• AP Photo

  • thepepperseed.com

  • The Pepper Seed

  • Urban Farmer

When it comes to chile peppers, either you love them or you don’t. Some people will be sweating after eating a jalapeño-laced nacho, while others will seek out the spiciest curry in the city and down it with gusto, their mouth aflame. No matter your opinion, you have to admit that super-spicy chiles are pretty fascinating, and the hottest peppers on earth make a jalapeño look like a bell pepper.

Not too long ago, the habanero was considered to be the spiciest pepper on earth. It’s not exactly easy to eat one: it definitely burns, and for most people it’s way too spicy. Today, however, the spiciest variety of habanero, the Red Savina, packs less than a quarter of the mouth-scorching power of the hottest chile on the planet.

Once you get up to the satanic levels of heat that the world’s spiciest chile peppers possess, it’s impossible to gauge actual spice just by tasting it. That wouldn’t be very scientific anyway. Instead, there’s a rating system called the Scoville scale, which measures the amount of capsaicin (the active ingredient) in a given pepper. Scoville units are measured through a complicated dilution process; for example, a pepper whose extract needs to be diluted 10,000 times before capsaicin is undetectable will have a rating of 10,000 Scoville Units.

For a little perspective, a peperoncino (one of those little green peppers you find in antipasto) is near the bottom of the Scoville scale, at about 900 units. Further up the scale you find jalapeños clocking in at about 8,000, and the Tabasco pepper (the main ingredient in Tabasco sauce) at about 50,000 units. The standard habanero, which is far too hot for most people to handle, tops out at about 350,000. And as for pure capsaicin? With a blistering 16,000,000 Scoville units, ingest any of that and you’ll have a very bad day. And a bad month.

So what is it that leads growers to constantly find ways to develop hotter and hotter chiles, and why do chileheads seek them out? Isn’t a habanero or ghost pepper spicy enough for them? Apparently not.

“The ghost pepper is hot enough, but the quest for new peppers is twofold,” Mike McAdams, the founder of artisan hot sauce club Fuego Box, told us. “For a chilehead, being able to say you ate the world's hottest pepper is equivalent to a mountaineer climbing Everest.”

Every year it seems like a new chile pepper comes along to claim the title for the world’s spiciest, and there are in fact teams of researchers all over the world dedicated to creating hotter and hotter chiles. For the time being, though, the following peppers are currently the spiciest ones on earth. So put your seatbelts on, because it’s going to be a spicy ride.

  • 1. Carolina Reaper

    AP Photo

    Ladies and gentlemen, the spiciest chile pepper on earth. Bred by researchers in South Carolina and confirmed a couple years ago to be the world’s spiciest at Winthrop University, the Carolina Reaper was bred for heat and heat alone (and for the horrifying scorpion’s tail). Topping out at 2,200,000 Scovilles, this pepper actually has a pleasing, sweet and fruity flavor. As opposed to most other peppers, which take a second to kick in, the Carolina Reaper rears its ugly head immediately, and once it does you’ll be descending to the depths of chile pepper hell.

  • 2. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion

    Image via crazyhotseeds.com

    As we venture past the two million Scoville unit mark, we enter into territory that Satan himself wouldn’t even dare to tread. Okay, we might be getting a little carried away, but at 2,009,000 Scovilles, this evil-looking little pepper is what you might call damn spicy.

  • 3. Brain Strain

    thepepperseed.com

    Also topping off at about 1.9 million Scoville units, the bumpy Brain Strain almost resembles a brain. And after eating one of these you’ll most likely feel like yours has melted.

  • 4. Trinidad 7 Pot Primo

    Image via crazyhotseeds.com

    The “scorpion’s tail” on this pepper makes it considerably more terrifying than other peppers, and with good reason: it packs 1,900,000 Scoville units. This is the stuff nightmares are made of.

  • 5. 7 Pot Douglah

    The Pepper Seed

    This pepper is renowned not only for its extreme heat (rocking about 1,850,000 Scovilles), but also for the fact that it actually also tastes really good (before your whole head ignites, obviously).

  • 6. Trinidad Scorpion Butch T

    Urban Farmer

    While this pepper was the Guinness World Record holder for quite some time (at 1,463,700 Scovile units), there are, amazingly, five peppers that have proven to be hotter.

    Can you feel the heat? Check out more of the hottest peppers in the world.

    More from The Daily Meal

    Guide to Chiles 101

    What Is Wasabi?

    Spice is Nice

    Chile Lobster