Types of chillies: chilli varieties at a glance

Types of chillies: chilli varieties at a glance

Jalapeño, Tabasco, Cayenne and Habanero are well-known varieties. Learn about the chilli varieties from mild & fruity to fiery-hot here.

According to experts, there are 3000 to 4000 different types of chillies worldwide. This enormous number is distributed among about 35 different species. Both peppers and chillies belong to the genus Capsicum, which is divided into more than 35 species. Among the best known are:

  • Capsicum annuum: the most widespread species which include the sweet and mild pepper varieties (such as bell peppers) as well as small and fiery hot Chile Tepin.
  • Capsicum baccatum: a type of chilli that is well loved in Central and South America and is known for its particularly fruity aroma. One of the better known varieties of C. baccatum is the lemon drop pepper.
  • Capsicum chinense: this type of chilli does not come from China as is often wrongly assumed, the varieties of this species are among the hottest. Well-known varieties are Habanero or Bhut Jolokia.
  • Capsicum frutescens: plant scientists are still not sure whether this is an independent chilli species. Fruits of C. frutescens are always very spicy, especially the Tabasco variety.
  • Other, but less well known chilli species are Capsicum buforum, C. cardenasii, C. eximium, C. pereirae and C. tovarii.

In the following, we list the best, tastiest and spiciest chillies of the four main species.

An overview of chilli varieties

The variety of different chilli types is enormous. We have compiled the most popular chilli varieties for you in the list below.

Capsicum annuum: the most widespread species

The species Capsicum annuum is the most common type of chilli. It includes sweet peppers as well as some extremely hot chilli types. Some literature sometimes mistakenly claims that C. annuum is annual, which is in fact untrue. The best known varieties are:

