Guyana, the South American country bordered by Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname, is a place of great diversity, and that includes its cuisine. BBQs, stews, hot sauces, and soups are popular dishes in Guyana, and they all have one thing in common: the Wiri Wiri pepper.
The Wiri Wiri pepper is a small, red chili pepper that takes no prisoners when it comes to heat. In fact, the Wiri Wiri pepper is so hot that it is actually used as a defense mechanism by some animals in the wild.
It’s true. Imagine being chased by a jaguar. You turn around to see the big cat bearing down on you, teeth bared and ready to strike. But just as the jaguar is about to make its move, you pull out a Wiri Wiri pepper and throw it in its face. The jaguar’s eyes start watering, and it turns tail and runs the other way. That’s the power of the Wiri Wiri pepper.
Of course, you’re not likely to be attacked by a jaguar anytime soon (we hope), and that story was totally made up. But it stands to reason that if the Wiri Wiri pepper can deter a wild animal, it’s probably pretty darn hot.
We love spicy food here at Sonoran Spice, which is why we carry Wiri Wiri pepper powder, flakes, and whole peppers. These little peppers pack a serious punch -perfect for anyone who likes their food with a bit of a kick. But, before we sell, we like to first educate. That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide on everything you need to know about the Wiri Wiri pepper plant.
Let’s start with talking about what, exactly, the Wiri Wiri pepper is.
What is Wiri Wiri Pepper?
As we mentioned briefly above, the Wiri Wiri pepper is a small, red chili pepper that is native to South America – specifically Guyana. It measures in at about a half-inch (1.27 cm) and has a smooth, cherry-like texture. The Wiri Wiri plant grows best in hot, humid climates like the tropics, which is why it does so well in its native country.
The Wiri Wiri pepper plant bears small, round berries that start out green and ripen to a bright red color. Because of its cherry-like appearance, the Wiri Wiri pepper is sometimes called the Hot Cherry or Bird Cherry pepper. Pretty cool, we know.
Its cousin is the more well-known cayenne pepper, and like the cayenne, the Wiri Wiri is a member of the Capsicum Frutescens species. This species also includes other peppers, like the Thai chili pepper, African birdseye chili, and Piri Piri pepper.
Capsicum Frutescens peppers are known for their intense heat, which is why they are used so sparingly in dishes. A little goes a long way with these bad boys.
The History of the Wiri Wiri Pepper
The Wiri Wiri pepper is native to South America, specifically Guyana, but its exact origins are unknown. Some believe that the pepper was brought to Guyana by enslaved Africans, while others believe that it is a naturally occurring plant.
What we do know is that the Wiri Wiri pepper has been used in Guyana for centuries. It was used as a medicinal plant by the native people and was even thought to have spiritual healing properties, like the ability to ward off evil spirits. The Wiri Wiri pepper was also used as a defense mechanism by some animals in the wild – as we mentioned before with the (fake) jaguar story. But it really does deter animals in the wild; they won’t go near the stuff.
The Wiri Wiri pepper wasn’t introduced to the rest of the world until fairly recently. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that people outside of Guyana even knew that the Wiri Wiri pepper existed. But once word got out, there was no turning back. The Wiri Wiri pepper quickly gained popularity for its intense heat and flavor, and today it is used in dishes all over the world.
How Hot is the Wiri Wiri Pepper?
Did you know that Wiri Wiri peppers were used as a weapon by the Guyanese during war times? Yep, the peppers were made into a paste and smeared on arrows and spears. When the enemy was hit with one of these arrows or spears, the pepper would cause an intense burning sensation. Ouch.
Again, we made that up. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. But how cool would that be if it were true?
In all seriousness, you know it’s hot when even the scientific name for the pepper sounds like it’s going to burn your tongue off. The Wiri Wiri pepper plant measures in at around 100,000-150,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), which is pretty darn hot.
For those who don’t know, the Scoville Scale is a measurement of the pungency (heat) of chili peppers. The higher the number, the hotter the pepper. To give you some perspective, jalapeno peppers measure in at around 2,000-8,000 SHU, while habanero peppers come in at approximately 150,000 to 575,000 SHU. So, yeah, the Wiri Wiri is up there in terms of heat.
How to Use the Wiri Wiri Pepper
Now that we know a little bit more about the Wiri Wiri pepper, let’s talk about how to use it. As we mentioned before, the Wiri Wiri pepper is quite spicy, so it should be used cautiously.
One of the best ways to use the Wiri Wiri pepper is to make a paste out of it. This can be done by grinding the peppers into a powder and adding a little water, oil, or vinegar. The paste can then be used as a seasoning for meats, vegetables, or soups. It can also be added to sauces or marinades to give them an extra kick of flavor.
If you want to use the Wiri Wiri pepper in its whole form, we recommend roasting it first. This will help to tone down the heat a bit and bring out the flavor of the pepper. Roasted Wiri Wiri peppers can then be used in dishes like fajitas, tacos, or enchiladas. They can also be diced up and added to soups or stews.
Another idea is to pickle the Wiri Wiri peppers. This is a great way to add some spice and flavor to your favorite dishes. Pickled Wiri Wiri peppers can be used as a topping for burgers or sandwiches, or they can be added to salads or stirred into soups.
If you’re dealing with flakes or powder, then you can pretty much use them anywhere you want to add a little heat. Sprinkle the flakes on top of pizzas, salads, or eggs. Add the powder to marinades, dry rubs, or sauces. The possibilities are endless!
What do Wiri Wiri Peppers Taste Like?
Wiri Wiri peppers have a fruity, yet spicy flavor that is unlike any other pepper out there. The flavor is often described as being similar to that of fruity tomato, yet with a strong spiciness that lingers on the tongue.
Wiri Wiri Safety Precautions
As we mentioned before, the Wiri Wiri pepper is quite spicy. If you are not a fan of spice, we recommend steering clear of this pepper. If you do decide to use it, ensure you use our guide below on how to properly handle the pepper.
Where to Buy Wiri Wiri Peppers
If you’re looking to buy Wiri Wiri peppers, your best bet is to head to an online retailer that specializes in hot peppers, like Sonoran Spice. We love these peppers and use them often in our own cooking, so we’re always stocked up and ready to ship out fresh peppers to our customers.
We sell Wiri Wiri pepper powder, flakes, or whole peppers, alongside a bunch of other amazing chili peppers. So, whether you’re looking to make a Wiri Wiri paste, add some roasted peppers to your next dish, or just want to try something new, we’ve got you covered.
We also cater to whole businesses, like restaurants and food manufacturers, so if you’re looking to buy Wiri Wiri peppers in bulk, we can help with that too. Just shoot us an email or give us a call, and we’ll be happy to discuss your needs.
The Wiri Wiri pepper is a unique chili pepper with beautiful organoleptic properties. It has the power to enhance any dish with its fruity, yet spicy flavor. However, due to its strong spiciness, it must be used sparingly.
If you can handle the heat, we recommend giving this pepper a try in your next dish. Just be sure to follow our safety precautions when handling it!
Best of luck, and happy cooking!