Just how hot is a kanthari chilli? Discover the hottest chillies in India

Kanthari chilli. Photo: Shutterstock/Pattypattra

The popular stereotype that Indian food is spicy holds a morsel of truth. India is renowned for its rich culinary traditions, and chillies play a vital role in adding the characteristic heat and flavour to its diverse dishes.

Among the hottest chillies grown in India is the kanthari chilli, known for its intense heat and unique flavour profile. Let’s explore the kanthari chilli and other top contenders for the hottest chillies in India.

Kanthari chilli - small but mighty
The kanthari chilli, also known as bird’s eye chilli in Kerala, is a small but potent variety. Despite its diminutive size, it packs a significant punch, with Scoville Heat Units (SHU) ranging from 50,000 to 100,000. This makes it much hotter than the common jalapeño, which averages around 2,500 to 8,000 SHU.

(The Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) is a measure of the spiciness or heat of chilli peppers and other spicy foods. Named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, the Scoville scale quantifies the amount of capsaicin present in a pepper. Capsaicin is the compound responsible for the sensation of heat. The title of the hottest chilli in the world is currently held by the variety Pepper X with 3.18 million SHU.)

The kanthari chilli is typically small, slender, and often white or light green when immature, turning red upon ripening. It has a sharp, pungent flavour that can enhance the taste of various dishes. Commonly used in South Indian cuisine, particularly in Kerala, it adds a fiery kick to curries, pickles, and chutneys.

The hottest chillies in India

While the kanthari chilli is undoubtedly hot, India is home to several other chilli varieties that boast impressive heat levels. Here are some of the hottest chillies you’ll find in the country:

Representative image: Shutterstock/MG Best For You

1. Bhut Jolokia (Ghost pepper)
Scoville Heat Units: 1,041,427 SHU
Region: Predominantly grown in Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur
Notable fact: Once held the title of the world’s hottest chilli.

2. Naga Morich
Scoville Heat Units: 1,000,000+ SHU
Region: Commonly found in Northeastern India, particularly Nagaland and Manipur
Notable fact: Closely related to the Bhut Jolokia with similar intense heat.

3. Dhani (bird’s eye chilli)
Scoville Heat Units: 100,000 - 225,000 SHU
Region: Widely grown in Northeast India
Notable fact: Used extensively in the region’s traditional dishes and spicy condiments.

4. Byadgi chilli
Scoville Heat Units: 50,000 - 100,000 SHU
Region: Karnataka
Notable fact: Known for its bright red colour and moderate heat, often used in South Indian cuisine.

5. Guntur sannam
Scoville Heat Units: 35,000 - 40,000 SHU
Region: Andhra Pradesh
Notable fact: A staple in Andhra cuisine, contributing to its reputation for spiciness.

6. Ramnad Mundu/Gundu
Scoville Heat Units: 30,000 - 50,000 SHU
Region: Tamil Nadu
Notable fact: Known for its round shape and robust flavour, commonly used in South Indian cooking.

9. Madras Red Chilli
Scoville Heat Units: 40,000 - 50,000 SHU
Region: Tamil Nadu
Notable fact: Often used in Indian pickles and South Indian curries.

Note that a popular variety, Kashmiri chilli's Scoville Heat Units is between 1,000 - 2,000 SHU. It is known for its vibrant colour and mild heat, often used in tandoori dishes and Rogan Josh.

So, the next time you crave some heat in your food, remember the mighty Kanthari and its fellow Indian chillies. Just a tiny bite can set your taste buds ablaze and transport you to the heart of Indian flavour.




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