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The Bhut jolokia (IPA: [ˈbʱʊt.zɔˌlɔkiˌja]), also known as ghost pepper,[1][2] ghost chili pepper, ghost chili and ghost jolokia, is an interspecific hybrid chili pepper cultivated in the Northeast Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur.[3][4] It is a hybrid of Capsicum chinense and Capsicum frutescens and is closely related to the Naga Morich of Nagaland and Bangladesh.[5]

Bhut jolokia
Fresh Bhut jolokia
Hybrid parentageCapsicum chinense × Capsicum frutescens
OriginNortheast India
Heat Exceptionally hot
Scoville scale1,041,427 SHU

In 2007, Guinness World Records certified that the ghost pepper was the world's hottest chili pepper, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. The ghost chili is rated at more than 1 million Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). However, in the race to grow the hottest pepper, the ghost chili was shortly superseded by the Infinity chili in 2011, followed by the Naga Viper, the Trinidad Moruga scorpion in 2012 and the Carolina Reaper on August 7, 2013.[6]

Etymology and regional namesEdit

North of the Brahmaputra river, these peppers are widely called Bhut Jolokia or Bhoot Jolokia, literally translating to ‘Ghost Chilli’ in Assamese (“Bhoot” means ghost in most other Indo-Aryan languages as well). “Bhut” likely does not imply that their origin is Bhutan, as the translation of “from Bhutan” in Assamese is “Bhuitiya” not “Bhut”. Furthermore, this pepper has never occurred naturally in the temperate climate of Bhutan. [7]

On the southern bank of the river Brahmaputra, this chili is called nôga zôlôkia, believed to be named after the Naga warriors inhabiting the plains and hills of Nagaland. A 2009 paper coined the English term "Naga king chili" which refers to the chili's large pod size.[8][9] It also stated that the most common Indian (Assamese) usage is bhût zôlôkiya and gives the alternate common name as bih zôlôkia, where bih means "poison" in Assamese, denoting the plant's heat. The Assamese word zôlôkia simply means pepper.

Other usages on the subcontinent are Saga Jolokia, Indian mystery chili, and Indian rough chili (after the chili's rough skin). It has also been called the Tezpur chili after the Assamese city of Tezpur. In Manipur, the chili is called umorok or oo-morok (oo = “tree”, morok = “chili”).[7]

Scoville ratingEdit

In 2000, India's Defence Research Laboratory (DRL) reported a Scoville rating of 855,000 SHUs,[10] and in 2004 a rating of 1,041,427 SHUs was made using HPLC analysis.[11] For comparison, Tabasco red pepper sauce rates at 2,500–5,000, and pure capsaicin (the chemical responsible for the pungency of pepper plants) rates at 16,000,000 SHUs. In 2005, New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute in Las Cruces, New Mexico,[12] found Bhut jolokia grown from seed in southern New Mexico to have a Scoville rating of 1,001,304 SHUs by HPLC.[3] Unlike most peppers, Bhut jolokia produces capsaicin in vesicles found in both the placenta around the seeds and throughout the fruit, rather than just the placenta.[13]


Ripe peppers measure 60 to 85 mm (2.4 to 3.3 in) long and 25 to 30 mm (1.0 to 1.2 in) wide with a red, yellow, orange, or chocolate color. The unselected strain of Bhut jolokia from India is an extremely variable plant, with a wide range in fruit sizes and fruit production per plant, and offers a huge potential for developing much better strains through selection in the future. Bhut jolokia pods are unique among peppers, with their characteristic shape, and very thin skin.[14] However, the red fruit variety has two different fruit types, the rough, dented fruit and the smooth fruit. The images on this page show examples of both the rough and the smooth fruit. The rough fruit plants are taller, with more fragile branches, and the smooth fruit plants yields more fruit, and is a more compact plant with sturdier branches.[15] It takes about 7–12 days to germinate at 32–38 °C.


