Chiltepe Peppers: A Little (HOT) Giant

When it comes to chiltepe peppers, don’t let size fool you. These pint-sized capsicums, native to Central America and the southern United States, look harmless but they pack a mountain of heat that will have your eyes watering as you guzzle your cerveza in hope of some respite from the burn.

How hot are we talking? HOT. The Scoville Scale, which measures just how much heat peppers pack in terms of scientific intensity, rates chiltepe peppers between 50,000 to 100,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units). For comparison, an average jalapeño is a wimpy 3,500-8,000 SHU. In short, if you are a heat-junky, this is the pepper for you. But fear not, gentle green-pepper lovers. Scoville also says that the defining characteristic of a chiltepe is that the heat comes on fast and furious, like a bull seeing red out of the shoot, but subsides fairly quickly. So if want to dip your toe (tongue) in the proverbial hot water, then chiltepe is the pepper for you.

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While the attention may be focused on the chiltepe’s heat index, it is important not to overlook the beauty of the pepper itself. No bigger than a pea, they are most often picked when green, but then will turn the most magnificent shades of purple, orange, pink, and red as they ripen. So, not only are they one of the hottest peppers, but they are also one of the prettiest, and they can be found at almost every market stall for only Q1 per bolsita.

To Use:
Since they are very tiny, attempting to cut or chop them tends to be a challenge. Instead, the use of a blender or food processor is recommended. These little chiles would find a nice home mixed with roasted tomatoes, cilantro, onions and lime juice in a salsa, or in place of hot sauce in a bloody mary. Better yet, in a michelada. That way your beer will be close at hand to put out the fire.



 Prep Time: 5 minutes /// Serves 4

• 3 limes
1 8-ounce bottle spicy tomato juice or bloody mary mix
5-10 chiltepe peppers, stems removed
4 12-ounce bottles of beer, like Gallo or Brahva 
Kosher or sea salt to taste, and for rims

Cut one lime into 8 wedges and run the wedges around the edge of four pint glasses, one per glass, then dip glasses into a shallow dish with salt. In a blender, whip tomato juice, the juice from the two remaining limes, and the chiltepe peppers until the liquids are combined and the peppers are invisible. Divide the mixture among the 4 salt-rimmed glasses. Then fill the glasses with ice and slowly pour beer into each glass until full and add salt to taste. Serve each glass with a lime slice and the rest of the beer to refresh.


Photo by: Natalie Rose

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