Taste testing the world's hottest pepper

The bhut jalokia, or ghost chili, has a Scoville heat measurement of 1 million units—compare to jalapenos, which top out around 8000 units. Prior to 2003, it was just a myth, lacking even photographic evidence. Now, it's in the Guinness Book and will soon be the key ingredient in tear-gas hand grenades used by the Indian military. Apparently, it also has an appealing citrus flavor, followed by a horrible burning sensation.

For a quick look at what jolokia hath wrought, fast forward to about six minutes into this video. There's much less running about screaming than I would have guessed, but the man ends up looking very physically ill—pale, sweaty and generally like he just came down with a bad case of flu.

Pictured in thumbnail: A far braver human than I will ever be, courtesy Flickr user wstryder, via CC


    1. LOL! Knew some guys in the Army who had a contest once to see who could drink the most shot glasses full of the liquid left in the cups of pickled jalepenos at a pizza place once. Each drank about 8. Should have heard the screams and moans coming from the bathroom stalls the next morning.

      1. LOL! Knew some guys in the Army who had a contest once to see who could drink the most shot glasses full of the liquid left in the cups of pickled jalepenos at a pizza place once. Each drank about 8. Should have heard the screams and moans coming from the bathroom stalls the next morning.

        You know, I hear this a lot, but I’ve never experienced it and I’ve eaten a ton of chili peppers (actually, I love just eating pickled chili peppers). Maybe it doesn’t happen to everyone?

  1. So, does anyone know where these could be purchased?
    I figure I have no idea how to tell if they’re legitimate, so most of the ones on ebay are probably fakes.

  2. Can this cause actual physical damage? What I’m wondering is, is the spiciness just an overpowering, punishing flavor? Or is it a chemical burn?

    1. Spiciness as caused by capsaicin or cinnamon is not actually a taste – it is not processed by taste buds or gustatory cortices in the brain. Rather, it is a somatosensory response from the trigeminal and glossopharyngeal nerves. Basically, it is the pain nerves on your tongue reacting as if you are being burned.

      High concentrations of capsaicin can be damaging to nerves. I worked on a study using very very high doses of capsaicin (we had to wear gloves, face masks, and goggles when applying) on individuals with peripheral neuropathy. The capsaicin gave them an equivalent of a bad sunburn on their legs, and temporarily took away pain sensation in those nerves (for about 6 months)

  3. Handling hot peppers without gloves can cause chemical burns on your hands. This happened to my mom, when she harvested some peppers that were made much spicier than normal by an abnormally hot and dry summer. Her hands swelled and turned red, and she was in tears. It was so bad we almost took her to the emergency room.

    So, … I would guess that they could cause chemical burns on your insides, but in my experience, the mouth is less sensitive than skin, so maybe it would take more than the bhut jalokia to harm a healthy person. Apparently people eat these willingly?

  4. I have some sea salt that is infused with the juices of this pepper. Amazingly addictive stuff.

  5. I have a hard time sympathizing with this guy after he ate the Ghost chili. I mean seriously, it’s so hot that it’s dangerous (India IS planning on using it as a weapon). I believe it would have been sensible to apply restraint on taste testing it and only consuming half or 1/3 of the chili.

  6. It gets worse:

    That’s apparently a second try at the same pepper, at least according to Wikipedia.

  7. The pulp from the pepper is also used in rural ares of India as a deterrent against marauding elephants. Apparently, smearing it on fence posts gives off enough of an evil vapor that most wildlife won’t go within fifty yards of it!

  8. Jalokias seem to come up on BoingBoing every couple of months … and I’m compelled to leave a comment about ’em every time! :D

    You can order the chiles through specialty online suppliers. There’re a couple that specialize in spicy foods that will carry them.

    If you’re a fan of extreme spicy food, then these are worth the effort of trying. If super-suicide chicken wings are a walk in the park for you, then jalokias will be right up your alley.

    Taking a bite out of one is foolish beyond belief. I would put one chopped, dried pod into an 8 serving pot of chili. This makes for a fairly spicy chili.

