I may want plant some ghost chili pepper, but I am afraid it will be too hot to eat.

Is there any safe method to prepare/cook ghost chili which will not reproduce insanely hot heat from the throat to stomach?

What about habanero chili pepper? Is it safer to eat?

  • A ghost chili is about 10 times hotter than a habanero. If you're used to spicy food then you should have no trouble at all with a habanero.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 13:19
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    I'd say 5 times hotter... habaneros range from about 150k SHU to 350k SHU, with the naga jolokia (ghost chili) going from 1000k SHU to 1.5 million SHU. But yes, they can be used like a hotter habanero, although probably not as sweet. Raw habaneros have a very pleasant bell pepper sweetness under the spiciness, which adds a nice note to dishes cooked with them.
    – BobMcGee
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 16:12
  • possible duplicate of How can you reduce the heat of a chili pepper?
    – mfg
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 17:32

7 Answers 7

  • Dilute heavily by using a very small portion of peppers per dish
  • Allow cooking time for the pepper flavor to permeate the dish before adding more. It's not like black pepper where the taste spreads instantly.
  • Remove the seeds and membranes holding them, as this reduces spiciness considerably
  • Cut peppers very finely or puree so there aren't any large pieces to deliver a shocker in the final dish
  • Wear gloves when handling the peppers
  • If you don't use gloves, wash your hands well before touching your eyes, mouth, or other "sensitive regions."

No, seriously. The last one is a mistake you only make once, and should be on a warning label with all store-bought chilis. The capsaicin somehow becomes volatile when heated enough, and the result is like filling your entire domicile with pepper spray.

I am ashamed to say that the last two cautions are drawn purely from personal experience. It's not the kind of "hot date" you want to share with an (un)lucky person, believe me.

  • My brother regularly cooks steak with copious amounts of onions and habaneros; occasionally this results in noxious capsaicen-smoke that runs everyone out of the kitchen... That said, we regularly cook with, sautée and fry hot chilis without any ill effects...
    – Tara
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 19:34
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    There may be some trick to preventing it... it might be a specific temperature range that causes it. But it's well worth avoid as it makes the kitchen nigh-unusable.
    – BobMcGee
    Commented Jun 15, 2011 at 5:28
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    I once started rinsing a food processor I'd chopped a lot of habaneros in with fairly hot water (~150°F). Yeah, DON'T DO THAT EITHER.
    – derobert
    Commented Jun 17, 2011 at 21:34
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    I imagine your "hot date" won't forget to make sure hands are thoroughly washed if they are going anywhere near their "sensitive regions" again, either. Ouch. Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 3:53
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    @AdrianHum No, the heat from a chili comes from it capsaicin, which has nothing to do with acid content. This is an oleophilic compound, which is why it binds to plastics readily, and does not rinse off with water. Milk has both water and lipid components, and the lipid component can bind to capsaicin.
    – BobMcGee
    Commented Nov 2, 2015 at 16:39

The hottest part of any chilli is the membrane the holds the seeds (contrary to popular belief that says it's the seeds themselves). If you remove this, you remove a lot of the heat. So if you want to try using ghost chilli, I'd suggest A) removing the seeds and membrane and B) chopping finely, then adding a little at a time to your dish, tasting after each addition until it's just right.

I'd also recommend wearing rubber gloves while you prepare the chilli, otherwise you'll blind yourself if you happen to rub your eyes. Capsaicin stays on your hands for a surprisingly long time.

This applies regardless of what variety of chilli you are using.

  • What membrane? membrane of the seeds? Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 12:49
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    Yes. The white stuff the seeds are held by inside the chilli. Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 12:51

I just came back from a local chili festival where I was able to taste the ghost chili for the first time. My favorite by far was a dark chocolate and toffee brittle with ghost chili. You can absolutely taste the difference between the ghost chili and habanero. I was surprised at how different the flavors are, but folks who aren't used to using different chilis may not taste the variation. Thanks for the advice, as my husband's immediate reaction was "Let's fry some up with eggs tomorrow." I thought...let's not.