The Bhut jolokia

Bhut jolokia is used as a food and a spice.[4] It is used in both fresh and dried forms, to "heat up" curries, pickles and chutneys. It is popularly used in combination with pork or dried or fermented fish. In northeastern India, the peppers are smeared on fences or incorporated in smoke bombs as a safety precaution to keep wild elephants at a distance.[16][17] The pepper's intense heat makes it a fixture in competitive chili pepper eating.[18]

Chili grenadesEdit

In 2009, scientists at India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) announced plans to use the peppers in hand grenades, as a nonlethal way to control rioters by pepper sprays or in self-defence.[19][20] The DRDO said bhut jolokia-based aerosol sprays could be used as a "safety device", and "civil variants" of chili grenades could be used to control and disperse mobs.[21] Chili grenades made from Bhut jolokia were successfully used by the Indian Army in August 2015 to flush out a terrorist hiding in a cave.[22]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Gamillo, Elizabeth (3 Aug 2018). "Ghost peppers are saving U.S. grasslands—by scaring off hungry mice". Science. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  2. ^ Deepak, Sharanya (1 January 2019). "The Incredible Story of Bhut Jolokia: From Rural India to Dumb YouTube Stunts". Taste. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b Shaline L. Lopez (2007). "NMSU is home to the world's hottest chile pepper". Archived from the original on 2007-02-19. Retrieved 2007-02-21.
  4. ^ a b "'Ghost chile' burns away stomach ills - Diet & Nutrition -". Associated Press. 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-05.
  5. ^ Paul W. Bosland and Jit B. Baral (2007). "'Bhut Jolokia'—The World's Hottest Known Chile Pepper is a Putative Naturally Occurring Interspecific Hybrid" (PDF). Horticultural Science. 42 (2): 222–4.
  6. ^ "Hottest Chili". Guinness World Records. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Nayyar, Namita (19 July 2016). "Naga Bhut Jolokia – Top 10 Most Dangerous Fruits and Vegetables in the World". Women Fitness. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  8. ^ Raktim Ranjan Bhagowati; et al. (2009). "Genetic Variability and Traditional Practices in Naga King Chili Landraces of Nagaland" (PDF). Asian Agri-History. 13 (3): 171–180. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-20.
  9. ^ "Northeast 'Hottest' chef gets a taste of hottest jolokia". The Telegraph. Calcutta. 2009-04-10. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
  10. ^ Mathur R; et al. (2000). "The hottest chili variety in India" (PDF). Current Science. 79 (3): 287–8.
  11. ^ "Bih jolokia". 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  12. ^ "NMSU: The Chile Pepper Institute - Home". The Chile Pepper Institute. Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  13. ^ Bosland, Paul; Coon, Danise; Cooke, Peter H. (June 2015). "Novel Formation of Ectopic (Nonplacental) Capsaicinoid Secreting Vesicles on Fruit Walls Explains the Morphological Mechanism for Super-hot Chile Peppers". Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science. 140 (3): 253–256.
  14. ^ Barker, Catherine L. (2007). "Hot Pod: World's Hottest". National Geographic Magazine. 2007 (May). p. 21.
  15. ^ Dremann, Craig Carlton. 2011. Redwood City Seed Company, Observations on the variations in the Bhut Jolokia pepper from seed reproduction growouts.
  16. ^ Hussain, Wasbir (2007-11-20). "World's Hottest Chile Used as Elephant Repellent". National Geographic. Retrieved 2007-11-21.
  17. ^ "Ghost Chile Scares Off Elephants". National Geographic News website. National Geographic. 2007-11-20. Retrieved 2008-08-18.
  18. ^ Mary Roach (June 2013). "The Gut-Wrenching Science Behind the World's Hottest Peppers". Smithsonian Magazine.
  19. ^ "Army's new weapon: world's hottest chili - Trends News - IBNLive". 2010-03-24. Retrieved 2012-11-06.
  20. ^ "South Asia | India plans hot chilli grenades". BBC News. 2009-06-25. Retrieved 2010-04-11.
  21. ^ Bhaumik, Subir (24 March 2010). "India scientists hail 'multi-purpose' chillis". BBC News. City of Westminster, England: BBC. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  22. ^ "Army used 'chilly grenades' to flush out Pak terrorist Sajjad Ahmed from a cave". Indian Express.