What's The Hottest Pepper In The World?

From your local curry house's phaal curry to the popularity of the Hot Ones franchise, it is abundantly clear that we human beings can never get enough of spice. There is science to back it up, too; a study from Paul Rozin and Deborah Schiller shows evidence that people who enjoy hot peppers do so because the thrill of it is simply enjoyable. The curiosity and pleasure surrounding these peppers may lead you to wonder: What is the hottest pepper in the world? 

You may be someone who needs a break after a single bite of a jalapeño pepper, but those don't even come close to winning the title with a spice rating of a measly 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). The world's hottest pepper, Pepper X, rings in at an astounding 2.693 million SHU on average. Read on to learn more about this crazy capsaicin-packed pepper.

What is Pepper X?

Pepper X is a brand new addition to the world of ultra-spicy peppers. It only earned the title in October of 2023, when the Guinness Book of World Records measured its heat levels and found them to be far higher than any other pepper to previously contend for the spot. The pepper was developed by Ed Currie, founder of PuckerButt Pepper Company. Currie and his team intentionally breed peppers to create unique flavors and appearances that can be sold on their own or incorporated into pepper-based products. 

This is not the first time that Currie has created a pepper specifically with heat in mind. He is also the man behind the infamous Carolina Reaper, which previously held the Guinness world record from 2013 to 2023. Pepper X is three times hotter than its already painfully spicy predecessor, and eating it is not said to be a pleasant experience. Those who have eaten it report intense burning, abdominal cramps, and general discomfort.

The former hottest peppers are no joke, either

Just because the Carolina Reaper has been dethroned does not mean that it can be eaten with reckless abandon. The pepper was developed as a cross between a red habanero and Naja Viper pepper to create a pepper that is as flavorful as it is spicy. Coming in at 1.4 to 2.2 million SHU, though, the pepper is an absolute capsaicin bomb that not only rivals but beats most pepper sprays, which average between 500,000 and two million SHU.

While never considered by the Guinness Book of World Records, there is one other pepper that, purely from reported spice levels, should be regarded as a runner up to Pepper X. The Dragon's Breath pepper, developed by Neal Price, Nottingham University, and NPK Technology, ranks in between the Carolina Reaper and Pepper X with a startling spice rating of 2.48 million SHU. There have been rumors that the pepper is so hot that it can cause bodily harm, but none of these allegations have been confirmed. It may not matter anyway, as the pepper was not created for culinary purposes, but rather for its potential as a medical anesthetic.