I also suggest, for anyone wanting to get the heat and flavor from chilis without using what may be a chili that's too hot for them-- chili vinegar. Just pack a jar (or a bottle if you want a nice display) with as many chilis as you want, top with a mixture of red wine and apple cider vinegar, and pop it in the fridge. Let it sit for a few weeks before using it. The flavor matures with age.

Lots of folks will tell you to throw it away after 6 months. I just keep topping off the vinegar after I use more than a third of the jar and have kept different jars of pickled chilis like this for upwards of 16 months. When I feel the chilis have been hanging around too long, they become hot sauce. Use the vinegar in everything from salad dressing to marinades to sauces.

  • If you put your hand into a jar, or use utensils that are not spotlessly clean, you should not keep the jar for more than a few months!
    – TFD
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 0:47
  • @TFD: What pathogens could grow to dangerous levels in a refrigerated jar full of vinegar? Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 0:24
  • @CareyGregory There are a variety of bacteria and moulds that grow in acid environments. Common human ones are responsible for urinary tract infections. Some have been found to survive in highly acidic and boiling hot mud pools? The cold does not kill them, just slows them down, over time they grow into dangerous numbers
    – TFD
    Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 0:36
  • @TFD: Yes, I know cold only slows them, but I was unaware of pathogens that could grow in an acidic environment and that were also dangerous to humans to ingest (not sure how an ingested pathogen would make it to the urinary tract in an uncompromised adult). This might make a good question, actually. Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 0:44

Some people will call "sacrilege" and "cheating", but I find it perfectly acceptable to use part chili part sweet peppers (bell peppers work, but I prefer the long red kapia). Adjust the ratio depending on your heat preference. It also works with chili powder and red pepper powder.

Of course, combining this with ElendilTheTall's advice for removing seeds plus membrane will give you more chili before you reach your heat limit, so I'd do it too.

  • 4
    "Blasphemy" would be more appropriate.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 13:21
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    @Aaronut, I'd accept on my plate a pepper grown in Marduks recording studio, as long as it is sweet.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 16:38
  • I like this idea. It's cheating, but it's clever. The best possible pepper to sub in would be the new habanero bred specifically not to produce capsaicin. Perfect match for chili flavor, sweet, and a seamless substitution.
    – BobMcGee
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 18:22
  • "Ah- that pepper is not hot at all"... "Okay- let's do three-four at a moment"... "OOOHHH WATER...."
    – bubu
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 20:02
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    Of course, one can trust the users of english.SE to find the perfect word. I am very happy with sacrelicious as description for a non-hot chili (thank you @horatio).
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 20:34

I make hot pepper jam, and the sugar cuts the heat. I haven't used ghost pepper, but I have used habaneros and scotch bonnet. The recipe used is in the pectin I buy, although I chop and use the entire peppers, to make the jam hotter.

But, as others say, always use gloves when handling the peppers, and the boiling fumes when making the jam can be hard to take.

It makes a great jam for meat and tomato sandwiches, with a heat that sneaks up and slaps you.

  • hot pepper jelly is amazing on fried egg sandwiches, too. (or even just toast)
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 12:55

If you use cheese and/or sour cream with your chili, that will counteract the spices in the chili. Also be sure to have a glass of ice cold milk on hand to drink. You can use acidic fruit juices like tomato or orange if you cannot have dairy. The fruit juice also counteracts the spices.


Peppers like that work best with dishes that have plenty of emulsified-in fat in the sauce - anything based on coconut milk, cream, yoghurt ... can be spiced to a pleasant level with a small amount of them. More watery sauces/broths (that includes "brown" chinese sauces, red tomato sauces and tomato based chili) will come out unpleasantly harsh even if not inedibly spicy (if familiar with Thai food, compare a Gaeng Phed with a Gaeng Pa made from the same amount and type of paste to see which direction things are going).

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