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24 August 2021

The rocoto pepper is an apple or pear shaped pepper similar in appearance to a small bell pepper, but this pepper packs a nice level of heat and great flavor. Learn more about it.

Scoville Heat Units: 30,000 – 100,000 SHU
Capsicum Pubescens

The Rocoto Pepper grows in the Andes mountains from Chile to Columbia, as well as in the highlands of Central America and Mexico. It is native to Peru.

It goes by many names including the “locoto pepper” widespread through South America, or as the “rocote”, or as the “caballo pepper” or “horse” in Guatemala and some parts of Mexico.

It is also known in Bolivia and Peru and in Mexico as the manzano/manzana (though they are not the same pepper) or “apple pepper” in one variety resembling small apples and often used when red, or as perón or “pear pepper,” once again in Mexico and in allusion to its especially fruity or even sometimes green appearance.

They are called “canario” or “canary” pepper when referring to the yellow variety, particularly in Oaxaca.

They are further known as “cera” and “malinalco”, or “ciruelo”, as well as “cirhuleo” in Querétaro, a state in central Mexico.

It is among the oldest of domesticated chili peppers in the Americas, and was possibly domesticated as early as 6,000 BCE; some scientists even now agree that its domesticated form is so old and prevalent that its original wild form is now totally extinct.

How Hot is a Rocoto Pepper?

Rocoto peppers are known to be quite hot peppers, reaching up to 100,000 Scoville Heat Units on the Scoville Scale. Compare their heat level with the popular jalapeno pepper and you’ll find the hottest rocoto is about 20 times hotter than the average jalapeno.

This would put the hottest rocoto on par with a low level habanero pepper. What a nice level of heat! They are similar in heat to certain Thai peppers, or bird’s eye peppers or chiltepin peppers.

Rocoto Pepper Vs. Manzano

As mentioned above, some areas use the name “manzano” when referring to rocoto peppers, however, they are not the same peppers. While similar, rocoto peppers are more common to the Andes, reaching further south, and can be quite a bit hotter than manzano peppers.

Rocoto Peppers Size and Appearance

The pepper plant’s size varies widely and can reach vine-like from a common expanse of 2 feet in the United States to a whopping in 15 feet in Bolivia, and the round or pear-shaped pods can grow from 2 to 3 inches in length.

The peppers have a thick walls similar to a bell pepper, with black seeds, and can found in a variety of colors from vibrant red to yellow and orange.

Cooking with Rocoto Peppers

Rocoto peppers are important to Bolivian and Peruvian cuisine. These peppers tend to get consumed while fresh because of the thickness of the pods making them hard to dry properly.

They also appear in hot sauces and spicy salsas, or feature as rocotos rellenos when prepared as stuffed and baked dishes including meats and cheeses. I enjoy using rocoto peppers for making ceviche, for their nice level of heat. 

Rocoto Chili Peppers

NOTE: This recipe was updated on 8/24/21 to include new information. It was originally published on 9/27/13.