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3 October 2013

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.

Scoville Heat Units: 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.

As with many other types of chili peppers, there is strong debate about these peppers, and a particular confusion when it comes to 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 It is further confusing as the Kashmir is ALSO known as the Sriracha, a name associated with the famous sauce originally made from these peppers in the Thai seaside town of the same name.

Agriculturally speaking, we specify that two types of chili peppers grow for harvest in Thailand: the prik khee nu 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.

Learn more about the Scoville Scale here.

Cooking with Thai Peppers

 Thai peppers are typically ground from fresh pods to add heat to curry pastes to add both spiciness and alluring color. Discerning chefs and cooks love them for garnishing hot and spicy dishes with them, 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, 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. Try them in a wonderful Thai salad for added heat and flavor.

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. You’ll definitely get a good level of heat from them.

These were grown in my garden.

Thai Peppers

They’re outstanding for dehydrating and grinding into chili flakes or powders, and also for making hot sauce.

Try some of these recipes that love to include Thai peppers.

Thai Pepper Recipes

See also: Orange Thai Pepper.

Got any questions? Feel free to contact me any time. Happy to help! — Mike Hultquist

About Mike

Mike is the author of “The Spicy Food Lovers’ Cookbook” and “The Spicy Dehydrator Cookbook“. He is a chili pepper enthusiast who has run Chili Pepper Madness for many years.


  1. Great website. Just graduating from pickles and Jalapeño relish to hot sauce. My birds eye peppers are very prolific. As I pick them I find that it’s hard to only get the red ones and a lot of green come with.

    Can I use the green ones or no? Will they eventually ripen off the plant or no?


    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Amy, yes, you can use the green peppers for hot sauce. It will affect the final color a bit, as well as flavor, as they’re more “green” or vegetal, but some people prefer that. It won’t be as pronounced if using a mix of green and ripe peppers. Let me know how it turns out for you. Also, you can leave them on a windowsill in the sun for a couple days and they will continue to ripen.

    2. Yes,You can use the green ones in foods as well as the red ones
      There are very spicy. I had firsthand ex.

  2. Mario Duenas

    I have a plant that was sold to me as a Thai Dragon Chili, but in doing some research I’ve found that it does not resemble a Thai dragon plant at all. The peppers it produces are about 3-4” long and tend to curl and twist, they don’t seem to want to turn red, and instead just settle between dark green and red before beginning to dry on the plant. They don’t grow in upright bunches like the Thai dragon does, but rather produce 1-3 hanging peppers. Finally, the plant is about 2 1/2 to 3 ft tall and looks like a little tree, rather than the shorter bush style plants I see Thai dragons turning into. Can you offer some possibilities as to what I have? I’ve harvested when the peppers are both dark green and when they’re in between green and red, and at green they seem to be quite hard, but when they start to turn they get very spongy. I’m confused!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Mario, there are so many different peppers, you could have any sort of variety. Maybe send me some pics and I can try to help identify them. Or scroll through my Chili Pepper Types Page and see if you can find anything close to what you have.

  3. hello,

    I love chili peppers but my Thai peppers look horrible. my suspicion is when i bought them as plants at Walmart, they had already been forced to flower. They have been in Re-Veg mode for months. I am getting ready to acquire the items necessary to do a good germination setup, but i want to find some very good genetics to start with in my project. Can you recommend a vendor with quality Thai Chili seeds. a cayenne pepper crossed with a thai chili would be a nice cross to have, as well as, the several different varieties you discussed with another poster.

    let me know if you can help. I live in Southeast Florida in Broward County

  4. How to know which “thai chili” we are getting? Many seeds packets just say “thai chili” or “thai red chili” and then you have to wait for the peppers to grow for the surprise as to which kind you’re getting. I prefer to grow the 2-3″ variety which is a bit cooler than my current batch of the little stubby fireballs. Any way to specifically find out which variety is being sold as “thai red chili”? Biological name maybe?

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Jman, the only way to know is to ask the seller. I know it’s frustrating when you don’t know what you’ve planted. You might check with an online resource who sells the exact seeds you want rather then some generic packet. Check out my Chili Pepper Seeds Resources Page.

  5. Hi Mike, I have a Thai chilli plant thats on fire, I cant give them away quick enough. I thought about making some chilli chocolate bark but oerhaps these little guys will be too hot. I was thinking perhpas some Chilli Oil. Do you have any great suggestions for this??? A lot of the chillis are starting to dry and shrivel up although im still using them..

  6. Valerie Langford

    I have been trying to buy Thai yellow chili sauce and have given up and want to make it myself. It is a golden sauce, it is not hot. Now I am not sure what peppers to grow…any suggestions and growing tips would be much appreciated.

    REPLY: Valerie, there are yellow and orange Thai peppers out there. Do a search for them for seed resources. Here’s a link to the orange variety: https://www.chilipeppermadness.com/chili-pepper-types/medium-hot-chili-peppers/orange-thai-chili-pepper — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  7. None of the stores near me carry the red Thai chili peppers. What is a similar type of pepper? Is habenero close? It’s for a soup. Thanks for any help!

    REPLY: Erin, you can try cayenne peppers, or any hotter red chili. Habaneros can work, though be ready for the extra heat. Serranos can work in a pinch, as they are more common, though the color difference will affect the final presentation. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  8. Steven.Hetletvedt

    I have a batch of Thai Chili Peppers. They are Green and Beautiful. how long does it take for them to start to turn red in order to make the foods I eat much better. Please advise.


    REPLY: Stephen, Thai peppers typically take about 80 days to mature. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

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