    The aroma and flavour of these guys are very distinctive. They don’t just add heat, they also add a delicious flavour.

  9. After spending nearly an hour watching videos like this on YouTube, my favorite response to eating one of these so far has been a panicked “What do I do? What am I going to do!?”

  10. I have wanted to try one of these for some time now but haven’t gotten the nerve. I’ve had my airway shut down after eating Birdseye Peppers, which are only 50-100k Scovilles so I can’t imagine how bad these must be.

  11. Wow, this guy seems to have lasted quite a while with little complaint. 15 seconds into eating of those and I have no doubt I’d be crying like a baby and begging for some ice cream.

    1. I’m surprised he didn’t get any in his eyes when he wiped the sweat from his face with his bare hands.

      1. He didn’t cut the pepper, he ate it whole, so he wouldn’t have gotten much on his fingers. Has he gotten juice on them, it probably would have been different.

  12. I can attest that the bhut jolokia exists and it is extremely intense. Probably a bit more than the gentleman in the video shows. It is exactly as he describes as far as taste and burn. A rather sweet flavor, and the burn concentrates more in the back of your throat & sinuses than anything. The fact he didn’t reached for a tall glass of milk in the video is beyond surprise. Although I can also attest that the burn secedes quicker than you may think.
    You can purchase them at many independent dealers on line (my favorite is Peppers in Delaware.) If you try it, I would definitely recommend wearing gloves and having a glass of milk ready in case you cannot stand the heat.

  13. I swear, he breathed out on the video and I felt heat on my brow. Power of suggestion. Eating that pepper would kill me.

  14. Chilli does NOT cause a chemical burn… the active component found in chillis called capsaicin fools your taste nerves into believing they are burning. The possible physical symptoms from eating chilli are a result of your body reacting to the burning sensation.

  15. I’m sure Cory will be glad to know that you can see the Bhut Jolokia growing on the “Living With The Land” ride at Epcot in the LAND Pavilion.

  16. Check out the video where the same guy test drives the Naga Morich… the Bhut seemed like a walk in the park compared to that one. :D

  17. I used to work at a bar in Chicago that served hot wings in a sauce made with bhut jalokia. I had one bite of one hot wing, one time, from a fork, and broke out in hives all around my mouth.

    On the other hand, I saw a drunk guy eat two dozen of them once with no problems (though I venture to guess he had a few problems later in the day).

    1. Back when I was in high school(not so long ago) a mother of a good friend of mine would make hot wings using these peppers. 4 of us got pretty drunk and ate about 60 of them, the next morning we all related our tales of bathroom horror. I think I shed a tear or two.

  18. I was in New Orleans afew weeks back and found a hot sauce called “The Ghost”, which is made from Bhut Jolokia. I bought it and am waiting to gather m pepper head friends who have been saying “The habaneros we seem to be getting just arent as hot as they used to be.”

    I suggest reading the capsaicin wiki.

    My GF tried to buy me some of these peppers for valentines day. They never arrived and she is still fighting with where she ordered them from and the post office.

    I hope I am able to maintain my composure as this man did and ride the dragon of pain to euphoria.

    I have only had the heat on the way out issue once, and it was due to some seriously greasy wings. One problem that is not discussed much, and should be, is that capsaicin will build up in your seminal fluid after time, causing much discomfort to your significant other. I wont share the details in this thread tho.

  19. i have a video of a friend repeatedly punching himself in the face. would anyone like to see it?

  20. I like having flavor in my food as much as the next guy, but I’m the sort of guy who thinks,
    “ya know, those bright orange poison dart frogs are orange to let other animals know not to eat them… certain plants give off certain smells or are certain colors to encourage us not to eat them… and I think those super spicy peppers are among that group. If something causes that much pain, it can’t possibly cause any pleasure. It’s nature’s way of saying DO NOT EAT ME ANYMORE!!”

    1. I’ve been wondering the same thing: what natural purpose does it serve for peppers to be this hot? Most fruit plants rely on the fruits being eaten to help spread the seeds. What’s the point of growing a fruit that nothing can eat?

