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3 October 2013

Scoville Heat Units: 50,000 – 100,000 SHU

Despite the common belief, there is no single “Thai chili pepper” though most candidates for the title are small in size and high in heat or pungency. There are at least 79 separate varieties of chili that have appeared from three species in Thailand. While the names of chili peppers are often “hotly” debated and therefore in a volatile state of flux the world over, some would say that there is particular confusion when the subject comes around to Thai peppers.

Prik num or “banana peppers,” for instance, also resemble a New Mexican pepper, and they are also grown in Kashmir, India, and thus are also known as Kashmir peppers. Further confusion arises because the Kashmir is ALSO known as the Sriracha, a name associated with the famous sauce originally made from these peppers in the Thai seaside town of the same name.

Oddly, the peppers now featuring in the sauce known around the world as Sriracha are red Serrano peppers! At least in agricultural terms, 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.”

Whatever the case regarding names, Thai chili peppers usually turn up ground from fresh to add heat to curry pastes for very spicy dishes and for very colorful dishes at the same time – the traditional Thai cook being as interested in presentation as the traditional Japanese cook, for instance, and therefore garnishing hot dishes with a pleasing array of hot peppers.

Thai chili peppers also appear in other Asian cuisine including that of Myanmar, where they are known as nga yut thee, frequently featuring in curries, as well as in balachuang, a spicy relish never absent from any meal. Laotian cuisine utilizes similar peppers and calls them mak phet; they appear in pastes and even end up stuffed and steamed to create spicy vegetable and fish dishes.

Related peppers are also known to be favored in Cambodia, and are widespread in Vietnam where they enliven pastes and sauces, especially those with local fish flavors, of course.


  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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..

  5. 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: — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  6. 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.

  7. 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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