Chile Pepper Heat Scale

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Types of Peppers

Scoville Heat Scale

How to Stop the Heat

Using Dried Chiles

Roasting Peppers


The Scoville scale is used to rate the hotness of chilies: Mild red bell peppers rate a zero all the way up to habaneros at over 100,000 heat units. The heat that peppers impart comes from an alkaloid compound called capsaicin, which is manufactured in the ribs of the chili pepper. Capsaicin itself doesn't have any flavor; it stimulates the pain receptors in your mouth rather than your taste buds. The way to really keep the heat down is to remove these spongy inner parts. The seeds usually absorb capsaicin from resting near the ribs, so it's best to remove those, too.

Pure Capsaicin

Scoville Units

Chile Example

Similar Spice


300,000 - 1,000,000

Habanero Red Savina ...



100,000 - 300,000




50,000 - 100,000




30,000 - 50,000


crushed red pepper flakes 


15,000 - 30,000


crushed red pepper flakes


5,000 - 15,000


Tabasco Sauce


2,500 - 5,000


Cayenne; Louisiana hot sauce


1,500 - 2,500




1,000 - 1,500

Pasilla, Poblano, Ancho

Old Bay Seasoning


500 - 1,000

canned green chiles

chili powder


100 - 500

Cherry, Peperoncini

pickled Peperoncini


0 - 100

Pimiento, bell, sweet Banana

U.S. paprika

Use Caution In Handling Chile Peppers

All hot peppers contain capsaicinoids, natural substances that produce a burning sensation in the mouth, causing the eyes to water and the nose to run, and even induce perspiration. Capsaicinoids are found primarily in the pepper's ribs and seeds, making them hotter thanthe rest of the pepper. You can reduce the amount of heat in a chili pepper by removing the ribs and seeds. Capsaicinoids have no flavor or odor, but act directly on the pain receptors in the mouth and throat. The primary capsaicinoid, capsaicin, is so hot that a single drop diluted in 100,000 drops of water will produce a blistering of the tongue.Capsaicin is the heat factor in chilies that is used medically to produce deep-heating rubs for treating sports injuries and arthritic therapies.

Hot peppers can cause burning or nasty irritations if your hands or fingers come in contact with touch eyes and other sensitive parts of the body. When using hot chili peppers, wear gloves to protect your hands because the oils, capsaicin, in the peppers. Gloves that physicians use are more practical than kitchen gloves, because they are thinner and adhere to your hands more tightly. If chilies do come in contact with your bare hands, wash thoroughly with soapy water. When grinding dried chilies, beware of the chili dust in the air, which will irritate eyes and throats.

How to Stop the Heat

Its a good idea to use gloves or put plastic baggies over you hands to avoid getting the hot oils on you skin. Alternatively, if nothing else is available, you can try to protect your hands by coating them lightly with vegetable oil as a barrier. Never touch your eyes or mouth, or any part of your body when handling hot peppers.

Putting Out The Fire

On your skin: Water only spreads the fire so don't wash your hand until you neutralize the`heat. Capsaicin the compound that gives peppers their heat isn't soluble in water, but chlorine or ammonia turns it into a salt, which IS soluble in water. In a little bowl add 1 part bleach to 5 parts water and just dip your hands quickly, but don't soak your hands in this solution or it may irritate your skin.

In your mouth: Many people recommend drinking tomato juice or eating a fresh lemon or lime, the theory being that the acid counteracts the alkalinity of the capsaicin.

Dairy products are a good antidote to overheating. Capsaicin dissolves easily in the fats found in dairy products. So when you put a dab of sour cream in your mouth along with (or after) a bite of hot stuff, you're adding pretty effective dilution. The capsaicin and dairy fats mix together, keeping some of the capsaicin molecules from finding the pain receptors on your tongue. Remember, though, it's the fat that provides the relief, so don't expect the same results from low-fat sour cream or nonfat yogurts. This antidote tones down many spicy cuisines, from the use of sour cream with Mexican food to the yogurt condiments eaten with Indian meals. In Thai cuisine, rich coconut milk serves much the same purpose,