  • Aconcagua: These red, thick chillies of the Cubanelle type are characterized by their aromatic sweetness. This variety is particularly popular in salads or for direct consumption.
  • Anaheim: This thick fleshy chilli is one of the most popular varieties and not just because it is an eponym of the city Anaheim/California. The hanging fruits can be harvested green as well as red and can be used in many ways: grilling, filling, direct consumption and much more.
  • De Arbol: Due to its tree-like and woody growth this chilli is often referred to as ‘tree-pepper’. The thin-skinned, slightly broken fruits turn from green to red when ripe and have a slightly smoky aroma when dried.
  • Black Hungarian: This variety is closely related to the Jalapeños and carries conical, thick fleshy chillies, which change colour from black to red with some black spots. The aroma is also similar to Jalapeños. Its violet flowers and the grain of leaves and shoots are also beautiful appearance-wise.
  • Black Namaqualand: The bushy, compact variety bears upright, raindrop-shaped, rather thin-skinned fruits which change colour from black to red. The dark purple flowers and shoots also make this chilli striking in appearance. In addition to being fantastic in seasonings, it is also a great plant to be potted.
  • Banana Pepper: The name is derived from the long, curved banana shape of the fruit. These non-sharp chillies have a wonderfully sweet aroma and are popular in salads, salsas or pickled.
  • Bolivian Rainbow: This chilli is a popular houseplant because of its dark purple leaves and white flowers with a purple border. The small, upright fruits turn from violet to orange-red, but unfortunately have a rather weak aroma.
  • Bonsai Chilli: This mini chilli is so tiny it can be grown virtually anywhere! The small red fruits are often used as a substitute for Thai chilli.
  • Bulgarian Carrot: This variety bears many thick fleshy and carrot shaped fruits. These chillies are wonderful in chutneys, sauces and salsas due to their pungency and sweet aroma. Moreover, they are bright orange in colour.
  • Cascabel: This variety has the nickname ‘rattle’ because of its round oval shape and the rattling sound of the dried fruits. The small red fruits have a sweet aroma with a pleasant pungency.
  • Cayenne: This variety is characteristic for its biting spiciness with a slightly smoky aroma and is mainly known as Cayenne pepper. The thin-skinned fruits are elongated, slightly curved and change colour from green to red.
  • Chilhuacle Negro: This variety carries bell-shaped or conical chillies, which are brown in colour and very popular in spicy pastes or sauces because of their smoky aroma. The plant is also resistant to the tobacco mosaic virus.
  • Corno di Toro: The slightly curved peppers are reminiscent of a bull’s horn. The thick fleshy fruits are ideal for salads and salsas or for stuffing, roasting, marinating and much more.
  • Elephant’s Trunk: This variety has thick fleshy, pointed conical fruits with grey cracks. This red chilli gets its name from its similarity to an elephant’s trunk.
  • Ferenc Tender: These thick fleshy and pointed cap-shaped sweet peppers are very popular in salads and salsas or for filling and grilling due to their juicy aroma.
  • Firekiss: This compact ornamental chilli bears conical to oval fruits with three different fruit colours.
  • Firecracker: This small variety is also suitable for growing in pots. The elongated fruits can be yellow-green with a violet grain, orange or red.
  • Fish Pepper: The green-white striped red chillies are often used to refine fish dishes. Due to its compact growth, this very decorative variety is also fantastic to grow in pots.
  • Fluorescent: This very decorative variety does not only have black-violet chillies, its leaves and flowers are also dark-violet. The fruits turn deep red as they ripen and have a pungent aroma.
  • Fresno: With this variety the aesthetic value is also at the forefront. The white flowers are framed in violet and the stamens and pistils (sometimes even the sprouts) are violet. The conical green fruits have a violet grain and turn red as they ripen.
  • Golden Cayenne: These chillies are wider than the normal Cayenne and bright yellow in colour. The two varieties are very similar in sharpness and aroma.
  • Jalapeño: One of the best known and most popular chilli varieties! The fleshy, juicy fruits are pointed and turn from green to red with black spots and cracks. Their great aroma makes them popular in salsas or for stuffing, roasting/grilling or pickled.
  • Kitchen Pepper: The corrugated cap-shaped fruits with a partially pressed-in tip are used to produce powders. Their pronounced but pleasant spiciness is an indispensable seasoning in any kitchen.
  • Lanterna de Foc: The elongated, pointed chillies are very similar to Cayenne both in appearance and aroma.
  • Marconi Purple: This variety has juicy, violet chillies in bell form. The thick fleshy fruits are characterized by their sweetness and low pungency. They are therefore very popular in salads, salsas or in stuffing.
  • Medusa: This sweet chilli variety bears many small fruits without sharpness. The sweet fruits are therefore ideal for fresh consumption. The compact growth form and the beauty of this variety make it an ideal houseplant.
  • Mulato: This mild pointed pepper has an excellent smoky aroma and is often used for filling or in chocolate dishes.
  • Mushroom Red/Yellow: The thin-skinned chillies are mushroom-shaped and develop a distinct sharpness. They are well suited for the production of sauces and salsas or for filling.
  • NuMex Big Jim: The variety bears extremely large fruits weighing up to 100g and thus holds the world record for the largest chilli fruits.
  • Padrón: This variety has elongated, differently shaped fruits and the pungency also varies greatly among the chillies.
  • Pequin: This variety bears numerous small, conically shaped fruits. Due to their pungency and sweet pepper aroma, these chillies are popular in sauces, soups, salsas and as a spice.
  • Peter Pepper: A very striking plant indeed! The variety is also known as ‘Penis Pepper’ and the shrivelled fruit shape makes it clear why. The slightly hot chillies are suitable for sauces and seasoning.
  • Purple Cayenne: The unripe, black-violet fruits and the stunning flowers are a vision! These elongated and pointed chillies give the necessary spiciness to salsas.
  • Purple Tiger: Not only the black-violet chillies, but also the three-coloured leaves make this variety a real stunner. On the dark green ground, the large violet colouring with white variegation develops.
  • Royal Black: This extraordinary ornamental chilli bears elongated oval fruits and both the plant itself and the chillies are beautifully coloured dark violet/black. It is also easy to grow in pots.
  • Santa Fe Grande: The variety bears many thick fleshy fruits with a slight spiciness and an alluring aroma. When ripe, the greenish-yellow chillies turn bright red. They are mainly used to make salsas or are stuffed and served with salads.
  • Sarit Gat: This high-yielding variety carries many bright yellow chillies with a pleasant pungency.
  • Serrano: The elongated, bright red and juicy chillies are best eaten fresh due to their sweet aroma.
  • Sweet Chocolate: This variety bears oblong, sometimes pointed fruits. The thick fleshy chillies are characterised by their sweetness and chocolate brown colour.
  • Tepin/Chiltepin: These small, pea-shaped chillies are extremely hot. Almost all chilli and paprika varieties common today are said to be cultivars of Tepin.
  • Thai Orange: This extremely high-yielding variety is also ideal as a decorative pot plant. The narrow, elongated fruits turn bright yellow as they ripen and should not be missing in any yellow Thai curry. Especially the flowery aroma and the intense, lasting spiciness of the chilli make it a very popular variety.
  • Turuncu Spiral: The long spiral-shaped chillies stand out due to their bright orange colour. The pungency is very pleasant.

