Interestingly enough peppers are considered the fruit of a plant due to the seed aspect, and not a vegetable. There are so many varieties of peppers it can seem a little daunting in choosing the right one for a recipe. Each has a different flavor and heat ratio for sure, but experiment! When roasted and the skin removed, the flavor is amazing and I hope you try doing it yourself instead of buying the ones in a can. There are so many that I have not included here, but the ones below are most commonly used in my cooking. I recently discovered the small and potent Thai chili pepper and will experiment with that little guy next.
Here are the most frequently purchased ones that I use, I hope this is a big enough variety and heat scale to get you going. About the only one that I do not use fresh is the Cayenne pepper, it’s a thin chile pepper and I use the dried, ground version.
Of course the usual suspects for me are the green, red, orange and yellow Bell peppers. Delicious cold or cooked these are great sliced and dipped with a salad dressing of your choice as a appetizer, mixed in salads like my Pepper Basil Salad or mixed with your favorite recipe. These are mild in flavor.
Another mild one is the Hatch chili, with a good medium heat. The peppers are long and curved, much like the Anaheim chili pepper (see below), and are perfect for stuffing.
The Guajillo is one of the most common and popular chiles grown and used in Mexico. It is mild to moderately hot, and has dark, reddish brown, leathery skin. I use this often and after soaking blend to puree and marinate pork like in my Al Pastor recipe.
The Anaheim chili pepper is a mild, medium sized chili pepper often used when green, though it can be used when red.
The Poblano chili pepper is an extremely popular pepper. It’s very dark green in color, ripening to dark red or brown. They are great for stuffing! It’s name in dried form is the Ancho.
The lovely and most common is probably the Jalapeño pepper, red and green. Raw, pickled, cooked this versatile one is a home favorite. It probably is the world’s most popular chili pepper. Harvested when they are green or red if allowed to ripen, they are about 4-6 inches long. A Chipotle is a smoked jalapeño chili pepper.
Next up is the Serrano pepper, it’s a hot one, but with a different flavor. Usually found in fresh salsas. A smaller version of the jalapeño, similar in color, but smaller, about 1 to 2 inches long. Dark green, but I have seen even reddish in color.
Rounding out my list is the Scotch Bonnet, a hot one for sure! Small, orange and compact, but packs quite a bit of heat although with sweet overtones. Use carefully like in the Jamaican Jerk rub I use on my ribs.
And finally the Habanero chili, which is often confused with being a Scotch Bonnet – it is not. This is THE hot daddy right here. Similar in color and size of the Scotch it hails from the Yucatan Peninsula.
Use gloves when handling these peppers and from experience, don’t rub your eyes until after you’re done and your hands have been washed!
For an interesting read on fruits mistaken as vegetables check out this article on Kitchen Daily.
Here is a handy chart for the heat of different peppers:
- Pure capsaicin: 15,000,000–16,000,000 Scoville heat units
- Law enforcement pepper spray: 5,000,000–5,300,000 Scoville heat units
- Trinidad Scorpion T Butch Pepper: 855,000–1,463,700 Scoville heat units
- Habanero pepper: 100,000–350,000 Scoville heat units
- Bird’s eye chili: 50,000–100,000 Scoville heat units
- Cayenne pepper: 30,000–50,000 Scoville heat units
- Chiles de árbol: 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units
- Tabasco pepper: 30,000–50,000 Scoville heat units
- Tabasco sauce: 2,500–8,000 Scoville heat units
- Jalapeno peppers: 2,500- 8,000 Scoville heat units
- Paprika: 2,500- 8,000 Scoville heat units
- Pimento: 100-500 Scoville heat units
- Bell pepper: 0 Scoville heat units