The Pepper Heat Scale: Scoville Units

Conceptually, you know that a pepper is not hot. You can touch one with your fingers and understand that it is at room temperature. However, when you pop a 'Habanero' into your mouth, the sensors in your oral cavity may tell your brain that you have just tasted a glowing, hot coal! (Note: Do not touch mucous membranes after touching peppers.)

Spicy peppers contain a substance called capsaicin. This is what makes them taste hot. Concentrated in the veins of the fruit, the compound stimulates your nerve endings making your brain "think" that you are in pain. The brain responds by releasing substances called endorphins (like distance runners experience), which are similar in structure to morphine. A mild euphoria results making peppers mildly addictive Wilbur Lincoln Scovillebecause of this hot pepper "high" (and you don't have to run 20 miles!). Ask any pepper-head.

Devised by Wilbur Scoville in 1912, a Scoville Unit is a measurement of capsaicin level in a particular pepper or variety.  Although peppers can vary from pod to pod, plant to plant, variety to variety, and even season to season, listed below is an approximate scale for several varieties of peppers.

  Scoville Units

Pepper Variety

  16,000,000 Pure Capsaicin
  2,000,000 - 5,300,000 Standard US Grade Pepper Spray
10 100,000 - 450,000 Habanero, Scotch Bonnet, Caribbean Red
9 50,000 - 100,000 Santake, Thai
8 30,000 - 50,000

Cayenne, Tabasco, Piquin

7 15,000 - 30,000 Serrano (5,000 up to 30,000), Chile de Arbol
6 5,000 - 15,000 Yellow Wax, Peter (10,000 up to 23,000)
5 2,500 - 5,000 Jalapeno (3,500 up to 10,000), Miasol
4 1,500 - 2,500 Sandia, Cascabel
3 1,000 - 1,500 Ancho (Poblano), Pasilla, Espanola
2 500 - 1,000 Anaheim, New Mexico
1 100 - 500 Mexi-bells, Sweet Cherry, Pepperoncini
0 0 - 100 Mild Bells, Sweet Bananas, Pimento

When peppers are dehydrated, they tend to increase in "heat" by about 10 times.


  1. Biography of Wilbur Lincoln Scoville at Wikipedia

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