Capsicum baccatum: species with a particularly fruity aroma

Capsicum baccatum is widely adored in Central and South America. The species stands out due to its particularly fruity aroma. Contrary to popular belief, not all fruits of C. baccatum are small and berry-shaped. If you want to cultivate varieties of this kind in our country, you should plant the seeds very early, as C. baccatum takes a very long time to ripen.

  • Aji Pineapple: The name says it all! This chilli has an excellent pineapple aroma and is therefore very popular in fruity sauces or salsas. The small tapered fruits are thin and fleshy and they can be grown in pots without a problem.
  • Bishop’s Crown: The red, thick fleshy fruits are shaped like a bishop’s cap and have an extremely aromatic taste, but with clear differences in sharpness between the fruits.
  • Lemon Drop: The drop-shaped elongated chillies are lemon yellow in colour and their aroma as well as taste have a fabulous lemon tinge.
  • Rainforest: The rather small, drop-shaped fruits are slightly folded at the tip and turn light green to red as they ripen. The tangy citrus aroma harmonises excellently with the pungency and is particularly effective in salsas.

Capsicum chinense: chillies ranging from fruity to hellish-hot

This variety misleadingly does not originate from China, as some might assume. However, some of the hottest chilli varieties (Carolina Reaper, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, Bhut Jolokia) belong to this species. C. chinense is known for its fruity aroma. To actually enjoy eating them, the chilli peppers must be prepared gently. If the pungency of Habanero and other varieties of this species is too hot for you, you can also choose the very mild Ají Dulce.

