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The cayenne pepper is a type of Capsicum annuum. It is usually a moderately hot chili pepper used to flavor dishes. Cayenne peppers are a group of long, tapering, 10 to 25cm long, generally skinny, mostly red colored peppers, often with a curved tip and somewhat rippled skin, which hang from the bush as opposed to growing upright. Most varieties are generally rated at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units.[1]

Cayenne pepper
Capsicum annuum - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-027.jpg
Genus Capsicum
Species C. annuum
Cultivar Cayenne
Heat Very hot
Scoville scale 30,000–50,000 SHU
A large red cayenne
Thai peppers, a cayenne-type pepper
Capsicum frutescens

The fruits are generally dried and ground to make the powdered spice of the same name, although cayenne powder may be a blend of different types of peppers, quite often not containing cayenne peppers, and may or may not contain the seeds.[2]

Cayenne is used in cooking spicy dishes either as a powder or in its whole form. It is also used as an herbal supplement.



The word 'cayenne' is thought to be a corruption of the word quiínia[3][4] (also sometimes spelled kyynha[5] or kynnha[3]) of the Old Tupi language once spoken in Brazil, which means pepper (thus 'cayenne pepper' means 'pepper pepper'). It is probable that the place Cayenne in French Guiana was named after the peppers, not vice versa,[6] although it is commonly claimed that the pepper was named after the city. Culpeper, for example, uses the word 'cayenne pepper' in 1652,[7] and the city was only renamed as such in 1777.[8] It also is possibly named for the Cayenne River.[1]

Nicholas Culpeper in his Complete Herbal, 1653, mentions cayenne pepper as a synonym for what he calls "pepper (guinea)"[note 1], although he refers to Capsicum peppers in general in his entry.[7]


The cayenne pepper is a type of Capsicum annuum, as are bell peppers, jalapeños, paprika, and many others. The Capsicum genus is in the nightshade family (Solanaceae). Cayenne peppers are often said to belong to the frutescens variety, but frutescens peppers are now defined as peppers which have fruit which grow upright on the bush (such as tabasco peppers), thus what is known in English as cayenne peppers are by definition not frutescens.[note 2]

In the 19th century, modern cayenne peppers were classified as C. longum, this name was later synonymised with C. frutescens. Cayenne powder, however, has generally been made from the bird's eye peppers, in the 19th century classified as C. minimum.[10]


Cayenne peppers are long, tapering, 10 to 25cm long, generally skinny, mostly red colored peppers, often with a curved tip and somewhat rippled skin, which hang from the bush as opposed to growing upright. There are many specific cultivars, such as 'Cow-horn',[11] 'Cayenne Sweet', 'Cayenne Buist's Yellow', 'Golden Cayenne', 'Cayenne Carolina', 'Cayenne Indonesian', 'Joe's Long', 'Cayenne Large Red Thick', 'Cayenne Long Thick Red', 'Ring of Fire', 'Cayenne Passion', 'Cayenne Thomas Jefferson', 'Cayenne Iberian', 'Cayenne Turkish', 'Egyptian Cayenne', 'Cayenne Violet' or 'Numex Las Cruces Cayenne'.[1] Although most modern cayenne peppers are colored red; yellow and purple varieties exist, and in the 19th century yellow varieties were common.[1][12] Most types are moderately hot, although a number of mild variants exist.[1] Most varieties are generally rated at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units, although some are rated at 20,000 or less.[1]


Most cultivated varieties of cayenne, Capsicum annuum, can be grown in a variety of locations including tropical and temperate zones and need around 100 days to mature. Peppers prefer warm, moist, nutrient-rich soil in a warm climate. The plants grow to about 0.5–1 m (20–39 in) in height and should be spaced 1 m (3 ft) apart.[13] In gardens, the plants may be planted as close as 30 cm (1 ft) apart in a raised bed, or simply grown in large pots. This may reduce the yield of an individual plant, but will increase yields per unit area.[citation needed]

Chilis are mostly perennial in subtropical and tropical regions; however, they are usually grown as annuals in temperate climates. They can be overwintered if protected from frost, and require some pruning.[14]

In cuisineEdit

Cayenne powder may be a blend of different types of peppers.[2] Cayenne powder is distinguished from 'chili powder' as it is made from cayenne peppers only, whereas chili powder is generally a spice mixture. It is employed variously in its fresh form, or as dried powder used on seafood, all types of egg dishes (devilled eggs, omelettes, soufflés), meats and stews, casseroles, cheese dishes, hot sauces, and curries.[2]


Cayenne pepper, by weight, is high in vitamin A. It also contains vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, and manganese.[15] However, given the very small amount of cayenne pepper typically consumed in a serving, it makes a negligible contribution to overall dietary intake of these nutrients.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The name Guinea pepper often means Aframomum melegueta or Piper guineense at present, but in Britain in the 16th and 17th century 'Guinea pepper' or 'ginny pepper' was the common name for Capsicum peppers in general.[7][9] By the end of the 19th century 'Guinea pepper' had come to mean bird's eye chili or piri-piri[10]
  2. ^ However, in French, for example, the name piment de Cayenne may refer to all types of C. frutescens and other types of C. annuum including tabasco, piri-piri or Bird's eye chili.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f; accessed 9 November 2017
  2. ^ a b c; accessed 9 November 2017
  3. ^ a b; accessed 9 November 2017
  4. ^; accessed 9 November 2017
  5. ^; accessed 9 November 2017
  6. ^ Small, Ernest; 2009; Top 100 Food Plants, p.157; NRC Research Press; ISBN 978-0-660-19858-3; accessed at
  7. ^ a b c Culpeper, Nicholas (2004) [1653]. "Guinea Pepper". Culpeper's Complete Herbal. Lulu Com. ISBN 1291284869. Retrieved 31 March 2017. 
  8. ^; accessed 9 November 2017
  9. ^ Parkinson, John; 1629; Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris, p.431; Humfrey Lownes and Robert Young; London; accessed at
  10. ^ a b c Ridley, Henry Nicholas; 1912; Spices, pp.360-383; Macmillan, Ltd.; London; accessed at
  11. ^; accessed 9 November 2017
  12. ^ Hudson, Selma; 1971; About Spices, p.38; Melmont; ISBN 9780516082103; accessed at
  13. ^ Brown, Ellen (27 April 2006). "Growing: Cayenne". Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  14. ^ South Devon Chilli Farm (2010). "Chilli Seed Propagation and Plant Care". South Devon Chilli Farm. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  15. ^ "Nutrition Facts: Spices, pepper, red or cayenne". Nutrition Data. Condé Nast Digital. 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 

Further readingEdit