Apollo Pepper vs. Carolina Reaper — How Do They Compare?

The Apollo pepper and the Carolina Reaper are two of the hottest peppers in the world. One (the Reaper) is a known, and very popular chili, and the other (the Apollo) is an up-and-comer with scorching heat. So, hot does their heat compare? How different are their flavors? How often do you see each in products? We answer these questions and more in our PepperScale Showdown.

Quick comparison: Apollo pepper vs. Carolina Reaper

Apollo PepperCarolina Reaper
Scoville heat units (SHU)~3,180,0001,400,000 – 2,200,000
Median heat (SHU)N/D1,800,000
Jalapeño reference point
389 to 1,272 times hotter
175 to 880 times hotter
Capsicum speciesChinenseChinense
OriginUnited StatesUnited States
2.5 to 3 inches long, pod-like
Approximately 1.5 to 2 inches long, stinger tail
FlavorSweet, EarthySweet, Fruity

Which is hotter, the Apollo Pepper or the Carolina Reaper?

If you believe the hype, the Apollo pepper is much hotter than the Carolina Reaper despite the Reaper being the official hottest pepper in the world.

The Apollo pepper’s heat has been reported to measure up to 3.18 million Scoville heat units (SHU), the same as one of its parent plants: Pepper X. The other parent plant is the Carolina Reaper.

The Carolina Reaper is, in comparison, a relatively sedate 1.8 million SHU. But that’s, of course, still incredibly spicy. In terms of the Guinness Book records, it’s the current official hottest pepper in the world.

Why is the Reaper official and the Apollo not? It comes down to the stability of the plant. Apollo chilies are still considered unstable, and, as such, you can see wide variations in heat, looks, and flavor. Only stable peppers are eligible for consideration for the record.

Know that these chilies are at the pinnacle of heat on the Scoville scale. They each rival military-grade pepper sprays in terms of heat. Great care should always be taken with any chilies in this range. Wear gloves in the handling at a minimum and a kitchen mask and goggles for extra protection.

Which is more popular?

Let’s compare these two super-hot chilies by how often they are searched for online. How popular are they globally in terms of search interest? The Carolina Reaper takes the top spot here, and it’s not close.

The Carolina Reaper is searched globally roughly 396,000 times each month. In comparison, the Apollo pepper is searched approximately 10,000 times per month. That’s not to say the Apollo pepper lacks interest. That level of search volume is still more than many chilies. It just happens to be that the Reaper is one of the (if not the) most searched chilies on the planet.

How does each pepper taste?

Descriptions of the Apollo pepper suggest that it tastes like a combination of its parent plants, which means that it should have a blend of their savory and fruity qualities.

It is important to note that most people have only experienced the Apollo pepper in the context of a hot sauce, so it’s hard to determine the exact flavor profile. The Carolina Reaper is known for the subtle fruity quality in the ripe pepper’s flavor.

Carolina Reaper vs. Apollo pepper
Carolina Reapers – the Apollo is assumed to look similar (but with a different color)

How do their shapes and colors differ?

Because there are no known pictures of the Apollo pepper, the best guess is that it will look like a combination of its parent plants. Some experts suggest that because it is a hybrid of the yellow Pepper X and the red Carolina Reaper, it will be orange. It will most likely have the pitted, bumpy, and gnarled exterior common to its parents. Like its parents, the Apollo pepper should be between 1 and 3 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide with a pointed tail.

The Carolina Reaper can vary a lot in size, with most being between 1 and 3 inches long. The fruit may be elongated or more spherical, with both shapes typically having a pointed tail resembling the stinger seen on scorpion peppers.

Where did these peppers originate?

The Apollo pepper was developed by Ed Currie of the PuckerButt Pepper Company. Currie is the same breeder responsible for the Apollo pepper’s parent plants, Pepper X and the Carolina Reaper.

In the early 2000s, he moved to South Carolina and began experimenting with pepper hybridization. He says that the Carolina Reaper was the accidental product of experimentation rather than a deliberate attempt to create a super-hot pepper.

Which is easier to find fresh?

The Apollo pepper is not sold fresh. Apparently, it is used only in powder form, and the powder is also pretty hard to find. Carolina Reapers are also rarely ever seen fresh; when they are seen, it’s not usually in the context of your typical grocery store. You might see them at a produce stand or farmer’s market.

Which is used most often in commercial products?

The Apollo pepper is not used in commercial products as much as the Carolina Reaper. Currently, the only commercial product that contains the Apollo Pepper is The Last Dab Apollo Hot Sauce.

In comparison, many products contain Carolina Reapers, including many hot sauces, nuts, and other snacks. It’s one of the most popular super-hot seasonings on the planet, right up there with the ghost pepper.

Must-read related posts

  • The Hot Pepper List: Discover the 150+ chilies that we profile here on PepperScale! Search our list by heat, flavor, origin, and more.
  • Our Hot Sauce Rankings: Both of these super-hot chilies have hot sauces with big followings too. We rank over 100 hot sauces on flavor, heat balance, usability, and more. Plus, search by pepper used.
  • The Carolina Reaper Planting Guide: If you have a green thumb, read our primer on growing this super-hot.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 28, 2022 to include new content.
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