Black Cobra Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are Black Cobra peppers?

The Black Cobra pepper (a.k.a. Goat’s Weed pepper) certainly announces itself with presence. Growing straight up in green, black, and red from leaves covered in fine silvery hair, the chili certainly has a dramatic presence perfect for ornamental use. They have a biting bitter medium heat (20,000 to 40,000 Scoville heat units) that reaches cayenne pepper levels of spiciness. But like with other ornamental peppers, don’t expect many nuances in flavor. These are chilies with a lot of looks, but little complexity to their taste.

Black Cobra Pepper
Black Cobra peppers on the vine – note the cobra-like curve

Table of Contents

Black Cobra pepper fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)20,000 – 40,000
Median heat (SHU)30,000
Jalapeño reference point3 to 16 times hotter
SpeciesCapsicum Annuum
OriginSouth America (Venezuela)
SizeApproximately 3 inches long, slim
FlavorNeutral (peppery), Bitter

How hot are Black Cobra peppers?

Black Cobra peppers are a medium-heat chili pepper with a Scoville heat range from 20,000 to 40,000 SHU (Scoville heat units.) They fall very much between a serrano (10,000 to 23,000 SHU) and cayenne (30,000 to 50,000 SHU) in total heat.

To put that into perspective with our jalapeño reference point, the Black Cobra ranges from three times to sixteen times hotter than a jalapeño pepper, depending on the properties of the chilies tasted. This is a level of spiciness that is spice rack friendly, if not family-friendly, so many will be able to take the heat.

Its heat is similar to many other ornamental chilies (medium to upper-medium), as they are grown to maintain their look rather than control their heat or enhance their flavor. For instance, compared to two other dark-hued ornamentals: the Black Pearl pepper ranges from 10,000 to 30,000 SHU while the Calico pepper ranges from 50,000 to 70,000 SHU, well beyond a cayenne.

What do these chilies look like?

This is the major selling point of the Black Cobra pepper. The look is very dramatic, with the long and slim three-inch chilies growing straight up from the plant itself like little fingers reaching for the sky.

But that’s not the only noteworthy characteristic. The peppers themselves have a unique aging color pattern, running from green to jet black to rich red – and as the plant is a heavy producer, all three colors can be well presented on the plant at any time, along with beautiful white flowers.

And then there’s the stems and leaves which have their own unique property: They grow a fine silvery hair. This trait is typically only seen in Capsicum Pubescens pepper varieties, but the Black Cobra is an anomaly here as the only variety among the broad range of Capsicum Annuum peppers that have hairy leaves and stems. Overall, this is one attractive ornamental – particularly if you are looking for darker hues for your landscaping.

–> Learn More: Black Peppers Guide – Dramatic Looks All Around

What do Black Cobra peppers taste like?

For all of the beauty, there’s little nuance in the Black Cobra’s flavor. But that isn’t surprising as most ornamental peppers tend to be high on heat, high on beauty, but low on flavor complexity. There’s a bitterness to these chilies that’s present no matter their age and no real fruitiness to balance that taste. They aren’t the best chilies to use fresh (maybe why the name Goat’s Weed for these peppers), but the Black Cobra is not without its uses.

How can you use these chilies?

With the Black Cobra’s bitter flavor, the best use case is drying to use in flakes and chili powders. It’s really the heat that these chilies can bring to the table that’s of greatest culinary interest, so dried and ground down to use as a heat source is common.

While not recommended fresh, Black Cobra peppers can be used in soups, sauces, and salsas to provide extra heat. Just consider the overall flavor balance carefully as the pepper’s bitterness can actually change the overall flavor profile. You may want to balance your recipe with a more flavorful fresh chili, especially one with fruity undertones like habanero.

Where can you buy Black Cobra peppers?

Given they aren’t the best tasting, don’t expect to pick these peppers up at your local grocer. Farmer’s markets, too, typically won’t carry them. The more common route is growing them yourself. These ornamental peppers look beautiful as landscaping or in containers, and they tend to overwinter decently well in frost-free areas. You can pick up Black Cobra pepper seeds online or at many gardening centers. Be sure to also look for goat’s weed pepper seeds, as they may be named.

If you’re looking for a head raising chili for your gardening, the Black Cobra pepper is more than a solid choice. It has a look that’ll impress. Just be prepared for its bitter side if planning to go beyond the aesthetic use case.

  • The Hot Pepper List: We profile over 150 chilies – search them by name, heat level, flavor, and more.
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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on August 24, 2023 to include new content.
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i use fresh black cobra in my blended salsa and it rocks!!

Arturo Flores

The black cobra pepper is a beautiful, complex, tasty, hot variety. Eat them fresh at either of the three color changes or dried. I eat them in their whole, raw state or in a tomato salsa. Great on tacos, Italian or Asian cuisine. Not sure about the bitterness mentioned above.