Our Favorite Peppers

Over the years, we've likely grown over 100 different chile varieties. While we've never met a pepper we didn't like, we definitely have our favorites. Our goal was to keep these lists to our Top 10, though as you’ll see, we just couldn't do it...

We reference pot sizes here because that's how we tend to grow our peppers. If growing directly in a garden or raised bed, see our Choosing the Proper Pot Size to convert pot size into the minimum plant spacing.

For Eating

It was the flavor of spicy peppers that began our interest in growing them, so naturally flavor, heat-level and yield play major roles in determining what we like to grow. Below is our favorite peppers for eating/growing, ranked in order...

#1
Habanero Pepper
Habanero

Ok, a very obvious choice, but for a reason... In talking with many pepper enthusiasts, we've found the Habanero to be universally considered to be one of the best tasting peppers. Additionally, it has a thicker flesh that holds up to and absorbs smoking well. The plant does best in a larger pot, branches vigorously and produces a high density of nice-sized fruit. The smoked Hab is a key (secret) ingredient to our signature Apocalypse Chili cook-off entry.

#2
Hot Lemon Pepper
Hot Lemon

Fruity flavor with heat, though at around 50k Scovilles not overpowering. Plant grows to a nice size and does well in a medium to large container. It tends to naturally bush out and produce a high density of long, yellow fruit. In addition to having a great flavor in a generally tolerable heat range, it's also an attractive, eye-catching plant. It also has a medium-sized end-cap that holds up to string drying relatively well.

#3
Fury Pepper
Fury

This is one of our accidental hybrids. We planted seeds taken from a white ghost and ended up with a shorter, squat pepper of decent size, high heat and a really cool orange color. We believe that a nearby Yellow Trinidad Scorpion crossed with the White Ghost to produce this variety.

Additionally, this plant tends to branch out vigorously, producing a large plant with dense foliage and fruit. The fruit density and size, make this a high yielding plant that produces a lot of bang for the buck. Also one of our favorite tasting peppers that packs a lot of heat (probably around 200-350k SHU). We successfully managed to grow this plant out to three generations and have a bunch of pre-fruited plants where we hope one of them will have the characteristics to become our official fourth generation (4G) plant.

#4
Datil Pepper
Datil

The official pepper of St. Augustine, Florida. Go there and you'll find many restaurants proudly feature this pepper which has been a part of the city's heritage for over a century. They even have an annual Datil Pepper Festival in October, with the first Saturday in October being Datil Pepper Day. The festival aims to encourage the cultivation of the Datil pepper in the St. Augustine area.

Good heat (100k-300k SHU) and great flavor. Does best in a medium to large pot and produces a respectable yield.

#5
Ghost Pepper
Ghost Pepper

Also known as Bhut Jolokia. Probably one of the most popular varieties of chile peppers and for good reason. It's blazing! Up to a few years ago, it held the world record for being the hottest. Using in extreme moderation is most definitely encouraged (except for those select few -- if you're not sure, it's not you), but the flavor is outstanding. Additionally, this plant likes to grow large and produce large fruit in high quantities. Plant in a large pot with lots of sun and you’ll be amply rewarded.

#6
Jalapeno Pepper
Jalapeno

Or Ja-lap-en-os, as we like to affectionately refer to them, is another obvious choice. Though, it deserves recognition as it likely holds the title of being the most well-known and most commonly used spicy pepper. We prefer to let ours turn red which results in a sweeter taste with more heat. And, as a chipotle pepper (peppers allowed to turn red, then smoked) it truly rocks! Our main complaint is we typically don't have a lot of luck in getting good fruit density or yield out of our Jalapenos. Anyone know a variety?

#7
Shishito Pepper
Shishito

Unlike the peppers before it on this list, Mr. Shishito lacks significant heat. But, that doesn't stop us from loving this pepper. It has a nice fruit density and flavor with an added bonus of one of every 3-5 peppers providing a surprise with a slight burst of heat. These can be enjoyed while still green or when it fully ripens to a bright red color. Blanched with olive oil and kosher salt, this makes an extra-nice and easy to make appetizer or side that almost anyone can enjoy! A medium pot will usually suffice for this plant.

#8
Malaysian Goronong

Another one of our favorite peppers with a nice, thick skin for smoking. A larger growing pepper that prefers a larger pot and will reward you with abundant number of large, interesting looking fruit. Great taste! And, has a thicker flesh that makes it a nice choice for putting on the smoker.

#9
White Habanero (or White Hab)

Picking the hundreds of smallish white peppers from this plant is somewhat tedious; however, it does make an awesome pepper powder that provides nice heat that'll compliment a dish without changing its flavor. Being white colored, it's also a safe additive for spicing up a white sauce.

#10
Manzano

So much potential, a big fruit with thick flesh that produces lots of bang for the harvesting effort. If we could only find a way to get our plants to produce a higher density of fruit. That said, it’s a truly unique plant that will stand apart from your other peppers. It grows round peppers that grow to a size slightly smaller than a baseball and ripens red or orange -- the red ones resemble an apple when ripe. It’s about 4 times hotter than a Jalapeno. If you’re in a climate that stays above freezing year-round, you can trellis this plant and it will last many years, growing quite large.

