Apache Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are Apache peppers?

Best known for its compact shape, the Apache pepper is a dwarf plant perfect for container gardening, both indoors (in a sunny corner or window sill) and out. But don’t let the size of the plant lull you into thinking there’s a family-friendly heat in these chilies. No, the Apache is chock full of spice (80,000 to 100,000 Scoville heat units), rivaling the likes of extra-hot Thai chilies. And there’s a touch of sweetness behind the heat – perfect for use in salsas and spicy Asian cuisine.

Apache pepper

Apache pepper fast facts

  • Scoville heat units (SHU): 80,000 – 100,000 SHU
  • Median heat: 90,000 SHU
  • Origin: Unknown
  • Capsicum species: Annuum
  • Jalapeño reference scale: 10 to 40 times hotter
  • Use: Culinary
  • Size: 1 to 2 inches long, bullet-shaped
  • Flavor: Sweet

How hot is the Apache pepper?

Its Scoville heat rating of 80,000 to 100,000 Scoville heat units aligns the Apache pepper as an extra-hot chili, though on the milder side of that qualification. In relation to our jalapeño reference point, this puts the Apache as 10 to 40 times hotter than a jalapeño. It sits in the same heat level as a Thai pepper (though Thai chilies have a much lower floor, reaching down to 50,000 SHU or common cayenne pepper level heat). At its height, the Apache touches habanero pepper level spiciness (100,000 to 350,000 SHU), but only barely.

What does the Apache look like and taste like?

Growing to around an inch or two in length, Apache peppers are bullet-shaped, often slightly curved, tapering slightly to a point. They follow a typical chili pepper aging pattern – maturing from green to a rich red. The plant itself is small – yet the yield of chilies it delivers is large – making the Apache pepper plant an exceptional option for container gardening or small space gardens. It’ll grow in indoor containers and on window sills as well, as long as there is partial sun available to the plant.

And while it grows well in containers and is a good looking plant, it doesn’t have the “wow” look of many container-ready ornamental peppers. The peppers hang down from the plant, unlike many ornamentals where the chilies grow up towards the sky, and the coloration is very normal compared to the often vibrant and dramatic ornamental chili crowd. Think of it more like an extra-hot culinary chili pepper that shows well, with better flavor than most ornamentals.

Behind the heat, the taste of these peppers is flavorful (more so than most ornamentals), but not overly unique. It has a bell pepper-like fresh flavor with a sweetness that grows the longer the chili stays on the vine (red Apaches will be sweeter than green).

What are the best uses for this chili pepper?

Even though the Apache pepper is suitable for containers, the intense heat keeps it from being an everyday chili for most. It’s a big spiciness that’s delicious for hotter salsas and sauces. The Apache also makes a very good option as a Thai pepper alternative for spicy Asian cuisine. They also dry and pickle reasonably well to preserve these peppers for months to come.

Where can you buy Apache peppers?

You’ll find Apache pepper seeds and plants at many gardening centers, or you can buy them online (Amazon). Finding them fresh is more elusive – but you may find them at local farmer’s markets as they are a chili often grown in small batches due to their container-friendliness.

If you’re a container gardener who likes chilies verging on the hotter side of the Scoville scale, the Apache is one to note. Few perform as well in small spaces, and there’s just enough flavor for real culinary use.


UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on June 10, 2021 to include new content. It was originally published on September 18, 2017.
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