Black Cuban Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

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What are Black Cuban peppers?

Color is a whole plant affair with the Black Cuban pepper. It’s not only the fruits that take on stunning dark hues, it’s the leaves and stems too. This dark detail makes for one stunning and dramatic ornamental pepper. And like with most ornamentals, there’s plenty of spice behind the looks (40,000 to 58,000 Scoville heat units), comparable in heat to a cayenne pepper giving it some basic use cases in the kitchen.

Black Cuban pepper

Black Cuban pepper fast facts:

  • Scoville heat units (SHU): 40,000 – 58,000 SHU
  • Median heat: 49,000 SHU
  • Origin: Cuba
  • Capsicum species: Annuum
  • Jalapeño reference scale: 5 to 23 times hotter
  • Use: Ornamental
  • Size: Up to 1 inch long, conical
  • Flavor: Neutral (peppery)

What does the Black Cuban pepper look like and taste like?

The look is the thing here that makes this chili special. The pod itself is tiny and conical, growing to an inch in length. They are only slightly larger than the minuscule chiltepin or pequin peppers.

But it’s the colors and not the size that’s the show. The pods stand upright on their stems and age from a dramatic black (or a purplish-black) to simmering red as they mature. And that’s not all. Their stems and leaves aren’t satisfied with the common green like most other chilies. Instead the Black Cuban has dark purplish hues throughout the plant. To top it off, it sprouts lovely vibrant purple flowers. It’s a beautiful backdrop, especially for those that love darker design elements and edible landscaping.

And, yes, like other ornamentals, the Black Cuban is edible, but the flavor is nothing too nuanced. It has a typical peppery flavor that can run slightly sour in its aftertaste. Still – if you’re growing them for their looks, there are many good basic use cases for this chili in the kitchen.

How hot are Black Cuban peppers?

Ornamental chilies often carry sneaky heat for their size, and the Black Cuban pepper certainly follows this path. In its tiny frame, it carries heat that can eclipse a cayenne pepper. Its Scoville heat range runs from 40,000 to 58,000 Scoville heat units while a cayenne (the top spiciness in the kitchen for many) runs from 30,000 to 50,000 SHU. Compared to our jalapeño reference point, the Black Cuban is 5 to 23 times hotter than a jalapeño. That’s a pretty big punch for this little chili.

How can you use them?

Their beauty makes this chili a popular ornamental pepper, both for landscaping and in small spaces. The plant itself is compact, so it handles container gardening well, and they do relatively well moved indoors for the cold months, as long as they get enough sunlight.

In the kitchen, if your tastebuds handle the upper end of medium heat well, there are a lot of good basic use cases for the Black Cuban. They work very well pickled (especially if your crop runs toward a little sour in flavor). They are also great for adding dramatic color to salsas and salads (again, if your heat tolerance allows). You can also dry these peppers and ground them into chili powder for use all year long (this is best when they reach maturity and turn red).

Where can you buy Black Cuban peppers?

As an ornamental chili, Black Cuban seeds can be found at some gardening centers. Though it’s not as popular as other dark beauties like the Black Pearl pepper. It’s much easier to buy the seeds online (Amazon).

For those that want dark beauty in their landscaping, the Black Cuban pepper is a terrific choice. From head to toe, this is a looker that catches the eye of all that cross its path.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on June 7, 2021 to include new content.
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