Carolina Reaper Vs. Jalapeño — How Do They Compare?

Carolina Reapers and jalapenos are two of the most popular chilies on the planet. But how do they compare? Yes, most know the Carolina Reaper is hotter, but how much hotter? How different do they look? And is one easier to find than the other? We cover these questions and more in our showdown – Carolina Reaper vs. jalapeño.

Quick Comparison: Carolina Reaper Vs. Jalapeño

Jalapeño PepperCarolina Reaper
Scoville heat units (SHU)2,500 – 8,0001,400,000 – 2,200,000
Median heat (SHU)5,2501,800,000
Jalapeño reference point175 to 880 times hotter
Capsicum speciesAnnuumChinense
OriginMexicoUnited States
2.5 to 3 inches long, pod-like
Approximately 1.5 to 2 inches long, stinger tail
FlavorBright, Grassy, BitterSweet, Fruity

Which is hotter, the Carolina Reaper or the jalapeno?

Carolina Reapers are at the top of the super-hot pepper category with a Scoville rating of between 1.4 million and 2.2 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU). It’s currently the official hottest pepper in the world, though many contenders are potentially hotter waiting in the wings. This is a heat level that borders on military-grade pepper spray hotness, so the Reaper is a chili that needs great care in its handling. Wearing kitchen gloves, kitchen goggles, and even a mask is often required to keep the worst chili burn you’ve ever experienced from occurring.

In comparison, jalapeños are a much more accessible hot pepper, with a very eatable low-medium spiciness. They range from 2,500 SHU to 8,000 SHU. This is a level of spiciness that nearly all can enjoy.

Note, it doesn’t even show as a blip on our heat comparison chart above; that’s how far apart these two chilies are. Comparing the two, the Reaper is 175 to 880 times hotter than the jalapeño. It’s in a different stratosphere of heat.

Which is more popular?

Let’s compare these two chilies by how often they are searched for on the web. These are two of the most popular chilies on the planet, but one is undoubtedly searched more than the other—the Carolina Reaper.

Carolina Reapers are searched on Google upwards of 396,000 times globally per month. That beats all other chilies by a wide margin. Jalapeños are no slouch in the interest department, yet they still trail the Carolina Reaper by a wide interest margin: 104,000 searches per month.

Some of this, of course, is due to how well known the jalapeño is and how long it has been a supermarket staple. There’s just more common knowledge about it. But you just can’t ignore those Reaper numbers. It’s a genuine phenomenon with massive ongoing global interest.

How does each pepper taste?

Suppose you can get beyond the extreme heat. In that case, Carolina Reapers have the same kind of mild fruity flavor common to other super-hots and tropical extra-hot chilies like scotch bonnets and habaneros. You do experience some of that flavor right on the first bite. Carolina Reapers typically start out deceptively mild, but the heat from the capsaicin can rise to painful levels within a few seconds.

Green jalapenos have a savory, grassy flavor similar to green bell peppers. As they mature to a red hue, the taste takes on notes of sweetness. But, the jalapeño is more often sold green than when red.

–> Learn More: Green Jalapeño Vs. Red

How do they differ in shape and colors?

The exterior surface of the Carolina Reaper is usually bumpy and knotted. The shape can differ from being lobed and squat to long and narrow. Regardless of overall shape, Carolina Reapers typically have a distinctive pointed tail. When ripe, Carolina Reapers are a vivid scarlet.

The vast majority of jalapeños that you encounter in most grocery stores will be either green or red, usually green. However, there are many other colors, including yellow and purple jalapeños. Jalapeño peppers are cylindrical with an average length of three to four inches and a diameter of one to two inches.

Where did each pepper originate?

The Carolina Reaper originated with Ed Currie, a pepper grower from South Carolina (and the founder of PuckerButt Pepper Company) who crossed ghost peppers (AKA But Jolokia) with red habaneros to make it. Red habaneros tend to be even hotter than the standard orange habaneros, and this pairing birthed one extreme chili.

Jalapeño peppers come from Jalapa, Mexico. The Ancient Aztecs were the first to cultivate the pepper, and Christopher Columbus would make it famous worldwide. Today, jalapeños are grown in other parts of Mexico and the southwest US, though not in Jalapa.

Which is easier to find fresh?

The Carolina Reaper isn’t the kind of pepper that you find in the typical grocery store. Fresh super-hot peppers may sometimes appear in independent grocery stores and produce stands, but rarely.

As the hottest of the super-hots — at least officially — fresh Carolina Reapers appeal to only the most dedicated lovers of spicy food and people who plan to use them for dares or social media stunts. The average consumer is not interested enough to make Reapers and other super-hot peppers worthwhile for retailers.

In comparison, jalapeños are widely available in the US — you can find them in pretty much every major grocery store with a produce section. Of course, they are also available in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. They can be found in Canada as well.

Which is used most often in commercial products?

With its reputation as the world’s hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper is tremendously marketable to lovers of spicy heat. You can find pure Carolina Reapers powdered and dried or incorporated into sauces. Carolina Reapers are also used to flavor nuts, beef jerky, and popcorn.

As the more accessible hot pepper, it is far easier to find jalapeño food products than those made with Carolina Reapers. Jalapeño products range from sauces to pickles and salad dressings, to name a few.

Must-read related posts

  • Carolina Reaper Planting Guide – From A To Zing: If you want to try your hand at growing this super-hot, learn the basics from our guide.
  • The Hot Pepper List: These two chilies are only two of over 150 that we profile here at PepperScale. Discover them all on our dynamic list that allows you to search by heat, flavor, origin, and more.
  • Our Hot Sauce Rankings: We rank over 100 different hot sauces based on heat balance, flavor, usability, and collectibility. Plus, you can search our rankings by the chili pepper used!

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 25, 2022 to include new content.
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