Bolivian Rainbow Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are Bolivian Rainbow peppers?

Ornamental pepper plants make for beautiful landscaping, and none are as colorful – and arguably as beautiful – as the Bolivian Rainbow pepper. Each plant contains dozens of peppers of multiple hues – purple, yellow, orange, and red. And they’re more than good looks; there’s a surprising level of heat in these Christmas-light-like chilies (10,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units), similar to a serrano chili, that brings excellent spiciness and color to salsas and sauces. 

Bolivian rainbow pepper

Bolivian Rainbow pepper fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)10,000 – 30,000
Median heat (SHU)20,000
Jalapeño reference pointNear equal heat to 12 times hotter
Capsicum speciesAnnuum
SizeApproximately 1 inch long, conical
FlavorNeutral (peppery)

How hot is the Bolivian Rainbow pepper?

With their bright colors. they may look more fruit-like than hot-pepper-like, but there’s some heat here. Bolivian Rainbow peppers range from 10,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units which put these chilies on par with serrano peppers. They, at their absolute spiciness, can hit cayenne-level heat. Compared to our jalapeño reference point, near equal heat to twelve times hotter than a jalapeño.

What do they look like?

They look a lot like Christmas lights due to their colors and conical shape. These chilies grow to about an inch in length, starting purple and aging to yellow, then orange, then shades of red. And each plant can contain dozens of chilies at various stages of maturity, so you get a beautiful color array, again a lot like a set of multi-colored holiday lights. It really is like a cascade of color that livens up any garden, patio, or landscaping.

Do Bolivian Rainbow peppers taste as good as they look?

They pack a punch and bring a lot of color to a dish, but in terms of flavor, these are not some of the more complex chilies you’ll find. As a comparison, they are much like a bell pepper in taste, crisp with a hint of grassiness and a touch of tang. They won’t wow you with their flavor, but they will brighten up your plate and provide a substantial heat source.

How can you use these chilies?

From a landscaping perspective, these ornamental peppers are some of the most colorful and festive around. In warmer climates, Bolivian Rainbow peppers will bloom and mature throughout the year, providing ongoing color. They grow very well in containers and indoors as well, and as long as direct light can be supplied, you can enjoy these chilies for much of the year.

In the kitchen, the rainbow-like colors of these chilies look phenomenal in fresh salsas and salads. They also dry and pickle well, and they look great in mason jars while they are being preserved. You’ll find yourself wanting to show off these colorful pickled peppers on kitchen counters and shelves.

Where can you buy Bolivian Rainbow peppers?

As these chilies serve mainly as ornamental plants, your best place to look is your local gardening center, or you can buy Bolivian Rainbow pepper seeds online very easily. You won’t find these chilies at your local grocer, so you’ll need to grow them for culinary use or look at farmer’s markets.

Chilies don’t get more festive than the Bolivian Rainbow pepper, so if you’re looking for the perfect landscaping color splash you’ve got it right here. Add in the surprising spiciness to go with the party-like hues, and it’s a fun chili to cook.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on December 3, 2022 to include new content.
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Love your descriptions here. I know this is an older post, but I just grew some this past summer. I agree, though the heat level on mine weren’t 50,000….more like between a jalapeno and a serrano. It could be because mine were potted and well watered. My colors ranged from green/black/orange/purple/and in the final stages red. I absolutely agree with the comments about flavor/taste. Just sort of plain moderate hot pepper; unlike the Chile de Agua I grew that hand exciting flavor nuances. Beautiful plant, too, but mine were very small….almost like patio table centerpiece small. It grew very dense… Read more »

Naomi Harrison

Why don’t my pepper plant have purple peppers on it