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Chile Pepper 101

Q. What are the differences in heat levels of various chili peppers like jalapeño, habanero, poblano and serrano? Which are the hottest and least hot? — John, Kaukauna

A. Chile peppers are all rated by the pungency (heat intensity) of their capsaicin with a measurement called Scoville heat units and are then ranked on the Scoville scale. The Scoville scale ranks all peppers from bell peppers that come in at zero units all the way up to the Carolina reaper, the hottest chili pepper known to man at this time, that comes in at 1,569,300 units. As a consumer, it seems that learning the heat intensity of the peppers we like to eat would be important to the pleasure of our dining experience. Each pepper variety has a range of intensity, and you may have noticed this when sometimes a jalapeño is quite mild and the next time it is a little fiery. Poblano peppers are very mild at about 1,000 units and jalapeño peppers are slightly hotter at about 2,500 units. Serrano peppers are hotter than jalapeño at about 10,000 units and habanero peppers are very hot as they come in at about 200,000 units. I once ate a habanero and couldn’t feel my face for 45 minutes, which was a great learning experience for me!


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