upright=1.3, Young chili plants The chili pepper (also chile, chile pepper, chilli pepper, or chilli), from
Nahuatl Nahuatl (; )The Classical Nahuatl word (noun stem ''nāhua'', + absolutive ''-tl'' ) is thought to mean "a good, clear sound" This language name has several spellings, among them náhuatl (the standard spelling in the Spanish language),() Nao ...
'' chīlli'' (), is the fruit of plants from the
genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification. The term may also refer to a specific classification s ...
'' Capsicum'' which are members of the nightshade family,
Solanaceae The Solanaceae, or nightshades, are a family In human society, family (from la, familia) is a group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or affinity (by marriage or other relationship). The purpose of familie ...
. Chili peppers are widely used in many cuisines as a
spice SPICE ("Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis")Nagel, L. W, and Pederson, D. O., ''SPICE (Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis)'', Memorandum No. ERL-M382, University of California, Berkeley, Apr. 1973Nagel, Lauren ...
to add
heat In thermodynamics, heat is energy in transfer to or from a thermodynamic system, by mechanisms other than thermodynamic work or transfer of matter. The various mechanisms of energy transfer that define heat are stated in the next section ...
to dishes. The substances giving chili peppers their intensity when ingested or applied topically are
capsaicin Capsaicin (8-methyl-''N''-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus '' Capsicum''. It is a chemical irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in an ...
and related compounds known as capsaicinoids. Chili peppers originated in
Mexico Mexico ( es, México ; Nahuan languages: ), officially the United Mexican States (; EUM ), is a List of sovereign states, country in the southern portion of North America. It is borders of Mexico, bordered to the north by the United States; ...
. After the Columbian Exchange, many
cultivar '' 'Pink Whirls' A cultivar selected for its intriguing and colourful flowers A cultivarCultivar () has two denominations as explained in ''#Formal definition, Formal definition''. When referring to a taxon, the word does not apply to an indivi ...
s of chili pepper spread across the world, used for both food and
traditional medicine Traditional medicine (also known as indigenous or folk medicine) comprises medical aspects of traditional knowledge that developed over generations within the folk beliefIn folkloristics, folk belief or folk-belief is a broad genre of folklor ...

traditional medicine
. This diversity has led to a wide variety of varieties and cultivars, including the '' annuum'' species, with its
''glabriusculum'' variety
''glabriusculum'' variety
and New Mexico cultivar group, and the species of '' baccatum'', '' chinense'', ''Capsicum frutescens, frutescens'', and ''Capsicum pubescens, pubescens''. Cultivars grown in North America and Europe are believed to all derive from ''Capsicum annuum'', and have white, yellow, red or purple to black fruits. In 2016, the world's production of raw green chili peppers amounted to 34.5 million tonne, tons, with China producing half.



''Capsicum'' fruits have been a part of human diets since about 7,500 BC, and are one of the oldest agriculture, cultivated crops in the Americas, as origins of cultivating chili peppers are traced to east-central
Mexico Mexico ( es, México ; Nahuan languages: ), officially the United Mexican States (; EUM ), is a List of sovereign states, country in the southern portion of North America. It is borders of Mexico, bordered to the north by the United States; ...
some 6,000 years ago. They were one of the first Self-pollination, self-pollinating crops cultivated in Mexico, Central America, and parts of South America. Peru is the country with the highest cultivated ''Capsicum'' diversity because it is a center of diversification where varieties of all five domesticates were introduced, grown, and consumed in pre-Columbian times. Bolivia is the country where the largest diversity of wild ''Capsicum'' peppers is consumed. Bolivian consumers distinguish two basic forms: ''ulupicas'', species with small round fruits including ''C. eximium'', ''C. cardenasii'', ''C. eshbaughii'', and ''C. caballeroi'' landraces; and ''arivivis'' with small elongated fruits including ''C. baccatum'' var. ''baccatum'' and ''C. chacoense'' varieties.

Distribution to Europe

When Christopher Columbus and his crew reached the Caribbean, they were the first Europeans to encounter ''Capsicum.'' They called them "peppers" because, like black pepper of the genus ''Piper (genus), Piper'' known in Europe, they have a spicy, hot taste unlike other foods.

