Vegetable of the Month: Chili Peppers

WebMD Public Information from the CDC

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic

Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD

Hot peppers (chilies) are often used to spice up dishes, and they are especially popular in ethnic cuisine including Mexican, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Arab and Spanish cooking. Chilies are an excellent source of vitamin C if you can withstand their powerful bite.

Chili Peppers
Serving Size: 46g
Amounts Per Serving % Daily Value
Calories 10
Calories from Fat 0
Total Fat 0g 0%
  Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 50mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
  Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
  Sugars 1g
Protein 1g
Vitamin A 4%
Vitamin C 60%
Calcium 2%
Iron 2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Contrary to popular belief, the hottest part of the chili pepper is not the seeds but where the seed attaches to the white membrane inside the pepper. This area has the highest concentration of capsaicinoids. Capsaicinoids are flavorless, odorless substances that act on pain receptors in the mouth and throat. Capsaicin is the primary capsaicinoid. Capsaicinoids can be found throughout the flesh of chili peppers though their concentration varies in different areas so that one part of a pepper may be hot and another part of the same pepper quite mild.

The seeds are often hot because they are in such close contact with the white membrane.

There are several varieties of chili peppers (see box below) and each differs in flavor and heat intensity. Even within each variety, there may differences in how "hot" each particular chili is. Typically, larger chilies are more mild because they contain less seeds and white membrane in proportion to their size. Most varieties can be found dried, canned, or fresh.




Anaheim Chili Anaheim (California Green Chile or Long Green Chile): One of the most commonly used varieties in the United States, especially in stuffed chiles. This chili is long, slender and lobed, green or red in color and mildly hot. They can be eaten when green or when they are their mature red color.
Ancho Chili Ancho: Dried or fresh poblano pepper. Dried anchos are flat, wrinkled, and heart shaped. They range in color from very dark red to almost black. Anchos are mild to moderately hot and often soaked and ground for use in sauces.
Cascabel Chili Cascabel: Green or red, small and round, moderately hot and typically available dried. When dried, their skin turns a translucent red-brown color and their seeds rattle inside.
Cayenne Chili Cayenne (Long Hots): Red when fully mature, long (6 to 10 inches), thin and straight or curled at the tips. Very hot. Cayenne can be found dried and ground into a powder that is seen as generic "red pepper" in the spice aisle.
Cherry Chili Cherry: Round and red like a cherry. Sold fresh or pickled in jars, these peppers range from mild to moderately hot.
Abanero Chili Habanero (Scotch Bonnet): Typically yellow-orange but they can be green, red, or orange. These peppers are lantern shaped and typically about 2 inches long. The hottest pepper grown commercially; intense fiery flavor; a unique floral flavor and an extremely intense heat that affects the nasal passages.
Hungarian Chili Hungarian: These peppers start out yellow and ripen to orange or red; they are moderately hot.
Jalapeno Chili Jalapeno: Most often green when mature but sometimes red, these peppers are about 2 inches in length with cracks around their stems. They are very hot, with an immediate bite. Jalape?os are sold canned, sliced, and pickled and are added to many products during processing including sausage, cheese, and jelly.
Poblano Chili Poblano: Ancho peppers that are green. Poblano peppers look like small bell peppers and are mild to hot in taste. They are often roasted and peeled prior to being used in soups, sauces, casseroles or even stuffed with meat and cheese for a dish called chilies rellenos.
Serrano Chili Serrano: Sold red or mature green and about 1 to 4 inches in length. Moderate to very hot with an intense bite. Serrano chilis are often used in Thai cooking and they are also quite popular in Mexico and the southwestern United States.