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6 July 2021

The ghost pepper (aka the Bhut Jolokia) is one of the hottest peppers in the world, topping over 1 Million Scoville Heat Units. Learn more about it.

Scoville Heat Units: 855,000 – 1,041,427 SHU
Capsicum Chinense

The ghost pepper (aka the Bhut Jolokia) is one of the hottest peppers in the world, topping over 1 Million SHU (Scoville Heat Units).

It was awarded the distinction of the World’s Hottest of All Spices by the Guinness World Records in 2006, topping the Red Savina Habanero, though was eventually toppled several times over. The current record holder for the hottest pepper in the world is the Carolina Reaper.

Ripe peppers measure 2.5 to 3.3 inches long and are usually red, though there are red, yellow, orange, white, purple or chocolate color varieties. They originate in Northern India and the peppers have been around for generations, though only cultivated in the western world since the turn of the century.

History of the Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper)

The ghost pepper was in the running for the hottest pepper in the world for quite some time – in fact, it actually held the Guinness Book of World Record’s record for the world’s hottest pepper from 2007 until 2010.

The bhut jolokia is a naturally growing pepper that can be found primarily in northeastern India and neighboring Bangladesh.

However, species can also be found in Sri Lanka occasionally. Due to the fact that “bhut” means “ghost” in the Assam language, this pepper is often called the “ghost pepper,” in the Western world. These peppers have dented skin that is very thin and easy to tear.

Why is a Ghost Pepper Called a Ghost Pepper?

The word “bhut” means “ghost”, given from the Bhutias people, possibly because the heat sneaks up on you like a ghost.

The ghost pepper is also known by the following names – Naga Jolokia, Bhut Jolokia, Bih jolokia, Nagahari, Raja Mircha, Raja chilli, Borbih jolokiai or Ghost Chili.

Note: “Naga” mean “Cobra Snake” in Sanskrit.

How Hot is a Ghost Pepper?

The Ghost Pepper measures in at 1,000,000 + Scoville Heat Units. It offers up some intense heat.

They were officially the hottest peppers around, declared the World’s Hottest of All Spices by the Guinness World Records in 2006, though was eventually dethroned by a new wave of superhot chili peppers.

The hottest ghost pepper is 416 times hotter than the mildest jalapeno pepper, which averages about 5,000 Scoville Heat Units on the Scoville Scale, and about 208 times hotter than the average jalapeno pepper. Quite hot!

A Pile of Ghost Peppers

Ghost Pepper Vs. Carolina Reaper

You can certainly compare a ghost pepper to a Carolina Reaper as both are intensely hot and both offer up a sweet, fruity flavor. However, as hot as the ghost pepper is, the Carolina Reaper is more than double the ghost pepper when it is as it’s hottest. Ghost peppers top out at 1,041,427 SHU, where the Carolina Reaper reaches 2.2 Million SHU. 

Ghost Pepper Taste and Heat

Ghost peppers offer an intense fruity, sweet chili flavor. The heat does not kick in for 30 – 45 seconds. Once the heat kicks in, expect sweating, watery eyes, hiccups and shortness of breath. The burning generally intensifies over 10 – 15 minutes and subsides after 30 – 40 minutes.

I personally enjoy them for their fruitiness and the fact that the peppers don’t sting you with heat like a scorpion pepper (see this superhot – Trinidad Moruga Scorpion). Instead, they offer a wonderful blooming heat that blooms. It is pleasurable if you can stand that level of heat.

You can reduce some of the heat by removing the pepper innards before cooking, but with superhots, much of the capsaicin (the chemical that makes peppers hot), reaches into the flesh, so they’ll still be hot. Consider using them sparingly, or introducing a dairy, which helps to tame the heat.

Bhut Jolokia / Ghost Pepper Uses

Because of their intense heat, but also because of their fruity flavor, ghost peppers are great for making hot sauces, for dehydrating into powders or chili flakes, or for chopping and cooking into larger meals, like pots of stew or pots of chili.

The heat will really bloom in a large pot. A little goes a long way. Use them as you’d use a habanero, but remember that they are much hotter, up to 5 times the heat level. Use caution when cooking with them. Wear gloves and protect your eyes.

See this post on Cooking with Superhot Chili Peppers for more ideas.

Bits of Interest

This hot pepper also has a side use in Indian cooking. In addition to being a common household ingredient in certain parts of India and Bangledesh, it has also been used as a homeopathic remedy for stomach pain, a way to beat the summer heat (when the bhut jolokia is eaten, the partaker will usually start to sweat quite a bit, which will ultimately lead to a decrease in body temperature).

It has even been used as a weapon – locals of northeastern India smear their fences with it to keep elephants away, and the pepper has even been used in smoke bombs.

Can Eating Ghost Peppers Kill You?

Eating extremely hot chili peppers in large enough amounts can harm you, but it would take A LOT. According to Dr. Paul Bosland of the Chile Pepper Institute, if you ate a large amount in a short period of time, it could kill you.

He said, “A research study in 1980 calculated that 3 pounds of extreme chilies in powder form eaten all at once could kill a 150-pound person,” Bosland, told Live Science. “However, one’s body would react sooner and not allow it to happen.” Potential results could be seizures, heart attacks, and even death. 

However, 3 pounds of chili powder is an incredible amount, and it would be practically impossible to consume. That would be roughly equivalent to 12 pounds of fresh ghost peppers. 

That said, eating them in moderation can be good for you, as chili peppers offer all sorts of health benefits

I eat them all the time and love them. 

Growing Ghost Peppers

Growing these peppers can be difficult, as ghost peppers like more humidity and heat. They are native to India and that particular climate, so grow best in those conditions. I’ve been able to grow them in my own home garden in Zone 5 with good success. The peppers grow to a good size and have great heat to them, and the plants are quite productive.

You might consider growing them in a greenhouse where you can control temperature and humidity more directly. Plant them 18-24 inches apart. They prefer warm soil and full sun. The seeds typically germinate around 35 days and mature 100 days after planting. 

Pepper plants grow from 24-48 inches in height. The fruit of the ghost peppers measure 2-3 inches long.

Learn more about growing chili peppers here.

How Much Does a Ghost Pepper Weigh?

An average sized pepper is about 1/3 ounce, so be sure to plan your recipes accordingly.

Bhut Jolokia Chili Peppers

Handle Ghost Peppers with Caution

When working with any  super hot peppers, it is important to wear gloves when handling the peppers both in raw and dried forms. The oils can get on your skin and cause burning sensations. 

Also, the fumes from the chili peppers and/or the fine pepper powders may get into the air if you are not working in a well ventilated room. Work with a fan and open windows, if possible. A mask and goggles can help in extreme situations to keep oils and fumes from your skin and eyes. Superhot chili peppers, truly, are called superhots for a reason.

If you do experience burning sensations, see my post on How to Stop the Chili Pepper Burn On Your Skin.

Ghost Pepper Recipes

I love cooking with the heat and flavor of ghost peppers and have a number of spicy foods recipes to share with you. 

Learn More About Superhot Chili Peppers

Check Out Our List of Chili Peppers Organized by Heat Levels, from Mild to Superhot

Got any questions? Feel free to contact me anytime. Happy to help!

NOTE: This content was updated on 7/6/21 to include new information. It was originally published on 10/23/13.