Distribution to Asia

The spread of chili peppers to Asia occurred through its introduction by Portuguese traders, who – aware of its trade value and resemblance to the spiciness of black pepper – promoted its commerce in the Asian spice trade routes. It was introduced in India by the Portuguese towards the end of the 15th century. In 21st century Asian cuisine, chili peppers are commonly used across diverse regions.


In 2016, 34.5 million tonnes of green chili peppers and 3.9 million tonnes of dried chili peppers were produced worldwide. China was the world's largest producer of green chilis, providing half of the global total. Global production of dried chili peppers was about one ninth of fresh production, led by India with 36% of the world total.

Species and cultivars

There are five domesticated species of chili peppers. ''Capsicum annuum'' includes many common varieties such as bell peppers, Banana pepper, wax, cayenne pepper, cayenne, jalapeños, Thai pepper, Thai peppers, chiltepin, and all forms of New Mexico chile. ''Capsicum frutescens'' includes Malagueta pepper, malagueta, tabasco pepper, tabasco, piri piri, and Kambuzi, Malawian Kambuzi. ''Capsicum chinense'' includes the hottest peppers such as the naga jolokia, naga, habanero, Datil pepper, Datil and Scotch bonnet. ''Capsicum pubescens'' includes the South American rocoto peppers. ''Capsicum baccatum'' includes the South American aji peppers. Though there are only a few commonly used species, there are many cultivars and methods of preparing chili peppers that have different names for culinary use. Green and red bell peppers, for example, are the same cultivar of ''C. annuum'', immature peppers being green. In the same species are the jalapeño, the poblano (which when dried is referred to as ancho), New Mexico chile, New Mexico, Serrano pepper, serrano, and other cultivars. Peppers are commonly broken down into three groupings: bell peppers, sweet peppers, and hot peppers. Most popular pepper varieties are seen as falling into one of these categories or as a cross between them.


The substances that give chili peppers their pungency (spicy heat) when ingested or applied topically are
capsaicin Capsaicin (8-methyl-''N''-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is an active component of chili peppers, which are plants belonging to the genus '' Capsicum''. It is a chemical irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in an ...
(8-methyl-''N''-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) and several related chemicals, collectively called ''capsaicinoids''. The quantity of capsaicin varies by variety, and on growing conditions. Water-stressed peppers usually produce stronger pods. When a habanero plant is stressed, by absorbing low water for example, the concentration of capsaicin increases in some parts of the fruit. When peppers are consumed by mammals such as humans, capsaicin binds with nociceptor, pain receptors in the mouth and throat, potentially evoking pain via spinal relays to the brainstem and thalamus where heat and discomfort are perceived. The intensity of the "heat" of chili peppers is commonly reported in Scoville scale, Scoville heat units (SHU). Historically, it was a measure of the dilution of an amount of chili extract added to sugar syrup before its heat becomes undetectable to a panel of tasters; the more it has to be diluted to be undetectable, the more powerful the variety, and therefore the higher the rating. The modern method is a Quantitative analysis (chemistry), quantitative analysis of SHU using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to directly measure the capsaicinoid content of a chili pepper variety. Pure capsaicin is a hydrophobic, colorless, odorless, and crystalline-to-waxy solid at room temperature, and measures 16,000,000 SHU. Capsaicin is produced by the plant as a defense against mammalian predators and microbes, in particular a fusarium fungus carried by hemipteran insects that attack certain species of chili peppers, according to one study. Peppers increased the quantity of capsaicin in proportion to the damage caused by fungal predation on the plant's seeds.

Common peppers

A wide range of intensity is found in commonly used peppers:

Notable hot chili peppers

Some of the world's hottest chili peppers (by country, which includes sub-countries) are: NOTE: SHU claims marked with an asterisk (*) have not been confirmed by Guinness World Records.


