Thai Peppers Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are Thai peppers?

Let’s start with the confusion. There are dozens of varieties of chilies that fall under the category of Thai peppers. They all share common characteristics, colors, and general heat (an extra-hot spiciness from 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville heat units.) And because of that, a little confusion is expected – and it’s totally ok! You’ll typically get what you’re looking for (some solid heat and a fruity, lightly earthy flavor) out of any chili labeled as Thai peppers.

Thai Peppers

Thai pepper fast facts

  • Scoville heat units (SHU): 50,000 – 100,000 SHU
  • Median heat: 75,000 SHU
  • Origin: Thailand
  • Capsicum species: Annuum
  • Jalapeño reference scale: 6 to 40 times hotter
  • Use: Culinary
  • Size: Approximately 1 to 2 inches long
  • Flavor: Fruity, Earthy

How hot are Thai peppers?

These chilies fall in the range of “pretty darn hot”, which in more scientific terms means around 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville heat units. That’s about 23 times the average heat of a jalapeño. But really they are at the bottom rung of what you’d call the hot peppers. They are typically about three times less spicy than a habanero, so if you’re venturing into that hot pepper level for the first time, a stop off at Thai peppers is a good way to travel.

What else are Thai peppers called?

As mentioned, there are lots of varieties, and to add to the confusion even more, some varieties have multiple names. Probably the most well-known name is the bird’s eye chili, with variant names like Thai dragon peppers, African devil, Congo chilies, phrik khi nu (in Thailand), and cili padi (in Malaysia), and many other localized names based off of regions.

Perhaps the most fitting name of the bunch is Thai dragon peppers. These chilies have some fire, they are red when ripened (like dragon’s breath), and their shape (an inch or two in length, thin, and curved) even look like the claws of a dragon. Now that’s a cool name if there ever was one.

How are Thai peppers eaten?

These chilies make their way into many Thai and Asian dishes of course, including many spicy soups. You’ll find lots of recipes in Asian and Thai cookbooks that call for these spicy peppers.

There are also lots of products based around Thai chilies, from pepper flakes and hot sauces to marinades and powders. These are very popular for their hot kick and the fact that they can add heat in a pinch for Thai dishes if needed.

Where can you buy Thai peppers?

Many grocery stores will carry Thai chilies, if not in the fresh produce section, then at least canned in the international sections of the store. Or, via online retailers (Amazon) you can buy the seeds (if you’ve got the gardening bug), the plants, the raw peppers, and all sorts of hot sauces and other products. It is more than likely your best bet for variety if you live outside of an urban area.

This pepper is more than just a stop-off on our way up to the habanero. Thai peppers are an essential ingredient to a whole slew of unique and tasty eastern dishes. If you love those types of meals and you’re looking to make them yourself, then you’ll become very familiar with these chilies. They’re a cooking staple.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on October 23, 2021 to include new content.
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I have 1 plant. there are enough peppers that i don’t know what to do with them all, but on the other hand, there’s not enough to get a good mash going. I’ll get about 10-12 peppers every week or so. I’ve made a really good hot sauce with them, but as I’ve said the production rate of only 1 plant isn’t enough to get like a pound of peppers before some of them go bad. So I’ve just been drying them out and crushing them into pepper flakes. Goes really good sprinkled on pizza.

Tony Muñoz

My first time buying Thai chili’s. I’ve bought other “hots” like ghost peppers, and Carolina Reapers and Habaneros. But never Thai peppers. Gotta see what kind of kick these peppers have. Can’t wait to get them planted!! Gotta see what their made of!!