What Are Carolina Reaper Peppers?

Carolina Reaper Plant with Pepper Pod - Sonoran Spice

If you’re looking for a hot pepper, you won’t find anything more extreme than the Carolina Reaper. This chili was first awarded the prestigious title of “World’s Hottest Pepper” in 2013. To this day, it still holds the Guinness world record for the hottest chili pepper in the world.

Wilbur Scoville
Wilbur Scoville

Since 2017 the Carolina Reaper has had an updated average Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating of 1,641,000, with some individual peppers measuring an impressive 2.2 million Scoville Heat Units. Previously, the pepper was only rated 1,569,300 SHU, but thanks to some 2017 tests at Winthrop University, the pepper is known to be hotter than ever.

Scoville Heat Units are the widely accepted unit of heat measurement for chili peppers. The scale, invented by Wilbur Scoville, has been around for over a hundred years. Each unit represents one dilution. If you extract pure chili oil from the Carolina Reaper, it would take an average of 1,641,000 dilutions of sugar water until you could no longer detect any heat.

Scoville Scale - Sonoran Spice

Carolina Reaper Characteristics

How to Use a Carolina Reaper

The Carolina Reaper has a sweet, fruity taste. When you first bite into one of these peppers (if you’re brave enough to do so), you’ll taste these flavors before the spiciness. Some people detect hints of cinnamon and even chocolate. When the fruity flavor passes, you’ll start to feel the extremely hot intense burn that only the Carolina Reaper can deliver.

How does one use such a super hot pepper? Hot sauce is a favorite way to consume the Carolina Reaper. If you really like super hot heat levels, you can cook with the whole pepper. Carolina Reapers also make great pepper flakes and pepper powders are the perfect ingredient for dry rubs on BBQ meats. But remember to always be cautious when you’re cooking with hot peppers; wear gloves while handling and cutting Carolina Reapers to avoid getting burned by the chili oil.

Carolina Reaper Origins

South Carolina Map Depicting Where Carolina Reaper Peppers Originate From

The Carolina Reaper is a cross between a red Ghost Pepper and the Red Habanero, two peppers that are both hot in their own right, despite the fact that neither one makes the World’s Hottest Peppers List currently. This pepper was artificially created, although it is not genetically modified. True to its name, the Carolina Reaper was produced in South Carolina, but it was first called the HP22B. Ed Currie is the man behind the first Carolina Reaper.

Dispelling Myths About the World’s Hottest Pepper

Some people are concerned that because the Carolina Reaper is so hot, it could actually kill them. This is false. Although eating a Carolina Reaper causes your pain receptors to react as if you are experiencing pain, it’s only an illusion. The Reaper won’t do any damage unless you have an allergy or an ulcer. You should not have a problem eating the Carolina Reaper unless you know that spicy foods and hot peppers negatively affect your health.

 If you don’t normally eat spicy foods, it’s probably not a great idea to go straight for a Carolina Reaper. Instead, ease yourself into eating the Carolina Reaper by trying more mild peppers like the jalapeno first. But if you’re experimenting and discover you can’t take the heat, a glass of milk should help you recover.

Carolina Reaper Appearance

The original Carolina Reaper was red, and this remains the most common color today. However, chocolate, yellow, and peach Carolina Reapers also exist. Even red peppers will start out as green and turn orange before becoming a deep red. Through each three of these phases, the pepper’s flavor and heat will increase. So, if you pick your pepper while it’s still orange (and eat it before it turns red), it won’t carry the same pungent heat as a red pepper.

Carolina Reaper Peppers
Two Fresh Carolina Reaper Pods

Carolina Reapers are squattier and more textured than their ancestors the Red Habanero and Ghost Pepper. If you rub your finger along the pepper’s skin, you’ll feel many small bumps and grooves. Every Carolina Reaper has a long, thin branch at the bottom of the pod, which is known as “the scorpion’s tail” due to its resemblance to a stinger. These peppers typically have a diameter of three-fourths-inch to one-and-a-half inches.