Culinary uses

Chili pepper pods are, technically, Berry (botany), berries. When used fresh, they are most often prepared and eaten like a vegetable. Whole pods can be dried and then crushed or ground into chili powder that is used as a spice or seasoning. Chilies can be dried to prolong their shelf life. Chile peppers can also be preserved by brining, immersing the pods in oil, or by pickling. Many fresh chilies such as poblano have a tough outer skin that does not break down on cooking. Chilies are sometimes used whole or in large slices, by roasting, or other means of blistering or charring the skin, so as not to entirely cook the flesh beneath. When cooled, the skins will usually slip off easily. The leaves of every species of Capsicum are edible. Though almost all other Solanaceae, Solanaceous crops have toxins in their leaves, chili peppers do not. The leaves, which are mildly bitter and nowhere near as hot as the fruit, are cooked as Leaf vegetable, greens in Filipino cuisine, where they are called ''dahon ng sili'' (literally "chili leaves"). They are used in the chicken soup ''tinola''. In Korean cuisine, the leaves may be used in kimchi. In Japanese cuisine, the leaves are cooked as greens, and also cooked in ''tsukudani'' style for preservation. Many Mexican cuisine, Mexican dishes, including variations on chiles rellenos, use the entire chili. Dried whole chilies may be reconstituted before grinding to a paste. The chipotle is the smoked, dried, ripe jalapeño. In the northern Mexican states of Sinaloa and Sonora, chiltepin peppers (a wild pepper) are used in cheeses and soups to add spiciness to dishes. In southern Mexico, mole sauce is used with dried chiles, such as poblano, ancho and chipotle peppers. Chiles are used in salsa (sauce), salsas. Mexican households usually grow chile plants to use in cooking. In India, most households always keep a stock of fresh hot green chilies at hand, and use them to flavor most curries and dry dishes. It is typically lightly fried with oil in the initial stages of preparation of the dish. Some states in India, such as Rajasthan, make entire dishes only by using spices and chilies. Chili is a staple fruit in Bhutan. Bhutanese call this crop ''ema'' (in Dzongkha) or ''solo'' (in Sharchop). The ''ema datshi'' recipe is entirely made of chili mixed with local cheese. Chilies are present in many cuisines. Some notable dishes other than the ones mentioned elsewhere in this article include: *Arrabbiata sauce from Italy is a tomato-based sauce for pasta always including dried hot chilies. *Stroncatura ammullicata, from Calabria, is pasta dish usually seasoned with peperoncino (Calabrian chili), olive oil, garlic, black olives, anchovies, parsley and toasted breadcrumbs. *Spaghetti alla puttanesca, Puttanesca sauce is tomato-based with olives, capers, anchovy and, sometimes, chilies. *Goulash, Paprikash from Hungary uses significant amounts of mild, ground, dried chilies, known as paprika, in a braised chicken dish. *Chiles en nogada from the Puebla region of Mexico uses fresh mild chilies stuffed with meat and covered with a creamy nut-thickened sauce. *Curry dishes usually contain fresh or dried chiles. *Jambalaya is Cajun dish where the flavors of chicken, shrimp, and Andouille sausages are enhanced by Cayenne pepper. Jambalaya is also sometimes served with a regional hot sauce made from Tabasco peppers. *Jerk Chicken is prepared in the Caribbean region of Jamaica, the flavor of the dish owing to Scotch Bonnet Chiles, Allspice, and Thyme. *Kung pao chicken (Mandarin Chinese: 宫保鸡丁 ''gōng bǎo jī dīng'') from the Sichuan region of China uses small hot dried chilies briefly fried in oil to add spice to the oil then used for frying. *Mole poblano from the city of Puebla in Mexico uses several varieties of dried chilies, nuts, spices, and fruits to produce a thick, dark sauce for poultry or other meats. *Nam phrik are traditional Thai chili pastes and sauces, prepared with chopped fresh or dry chilies, and additional ingredients such as fish sauce, Lime (fruit), lime juice, and herbs, but also fruit, meat or seafood. *'Nduja, a more typical example of Italian spicy specialty, from the region of Calabria, is a soft pork sausage made spicy by the addition of the locally grown variety of peperoncino(Calabrian chili). *Paprykarz szczeciński is a Polish fish paste with rice, onion, tomato concentrate, vegetable oil, chili pepper powder and other spices. *Pipérade is a dish from the Basque region of France that incorporates Piment d’Espelette into the recipe. *''Sambal terasi'' or ''sambal belacan'' is a traditional Indonesian cuisine, Indonesian and Malay cuisine , Malay hot condiment made by frying a mixture of mainly pounded dried chili's, with garlic, shallots, and fermented shrimp paste. It is customarily served with rice dishes and is especially popular when mixed with crunchy pan-roasted ''ikan teri'' or ''ikan bilis'' (sun-dried anchovies), when it is known as ''sambal teri'' or ''sambal ikan bilis''. Various ''sambal'' variants existed in Indonesian archipelago, among others are ''sambal badjak'', ''sambal oelek'', ''sambal pete'' (prepared with Parkia speciosa, green stinky beans) and ''sambal pencit'' (prepared with unripe green mango). *Som tam, a green papaya salad from Thai cuisine, Thai and Lao people, Lao cuisine, traditionally has, as a key ingredient, a fistful of chopped fresh hot Thai chili, pounded in a mortar. *Tavuk Kebabi uses mint and Aleppo pepper as a marinade that imparts flavor to skewered pieces of chicken which are grilled before serving. Fresh or dried chilies are often used to make hot sauce, a liquid condiment—usually bottled when commercially available—that adds spice to other dishes. Hot sauces are found in many cuisines including harissa from North Africa, chili oil from China (known as rāyu in Japan), and sriracha sauce, sriracha from Thailand. Dried chilies are also used to infuse cooking oil.

