Thai peppers are spicy chili peppers with a wide range of heat, and despite common belief, there is no single type of Thai pepper, with at least 79 separate varieties. Learn more about them, their heat ranges, how to cook with them, and more.
Scoville Heat Units: From 0 (very mild) to many in the range of 50,000 - 100,000 SHU
Despite what is commonly believed, there is no single "Thai pepper", though most peppers referred to as Thai are small in size and high in heat or pungency. There are at least 79 separate varieties of the pepper that have appeared from three species in Thailand, and they grow in green or red.
As with many other types of chili peppers, there is strong debate about them, and a particular confusion when it comes to Thai peppers.
Types of Thai Peppers
Prik num or "banana peppers," for example, resemble a New Mexican pepper, and they are also grown in Kashmir, India, and thus are also known as Kashmir peppers. It is further confusing as the Kashmir is ALSO known as the Sriracha, a name associated with the famous sauce originally made from these peppers in the Thai seaside town of the same name.
Others are called prik yuak (milder, sweet), prik chee fah (milder, green and red varieties), prik leuang (with milder heat, great for pickling), prik jinda (hot peppers), and prik kee noo (very hot, similar to bird's eye chilies).
Agriculturally speaking, we specify that two types of chili peppers grow for harvest in Thailand: the prik khee nu (or prik kee noo) or "bird pepper" and the prik khee fah or plain "chili pepper."
How Hot is a Thai Pepper?
Because of the wide variety, Thai peppers typically range from 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville Heat Units. Compare this to a typical jalapeno pepper, which ranges from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units, making the average Thai pepper about 15 times hotter than the average jalapeno.
The red bell pepper, by contrast, measures 0 Scoville Heat Units.
Cooking with Thai Peppers
Thai peppers are typically ground to add heat to curry pastes, and to add both spiciness and alluring color to Thai food. Discerning chefs and cooks love them for garnishing hot and spicy dishes, and cooking them into all manner of foods.
Thai peppers also appear in other Thai dishes and Asian cuisine including that of Myanmar, where they are known as "nga yut thee", often cooked into curries like spicy green curry, as well as in "balachuang", a common spicy relish.
Laotian cuisine incorporates similar peppers called "mak phet", which are used in pastes or stuffed and steamed to create spicy vegetable and fish dishes.
Cambodia and Vietnam have related peppers as well, featuring them in various chili pastes and sauces. They are often stir fried and essential to Thai cuisine, often added to fried rice and so many other dishes.
My Personal Experience
I have grown a few different varieties of Thai pepper in my own home garden and have had great success. They grow very easily and most plants are very productive.
These were grown in my garden. You can use other chili peppers as a substitute for Thai peppers, but I definitely encourage you to grow and cook with a variety.
They're outstanding for dehydrating and grinding into chili flakes or chili powders, and also for making hot sauce.
Try some of these recipes that love to include Thai peppers.
Thai Pepper Recipes
- Khao Soi (Northern Thai Coconut Curry Soup)
- Spicy Thai Curry Chicken Soup
- Chili-Garlic Shrimp with Thai Lime Rice
- Thai Chicken Wings with Chili-Peanut Sauce
- Yellow Curry Paste
- Sambal Oelek
- Homemade Sriracha Hot Sauce
- Easy Thai Peanut Sauce
- Nuoc Cham
See also these Types of Thai Chili Peppers
NOTE: This page was updated on 4/26/22 to include new photos and information. It was originally published on 10/3/13.