What is the spiciest chili in the world?

The trend of people trying outrageously spicy food on the internet is on fire, especially now that the infamous Carolina reaper is being challenged by a new contender for spiciest chili in the world. Who owns this burning hot world record?

What chili pepper is spicier than all the rest?
What chili pepper is spicier than all the rest?  © Unsplash/Timothy L Brock

When legendary spice man Chili Klaus and First We Feast's Sean Evans sat down to sample a Carolina reaper back in 2015, no one could have guessed the cultural impact that chilies would have over the coming years.

Not only did Hot Ones make waves, but spicy food entered the zeitgeist with a bang, bringing many people into the world of curry, hot sauce, and spice.

Yet, more than seven years later, the world-famous Carolina reaper has been usurped by an even spicier chili pepper.

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This demonic pepper is the new world record holder for spiciest chili!

There are a huge variety of chilies in the world.
There are a huge variety of chilies in the world.  © Unsplash/Ricardo Gomez Angel

This is the world's spiciest chili pepper

The spiciest chili in the world is a capsicum chili pepper known by most as "Pepper X". Cultivated by Ed Currie, the same guy who brought us the Carolina reaper, the pepper was created through the selective breeding of multiple hybrid chili plants with the express purpose of increasing the intensity of their spice.

On October 16, 2023, Guinness World Records announced that Pepper X had dethroned the Carolina reaper, making it officially the spiciest pepper in the world. This also, within reasonable expectations, means that it is the spiciest food ever created and something that should be treated with serious caution.

Part of the process of producing Pepper X was the creation of a capsicum pepper that, while small in overall size, has so many ridges and wrinkles that its interior is almost entirely made up of its placenta. The placenta of a chili is the bit that holds the seeds (not the seeds themselves), and is the hottest part.

Talking to Wired about the process of creating a new type of pepper, Currie said that cultivation is a "very time-consuming, very long process" largely on account of the fact that "if it doesn't work, then we've got to start all over again."

Pepper X rates at a Scoville Heat Unit score of 2,693,000, making it significantly hotter than the previous world record holder, the Carolina reaper, which sat at 1,640,000 Scoville. As a result, it is without a doubt the spiciest pepper ever created.

Why is the spiciest chili in the world so hot?

The key to a spicy chili is its level of capsaicin, a chemical found in most pepper plants that activate your heat and pain sensors. This is most noticeable when you put a pepper in your mouth, but also explains why your eyes, nose, and other sensitive spots will hurt when you touch them following contact with a chili.

To maximize the power of a chili, a cultivator like Currie would have to develop a pepper that has as much capsaicin in any given area as possible. As the amount increases, the activation of pain receptors and the feeling of heat increases exponentially, causing all the usual symptoms that you would expect to experience when eating spicy food - just, in the case of Pepper X, significantly worse.

You can tell from watching the Hot Ones video below that on account of Pepper X's extraordinary amount of placenta, which in turn contains a remarkable amount of capsaicin, it packs an extraordinary punch. With such a high concentration, it seems uncertain what you could cook with such a pepper, but it does certainly provide for some pretty entertaining YouTube content.

Talking to First We Feast, Currie revealed his thought processes when developing such peppers: "When we started the cross, there were two peppers that I really loved the flavor of, but neither of them were going to be hot enough for my tastes."

Scoville units are the measurement of spiciness we use, and is entirely based on the concentration of capsaicin in a particular food or chili pepper.

Warning: Be careful of super spicy food

It would not be a good idea to do what Chili Klaus and Sean Evans seem to do on a daily basis. Spicy food can, when consumed in excess, cause quite unpleasant gut issues, rings of fire, painful bowel movements, and burning that can last for hours upon hours. In some cases, the consumption of extremely powerful chili has even caused medical issues.

Settle down for something pleasant, season your food properly, and don't go so crazy with the spice. It's alright to bring-on the heat, but it's pointless if that heat isn't being used to bite through sourness, sweetness, or some other delicious flavor.

Cover photo: Unsplash/Timothy L Brock

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