Hot Peppers: The Ghost Chilli (Bhut Jolokia)

  • Habanero seedling
  • Habanero flowering
  • Habanero pepper unripened, green
  • Habanero pepper, ripe, orange
    Fully Ripe

The first thing that comes to mind when this little guy is mentioned, is firepower! The ghost chili can knock your socks off with its heat, and it most definitely will. It is widely available in the states now, in many different sauces, individually dried, and also in powdered form. It leans towards being more of a novelty and there are many videos of folks trying to endure its hell-furnace blast. This is not a pepper for the novice fire eater.

On the Menu

The ghost chile is traditionally added to curries and chutneys in fresh, and powdered form. In more recent times it can be found in almost everything ranging from hot sauces, jellies, and candy. That being said, this powerful pepper definitely won't be showing up on the menu as often as the jalapeno, or habanero. But take heart pepperheads, the internet is a wealth of all things ghost chili. The ability to breathe fire is merely a mouse click away.

The World's Not Hottest Pepper

This pepper is known by many different names, such as naga jolokia, red naga chili, ghost pepper, bhot jolokia, and bih jolokia. It is native to India, and grows in the states of, Nagaland, Assam, and Manipur. The ripe ghost chili is a medium sized pepper, and measures in at, 2.5 to 3.5 inches long. They appear as red, yellow, orange or brown in color.

The ghost chili has a unique shape in the pepper world and also a very thin skin. In 2007, the ghost chili was certified as the worlds hottest pepper. Its Scoville rating weighed in at over 1 million units! Although it was dethroned in 2012, This pepper will never be considered run of the mill.

Fun Facts

  • The Indian government has weaponized the ghost chili, creating gas grenades that can incapacitate terrorist and other undesirables.
  • In 2009, Anandita Dutta Tamuly ate 51 ghost chillies in 2 minutes and rubbed the seeds of 25 of them directly into her eyes. All of this with seemingly no effect. She has become known as the world's “Hottest Woman”.
  • The ghost chili is so potent that it is smeared on fence posts in India to keep wild elephants out of local gardens.

The Ghost Chilli Plant

The ghost chili is one of the more difficult pepper plants to grow and is not advised for beginners. They will need extreme heat, not able to tolerate any temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity, and light, warm and well draining soil. The plant will reach maturity in approximately 5 months. The ghost chili stands between 36- 48 inches, and yield on average 150 fruit per growing season.

Recently Added Hot Sauces that Use Ghost Chiles

*Note that many hot sauces do not specify the type of pepper used on their list of ingredients, and instead use a general phrase like “chile pepper”, so a number of sauces on our hot sauce list may not be included.

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Sources and Attribution:

  • Photo (cropped): Bhut Jolokia flower by Marcin Szklarczyk (CC-BY-SA-3.0) via Wikimedia Commons
  • Photo (cropped): Bhut Jolokia (ripe) by Asit K. ghosh Thaumaturgist (CC-BY-SA-3.0) via Wikimedia Commons
  • Photo (cropped): Bhut Jolokia some green by nancybeetoo (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
  • Photo (cropped): Bhut Jolokia plants by L0cu7u5 (CC-BY-SA-3.0) via Wikimedia Commons