Little Elf Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are Little Elf peppers?

If you love holiday colors – festive reds, greens, and more – the Little Elf pepper will bring a lot of joy to your space. It’s among the most colorful ornamental peppers – those reds and greens are peppered with yellows, oranges, and purples too. And its compact shape and tiny clustering fruits work just as well in indoor containers as they do as ornamental hedging for your landscaping. The Little Elf isn’t chilly either – it provides a spiciness (20,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units) that can reach up to cayenne level heat, with a slightly earthy peppery flavor that works surprisingly well in the kitchen.

Little Elf pepper

Little Elf pepper fast facts

  • Scoville heat units (SHU): 20,000 – 30,000 SHU
  • Median heat: 25,000 SHU
  • Origin: Hungary
  • Capsicum species: Annuum
  • Jalapeño reference scale: 3 to 12 times hotter
  • Use: Ornamental
  • Size: Up to 1/2 inch long, conical
  • Flavor: Earthy

How hot is the Little Elf pepper?

It’s not as hot as some ornamental peppers can get, but the Little Elf packs a pretty big punch for its size. Its heat ranges from 20,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). Putting that into perspective of our jalapeño pepper reference point, the Little Elf is 3 to 12 times hotter than a jalapeño pepper. It ranges in spiciness from an upper-end serrano pepper to the mildest possible cayenne pepper (30,000 SHU).

This is an eatable level of heat, but a little beyond family friendly. The Little Elf is a good choice for those that love edible landscaping that can provide a little extra oomph in the kitchen.

What do Little Elf peppers look like and taste like?

These are tiny, pequin-like peppers, growing typically about a half-inch in length. They have a conical shape and typically grow in clusters on the plant. The plant sports green leaves and white flowers and is rather compact (growing no more than a foot tall, but filling out wide), while the fruits run through a wide range of festive colors depending on their maturation. Shades of green, yellow, orange, purple, and red combine on one plant – like colorful holiday bulbs.

Taste-wise, there’s a little more here than a typical ornamental pepper. Most ornamentals don’t have much to their flavor beyond surprising heat, but the Little Elf has a little earthiness mixed in with a fresh peppery flavor. Given the Little Elf’s heat isn’t quite as high as most ornamentals as well, you can enjoy that flavor a little more too before the heat becomes the predominant experience.

How can you use them?

As an ornamental chili, the Little Elf pepper shines as hedging. Its compact in height yet grows wide, so it can fill out hedging quite nicely with a punch of color. It also works in containers for indoor use. Placed on a kitchen sill with lots of light, the Little Elf pepper can be a major producer of chilies for your kitchen.

You can, in fact, do more with the Little Elf in the kitchen than most other ornamentals, too. It’s moderate medium heat and earthy pepper flavor pairs well with rustic dishes, smoky salsas, and hearty soups. You can also use these chilies on sandwiches and salads if you are used to serrano pepper level heat.

Where can you buy Little Elf peppers?

Look to your gardening center – they may carry Little Elf pepper seeds (and potentially potted plants) as this is a relatively popular ornamental. It’s best to call ahead. Or you can easily pick up the seeds online as well (Amazon).

The Little Elf pepper is a real treat of a chili, colorful and festive as an ornamental, yet surprisingly useful as a culinary pepper. For those that love edible landscaping, it’s a real keeper.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on June 7, 2021 to include new content.
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