Thai Chili Peppers | Scoville, Type, Flavor, Recipes

What Are Thai Peppers?

First of all, there is no single “Thai pepper” as there are about 79 varieties of officially verified peppers originating from three species of peppers in Thailand. Generally, Thai peppers are small in size and high in heat. Above all, these several varieties of peppers differ in appearance and flavor, and their heat levels range between 500 to 100,000 Scoville heat units. Obviously, there is confusion in pinning down a particular variety of chili as the authentic Thai pepper.

In general, the two well-known peppers “prik kee noo” (‘bird pepper’/’bird’s eye pepper) and “prik chee fah” (translates to ‘chili pointing to the sky’) are synonymous with Thai Peppers. Most chefs consider the Bird’s eye chili, commonly found in Ethiopia and across Southeast Asia, as the true Thai chili.

Types of Thai Chili Peppers

The list will be long if I’m to mention here all the different varieties of Thai peppers as there are nearly 80 of them. Most of them are little-known or unheard peppers. Only a dozen of them are commonly used in Thai cooking.

Here is the list of the most popular Thai chili peppers:

Prik Kee Noo: also known as ‘bird’s eye chili’ or ‘mouse droppings chili’, has a heat level that ranges between 50,000 and 100,000 SHU. These chilis are green, orange, or red, rounded, and are about two inches long. The bird’s eye pepper (green or red chilies) is commonly used in stir-fry dishes, soups, sauces, and to make pounded relishes.

Prik Chee Fah: another commonly used Thai chili which literally means ‘sky pointing chili’, is a moderately hot chili measuring 5,000 to 30,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale. They are around 3-4 inches long and both green and red peppers are used in cooking.

Prik Yuak: a sweet pepper, also known as the banana-stalk chili, does not have any noticeable heat at all. The green chilies are often pickled in vinegar as condiments for noodle soups.

Prik Jinda: a medium-hot chili with an average heat of 75,000 SHU, slightly longer and milder than bird’s eye chili. It’s a spicy chili that gives the dishes heat and flavor, often referred to as “green flavor” best known for its fresh grassy aroma.

Prik Ban Chang: a long pepper with smooth skin that comes in green and red varieties. It’s a mild chili with minimal seeds and thick flesh. It is commonly sun-dried and used for chili pastes and curries.

Prik Kaleang: like the bird’s eye chilies, it’s another spiciest chili in Thai cooking with a heat level ranging between 50,000 and 100,000 SHU. It’s often used in curries, especially in North Thailand.

Prik Mun: not very spicy like Bird’s Eye chili, but a flavorful chili, usually falling between 20,000 and 50,000 SHU on the Scoville. They are glossy-skinned Thai chilies, often used as green and red peppers. Prik mun is ideal for pickling and is used in various hot condiments served in Thailand restaurants.

Prik Leung: a slender orange chili pepper often used in salad dishes. They have an average heat reaching around 30,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale.

Prik Num: also known as ‘banana peppers”, resembles the New Mexican pepper, also cultivated in Kashmir, India, popularly known as Kashmiri Peppers. It’s a mild chili pepper with a heat level ranging between 1000 to 2000 SHU.

Thai Chili Scoville

As we have said, Thai chilies include nearly eighty varieties of chili peppers with different heat levels starting from zero and reaching up to 100,000 SHU. Thus there isn’t one specific answer to the question ‘How hot are Thai chilies?

The average heat of Thai chilies is around 30,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale.

Among the commonly used chilies, the hottest and spiciest Thai chili is ‘Prik Kee Noo’ (bird chili). The bird’s chili, also known as Thai hot red pepper, measures 50,000-100,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale. Compared to a typical Jalapeno pepper (2,500-8,000 SHU), this Thai pepper is up to 15 times hotter than the average jalapeno.

Uses in Cooking

Bird’s eye chili peppers are a popular ingredient in several Thai dishes. Fresh or dried chilies work well in soups, sauces, and marinades. Often, it’s used in salads, pickles, sambals, stir-fries, and curries for a hot and spicy flavor.

Usually, the stems are removed, and this chili can be used whole, diced, sliced, chopped, or pureed; including its spicy seeds. If you are using dried, ground Thai chilies, 1 teaspoon is equivalent to about 3 fresh Thai chilies.

In Thai cooking, peppers are typically ground to add heat to curry pastes and bright colors to Thai foods. Often, Thai green chilies are used for garnishing hot and spicy dishes and cooking them into all types of hot dishes.

Some of the well-known recipes with Thai chilies are khao soi, chili-garlic shrimp, yellow curry paste, chili-peanut sauce, sambal oelek, sriracha hot sauce, and nuoc cham.

Types Of Thai Chili Peppers

Frequently Asked Questions

How hot is a Thai chili pepper?

The spiciness of Thai chili peppers varies from one type of pepper to another. The most commonly used Bird’s eye pepper measures between 50,000 and 100,000 Scoville heat units. Prik Chee Fah, another popular Thai chili pepper, is a low medium-hot pepper with heat levels ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 SHU. Prik Jinda, another popular Thai red chili, has an average heat of 75,000 SHU. Overall, the average heat of Thai peppers, both green and red, range between 30,000 and 50,000 SHU.

What pepper is closest to Thai chili?

The peppers that come closest to Thai chilies (any variety in general) are serrano, cayenne, and jalapeno. Whichever pepper you choose, the desired heat level can be achieved by either increasing or decreasing the number of chilies used in your dishes.

What kind of pepper is a Thai chili?

‘Thai chili’ is a generic name that refers to different types of chili peppers (79 officially recognized variants) used in Thai cuisines. The bird’s eye pepper (Prik Kee Noo) is the best known and most commonly used chili in Thai cooking, thus often, the name ‘Thai chili’ has a synonym for bird chili. However, there are also other popular Thai chilies such as prik jinda, prik chee fah, and prik yuak which are widely used in Thai cooking.

Are Thai chili peppers hotter than cayenne peppers?

It depends on the type of Thai chili pepper taken into consideration. The average heat of most types of Thai peppers is in tune with the heat range of Cayenne pepper. But Bird’s eye pepper, the most commonly used Thai pepper, can be up to two to three times hotter than average cayenne pepper.

Which is hotter Thai chili or habanero?

Commonly used Thai chilies are typically about three times less spicy than habanero peppers.

What are green Thai chili peppers?

In general, green chili peppers are any type of chili peppers before they are ripe. Green Bird’s eye pepper, sometimes called as green Thai chilies, is often used in Thai dishes or to make fiery condiments. Crushed or whole Green Thai chile peppers are used in Thai curries, sauces, and soups to add subtle flavor and heat. Green chilies are also often stir-fried with vegetables and meat dishes for spicy flavoring.

For further reading, also have a look at the article Thai Red Curry Paste here in another post.