A mini-bell with jalapeño-like heat…
Scoville heat units (SHU): 500 – 4,000
Jalapeño reference point: 5 times milder to equal heat
Origin: United States
Products and seeds: Cajun Belle pepper on Amazon
Normally sweet peppers are known for their delicious flavor, but not much to boast on the heat side of things, if anything at all. The Cajun Belle throws the normal playbook out the window. It has all the deliciousness of a sweet pepper, but with a heat that at minimum tickles the tongue and at its max provides a jalapeño-like punch. It’s a beauty in the garden, too, providing plenty of color, whether outdoors or in containers.
How hot is the Cajun Belle pepper?
There’s a pretty wide spread of heat outcomes with the Cajun Belle, and a lot has to do with when they’re picked and eaten. Like with all hot peppers, the spiciness in this chili increases as the pepper ages on the vine, so a fully ripened red Cajun Belle will have much more heat than an unripened green one. This is critical since Cajun Belle’s are a type of bell pepper and are eaten, like other sweet peppers, throughout their maturation cycle (from green to red).
There’s also dispute on the overall heat peak of this chili. While some say the Cajun Belle tops out at 1,000 Scoville heat units (poblano pepper level heat), many experience a heat that’s more inline with our reference point, the jalapeño. We don’t see Cajun Belle’s reaching 8,000 SHU like a jalapeño can, but it certainly seems to be able to reach between 3,000 and 4,000 SHU which equals a mild or moderate heat jalapeño. Really, the Cajun Belle is often a mild chili, but it can cross over into the medium heat zone.
What does the Cajun Belle pepper look like and taste like?
It looks a lot like a mini bell pepper – two to three inches in length, with multiple lobes at the base. They age, too, following the common pepper color pattern – from green to a rich red hue.
The flavor behind the heat is much like a typical sweet pepper, fresh and flavorfully sweet (and that sweetness increases with the time on the vine). The heat is layered atop this sweetness, and it creates a unique eating experience – part flavorful bell pepper, part jalapeño.
How can you use this chili?
Anywhere you can use a bell pepper, a Cajun Belle can do the trick, with a little more pizazz. It’s a great salsa chili, especially with salsas that tend towards the sweeter side. The Cajun Belle is also useful as a stuffed pepper (though smaller than the typical bell), and its sweet heat is quite delicious paired with a simple salad. Try grilling them, too, for your summer BBQ. The sweet and spicy flavor is a great complement to red meats.
Where can you buy Cajun Belles?
These chilies are growing in popularity, though they aren’t typically found at supermarkets. Check local chili farms to see if they are available. Or, if you garden, they are easy to grow yourself. Cajun Belle pepper seeds are widely available (see them here on Amazon). If you’re looking for a bell pepper substitute that leans into spicy, this is a chili pepper you’ll want to grow.