24 Types of Peppers Every Cook Should Know (Plus What Dishes They’re Found in)

You snack on bell peppers, you love the heat of jalapeño in homemade salsa and you’ve ever dabbled with poblanos, but you’re ready to branch out. Good news: There are approximately 4,000 varieties of chile peppers in the world, with more being cultivated all the time. To help you navigate the spicy landscape, here are 24 types of peppers to know (plus what they’re used for).

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types of peppers bell peppers
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1. Bell Peppers

Also called: Sweet pepper, sweet bell pepper

Characteristics: Bell peppers are large compared to other hot peppers, and can be green, yellow, orange and red (and sometimes purple) in color. They’re not fully ripe in their green state, so they taste bitter, but as they ripen, they become sweet. Bell peppers aren’t spicy, but they add color and sweetness to recipes (and are great when stuffed).

Scoville heat units: 0

types of peppers banana peppers
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2. Banana Peppers

Also called: Yellow wax pepper

Characteristics: These medium-size peppers are tangy and mild with a bright yellow color (hence the name). They get sweeter as they ripen and are frequently served pickled—and happen to be an excellent source of vitamin C.

Scoville heat units: 0 to 500

types of peppers piquillo peppers
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3. Piquillo Peppers

Also called: n/a

Characteristics: Spanish piquillo peppers are sweet without any heat, like bell peppers. They’re most often served roasted, skinned and jarred in oil, as tapas or with meat, seafood and cheese.

Scoville heat units: 0 to 500

types of peppers friggitello peppers
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4. Friggitello Peppers

Also called: Sweet Italian peppers, pepperoncini (in the U.S.)

Characteristics: Hailing from Italy, these bright yellow peppers are only slightly hotter than a bell pepper, with a slightly bitter taste. They’re frequently pickled and sold in jars, and in the United States, are known as pepperoncini (although that’s the name of a different, spicier pepper in Italy).

Scoville heat units: 100 to 500

types of peppers cherry peppers
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5. Cherry Peppers

Also called: Pimento, pimiento

Characteristics: While pimiento is the Spanish word for pepper, in English-speaking countries, it refers to the heart-shaped cherry pepper. Mildly spicy, it’s used in pimento cheese and frequently sold pickled in jars. It’s also an ingredient to the Syracuse, New York, pasta specialty, chicken riggies.

Scoville heat units: 100 to 500

types of peppers shishito peppers
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6. Shishito Peppers

Also called: Shishitōgarashi, kkwari-gochu, groundcherry pepper

Characteristics: These East Asian peppers are usually harvested while green, and they taste slightly bitter with mild heat—statistically, one in ten shishito peppers is spicy. They’re frequently served charred or blistered, but can be eaten raw too.

Scoville heat units: 100 to 1,000

types of peppers hatch peppers
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7. Hatch Peppers

Also called: New Mexico chile

Characteristics: Hatch peppers are a type of New Mexican chile, and they’re a staple in the region. They’re slightly pungent like an onion, with a subtle spiciness and smoky taste. Hatch chiles are grown in the Hatch Valley, a region that stretches along the Rio Grande River, and are highly sought after for their quality and taste.

Scoville heat units: 0 to 100,000

types of peppers anaheim peppers
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8. Anaheim Peppers

Also called: New Mexico chile

Characteristics: Anaheim peppers are a type of New Mexican pepper, but they’re grown outside of New Mexico. They’re not as spicy as, say, a habanero, but spicier than a bell pepper. You’ll often see them as canned green peppers or dried red peppers in the grocery store.

Scoville heat units: 500 to 2,500

types of peppers chilaca peppers
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9. Chilaca Peppers

Also called: Pasilla (when dried)

Characteristics: These wrinkly chiles are only slightly spicy, with a prune-like flavor and black-colored flesh. In their dried form, their frequently combined with fruits to make sauces.

Scoville heat units: 1,000 to 3,999

types of peppers poblano peppers
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10. Poblano Peppers

Also called: Ancho (when dried)

Characteristics: These large green peppers hail from Puebla, Mexico, and while they’re relatively mild (especially in their unripe state), they get hotter as they mature. Poblanos are frequently roasted and stuffed or added to mole sauces.

Scoville heat units: 1,000 to 5,000

types of peppers hungarian wax peppers
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11. Hungarian Wax Peppers

Also called: Hot yellow pepper

Characteristics: Hungarian wax peppers are easily confused with banana peppers for their appearance, but they taste much hotter. Their heat and floral aroma make them as essential in Hungarian cuisine as paprika (which they’re often used to make).

Scoville heat units: 1,000 to 15,000

types of peppers mirasol peppers
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12. Mirasol Peppers

Also called: Guajillo (when dried)

Characteristics: Originating in Mexico, mildly spicy mirasol peppers are most often found in their dried state as guajillo peppers, and can be used in marinades, rubs and salsas. They taste tangy and fruity when raw, but become richer when dried.

