly fruity aroma. Contrary to popular belief, not all fruits of C. baccatum are small and berry shaped. If you want to grow varieties of C. baccatum in the UK, it is best to plant the seeds early on, as they can take a longer amount of time to ripen.

  • ‘Bishop’s Crown’: this high yielding plant acquired its name from its fruits with their distinctive hat-like appearance. It has a mild to fruity taste and is delicious when combined with red onion and coriander.
  • ‘Lemon Drop’: the fruits of the lemon drop are elongated and turn a bright yellow when ripe. They are popular among chilli lovers due to their spice level and fresh citrus flavour.
A colourful variety of chilli peppers
Chillies come in an array of different shapes and sizes [Photo: taboga/ Shutterstock.com]

Capsicum chinense: chillies ranging from fruity to violently hot

This variety does not originate from China, as the name may suggest. However, some of the hottest chilli varieties (‘Carolina Reaper’, ‘Trinidad Moruga Scorpion’ and ‘Bhut Jolokia’) belong to this species. C. chinense, which is known for its fruity aroma. To enjoy eating them, the chilli peppers must be prepared carefully.

  • Bhut Jolokia’: with over 1 million Scoville units, the wrinkled and pointed fruits with their irregular surface have more than earned the names Bhut Jolokia = ghost chilli, Bih Jolokia = poison chilli, Raja chilli = king of chilli. These fruits are not only hot but also have a beautiful smoky, citrus flavour. Handle with care.
  • ‘Bahamian Goat’: the fruits are light orange in colour with a Scoville rating of 200,000 to 450,000. They are extremely hot with a delicate citrus aroma.
  • ‘Carolina reaper’: officially the world’s hottest chilli! With a Scoville rating of 2.2 million. The Carolina reaper is so hot it is recommended to use gloves when handling this chilli. Often used as a powder, in sauces or for pickling.
  • ‘Dorset Naga’: one of the hottest chillies with a Scoville rating exceeding 1 million. The green fruits turn red and wrinkle once ripe. This is when the heat is at its most potent.
  • ‘Fatalii’: the fruits turn from a pale green to a bright yellow. It is very hot, but due to its thin walls and citrus notes, it is used for dehydrating and making powders.
  • ‘Goronong’: this chilli variety has a similar heat level to an orange or red habanero. The fruits are contorted and ripen to a bright yellow.
  • ‘Habanero Chocolate’: this variety has a similar lantern shape to that of a normal pepper. The fruits are extremely hot and ripen into a dark chocolate colour.
  • ‘Habanero Mustard’: the fruits are pale green and ripen into a mustard yellow. They are very hot with a unique taste.
  • ‘Habanero Orange’: one of the most commonly grown chillies, the ‘habanero orange’ is delicious when added to hot sauces. The fruits are green and ripen into a vibrant orange colour.
A variety of harvested chillies
Each variety has a different taste – there is a whole range from fruity mild to burning hot [Photo: Emira13/ Shutterstock.com]
  • ‘Habanero Peach’: this variety has a slightly higher Scoville rating than the other ‘habanero’ varieties. The fruits are light green and ripen to a pale peach colour. This chilli is a great addition to sauces and salsas.
  • ‘Habanero Red’: this chilli is extremely hot but has a beautifully unique flavour. The fruits are green but can vary in colour upon ripening. It is advised to use gloves when handling the habanero red. 
  • ‘Habanero Red Savina’: this chilli briefly held the record for the hottest chilli with a Scoville rating of 577,000! It has a deep heat with a tropical taste.
  • ‘Naga Morich’: commonly known as the snake chilli or serpent chilli, this variety has bite! It is a close relative of the Bhut Jolokia. It is advised to use extreme caution when handling this variety, the seeds and the flesh can cause a burning sensation upon being touched. 
  • ‘NuMex Suave Orange’: this variety is a must try. It has the beautiful smoky flavour of the habanero but with very little heat. The fruits are a vibrant orange in colour and excellent addition to any dish. 
  • ‘Peru Scarlet Lantern’: as the name suggests, the fruits are lantern shaped. This chilli makes a beautiful addition as the fruits change through various colours before ripening into a vibrant red. The chilli grows well in a pot and with an excellent yield.
  • ‘Pimenta da Neyde’: this is a rare variety. It has a delicate heat with a slightly nutty flavour. The fruits are light purple and ripen into a dark purple appearing almost black.
  • ‘Scotch Bonnet’: this variety has a fruity apricot aroma and is often referred to as the bonney pepper due to the fruits being shaped like the tam o’shanter bonnet. The scotch bonnet has quite an intense heat and is often used for marinades and sauces. 
  • ‘Seven Pod Brain Strain’: the fruits ripen into a bumpy, crinkled shape that resembles that of a brain. With a hot, smoky, citrus flavour.
  • ‘Trinidad 7 Pot/Pod Douglah’: the fruits ripen into a red to brown colour. The heat of these chillies is equal to if not hotter than the ‘Bhut Jolokia’. Unlike the other 7 pods, this chilli is very hot but with a sweet taste.
Yellow and green chilli plant
Yellow and green chillies can also be quite hot

Capsicum frutescens: popular chillies in Southeast Asian dishes

The varieties of Capsicum frutescens are most commonly found in Southeast Asian dishes or added to spice mixtures. The best-known variety of this species is ‘Tabasco’.

  • ‘Tabasco’: this chilli is known mainly for being the main ingredient in the spicy sauce it lends its name to. The fruits are yellow to green before turning bright red upon ripening.

Capsicum pubescens: the ‘hairy’ type

The Latin term ‘pubescens’ hints at the hairiness of the leaves of this species. If you compare the plant of this chilli species side by side with other chillies, you will notice several differences. Capsicum pubescens is clearly different because of its hairy leaves but also due to its tree-like woody appearance. Chilli plants of this species can mostly be found along the west coast of Central and South America.

  • ‘Rocoto Aji Largo’: considered a long season chilli, the seeds need to be started early in the season. The fruits turn red when ripe and can be enjoyed fresh or added to a sauce.
  • ‘Rocoto Manzano’: the fruits are sweet and juicy with a mild heat. It is used mainly to make pastes, marinades, and salsas.

Tip: for particularly aromatic chilies, it is best to apply a primarily organic fertiliser. Our Plantura Tomato Food is perfectly adapted to the needs of fiery chillies and releases its nutrients slowly and gently.

Tomato Food, 1.5kg
Tomato Food, 1.5kg
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  • Perfect for tomatoes, chillies, courgettes, cucumber & more
  • For healthy plants & an abundant tomato harvest
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly

Have you found the chilli variety for you? Then check out our dedicated article on how to grow chillies at home. 

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