How Hot is a Ghost Pepper?
A red ghost pepper, ready to be picked!

The ghost pepper is one of spiciest chili peppers in the world. So spicy, in fact, that the Indian Army uses them to make chili grenades. Yes, weaponized peppers. However, how spicy is that to the palate? What is like to bite into one of these infamous chili peppers? Keep reading to find out just how hot a ghost pepper really is!

What exactly is the ghost pepper? Some juicy, red ghost peppers.

The ghost pepper is an interspecific hybrid chili pepper, cultivated in the Northeast Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. An extremely variable plant, the ghost pepper produces a wide range of fruit sizes. Generally, a fully ripe ghost pepper measures in from 2.4 to 3.3 in long and 1.0 to 1.2 in wide. The peppers themselves are red, yellow, orange depending on their ripeness.

Where does the name ghost pepper come from?

The ghost pepper’s name is a literal translation from its Hindi name: Bhut Jolokia. Bhut in Hindi means “ghost” while Jolokia translates to pepper or chili. However, as Northeast India is very linguistically diverse part of the world, the ghost pepper has many different names including: ghost chili, Red Naga chili, Naga Bhut Jolokia, Bhoot Jolokia, and more.

Inhabitants of Assam, the India state famous for its tea plantations, refer to the ghost pepper as bih zôlôkia. In Assamese Bih means “poison” and zôlôkia means pepper, making the literal translation Poison Pepper, obviously referring to it’s extreme spiciness. And in case you were wondering, yes, ghost peppers can kill you. 

Where do they rank on the Scoville Chart?

See where the Ghost pepper ranks on this Scoville chart!

See where the Ghost Pepper ranks on this Scoville chart!

In 2007, the ghost pepper ranked as the the world’s hottest chili pepper. With a Scoville score of 1,041,427 SHU, it is about 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce, about 200 times hotter than a jalapeño pepper, and about 6 times hotter than a habanero pepper.

Since 2007, the ghost chili has been supplanted from its prominent position as the world’s spiciest pepper. First by the Infinity chili in 2011; followed by the Naga Viper, from the same region in India; then the Trinidad moruga scorpion in 2012; and finally the Carolina Reaper, which claimed the world record in 2013 with a Scoville score of 1,569,300. However, just because there are higher ranking peppers out there doesn’t make it any less spicy!

Does the Indian Army really convert them into chili grenades?

Yes. Ghost peppers are so spicy that the Indian government uses them to make military grade smoke bombs, which have come in handy controlling rioters in Jammu and Kashmir. The non-lethal weapon, sometimes referred to as a chili grenade, emits a powerful skin and eye irritant as well as pungent smell that causes it’s targets to become physically incapacitated.

As if that isn’t enough of an indication of their piquant power, local residents from the Northern India states where the pepper originates, often smear ghost peppers on fences and walls to keep wild elephants from entering certain areas.

So how spicy are we talking?

So just how hot is a ghost pepper? Well, not only do they put other popular peppers jalapeños and habaneros to shame but also they are hot enough to fend off elephants, control civilian riots, and even kill you.

Oh, and did we mention that one time a ghost pepper burned a hole a man’s throat? That’s right, after biting into a burger smothered with a ghost-pepper puree, the man began to vomit and gasp for air. An ambulance rushed him to the hospital, where he wasn’t discharged until 23 days later with a gastric tube.

Think you can handle a ghost pepper?

Think you can handle a ghost pepper? Go ahead, we dare you. Try Small Axe Pepper’s Ghost Pepper Sauce to see if you can handle a hot sauce made from one of the world’s spiciest peppers, grown in a community garden near you. While it is by far our spiciest hot sauce, that doesn’t mean we skimped on delicious flavor. The freshly ground chipotle powder in this hot sauce adds a smokiness which makes it a perfect addition well in any chile, pozole, gumbo, or any other slow cooked meal that needs a little extra spice!