Black Pearl Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are Black Pearl peppers?

When you hear Black Pearl, it’s easy for your imagination to run wild: from the infamous treasure-seeking ship in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies to rare jewels that widen the eyes of all that see them. And so it goes with the Black Pearl pepper. It’s a jewel. This is a stunning ornamental pepper plant – seriously one of the most beautiful plants of any kind on the planet – and its chilies contain a surprising pop of heat (10,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units.)

black pearl pepper

Black Pearl pepper fast facts

  • Scoville heat units (SHU): 10,000 – 30,000 SHU
  • Median heat: 20,000 SHU
  • Origin: United States
  • Capsicum species: Annuum
  • Jalapeño reference scale: 4 to 12 times hotter
  • Use: Ornamental
  • Size: Approximately 1/2 to 1-inch long, bulb-like
  • Flavor: Sweet, Fruity, Tropical

What do Black Pearl peppers look like?

Few plants can claim as much beauty as the Black Pearl pepper plant. It’s like something out of a children’s fantasy, ethereal and unexpected. It looks like it should be part of the other-worldly scenery of Snow White or Alice in Wonderland.  It’s so beautiful that All America Selections (AAS) awarded it for its beauty in 2006.

The leaves range from a deep purple to an onyx black in hue, and the plant blooms beautiful purple flowers. The peppers themselves are tiny, closer to chiltepin or pequin peppers in size than typical long peppers. Unripened Black Pearls take on a similar onyx black color, and as they age they turn shades to a sultry crimson red. There’s no other way to say it – this is a stunning plant. No wonder it’s such a favorite for ornamental landscaping.

Can you eat Black Pearl peppers?

Don’t let the term “ornamental” fool you in this case, these are edible hot peppers, just like any jalapeño or cayenne. It’s just that they’re so stunning that many people grow them to enjoy with their eyes and not with their mouths. We happen to think it should be both.

How hot are Black Pearl peppers?

These chilies tip the Scoville scale at about 10,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units. The unripened onyx black to deep purple chilies tend to be at the lower end of that scale, while the ripened crimson red peppers spike the needle.

This places the Black Pearl firmly in the medium-hot pepper range, about 4 to 12 times hotter than a jalapeño. On the pepper scale, it sits on par with the serrano pepper or, at its hottest, it’s akin to the mildest cayenne or tabasco chilies that you’ll find.

The heat itself is a slow burn. With some chilies, the heat hits fast. Not with the Black Pearl. It creeps up on you, similar to the much hotter ghost pepper in that way. The initial bite provides a mild citrus-like taste, but that’s followed up within a minute with a building spiciness. The heat tops off within a few minutes and slowly begins to dissipate.

Where can you find Black Pearl pepper?

Likely you’ll need to grow them yourself. You won’t find a jar of these ornamental chilies at your local grocer. But your local gardening store may very well have these plants available for garden landscaping. Black Pearl pepper seeds can also be bought there and online (Amazon).

So if you’re into landscaping with beautiful and unique plants, or you love chilies that are off the beaten path of the pepper scale, this is one plant that you should get to know. The heat is significant compared to a jalapeño, but still nowhere near the typical cayenne. Most of the family can enjoy it, and the look of these peppers is sure to draw some wows.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on October 11, 2021 to include new content.
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They are amazingly beautiful! My husband has tried them both purple and red…they are hot!!!


You are right, I can agree with every single word.

my two new seedlings are about 2cm only… looking fwd to see them in big pot soon


found these two years ago and have grown and overwintered them ever since. beautiful.

Valdin Ericsson

Black pearl peppers Re the bestest