Cascabel Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are cascabel peppers?

Sure many dried chilies rattle, but none do so quite like the cascabel pepper. They keep their rounded shape when dried, which creates the perfect natural bell or rattle. Cascabel chilies are mild in heat (1,000 to 3,000 Scoville heat units) and nutty in flavor, and they look as delicious as they taste. In fact, many people buy whole pods – with their beautiful browns and swirls of red and copper – to use as dried chili kitchen art.

Table of Contents

Cascabel pepper fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)1,000 – 3,000
Median heat (SHU)2,000
Jalapeño reference pointEqual heat to 8 times milder
Capsicum speciesAnnuum
SizeApproximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, round
FlavorEarthy, Nutty

How hot is the cascabel pepper?

It’s a relatively mild chili (1,000 to 3,000 Scoville heat units or SHU) that, at its hottest, borders low-medium heat chilies like the jalapeño (2,500 to 8,000 SHU). But, normally, the cascabel falls well below the heat of that reference point. They can be as much as eight times milder than a fresh jalapeño.

It’s comparable in heat to Anaheim peppers (500 to 2,500 SHU) and poblano peppers (including their dried form, ancho chilies). It’s a mild spiciness that’s very easy to eat, falling far below even common medium heat chilies like the cayenne.

What do cascabel peppers look like? They rattle?

They do, in dried form. “Cascabel”, in fact, means “little bell” or “rattle” in Spanish, and it’s a name that fits this pepper to a tee. The seeds inside rattle when the pod is shaken.

The cascabel is, as well, unique among peppers because its fresh and dried form both share the same name (uncommon for chilies). And, when dried, the chili itself keeps the same round shape as its fresh form. It’s why these chilies are also known as chili bola, which means “ball chili.” They are a rounded shape, oftentimes looking more like a miniature fruit than a pepper.

In size, cascabels are tiny, only growing to about an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. The fresh chilies mature from green to red, and when dried, they darken into a symphony of rich colors. Their base is a deep brown, and there are layers of red, orange, and even metallic copper. They are quite beautiful. In fact, they look amazing layered in a bowl in a rustic kitchen, a perfect piece of food art.

What do cascabel chilies taste like?

They taste very much like they look. In dried form – how they are typically consumed – they have an earthy, nutty flavor that pairs very well with rustic meals. Soups, salsas, and marinades are all common uses. Cascabel is typically ground into pepper flakes or powder for use.

Where can you buy cascabel peppers?

It was once difficult to find these chilies outside of Mexico, but not anymore. Because of their beauty and exceptional taste, dried cascabel chilies are widely available online in full pod form. People love using them as much for kitchen art as they do cooking, though we’d never be able to let a bowl of cascabel peppers sit for that long! They are just too delicious. These chilies are easily ground into flake and powder form, so it’s less common to find them pre-ground.

They may not be as popular as the ancho chili, but the cascabel pepper has a distinct and growing following among foodies. Try them for yourself. Their toasted, nutty taste is a very welcome flavor twist on the pepper scale.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on September 6, 2022 to include new content.
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