      1. To the best of my knowledge it’s mostly to stop the wrong sort of animal from eating them. Mammalian digestive systems break down the seeds, and the plant defends against us eating them by trying to blow your head off. Birds on the other hand pass the seeds functionally, and they also don’t get the burn (well, if they do they don’t mind)

      2. Birds are not sensitive to capsaicin so they’ll happily eat these peppers. They also don’t have molars which makes them much more interesting from the plant’s point of view.

  21. Maxwell Street Market, Chicago’s former testament to Free as in Freedom market spaces had a produce seller known for exotica. IIRC, about 1988 or so- a friend who craved insanely hot stuff was sampling peppers to buy in bulk. The vendor literally slapped my friend’s hand way from one cigar box of gnarled brownish golden things. Looked like Vanilla Beans.

    Our group’s multilingual member eventually translated the issue as- the pepper’s name was “Gringomuerte” =killer of Gringo? Which amused our pepper loving friend no end. He calmly flashed his hand out- grabbed one and chewed it up like Doublemint Gum. The produce vendor looked as if Satan was chewing that pepper instead of our friend.

    The vendor backed away at first, mumbling Diablo.. diablo. or similar. But he did smilingly take $10 for that cigar box of “Gringomuerte” peppers.

  22. We are a Thai-American family and we regularly eat pretty damn spicy food (although my wife and I have tempered ourselves a bit as we’ve aged.

    Anyway, a friend sent some wonderfully prepared, dried, whole bhut jakola.

    It’s as hot as anything I’ve ever tried. One tiny little corner of a dried piece squished into a pile of rice on my plate was enough to really feel. I’m sure that running straight at a full pepper without rice or something else to balance it out would be very painful.

    What I truly appreciated about the pepper was that it had such an interesting flavor. I’ve noticed that some of the super hot ones – scotch bonnet and habanero come to mind – really have distinct, unique flavors that set them apart. The jokola had a rich, smoky flavor that was really quite deep and nice.

    I’d like to see bhut jakola-lite in the market to be able to take advantage of that flavor.

  23. Jalapenos are on the outer edge of my comfort zone, so I can’t imagine scarfing one of those cursed little things. You can keep your super-hot peppers. Seeing that guy suffering in the video was enough to give me sympathy pains.

  24. Frankly, I’m skeptical of this video. I really did not think it was possible to eat an entire ghost chili like that… God God… How did he even survive it???

  25. Grew these the last 2 years in the back yard. Go to the Chili Pepper Institute of New Mexico State University to buy seeds. http://www.chilepepperinstitute.org/

    Their growing season is a little long for Ohio where I am. You can get around this by starting the plants inside in late winter. Also I recommend overwintering a couple of plants then putting them back outside the next spring. They will get absolutely huge, with terraced bunches of peppers hanging like bells from its branches.

    They are hot I’ve got tons dried and ground.

  26. I love how this guy explains in a calm and understated manner the sensations he’s experiencing as his face gets redder and redder.

    He never loses his composure, unlike most of the screaming, panting, Habanero eatin’ kids on YouTube.

  27. Only mammals are effected, not birds, whose different digestive system makes them a much better carrier.

    Keep in mind that seeds do not only care that they get eaten, but many need to get eaten by a specific kind of animal.

  28. Capsicum was synthesized in the 1930’s. Is it somehow cheaper to get it from these plants and then distill it somehow? Oh, and these things are amazingly awesome to eat in very small amounts. Got one at a farmers market last year. Kept the seeds and now have 9 plants that just sprouted last week.

  29. I ate a couple of these bad boys at a competition a couple of years ago. Spectacularly hot, but IMO they’re much tastier than habaneros.

  30. This is just asking to be sampled for a porno or techno track — “My whole body,” “My tongue is throbbing,” “The back of my throat,” etc.

  31. its not true guinness on their website say they will only consider it as its hard to prove and hard to determine strength etc

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