Mexican chilies

When I was younger I did not know much about Mexican cuisine and even less about chili. Spicy food was not something common or even known for me. Later, when I lived in Switzerland and working for Mexican company, I have found many Mexican friends there, afterwards in the Netherlands as well and most importantly, I have found my Mexican soul mate and his family and I have started to learn.

Mexican cuisine is known for its diverse tastes, the color of the dishes and the number of spices and ingredients, many of which are of domestic origin. In Mexico, it has evolved into a combination of thousands of indigenous culinary traditions and European elements from the 16th century. Typical ingredients of Mexican cuisine are beans, corn and chili peppers. In November 2010, traditional Mexican cuisine was included in UNESCO’s list of intangible monuments! And me not being Mexican, I am proud 🙂

At the beginning, no matter what kind of spiciness or chili, everything was simply spicy and hot and not edible! 🙂 But later (of course with proper training!) I have fallen in love with pinch of spiciness in my food. With that I have started to be curious about different kind of Mexican chilies and Scoville heat scale.

The Scoville scale is a measure of the ‘hotness’ of a chilli pepper or anything derived from chilli peppers, i.e. hot sauce. The scale is actually a measure of the concentration of the chemical compound capsaicin which is the active component that produces the heat sensation for humans. The name capsaicin comes from the scientific classification of the pepper plant, a type of fruit, that belongs to the genus Capsicum. Capsaicin (8-methyl N-vanillyl 6-nonenamide) occurs naturally in chilli peppers together with a number of very similar compounds referred to generically as capsaicinoids, it is the precise ration of these capsaicinoids which causes the differences in taste reaction to different pepper species, for example the typical delayed reaction to the habanero pepper (C. chinense) as compared to other species.

Meet the queen of Mexican chili peppers!

Jalapeño peppers are one of the most widely grown varieties in Mexico and one of the most popular in the United States. You can also meet them in smoked and dried form under the name “chipotle”. The use of these peppers dates back to the Aztecs time.

The name “jalapeño” is derived from the name of Jalapo, the capital of Veracruz in Mexico. However, when traveling, you may also find the names cuaresmeños, huachinangos, or chiles gordos. Ripe peppers grow from 5 to 9 cm and shine with a deep red color. These red ones, however, serve primarily for the production of chipotles, fresh jalapeños are most often sold green. If you prefer less spicy spice, you will be pleased with this chili – it is ranging from 3500 to 8000 SHU, and usually drops as the pepper matures.

So this is “the Queen of Mexican chili” and I am sure well know as well among you. But what about Chiltepin chili pepper? Have you ever heard about it? I have to honestly say, that I did not know about it until I saw a BBC documentary about Mexican nature.

Meet the mother of all peppers!

The chiltepin chili pepper is widely believed to be the oldest form in the Capsicum annuum species and which grows wild in several parts of Mexico. However, this chili is mainly connected to Sonora, a region in the Northern Mexico and considered to be their birth place. This pepper is known by several different names like the bird’s eye, because this chili is widely consumed and spread by wild birds. Chiltepin chili gives Sonora region its cultural identity and it is used in different kind of forms – green, fresh and dry, ripe, crushed and used in soups, stews and beans dishes or salsas.


 The Chiltepin is very hot, and in Mexico, the heat of the pepper is considered “arrebatado” which means “rapid” or “violent” because the intense heat is not long lasting, unlike many chili peppers that have a slower and more enduring effect.

In comparison to jalapeno chili peppers, the spiciness is ranging between 50 000 to 100000 SHU 🙂 If you want to know more about this chili, have a look here, as I used information from here as well.

What do I want to say at the end… You can find plenty of types chili peppers with different level of spiciness. Once you start with chilies, believe me, you will get addicted 🙂 For you, chili lovers, you can find a list of different types of chilies below (not only from Mexico), so you can try their varieties.

Annuum family

  • Poblano / Mulato (Mexico) – capsicum, small, slightly spicy, very tasty
  • Chilaca / Pasi (Mexico) – shaped green pepper, slightly spicy, with excellent plum flavor
  • Jalapeño (Mexico) – classical pepper, light burgundy, very tasty and suitable for meals
  • Serrano (Mexico) – compact Jalapeño, more spicy, very tasty cousin
  • Mirasol (Mexico) – sweet and delicious (probably from Europe)
  • Cascabel (Mexico) – same as Mirasol
  • Cayenne (Mexico / USA / Asia) – Asian spicy chili, shaped as tribe. De Arbol, Mexican popular, larger version
  • Tepin (USA, Mexico) – rare and transient wild chili peppers, very spicy, unique taste when dried

Frutescens family

  • Tabasco (Mexico, USA) – a classic for sauce, a large and beautiful shrub covered with fruits
  • Malagueta (Brazil) – compact plant, locally very popular

Chinense family

  • Habanero (Cuba) – a blend of clear exotic flavors and aromas very spicy
  • Scotch Bonnet (Jamaica) – same as Habanero, except that they have a different shape

Baccatum family

  • Aji Amarillo / Rojo (Peru) – sweet peppers, large in size
  • Lemon Drop (Peru) – spicy with lemon flavor, not sweet, rather small shrub

Pubescens family

  • Rocoto (Andas mountains) – red version, a very special mountain plant
  • Canario (Andas mountain) – yellow version of Rocoto


Let’s spice it up and enjoy your chili time!

Vero and two Canitos


6 thoughts on “Mexican chilies

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