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Culture Lifestyle

9 of the Spiciest Peppers Found Throughout Latin America


Did you know we’ve been using hot peppers in our cuisine for more than 6,000 years? Even the Aztecs loved a bit of spice. If you are a fan of a little heat or downright fiery foods, it’s likely you’re enjoying a pepper from Latin America. Some of our favorite dishes like mole, chile relleno, and even ceviche feature peppers from habanero to cayenne with heat levels ranging from mild to extremely hot. Latin American food is all about celebrating and enjoying these spicy peppers and it’s evident in our cuisine.  Read on to learn more about some of the most popular peppers throughout LATAM.

Rocoto Chile

RocotoPepper
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The rocoto chile is a type of chili pepper that originated in Peru and Bolivia. Locals grow and use it as an essential ingredient in dishes such as tortilla de raya, rocoto relleno, and uchucuta, a traditional Peruvian spicy sauce. This chili is known for being one of the hottest peppers in the world and also has a rich and fruity flavor.

Malagueta Pepper

malagueta pepper
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Malagueta peppers are some of the most popular hot peppers in Brazil. It starts off as a small green pepper and turns red as it matures. With a Scoville heat score of 50,000 to 100,000, this small pepper is about two times hotter than a cayenne pepper. Want to feel the heat for yourself? Try making a malagueta hot sauce. All you need are some malagueta peppers and white wine vinegar, blend together and enjoy!

Aji Amarillo

AjiAmarillo
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The aji amarillo is a staple in traditional Peruvian dishes. It has a bright orange color and thick skin. It scored an eight on the Scoville heat score, meaning it’s hot. Those who have tried it would best describe it as being a bit fruity. You can buy it fresh, dried, canned, or in a paste form. When making dishes like aguadito de pollo, it’s best to use it as a paste.

Poblano Pepper

PoblanoPepperWIkicommons
Image: Wikimedia/Stef Yau

Originating from Puebla, Mexico, the poblano pepper tastes very similar to a green bell pepper but with a bit more kick, with a heat unit that ranges from 1,000 to 2,000 on the Scoville scale which is a 2 so it’s not that hot. It is even believed that the Aztecs incorporated the pepper into their diets. If you’re looking to sample some of this ancient pepper, try the traditional Mexican dish chile relleno.

Serrano Pepper

SerranoChile
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The serrano pepper (very similar to the jalapeño pepper) is a Mexican hot pepper with an earthy, grassy taste and a Scoville heat unit of 10,000 to 25,000. They can be red, brown, orange, or yellow, though you’ll most likely find them in their most common color: green. This pepper is idea for hot sauces and spicy salsas like a serrano salsa cruda.

Habanero Pepper

HabaneroPepper
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Habanero peppers come from Amazonas region of Peru and are also said to have originated in Cuba. It was   allegedly given the name once they arrived in Mexico because they came “from Havana.” The largest producer of habaneros is the Yucatán Peninsula but it’s grown throughout LATAM and the Southwest in the U.S. The red habanero pepper comes in at a 10 on the Scoville heat scale which is  EXTRA HOT.

Cayenne Pepper

CayannePepper
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Cayenne pepper, or red chili pepper as it’s known to most, is one of the most common peppers in Colombia, Peru, and Mexico. This deep red colored hot pepper is similar to hot paprika and has been shown to provide health benefits such as relieving pain and lowering blood sugar levels. Native Americans reportedly used it to treat various ailments including toothache and earache.

Mirasol Chile

MirasolChile
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Mirasol pepper is a Mexican pepper that is used in the widely popular Mexican mole sauces. The name itself translates to “looking at the sun” because of how the peppers grow upright, as if they are literally looking toward the sun. Traditionally, mirasol peppers are toasted and simmered in a broth or water to make mole but there are different types of moles you can make with different types of peppers.

Tabasco Pepper

TabascoPepper
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Tabasco is a pepper with Mexican origins (hence its name from a city in Mexico), but it’s mostly popular in the South in the U.S. and is one of the most popular chili sauces in today’s market. With a sweet and smoky flavor, it has a mild hot level of heat from 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville. These peppers start off as a pale yellowish-green then turn orange before ripening to a bright red. They are also the only variety of chili pepper described as being “juicy,” not dry on the inside.