Chiles are available around the world and, depending on the region, may be mild to fiery hot. Bright colors and shiny skins promise great flavors.

See also cayenne, habanero and jalapeno.

The exact origin of the word chile, when describing peppers, is strongly debated among scientists and has many meanings around the world. Capsicum is the entire genus of chiles and sweet peppers. The exception lies in some parts of Asia and the where the term specifically alludes to bell peppers.

is Spanish for capsicum while the West Indian “aji” is now accepted throughout to mean all chiles. As confusing as that may be, when someone mentions the words “chile peppers,” there is no doubt that some amount of heat may be involved.


The most familiar chile pepper species include:

New Mexico/Anaheim – Also known as a pepper. Low-medium heat. Large size and thick walls make it the choice for chiles rellenos.

– A favorite in and in the southern Most often dried and sold as a powder, but very easy to grow in containers or a garden. Heat level is high.

Habanero/Scotch Bonnet – Similar in size and shape; related but two distinct varieties. Habs are grown in and the while Scotch Bonnets originated in the . These top the heat scale at upwards of 250,000 Scoville units (the test used for heat, but not flavor).

Jalapeno – A popular hot pepper. Used in many dishes, but very tasty when roasted or stuffed, battered, and fried.

Poblano – A Mexican favorite; considered mild. When dried, they are called anchos.

Seranno – Small peppers that are considered hot, but varies from pod to pod. More widely available than other species.

Thai peppers – This term encompasses many varieties found in Asian markets. Colorful and very hot – used as much for presentation as flavor.

Other standard references will include bird peppers, wax peppers, and ornamentals.

There are many types of dried chile peppers, including:
Chipotle, which refers to smoked jalapenos.
de arbol, small dried peppers found in Mexican markets, but the name also refers to the fresh version.

Buying Tips

The smaller the pepper, the higher the heat level. Use caution