Chilli (or Chili!) peppers have been enjoyed for centuries, adding spice, flavor, and a fiery kick to cuisines worldwide. And, some chillies stand out for their extreme heat levels among the wide variety of chilli peppers, earning them the title of “hottest chilli pepper in the world”.
In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of the hottest of the hot. In the following sections, we focus on renowned contenders like the Carolina Reaper and 7Pot Primo and exploring controversy and recent developments in the quest for even hotter chillies.
When you are finished reading this, check out my article with 10 fascinating facts about chilli peppers. I’ve also included links to a few recent interviews referenced within this article for you to enjoy in full.
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The Reigning Hottest Chilli Pepper Guinness World Champion: The Carolina Reaper
The Carolina Reaper has long been known as the hottest chilli pepper in the world. Developed by Ed Currie of PuckerButt Pepper Company, this chilli pepper boasts an average Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating of 1.6 million.
Some individual peppers reach an incredible 2.2 million SHU (pure capsaicin is rated at 16 million SHU).
Due to its distinctive appearance and intense heat it has captivated chilli fans worldwide, making it a staple in competitive eating challenges and ridiculously spicy food recipes.
Carolina Reaper Controversy
But all may not be as it seems in the history books. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the Carolina Reaper.
Below are a few statements made by Ed Currie, which include inconsistencies, these as well as other reports I’ve read over the years is what makes me question its legitimacy as the Hottest Chilli Pepper:
On the Origin of the Carolina Reaper:
August 21 2012 “I will say that they are Asian/Sub-Asian descent and both are HOT.” thepepperseed.com
September 2013 “It was by trying to grow a sweet pepper that Currie claims he accidentally created the world’s hottest.” “Currie knew he had something special as soon as he laid eyes on the Reaper—it was the first pepper he’d even seen with a stinger.” The Atlantic
December 2013 – “Ed Currie took a sweet hot pepper from the Caribbean and worked to make it hotter.” Daily Mail
December 2014 – “They were a Soufriere pepper from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and a Naga pepper from Pakistan.” Los Angeles Times
The Hottest Chilli Pepper Rival: The 7Pot Primo
Meanwhile, in 2005, at Lafayette’s Horticulture Department, at the University of Louisiana, Troy Primo developed the 7Pot Primo™. And its Scoville rating is between 1.2 and 1.9 million SHU (Scoville Heat Units), which makes the 7Pot Primo arguably (and controversially) the Hottest Chilli Pepper in the world! Its one spicy pepper, believe me!
Click here to find out more – https://www.primospeppers.com/about
Interview with Troy Primo
At the end of 2022, I got to ask Troy Primo a little more about the controversial backstory surrounding the 7Pot Primo and Carolina Reaper.
Troy Primo: “The 7Pot Primo beat Butch T (the world’s hottest pepper at more than 1.4 million Scoville in 2011). And then, shortly after, there was a guy named Ed Currie that came out with the Caroline Reaper. And I’m like, this looks a lot like the 7Pot.
All I can say is that I’ve stuck to my story. One story, and you know the other story has changed.
Meeting Ed Currie
When I met Ed for the first time in Lafayette, we had a festival. I don’t even remember what year that was, 2015, maybe. I met Butch T, Ed Currie, Jim Duffy, John Hard, and Gary Montcalm. And when I met Ed, he told me he had bought Naga seeds from me. And I couldn’t find any record of that. I looked it up because I was curious. Well, he told me a few things horticulturally, like some of his practices, that I just scratched my head on.
I just want people to know at the end of the day, I know I can’t please everybody. And I shouldn’t even try. But I don’t lose any sleep at night over this. You can draw your own conclusions.
If you’ve got a cross, be very protective of it. Once they leave your backyard, all bets are off. Just know that if you do hand it out or sell it, then you have to face any kind of consequences that may happen.
…I pride myself on being consistent.”
The 7Pot Primo is a cross between a Trinidad 7pot and Naga Morich. And, there’s a lot of love in the chilli community for this rival super-hot chilli pepper.
Interview with Johnny Scoville
Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview I did with Johnny Scoville:
“It’s amazing. And the work he’s done to get the pod to where it is! If you look at how stable his pods are, if you walk by a row of 7Pot Primo plants, those pods are so uniform. That is a wickedly stable pepper.
ChilliChump: “I’m growing one in a hydro system. It is a beauty, leaves that are bigger than my hands. Wow, they look amazing. I can’t wait to get some proper pods.”
Johnny Scoville: “I’ll tell you what, we have a couple kilos of 7Pot Primo powder at our office – orange, so vibrant looking, it’s a beautiful thing.”
Hottest Chilli Pepper: What’s Hotter than the Carolina Reaper?
ChilliChump: “The hottest pod that I’ve eaten is the Primotali Chocolate – I’ve done that on video on a live stream which was stupid because it just shut me up for about 10 minutes.”
Johnny Scoville: “Well, that’s really working without a net! Chris Saunders needs a shout-out from the UK; he’s the creator of that pepper. It’s a stupid hot pepper, 7Pot Primo cross with a Yellow Fatali.”
ChilliChump: “I keep getting asked, what’s the hottest thing you have (chilli seeds) and the Primotali Chocolate is it. I mean, I have some hotter – 7Pot Primo is a classic, and it’s a tasty one. But the Chocolate Primotali is just pure heat; there’s nothing redeeming about it.
ChilliChump: “And it builds; it just keeps building.”
Johnny Scoville: “It really does; it’s got legs, it’s ferocious.”
Click to watch the full interview with Johnny Scoville.
Hottest Chilli Pepper: The Ghost Pepper/Bhut Jolokia
The Ghost Pepper, or Bhut Jolokia was known as the hottest pepper in the world according to Guinness World Records. This kicked off the race to the top with superhot chilli peppers (chilli peppers rated over 1 million Scoville).
