Devil’s Tongue Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are Devil’s Tongue peppers?

There’s no hiding what to expect from Devil’s Tongue pepper – it’s all in the name. There’s a lot of heat here (125,000 to 325,000 Scoville heat units) that’s embodied in a twisted and folded habanero-like shape – like the misshaped tongue of the devil himself. The pepper’s extreme heat, fruity flavor, and vibrant hue make the Devil’s Tongue perfect for extreme-eating salsas and sauces.

devil's tongue pepper
Devil’s Tongue peppers on the vine – note the curved, pointed shape and wrinkles

Devil’s Tongue pepper fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)125,000 – 325,000
Median heat (SHU)225,000
Jalapeño reference point16 to 130 times hotter
Capsicum speciesChinense
OriginUnited States
Size2 to 3 inches long, slightly curved
FlavorCitrusy, Fruity, Sweet

How hot are Devil’s Tongue peppers?

These chilies map closely to habanero-level heat. In fact – it’s likely the case that this chili is a habanero relative that was discovered by-chance, according to pepper lore, in an Amish country habanero patch during the 1990s. It’s an origin story similar to that of the equally infamous Red Savina habanero.

No matter the origin, there’s no denying that the Devil’s Tongue is potent. Its floor (125,000 Scoville heat units or SHU) is slightly hotter than a habanero pepper’s floor (100, 000 SHU). But it also doesn’t have the potential to be quite as wickedly hot (325,000 SHU, compared to the habanero’s 350,000 SHU). That’s really nit-picking, though. Your eating experience in terms of heat will be about the same.

To put it in perspective, in terms of our jalapeño reference point, the Devil’s Tongue is 16 to 130 times hotter than the common jalapeño, depending on the luck of the draw. Other chilies at this heat level include many other habanero-types, like the Madame Jeanette pepper and the scotch bonnet.

What do these chilies look like?

They look quite like another habanero relative – the fatalii pepper. Growing to roughly three inches long, the Devil’s tongue is both curvy and wrinkly. It tapers to a tip, giving it a tongue-like appearance (when you stick your tongue out to a point). Its twists and folds provide a mean-looking exterior – fitting both for the heat in the pepper and its terrifically descriptive name.

Common Devil’s Tongue peppers mature from green to a golden yellow-orange color. It’s vibrant, adding a beautiful burst of color wherever they are grown. There are other varieties, too, that age to different colors. Red Devil’s Tongue peppers tend to be slightly hotter and sweeter, and there’s a chocolate/brown variety as well with a more subtle, earthy flavor.

What do Devil’s Tongue peppers taste like?

Like the habanero or fatalii, the Devil’s Tongue is fruity. There’s a citrus sweetness here that very much fits its vibrant color, along with a slightly tangy undertone. They are delicious if you can handle the extreme heat.

How can you use Devil’s Tongue peppers?

First, as with any extra-hot pepper, the Devil’s Tongue should be handled with great care. Use gloves when handling to keep severe chili burn at bay. And know your best options to curb chili burn if it occurs.

That said, if you’re used to peppers in this range of the pepper scale, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Devil’s Tongue peppers often have slightly thicker walls than its close relatives, making them deliciously juicy in extreme-heat salsas. They are terrific as a base for fiery hot sauces, especially those with fruity undertones. Those thick walls also make the Devil’s Tongue a good option for hot pepper pickling. Really, if you have a use case for a habanero, you can easily swap in this comparably wicked pepper.

–> Learn More: Homemade Pickled Habaneros Recipe (works with Devil’s Tongue)

Where can you buy Devil’s Tongue peppers?

They aren’t nearly as common as habanero peppers, so if you’re in a supermarket, you have a better shot at finding a habanero (but no guarantee) for a similar heat and flavor. Look to farmer’s markets and local growers if you want to find them fresh. Or, you can try your hand at growing them yourself. Devil’s Tongue seeds are easy to buy online, and they are prolific growers. Plus, their color really adds pop to a garden or container. For as mean as this pepper can be, it’s a real beauty to behold.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 3, 2023 to include new content.
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