  • 7 Pod SR Strain: One of the hottest chillies in the world, but still very aromatic. The pointed fruits have an inverted tip and a rough surface. The initially green chillies turn a strong red colour as they ripen and are processed into sauces.
  • Aji Dulce Amarillo: A juicy chilli with an intense typically ‘chinense’ aroma and little spiciness. The long, folded fruits are orange-yellow in colour and are particularly popular for fresh consumption or for salsas and salads.
  • Aji Panca: These chillies are characterized by their smoky aroma and are therefore popular to use in Mexican mole sauces. The fruits are thin fleshy and also known as ‘Aji Brown’ due to their brown colour.
  • Bhut Jolokia: This variety currently holds the world record for sharpness! With over 1 million Scoville heat units, the wrinkled and pointed fruits with irregular surface have more than earned the names Bhut Jolokia = ghost chilli, Bih Jolokia = poison chili, Raja chilli = king of chilli.
  • Bolivian Bumpy: This chilli is a cross of ‘Bolivian Rainbow’ x ‘Yellow Bumpy ‘and has a wonderful fruity aroma. The fruits are relatively thin and fleshy and hang down like lanterns. The sun’s rays give the yellow chillies their violet-brown shades.
  • Bahamian Goat: This variety bears elongated, blunt and thick fleshy fruits. The yellowish-green to orange-red, upright growing chillies are juicy and aromatic hot.
  • Dorset Naga: This variety is also one of the sharpest chillies in the world. The red fruits are lightly folded and are mostly used for sauces, salsas or seasoning.
  • Fatalii: The wrinkled and pointed fruits are among the very sharp representatives of this genus. The thick fleshy yellow fruits are often used in hot sauces.
  • Goronong: This variety bears irregularly folded fruits that are very wavy and resemble a sack. The relatively thin fleshy orange chillies have a very good aroma and are often used for sauces.
  • Habanero Chocolate: The chocolate brown coloured chillies are relatively thin fleshy and folded. This very spicy Habanero has a lot of aroma and is popular in sauces, salsas and for seasoning.
  • Habanero Mustard: The mustard coloured fruits are thick fleshy and strongly folded. It is a very juicy and fruity variant of the Habanero.
  • Habanero Orange: This variety is one of the sharpest of all chillies and yet has an extraordinarily fruity aroma! The fruits are folded like lanterns and are bright orange when ripe.
  • Habanero Peach: The peach-coloured chillies are thin fleshy and slightly folded. The spicy fruits are popular in sauces and salsas.
  • Habanero Red: This variety is one of the hottest of all chillies and yet still has a wonderful fruity aroma! The fruits are folded like lanterns and are bright red when ripe.
  • Habanero Red Savina: This variety has been considered the sharpest chilli in the world for a long time. The lampion-like red fruits are mainly used in hot sauces.
  • Naga Morich: This slightly folded, pointed chilli is extremely pungent and closely related to the Bhut Jolokia variety. The fruits are well suited for sauces and salsas.
  • NuMex Suave Orange: This Habanero variety is characterized by its great fruity aroma, but without the biting pungency. The orange mild fruits are therefore very popular in salads, salsas, cooked with fish or pickled.
  • Peru Scarlet Lantern: As the name suggests, the small chillies are lantern-shaped and colourful. Moreover, they are extremely hot and popular in hot sauces and salsas.
  • Peruvian Long Brown: This variety has long pointed chillies that are slightly folded and a little bent. The very spicy, brown fruits are usually used in sauces.
  • Pimenta da Neyde: This variety belongs to the rarities of its genus. Even when ripe, the elongated oval to lantern-shaped chillies with blunt tips are beautifully violet in colour. Also the sharpness is not to be overlooked as it gives sauces the right kick.
  • Scotch Bonnet: This variety is known for its fruity apricot aroma and is also referred to as bonney peppers because of its shape that is reminiscent of the tam o’shanter hat. The pungency of these juicy chillies should not be underestimated!
  • Trinidad Douglah: This variety stands out for its wrinkled fruits with an irregular surface and brown colour. But the spiciness of the chillies can easily keep up with that of 7 Pod and Bhut Jolokia.
  • Sweet Habanero: This variation of the Habanero is characterized by its fruity aroma without any pungency. The chillies have the typical folded Habanero shape and shine brightly in rich red.

Capsicum frutescens: popular chillies in Southeast Asian dishes

The varieties of Capsicum frutescens usually find their way into Southeast Asian dishes or into spice mixtures. The best known variety of this species is definitely Tabasco.

  • Rawit: This high-yielding variety bears small, elongated pointed fruits. Due to their pleasant hotness, the red chillies are especially popular in Asian cuisine.
  • Tabasco: This chilli is grown in Louisiana mainly for the production of the well-known Tabasco sauce. The conically upright fruits are aromatic and fiery hot.

Capsicum pubescens: the ‘hairy’ type

The Latin term ‘pubescens’ hints at the hairiness of the leaves of this species. If you compare the plant of this chilli species side by side with other chillies, you will notice several major differences. Capsicum pubescens is clearly different because of its hairy leaves but also due to its tree-like woody appearance. Chilli plants of this species can mostly be found along the west coast of Central and South America.

  • Rocoto Aji Largo: The variety carries lantern-shaped, pointed chillies and the thick, juicy flesh has an enticing and intense aroma.
  • Rocoto Manzano: An apple-shaped ‘Rocoto’ variety with red or orange, roundish fruits.

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