Perhaps the hottest pepper on the planet…
Dragon’s Breath pepper fast facts:
- Scoville heat units (SHU): 2,480,000 SHU (peak level)
- Median heat: N/D
- Origin: United Kingdom
- Capsicum species: Chinense
- Jalapeño reference scale: 310 to 992 times hotter
- Use: Culinary
- Size: Approximately 1/2 inches long, wrinkled, pock-marked, stinger (at times)
- Flavor: Sweet, Fruity
There are super-hot peppers, then there are super-hot, mind blowing, out of this world peppers. The Dragon’s Breath pepper is arguably now the king of the latter. With a reported peak heat of 2.48 million Scoville heat units, the Dragon’s Breath pepper (named for the symbol of Wales – the Welsh dragon) eclipses the likes of the Komodo Dragon and Carolina Reaper peppers (the current hottest pepper in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records). This is military-grade heat, and the Dragon’s Breath is currently not for commercial consumption. Instead, it was developed in part for consideration as a natural topical anesthetic for those allergic to typical anesthetics used by hospitals.
How hot is the Dragon’s Breath pepper?
We base the below on the reported peak heat of the Dragon’s Breath, as little has been reported on its heat range. For instance Carolina Reaper’s range from 1.4 to 2.2 million SHU (with an average of 1.6 million SHU), depending on the plant, the soil, and the conditions.
Just looking at the Dragon’s Breath pepper’s Scoville heat rating is numbing in its own right. Based on the reported peak of 2.48 million Scoville heat units, this chili has the potential for no doubt military grade heat – military-grade pepper sprays start at 2 million SHU. That should be enough of a warning that this is a chili pepper from a different earth scorching world.
But let’s compare it to some of the top chilies on the pepper scale to really put this in perspective. Against our jalapeño reference point, the Dragon’s Breath’s peak heat weighs in from 310 to 992 times hotter, depending on the jalapeño chosen. Compared to a habanero (for many, the most extreme chili used for mainstream culinary purposes), the Dragon’s Breath is 7 to 24 times hotter. And against the super-hot ghost pepper (a popular choice for extreme eaters), the Dragon’s Breath is easily 2 to 3 times hotter.
Versus the Carolina Reaper, the Dragon’s Breath chili’s peak heat can nearly double the heat of the mildest possible Carolina Reaper (1.4 million SHU), and even versus the hottest possible Reaper (2.2 million SHU), the Dragon’s Breath still has 280,000 Scoville heat units on it, or an entire habanero pepper’s worth of heat more.
What do they look like?
One word – unassuming. According to early photos, these are tiny chilies (approximately 1/2 inch in size), grown actually in part to be aesthetically pleasing enough to compete in the Chelsea Flower Show. The plant is owned by Bob and Neal Price of Chillibobs and grown by Mike Smith, owner of Tom Smith’s Plants, with an eye to the aesthetics as well as the heat.
The Dragon’s Breath was grown during a test of a special plant food developed by Nottingham Trent University, as part of their efforts to develop natural anesthetics (capsaicin being one) useful for those allergic to typical medical anesthetics. And it’s certainly a lovely mix of beauty and scientific value in the Dragon’s Breath pepper. The Dragon’s Breath are wrinkled and pocked like other super-hot peppers, and they appear to have a scorpion-like tail that does hint at the extreme heat that lies within. Yet, there’s a delicateness to the chili that’s quite beautiful.
So is the Dragon’s Breath pepper the hottest pepper in the world?
According to initial tests…maybe. The Dragon’s Breath pepper has been submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for consideration as the hottest pepper in the world. But little is currently known on the heat range of this chili pepper, as well as its overall stability. Time will tell where the Dragon’s Breath officially falls.
How is there medicinal value to a pepper this hot?
It all comes down to the chemical compound in all hot peppers – capsaicin. Capsaicin is what provides the heat sensation of chili peppers further down the pepper scale that’s so beloved by many. Another effect of capsaicin is that it can have a numbing effect on the tissue on which it’s placed (hence the amount of pain-relieving over the counter creams made with capsaicin).
Where can you buy Dragon’s Breath peppers?
You can purchase Dragon’s Breath pepper seeds online (Amazon), but don’t expect to find them at your local gardening center. This is not a chili pepper being cultivated for much commercial use, so it’s limited to specialty shops. For most, it’s just too hot for consumption. Even among extreme eaters, this is another world of heat.