Loco Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are Loco Peppers?

Loco peppers are a variety of ornamental peppers that are popular for their vibrant colors (a mix of purple, red, orange, and yellow) and rounded shape. These colorful chilies are perfect for adding flare to your garden landscaping and work well in containers, too. In terms of heat, loco peppers deliver a solid medium spiciness, roughly 15,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units.

Loco Pepper
Loco peppers, showing off their multiple colors

Loco pepper fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)15,000 – 30,000
Median heat (SHU)22,500
Jalapeño reference point2 to 12 times hotter
SpeciesCapsicum Annuum
Size1 to 2 inches wide, rounded
FlavorSweet, Neutral (peppery)

What do Loco peppers look like?

Loco peppers are small and round, usually about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. They grow in clusters on compact plants that can reach up to 1.5 feet in height. The peppers start as a purple color and as they mature, they change through a series of vibrant colors including yellow, orange, and finally red. One plant can contain fruits on varying points of this cycle. 

This attractive multicolored display is one of the reasons why they are popular as ornamental plants. It’s among the more colorful options you have for edible landscaping. 

–> Learn More: See Our Colorful Peppers Guide

How hot are Loco ornamental peppers?

Like all ornamentals, the Loco has been developed to stress its colorful fruits. That typically comes at a price, both in heat and in taste. Many have surprising spiciness, and the Loco does pack a considerable punch of medium-heat.

Loco peppers generally range from 15,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). To put that into perspective, they are two to twelve times hotter than a jalapeño, which averages around 2,500 to 8,000 SHU, but much less spicy than an extra-hot habanero, which ranges from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU. It’s comparable in spiciness to a serrano chili (10,000 to 23,000 SHU) or chile de arbol (15,000 to 30,000 SHU.)

Compared to other ornamental peppers, the Loco is middle of the road in terms of heat. A few are milder (like the Sedona Sun), but many are hotter (like the Prairie Fire pepper.) 

What do they taste like?

There isn’t a lot of depth to the flavor of the Loco ornamental, but that’s, again, to be expected. Outside of a neutral “peppery” flavor, they offer a fruity, slightly sweet taste. But that is often overshadowed by its spiciness. 

–> Learn More: Can You Eat Ornamental Peppers?

How can you use them?

Due to their vibrant colors, loco peppers are most commonly used as ornamental plants. They can add a pop of color to your garden and are particularly effective in borders or as part of a mixed planting. The Loco ornamental also works for pots and handles small-space gardening relatively well. 

Loco peppers can be used in a variety of culinary applications, especially where their heat or color is the primary need. They don’t shine in applications where the peppers flavor is critical. They can be diced and used in salsas, sauces, and marinades to add a spicy kick (and a color pop!) They can also be pickled or dried and ground into a powder for use as a spice. 

Where can you buy Loco peppers?

We can purchase loco peppers from a variety of sources. Many garden centers, nurseries, and farmers markets sell the plants or seeds, especially during the spring and summer months. Online retailers and seed catalogs often carry a wide selection of ornamental peppers, including, at times, the Loco variety.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on November 17, 2023 to include new content.
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