Growing Instructions

If you want to grow Carolina Reapers, you should ensure the plants have full sun. Plant your Carolina Reaper seeds twelve to sixteen inches (thirty to forty centimeters) deep to protect the roots from getting burned. You should plant your Carolina Reaper in temperatures of at least sixty-four to sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit (or eighteen to twenty degrees Celsius), although temperatures in the mid-eighties are preferable for optimal results. These plants thrive the most when they’re directly planted into the soil outdoors. However, if you want to grow your Carolina Reapers in a container, choose one that’s at least three gallons big. Five to ten gallons is preferable for the maximum amount of peppers.

Carolina Reaper plant starts in Sonoran Spice germination room.
Carolina Reaper Plants in Rockwool Cubes at Sonoran Spice

Be careful not to overwater the plants. You should only water them when the soil has completely dried down, but don’t wait until the leaves droop. A mist gun is a great way to control the amount you water the plants, but if you have a large garden, that probably won’t be very convenient. If you’re growing the plant in a container, make sure you have a good amount of drainage.

For best results, you should use fertilizer. Look for fertilizer for growing vegetables or specifically tomatoes to yield healthy Carolina Reapers. Avoid using a fertilizer that has nitrogen. You may also need to spray your plants with some calcium if the fertilizer does not contain any.

At Sonoran Spice, we grow the peppers hydroponically. We start with Rockwool cubes and Hydroton using an Ebb and Flow type system. We then transfer them to the soil once they are larger and the temperature is right. This is a great way to get a head start on the growing season especially if you live in a climate with a long winter.

Carolina Reaper plant starts in Sonoran Spice germination room.
Pepper Plants in Hydroton at Sonoran Spice

Picking Instructions

Ripe Carolina Reaper pepper pod on stem.
Mature Carolina Reaper Pepper

After the seeds have germinated, you’ll have to usually wait three months for the fruit to be perfectly ripe for picking. Carolina Reaper plants grow as high as five feet tall. The bases of the plants are usually three to five feet wide. If you pick the peppers before they are fully ripe, they will continue to ripen. Just place them on a tissue in your kitchen. It’s crucial for you to always wear gloves when picking the peppers.

 The plant will keep growing more peppers during the season as long as you keep picking. If you protect the plants by bringing them indoors for winter, you can keep your plant serving you well for several years. The current longest-lasting Carolina Reaper plant is ten years old.

New peppers are being discovered all the time and, thus, the World’s Hottest Pepper is constantly changing. But after several consistent years of superior hotness, it’s unlikely there will be a hotter pepper anytime soon. If you want the all-time hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper is a safe bet.

Google Trend of Carolina Reaper

Make a delicious homemade spicy ranch dip using any of our pepper or flake products then pair it with our Carolina Reaper Baked Chicken Wing Recipe. You’ll have the perfect appetizer for all your chilihead friends. A perfect pair for your next Superbowl party.

Sonoran Spice Spicy Ranch Dip
Spicy Pepper Ranch Dip Recipe
Carolina Reaper Baked Chicken Wings
Carolina Reaper Baked Chicken Wings

Sonoran Spice Carolina Reaper Products

At Sonoran Spice we carry a wide range of Carolina Reaper Products. We carry Carolina Reaper powder, flakes, whole peppers, candies, spice filed keychains, popcorn, beef jerky, peanut brittle and more.


What Exactly Are Scoville Heat Units?
pepperscale.com/scoville-heat-units/(opens in a new tab)

Sonoran Spice Carolina Reaper Hot Sauce

Sonoran Spice Carolina Reaper Peppers

Sonoran Spice Carolina Reaper Flakes

Confirmed: Smokin Ed’s Carolina Reaper sets new record for hottest chili

4 thoughts on “What Are Carolina Reaper Peppers?”

  1. The Reaper is now #3 in the world, Pepper X developed by Smokin Ed Currie is #1…he is also the creator of the Carolina Reaper.
    Either this article is very old or someone failed on their research….

    • Hey Drew! The Carolina Reaper is still the official world’s hottest pepper per Guinness Book of World Records. While Pepper X may be hotter, it still has to go through the same rigorous process to determine that to be the official world’s hottest pepper. Once that happens, we will create a new article for the Pepper X and update this page.

    • it’s inevitable that a hotter pepper will be created, but I’ll be damned if I know why. The reaper is so hot 1 pod makes 3 gallons of chili scorching, and my reaper wings are so dang hot half a dozen will leave you smokin.

      For a real treat, soak a pod in a quart of whiskey for about 3 hours (no longer!).


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