Ornamental plants

The contrast in color and appearance makes chili plants interesting to some as a purely decorative garden plant. * Black pearl pepper: small cherry-shaped fruits and dark brown to black leaves * Black Hungarian pepper: green foliage, highlighted by purple veins and purple flowers, jalapeño-shaped fruitsChilies as Ornamental Plants
* Bishop's crown, Bishop's crown pepper, Christmas bell pepper: named for its distinct three-sided shape resembling a red bishop's crown or a red Christmas bellBishop's crown pepper, image


Psychologist Paul Rozin suggests that eating chilies is an example of a "constrained risk" like riding a roller coaster, in which extreme sensations like pain and fear can be enjoyed because individuals know that these sensations are not actually harmful. This method lets people experience extreme feelings without any significant risk of bodily harm.


Capsaicin, the chemical in chili peppers that makes them hot, is used as an analgesic in topical ointments, nasal sprays, and dermal patches to relieve pain.

Chemical irritants

Capsaicin extracted from chilies is used in pepper sprays and some tear gas formulations as a chemical irritant, for use as less-lethal weapons for control of unruly individuals or crowds. Such products have considerable potential for misuse, and may cause injury or death.

Crop defense

Human–wildlife conflict, Conflicts between farmers and elephants have long been widespread in List of sovereign states and dependent territories in Africa, African and List of sovereign states and dependent territories in Asia, Asian countries, where elephants nightly destroy crops, raid grain houses, and sometimes kill people. Farmers have found the use of chilies effective in crop defense against elephants. Elephants do not like capsaicin, the chemical in capsicum chilies that makes them hot. Because the elephants have a large and sensitive Olfaction, olfactory and nasal system, the smell of the chili causes them discomfort and deters them from feeding on the crops. By planting a few rows of the Pungency, pungent fruit around valuable crops, farmers create a buffer zone through which the elephants are reluctant to pass. Chili dung bombs are also used for this purpose. They are bricks made of mixing dung and chili, and are burned, creating a noxious smoke that keeps hungry elephants out of farmers' fields. This can lessen dangerous physical confrontation between people and elephants.

Food defense

Birds do not have the same sensitivity to capsaicin, because it targets a specific Nociceptors, pain receptor in mammals. Chili peppers are eaten by birds living in the chili peppers' natural range, possibly contributing to seed dispersal and evolution of the protective capsaicin in chili peppers.

Nutritional value

While red chilies contain large amounts of vitamin C (table), other species contain significant amounts of provitamin A Beta-Carotene, beta-carotene. In addition, peppers are a rich source of vitamin B6, vitamin B6 (see table).

