Scoville Scale - How hot is that pepper?

Mama Maggie's Kitchen

This is a relative measurement of the pungency of spicy foods and chile peppers.  (spiciness or “heat”) The pharmacologist Wilbur Scoville created it back in 1912. He devised his scale of measurement in increments known as Scoville Heat Units (SHUs).

Scoville Scale

This is the naturally occurring element that gives heat to hot sauce and chile peppers. Pure capsaicin is a natural component in spicy peppers and things made from the peppers, such as hot sauce.


Pure capsaicin, the substance that gives chile peppers their heat, has a rating of approximately 15 – 16,000,000 SCUs.  That is dangerously hot! Most of the time you’ll find the Scoville Scale represented in chart form.  It makes it relatively easier to understand.

Peppers and Units

Jalapeños are commonly used in Mexican cuisine. If you remove the seeds, you’ll turn down the heat of this pepper.  You can balance the spiciness of the jalapeño by using crema Mexicana, sour cream, or cheese.


They are a step up in spiciness to jalapeños. Serrano peppers, however, do lose some of their heat as they cook. The peppers give any recipe a special kick.

Serrano Peppers

This chiles are higher than the others on the spicy scale of Dr. Scoville. This, of course, means that you need protection, like wearing gloves when you work with them.

Habanero Peppers

Chile de Arbol Peppers are not nearly as spicy as habaneros, but they do happen to be hotter than serranos. They’re featured in many tasty sauces and salsas to boost the heat.

Chile de Árbol

A poblano pepper is called ancho chile when dried. This is a medium pepper. These don’t give that prolonged burn, so it’s easy to eat them for a meal. There are some recipes using poblanos such as Rajas con Crema, Espagueti Verde, Pollo a la Poblana.

Poblano Pepper

If you’re ever in doubt about how much heat to put out, remember to read the post to determine the relative spiciness of your favorite chiles. This scale will never fail, check it out.

Mexican spicy recipes

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