Death Spiral Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are Death Spiral peppers?

Death Spiral peppers (a.k.a. Death peppers) are some of the gnarliest super-hot chilies you’ll ever see or taste. Their heat hits at roughly 1,400,000 Scoville heat units, putting it right up there with the Carolina Reaper in overall spiciness, but without the consistency needed to challenge for the title of hottest pepper yet. What make it unique is the twisted, brain-like folds of the pod itself. It just looks like pain. Though, underneath, there’s a surprising fruity sweetness here (if you can get past the heat.)

Death spiral peppers, with their folded, drooping brain-like skin and stinger tail (photo by Refining Fire Chiles)

Table of Contents

Death Spiral pepper fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)1,400,000 (approximately)
Median heat (SHU)N/D
Jalapeño reference point175 to 560 times hotter
Capsicum speciesChinense
OriginUnited Kingdom
FlavorSweet, Citrusy, Floral

How hot are Death Spiral peppers?

The panel is out on the Scoville heat range of this chili. Some say 1,300,000 Scoville heat units, others say 1,500,000 SHU or even higher. We’ll call it, 1,400,000 SHU for argument’s sake. It’s all over the place because, as a newer chili strain, it isn’t always consistent from seed to seed, in heat, looks, and flavor (as you’ll see.) What is known is this is one super-hot chili pepper that rivals the other hottest peppers in the world, even without the official title.

For instance, the Carolina Reaper’s range runs from 1,400,000 to 2,200,000 SHU. The Death Spiral lands somewhere on par with it, at least on the lower end of its heat range.

And the spiciness makes sense, as the Death Spiral is a hybrid of a Naga Bubblegum (over 1,000,000 SHU) and a Naga Viper (900,000 to 1,382,118 SHU.) It’s a child of extremes, and 100% a child who acts out in the brattiest of ways. The burn hits the front of your mouth quickly, so there’s no doubt as to the spiciness held within. There’s little build up before the extreme heat lands.

Of course, compared to our jalapeño reference point, this is a no contest in the spiciness department. Jalapeños range from 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. If we use 1,400,000 SHU as the median heat, the Death Spiral pepper is between 175 and 560 times hotter than a jalapeño.

Note: This level of spiciness is significant, so any handling of Death Spiral peppers should be done with utmost care. Use gloves, kitchen glasses, and other precautions to keep oils from this pepper off your skin.

What do Death Spiral peppers look like?

It’s one gnarly looking pepper, that’s for sure, in all the best ways. The outside is twisted and pocked, featuring brain-like folds reminiscent of the 7-Pot Brain Strain. Though, it’s like the Brain Strain melted and folded under the strength of its own capsaicin oils.

The length can vary, just like the heat. But there’s often a stinger tail that certainly alerts you to the pain within (if the brain-like texture wasn’t enough.)

What’s quite unique about the Death Spiral’s looks is its color variations. Just like everything else about this chili, the colors vary from fruit to fruit. They start green, and run through hues of peach, orange, and red. But often, the fruit stops somewhere in the middle of that path. So, some Death Spiral chilies will have a peach-like color, while others will be distinctly red.

What do they taste like?

Of course, heat is the predominant experience of any super-hot pepper, but just like many others, there’s a delicious fruity sweetness here that borders on citrusy.

Though that’s apt to morph from one pod to the next as well (or even person to person.) Some get a more floral sweetness in the taste. Either way, there’s a lot of extreme spiciness sitting between you and the flavor, so you’ll have to be able to handle a lot of pain to nitpick on the flavor.

What are some good uses for this pepper?

Anything this spicy is typically used first in extreme hot sauces. And there, the natural sweetness of the super-hot provides a nice added depth to the sauce.

Of course, if you’re an extreme eater, you could opt for treating the Death Spiral like a more normal culinary pepper, adding it fresh to salsas (like many of the Carolina Reaper or ghost pepper salsa recipes out there.)

Where can you buy Death Spiral peppers?

You won’t find the Death Spiral sold in stores. It’s so unique that you’re unlikely to find it easily around you either at farmer’s markets or even chili farms, especially given its pod-to-pod dance with consistency. But you can pick up a Death Spiral seed pack and try your luck at growing these chilies yourself. Refining Fire Chiles is an excellent place to start for seeds.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on March 18, 2022 to include new content.
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