Pimenta de Neyde Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are Pimenta de Neyde?

Pimenta de Neyde are extra-hot chili peppers (approximately 100,000 to 250,000 Scoville heat units) originating from Brazil. It’s believed to be a natural hybrid between two unknown Capsicum annuum and Capsicum chinense peppers. The result? A chili with some of the best characteristics from each species. It’s a lovely large ornamental pepper plant, with its bold plum-purple pods, white flowers, and green-purple plant leaves. But, unlike most ornamentals, there’s flavor here too, with a habanero-like fruitiness that’s delicious for hot sauces and salsas.

Pimenta de Neyde

Pimenta de Neyde fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)100,000 to 250,000
Median heat (SHU)175,000
Jalapeño reference point13 to 100 times hotter
Capsicum speciesAnnuum/Chinense
Size2 to 3 inches, bullet-shaped
FlavorFruity, Sweet, Bitter

How hot are Pimenta de Neyde?

Reports vary a lot when it comes to the heat of this chili pepper. Some claim it sits in the 80,000 to 120,000 Scoville heat unit range. Others see it as more 150,000 to 250,000 SHU. We’ll cover the spread here and approximate 100,000 to 250,000 SHU because what is true, wherever it may sit on the scale in this range, the Pimenta de Neyde is an extra-hot pepper and, as such, carries some real bite.

Its heat is the same as a lower to mid-range habanero pepper (100,000 to 350,000 SHU.) Even if the Pimenta de Neyde dips to 80,000 SHU, that’s comparable heat to Thai peppers (50,000 to 100,000 SHU.) Compare that to our jalapeño reference point (2,500 to 8,000 SHU): Pimenta de Neyde likely range from 13 to 100 times hotter than a jalapeño, depending on the pepper you eat.

Where do these chilies originate?

The Pimenta de Neyde hails from Brazil, but this is not a hybrid anyone started out trying to make. It’s a natural hybrid first discovered by Neyde Hidalgo (hence the chili’s name) in her garden. It’s thought to be a hybrid between a Capsicum annuum chili and a Capsicum chinense. And the pods and plant do have characteristics of each.

Pimenta de Neyde
Pimenta de Neyde plant with beautiful purple fruit

What do they look like?

In looks, it’s much more like a Capsicum annuum. This is one big beauty of a plant. In fact, in the right circumstances (you need some space) it’s a very nice ornamental pepper plant for landscaping. It can also work in larger containers.

The plant grows from two to four feet tall and two feet wide. It has oval-shaped green-purple leaves and beautiful purple-striped white flowers. The pods are a slim bullet-like shape, approximately two to three inches long. And these pods have a unique ripening color pattern. They don’t change color as they ripen on the vine. Rather they stay a dramatic glossy plum-purple color throughout.

What do they taste like?

Here it takes more of a page from its Capsicum chinense roots. The Pimenta de Neyde has a habanero-like fruitiness to it — a little touch of apple in the taste. That said, there is a slightly bitter undertone to the flavor at times, so it’s not quite the full-bodied sweetness of a hab.

Still, it makes this a rare ornamental pepper with real flavor. Most chilies that could qualify as “ornamental” tend to be big heat/no flavor types. Here you have the best of both worlds — it works very well as both an ornamental and a culinary chili pepper.

What are some good uses for this pepper?

Anywhere you’d use a habanero pepper, the Pimenta de Neyde is a reasonable substitute. It works well in hot sauces, extra-spicy salsas, and bold marinades. Its purple color among culinary chilies is relatively unique, so pairing it with orange and red habaneros is an excellent way to create a full rainbow of color in a salsa.

Where can you buy Pimenta de Neyde?

It’s rather rare to see them sold fresh. You won’t find these chilies in stores, and they may be difficult to source even at specialty shops and chili farms. But you can certainly purchase Pimenta de Neyde seeds and grow them at home. Given their ornamental looks and culinary flavor, you’ll have plenty of reason to enjoy these chilies.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on October 3, 2021 to include new content.
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