Spelling and usage

The three primary spellings are ''chili'', ''chile'' and ''chilli'', all of which are recognized by dictionaries. * ''Chili'' is widely used in historically Anglophone regions of the United States and Canada. However, it is also commonly used as a short name for chili con carne (literally "chili with meat"). Most versions are seasoned with chili powder, which can refer to pure dried, ground chili peppers, or to a mixture containing other spices. * ''Chile'' is the most common Spanish spelling in Mexico and several other Latin American countries, as well as some parts of the United States and Canada, which refers specifically to this plant and its fruit. In the Southwest United States (particularly New Mexico), ''chile'' also denotes a thick, spicy, un-vinegared sauce made from this fruit, available in red and green varieties, and served over the local food, while ''chili'' denotes the meat dish. The plural is ''chile'' or ''chiles''. * ''Chilli'' was the original Romanization of the Nahuatl, Náhuatl language word for the fruit (''chīlli'') and is the preferred British spelling according to the ''Oxford English Dictionary'', although it also lists ''chile'' and ''chili'' as variants. ''Chilli'' (and its plural ''chillies'') is the most common spelling in Australia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore and South Africa. The name of the plant is unrelated to that of Chile, the country, which has an uncertain etymology perhaps relating to local place names. Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are some of the Spanish-speaking countries where chilies are known as ''ají'', a word of Taíno people, Taíno origin. Though ''pepper'' originally referred to the genus ''Piper (genus), Piper'', not ''Capsicum'', the latter usage is included in English dictionaries, including the ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (sense 2b of ''pepper'') and Merriam-Webster. The word ''pepper'' is also commonly used in the botanical and culinary fields in the names of different types of chili plants and their fruits.


File:Habanero closeup edit2.jpg, The habanero pepper File:Chili pepper.jpg, Immature chilies in the field File:Black pearl cultivar.jpg, The Black Pearl cultivar File:Cubanelle Peppers.jpg, Cubanelle peppers File:Chilli paper bd.jpg, Ripe chili pepper with seeds File:HotPeppersinMarket.jpg, Scotch bonnet chili peppers in a Caribbean market File:Chillies drying in Kathmandu.jpg, Chili peppers drying in Kathmandu, Nepal File:Mujer chiles 3.JPG, Removing veins and seeds from dried chilies in San Pedro Atocpan File:2014 Dried chilli flakes.jpg, Dried chili pepper flakes and fresh chilies File:Chili pepper 01.JPG, Chili pepper dip in a traditional restaurant in Amman, Jordan File:Phrik haeng.jpg, Dried Thai bird's eye chilies File:Aesthetic green Chillies.JPG, Green chilies File:Andhra Chillies.jpg, Guntur chilli drying in the sun, Andhra Pradesh, India File:Sundried chilli.jpg, Sundried chili at Imogiri, Yogyakarta, Indonesia File:Red chili peppers Mesilla NM.jpg, New Mexico chiles dried on the plant in Mesilla, New Mexico File:A bottle of chili pepper wine.jpg, Chili pepper wine from Virginia File:Ristras Drying.jpg, alt=Chili peppers drying in hanging ristras, Ristras of chili peppers drying in Arizona. File:Pimientos choriceros.jpg, Choricero peppers File:Chilli pickle in a plate 2.jpg, Pickled chili in India File:Capsicum -Chili - Peperoncino - Il Viagra Calabrese - Calabria - Italy - July 17th 2013 - 02.jpg, Peperoncino chili in Tropea, Italy with a sign saying "Il Viagra Calabrese" (the Calabrian viagra).

See also

* Chili grenade, a type of weapon made with chili peppers * Hatch, New Mexico, known as the "Chile Capital of the World" * History of chocolate, which the Maya peoples, Maya drank with ground chili peppers * International Connoisseurs of Green and Red Chile, organization for the promotion of chili peppers * Peppersoup * Ristra, an arrangement of dried chili pepper pods * Salsa (sauce) * Sweet chili sauce, a condiment for adding a sweet, mild heat taste to food * Taboo food and drink, which in some cultures includes chili peppers


External links

Plant Cultures: Chilli pepper botany, history and uses

The Chile Pepper Institute of New Mexico State University

Chilli: La especia del Nuevo Mundo
(Article from Germán Octavio López Riquelme about biology, nutrition, culture and medical topics. In Spanish)
The Hot Pepper List
List of chili pepper varieties ordered by heat rating in Scoville Heat Units (SHU) {{DEFAULTSORT:Chili Pepper Agriculture in Mesoamerica Chili peppers, Medicinal plants of Central America Medicinal plants of South America Crops originating from Ecuador Crops originating from Mexico Crops originating from Peru Symbols of New Mexico Leaf vegetables New Mexican cuisine Cuisine of the Southwestern United States Crops originating from the Americas Indian spices Crops Sri Lankan spices Mesoamerican cuisine Mexican cuisine