Other notable Super-hot record holders are Infinity, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Naga Viper, Trinidad Scorpion Butch T and then the Carolina Reaper.
ChilliChump: “Do you remember the first time you had something seriously hot? For me, it was the Ghost Pepper, the Bhut Jolokia in 2006. Do you have a vivid memory of something that really took it up to that next level?”
Johnny Scoville: “Okay yeah, probably Ghost because I went from eating Habaneros to Ghosts, and you know it’s just a significant jump in heat, and it’s just like wow. A very, very serious jump that really got my attention. So that was probably the first real attention-getter.”
ChilliChump: “There was just so much mystique about it at the time. For me, Scotch bonnets were considered hot, and I grew these Bhut Jolokias – I managed to get a few seeds when all the hype was big, and everyone was talking about how hot this thing is. It’s ridiculous, and it took me ages to actually eat it. I think my cousin Tony was the first one to try it from my plant. And I thought, oh, I have to have it now, it didn’t disappoint, but when you compare it to what you have today, I mean I have probably 50 varieties that are hotter than that in my greenhouse right now.”
The Scoville Scale: Measuring Heat Intensity
To understand the heat levels of chilli peppers, we turn to the Scoville Scale. Created by pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912, this scale measures the concentration of capsaicinoids, the compounds responsible for the chilli pepper’s heat. Which means, the higher the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating, the hotter the chilli pepper.
The Scoville Scale is a subjective measure of the pungency or heat of chilli peppers. It is determined by conducting a taste test and dilution process. In the original method, Scoville used a panel of taste testers who would sample a chilli pepper extract and report when the heat became undetectable. The measurement is then based on the number of dilutions required to reach this point.
For example, if a pepper extract had to be diluted 100 times before the heat became undetectable, it would be rated at 100 SHU. The scale has since been updated and improved with more accurate and scientific methods, including the use of high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to directly measure capsaicinoid concentrations.
But, the heat levels on the Scoville Scale can vary widely. Even the mildest peppers, such as bell peppers, have a very low rating or no heat at all. In contrast, the hottest peppers, like the Carolina Reaper or the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, can reach over 2 million SHU.
However, the Scoville Scale provides a useful reference to understand the heat intensity of different chilli peppers and helps people determine which level of spiciness they can handle.
If So Many Chillies are Hotter than the Carolina Reaper, Why Does it Still Hold the World Record?
Johnny Scoville: “I can think of eight to ten pods, just like that, that are hotter than the Reaper, for real.
We’ve gotten to a place now that when you say Carolina Reaper, so many people think of a person instead of the pepper, and when you think of the 7Pot Primo, people think of the person instead of the pepper.
Listen, the very first year I started the channel, I ate the 7Pot or the Reaper, and I said it’s the hottest pepper in the world, but there’s a little asterisk by its name. There are a lot of other peppers that are hotter; it’s just the one that’s recorded in the Guinness World Record book.”
ChilliChump: “There are a few things that people don’t realise. …with Guinness; you have to pay a decent amount of money to get that title. Someone like Troy Primo is not going to spend that money.”
Johnny Scoville: “Once you submit a chilli pepper with them, if it is a winner, you have to pay them tens of thousands of pounds per year to be able to claim it. If you don’t pay them and you claim you have a record, they sue you into oblivion.
If you look at Chris Saunders, he’s growing in his backyard; he has a normal life, and he’s not going to throw 25 grand at a hobby. That’s really what it comes down to. The truth is there have been peppers that have tested hotter.”
Hottest Chilli Pepper – What’s Next?
The Pursuit of a New Hottest Chilli Pepper
The chilli pepper community is constantly pushing the boundaries in search of even hotter peppers, by crossing chillies and selectively breeding them. And several contenders have emerged in recent years, vying for the world’s hottest chilli pepper title. For instance, here are a few notable chilli peppers that have generated buzz in the quest to dethrone the Carolina Reaper:
Is the Pepper X Real?
Developed by Ed Currie, the creator of the Carolina Reaper, Pepper X gained attention for its claims of surpassing the Reaper’s heat. Although specific SHU ratings have not been officially disclosed, early reports suggest it may reach an unprecedented 3.18 million SHU. But even this chilli pepper has courted controversy, with some people suggesting it is just the Big Mustard Mama, another chilli developed by Troy Primo.
Whats the deal with the Dragons Breath Chilli?
Originally claimed to be the world’s hottest chilli, Dragon’s Breath garnered significant attention. However, later tests revealed that it did not surpass the Carolina Reaper’s heat levels, casting doubt on its claim to the throne.
This chilli pepper gained popularity for its rich, earthy flavour profile and intense heat. While not surpassing the Carolina Reaper, it remains highly sought after by chilli enthusiasts.
The Impact of Super-Hot Peppers
The rise of super-hot chilli peppers has profoundly impacted various aspects of the culinary world. As a result, these extreme peppers have fueled a thriving industry, from competitive eating challenges to artisanal hot sauce production. Notably, the popularity of chilli pepper eating contests has surged, attracting participants eager to test their tolerance for heat and claim the crown.
So, What is the Hottest Chilli Pepper in the World?
In conclusion, the world of chilli peppers continues to evolve. And while the Carolina Reaper reigns as the world’s hottest chilli pepper in the Guinness Book of Records, pursuing even hotter contenders remains ongoing. As a result, it seems like every other week there is an announcement of a new worlds hottest chilli pepper. But, personally I believe there is a limit to how much spice these superhot peppers can contain, I don’t think we have hit that limit yet!
So, whether you’re an adventurous foodie seeking new culinary experiences or a thrillseeker intrigued by extreme heat, the world’s hottest chilli peppers will surely provide an unforgettable taste sensation.
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