Thai Pepper: Many Types and Heat Levels
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 It is further confusing as the Kashmir is ALSO known as the Sriracha, a name associated with the famous sauce originally made from these peppers in the Thai seaside town of the same name.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.
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.
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
- 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
See also these Types of Thai Chili Peppers
Got any questions? Feel free to contact me any time. Happy to help! — Mike Hultquist
NOTE: This page was updated on 10/8/19 to include new photos and information. It was originally published on 10/3/13.