#11
Carolina Reaper
Carolina Reaper

For anyone who considers themselves a die-hard Chile-head, if not already grown, this one should be the pepper bucket list. At 2.2 million SHU it currently holds the world’s record as the hottest pepper. It's blazing hot and when turned into a powder a small amount goes a looonng way (you've been warned)!

We just wish we wouldn't lose so many of these to a yet unidentified pest that enjoys(?) eating that tiny signature tail off of the pepper, or a small hole in the side, before it can fully ripen. We usually get our best production from this plant toward the end of the growing season when the birds/insects (or whatever) becomes less active. The plant can get large and does best in a large pot.

#12
Devil's Tongue Pepper
Devil's Tongue

Appropriately named, the heat on this pepper will not disappoint (upwards of 325 SHU)! Though, that's only one reason to like this pepper. It tends to grow large with a high density of large, orange fruit. A single plant will produce a ton! The peppers shape and density also make this a great visual addition to the collection.

For Display

In addition to flavor, the below varieties also make an awesome show plant. We like to use them as booth magnets at the chili cook-offs that we attend. They do a great job of drawing people in and as a conversation starter (and as a subtle warning about the chili's heat-level).

Fruit shape, color, density and distinctive foliage all contribute to what makes a plant visually interesting. Additionally, these plants are lesser known varieties which tends to pique people’s curiosity. Most are also on the smaller side making for easier transport.

#1
Black Pearl Pepper
Black Pearl

A stunning plant. Does well in a small pot and produces dense blackish foliage and round berry-like fruit. It’s a pepper that doesn't look like a pepper. The best part... The fruit starts green, turns black, before ripening to red. With its high fruit density, it's common to see all three colors clustered together at once!

#2
Bolivian Rainbow Pepper
Bolivian Rainbow

A another multi-colored pepper plant and is a truly fascinating plant that's been grown in Bolivia for centuries. Peppers start out as a nice deep purple purple, before turning yellow, then orange and ending in a brilliant red when fully ripe. Tear-drop shaped fruit fruit grows upright with a nice density. Heat level is moderate, clocking in around 30k SHU for the spicier varieties. Also does well in a small pot, a good choice for bringing to a cook-off or farmer's market as a display item.

#3
Aji Omnicolor
Aji Omnicolor

Another ornamental plant that does well in a medium to small container with multi-colored peppers. Peppers start white and transition purple-ish and then to a sunburst orange/red combination, before fully ripening at bright red. A mature plant is an awesome visual with a nice density of red, orange, purple and white peppers all visible at the same time.

#4
Thai Pepper
Thai Pepper

Long, thin and red, the Thai plant will bush out nicely producing a high density of its signature peppers. Once they start to ripen, this is an amazing looking plant. Not only eye-catching, but the this pepper has an awesome fruity flavor with decent heat that won't overwhelm and is a popular ingredient in many Asian dishes.

Additionally, it's also an ideal pepper to hang-dry as it has a large, sturdy end-cap with plenty of room to thread. Strings of these dried peppers are highly decorative and are a festive addition to any kitchen where spicy food is part of the menu. This plant will need a medium to large container, but it's definitely worth it!

#5
Fish Hot

The Fish Hot or Fish Pepper with its striking green/white variegated leaves and fruit is truly one of a kind. The Fish Pepper gets its name from being a commonly used spice for seasoning fish and shellfish by the African American community in the late 1800s. The green-white fruit color was an ideal additive for imparting spice without tainting the color of the white sauces commonly used for seafood. This is a smaller plant that'll do well in a small pot. Peppers do turn red when fully ripe, but can be picked and used beforehand.

#6
Pili Pili

Also called the Piri Piri, Pilli Pilli or the African Bird's Eye Pepper. Due to the peppers small tic-tac size, we prefer the pill reference. Plant grows to a decent size, even in a small pot and produces many peppers. These plants are an awesome display plant at farmer's markets and festival. The peppers small size, belies it's potency. It's very hard for people to believe such intense hotness is contained within such a small pepper (around 175k SHU) -- until their curiosity gets the better of them!

#7
Hot Pops Pepper
Hot Pops

A plant like none other we've seen. This highly ornamental plant stays very small and can do well in a four inch container if watered frequently. Peppers are dense, start purple before ripening to orange. Leaves on plant are dense and the smallest we've seen. The combination of the small size with its dense leaves and fruit make this look like a miniature orange tree once most of the fruit is ripe. While these small sized peppers do pack some heat, probably around 50k SHU (just a guess), they're much less hot than the Pili Pili.

#8
Jwala

An Indian pepper that's great as a seasoning as well as a visually attractive plant. Bushes out nicely in a small pot with a nice density of thin, long, curling peppers.

#9
Flaming Icicle

Grows slightly larger and does best in a medium pot. Produces a nice density of inch-long, triangular shaped, white peppers that grow upright. The peppers turn a very nice shade of ivory when fully ripe. The look combined with its name make this a great display pepper.

#10
White Ghost Pepper
White Ghost

Part of the ghost variety, so it's very hot. It also likes to grow big, so will require a large pot to reach its true potential. Though, the extra effort is justified with a dense collection of 2-3" peppers that turn white to truly resemble a ghost in color and shape!

#11
Aji Orchid

Another pepper that enjoys a larger pot. Tends to grow taller and less dense, though produces a red, uniquely shaped pepper that resembles a flower.

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