Scoville heat units: 2,500 to 5,000

types of peppers fresno peppers
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13. Fresno Peppers

Also called: n/a

Characteristics: This relative of Anaheim and Hatch peppers is native to New Mexico but grows throughout California. It’s green when unripe but will change to orange and red as it matures, with a high ratio of flesh to skin that makes it good for stuffing. Red Fresnos are less flavorful and spicier than jalapeños, so they’re good when you want to add a kick to a dish.

Scoville heat units: 2,500 to 10,000

types of peppers jalapeno peppers
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14. Jalapeño Peppers

Also called: Chipotle (when smoke-dried)

Characteristics: The jalapeño pepper is a Mexican chile that’s plucked from the vine when still green (although it will turn red as it ripens). Commonly used in salsas, they’re spicy but not too spicy, with a subtle fruity flavor. (It also happens to be great for livening up mac and cheese, in our opinion.)

Scoville heat units: 3,500 to 8,000

types of peppers serrano peppers
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15. Serrano Peppers

Also called: n/a

Characteristics: Spicier than a jalapeño, these tiny peppers can pack quite a punch. They’re common in Mexican cooking (where they’re native to) and make an excellent addition to salsa because of their fleshiness.

Scoville heat units: 10,000 to 23,000

types of peppers cayenne peppers
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16. Cayenne Peppers

Also called: Finger chile

Characteristics: You probably know this spicy red chile best in its dried form, which is a popular spice in many kitchens. It’s a main ingredient in chili powder, which is a blend of spices and not a chile itself.

Scoville heat units: 30,000 to 50,000

types of peppers birds eye peppers
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17. Bird’s Eye Peppers

Also called: Thai chile

Characteristics: Popular in Asian cuisines, these small red chiles are surprisingly hot for their size. They’re used in sambals, sauces, marinades, stir fries, soups and salads, and can be found fresh or dried. While they’re undeniably spicy, they’re also fruity…if you can get past the heat.

Scoville heat units: 50,000 to 100,000

types of peppers peri peri
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18. Peri-peri

Also called: Piri piri, pili pili, African Bird’s Eye

Characteristics: These Portuguese peppers are small but mighty, and probably most well-known for the acidic, spicy African hot sauce they’re used to make.

Scoville heat units: 50,000 to 175,000

types of peppers habanero peppers
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19. Habanero Peppers

Also called: n/a

Characteristics: These small orange peppers are known for being extremely spicy, but they’re also flavorful and aromatic, with a floral quality that makes them good for hot sauces and salsas. They’re popular in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, as well as the Caribbean.

Scoville heat units: 100,000 to 350,000

types of peppers scotch bonnets
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20. Scotch Bonnets

Also called: Bonney pepper, Caribbean red pepper

Characteristics: Although it looks similar, the Scotch bonnet is not to be confused with the habanero—it’s just as spicy but has a sweeter taste and distinct stout shape. It’s popular in Caribbean cooking and is essential to jerk seasoning and gets its name from the flat Scottish hat (called a tammie) that it resembles.

Scoville heat units: 100,000 to 350,000

types of peppers tabasco peppers
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21. Tabasco Peppers

Also called: n/a

Characteristics: This spicy little pepper is best known as the base for Tabasco hot sauce. They’re the only type of chile pepper that’s juicy on the inside instead of dry, and since the ubiquitous hot sauce also contains vinegar, it tames their heat significantly.

Scoville heat units: 30,000 to 50,000

types of peppers pequin peppers
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22. Pequin Peppers

Also called: Piquín

Characteristics: Pequin peppers are tiny but extremely hot, and commonly used in pickling, salsas, sauces and vinegars—if you’ve ever eaten Cholula hot sauce, you’ve tasted a pequin pepper. Beyond their spiciness, they’re also described as citrusy and nutty in taste.

Scoville heat units: 30,000 to 60,000

types of peppers rocoto peppers
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23. Rocoto Peppers

Also called: Hairy pepper

Characteristics: These large peppers are sneaky—they look like a bell pepper but are almost as spicy as a habanero. They’re available in shades of orange, red and yellow, and have striking black seeds on the inside. Since they’re large, they have a lot of crisp flesh, and are popularly used in salsas.

Scoville heat units: 30,000 to 100,000

types of peppers ghost peppers
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24. Ghost Peppers

Also called: Bhut jolokia

Characteristics: Even heat lovers fear the ghost pepper, which is 100 times hotter than a jalapeño and 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. It’s native to Northeastern India and used sparingly in curries, pickles and chutneys—a little goes a long way.

Scoville heat units: 1,000,000


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...