Chilli Names, whats to be confused about?

Chilli Names. Without doubt, one of the most confusing things about growing chillies is the name of them. We seemingly can’t even decide on a name for the fruit itself. Depending on your region, you might call it a Chili, Chile, Chilli or even Pepper.
There are thousands of different varieties of chilli out there in the world today, and many of them with more than one name making it seem like there are even more.

It’s not just chillies that suffer this naming fate. I’m as guilty as anyone of, well calling a tomato, a tomato. Because, that’s what it is, right? Well, no. tomatoes have probably more varieties than chillies. The same can be said for all kinds of vegetables and fruit.

But, as this isn’t the Vegetable Diaries or the Fruit Diaries…

The first time I came across this phenomenon was with Bhut Jolokia, my first experience of a super hot. I survived the experience relatively unscathed and it had me wanting to know more about the so called super hots. Being a Chillihead in training at the time I begun to do my research.

My initial findings would have me marking done varieties such chilli names as Ghost Pepper and Naga. Yes, any experienced Chillihead is now going to be screaming “They’re the same thing!”, and they’d be right to do so.

Chilli Names. Naga, Ghost Chilli and Bhut Jolokia

Bhut Jolokia, Ghost Pepper and Naga. Three popular names for the same Chilli. But they aren’t it’s only names, it can also be found in some peoples collections as King Cobra, Malta, Naga Moresh, Naga Morich, Raja Mirchi, U-morok, Red Naga, Naga Jolokia, Bhoot Jolokia, Bih Jolokia, Borbih Jolokia, and Ghost Jolokia.

OK, so those last couple kind of give the game away a little more, but still.

They aren’t the only chilli names to suffer the same fate;

Lemon Drop Chilli

Lemon Drop AKA Aji Limon, Hot Lemon and Kellu Uchu.

Bulgarian Carrot Chilli

Bulgarian Carrot AKA Shipkas

Bishops Crown Chillies

Bishops Crown AKA Friar’s Hat, Aji Flor, Cambuci, Campane, Christmas Bell, Joker’s Hat, Monk’s Hat, Pimenta Cambuci, Tinkerbell, Ubatuba and Cambuci.

And don’t even get me started on Birds Eye Chillies! Those things are a law unto themselves it seems, many different chillies get the name Birds Eye, I think that one depends on which village you grew up in or is nearest to you. Possibly on what day of the week you’re born on.

Even as a seasoned veteran (!) of the chilli world I came across a chilli last year that got me. I’d read about “The most expensive chilli in the world” (or chili as that article calls them 😉 ), the Charapita. It was quickly pointed out to me by a friend that this was hyperbole and they were in fact Carioca.

So, we’ve got the fruits all called by different names and different types of fruits all going by different names. It is confusing to say the very least.

There are of course many different reasons why they’ve got so many different names. It’s mostly a regional thing like the fruit itself, small local growers in one country might have been growing a fruit called Naga all their lives while on the other side of the world someone was growing them and calling them Bhut Jolokia. With someone next door calling them U-morok.

Some of it is even down to marketing, take a look at the Carolina Reapers that Tesco introduced in 2016.

Komodo Dragon Carolina Reaper Bag

The chilli community has been calling them Carolina Reapers even since they were introduced into the world. Tesco come along, introduce them to the mainstream and call them a “variety” of the Komodo Dragon. The Komodo Dragon itself is suspected to be a commercial name for a chilli introduced to the world as something else. The same could also be said for the Carolina Reaper, if you travel in certain circles.  I’ll let you do your own research into those though 😉

See how muddy these waters quickly become?

And, of course you’ve got people like me naming them for a bit of fun, as I did with my Cheryl Chilli. I don’t want or expect that name to be take seriously, yet, I’ve nothing else to call it. No proof that it’s something else, what am I going to do?

But, wait, chilli names aren’t done being complicated yet.

You see, some chilli names derive from their state. You’ve heard of Chipotle, right? Well Chipotle is an Aztec (or Nahuatl) word and means “Smoked Chilli Pepper”. Yup, it’s not even a real chilli. Mostly what you’re using or eating is a smoked red Jalapeño. (The Jalapeño also being known as Cuaresmeño and Chile Gordo)

The fun doesn’t even stop there with Chipotle, you see there is more than one type. You’ve got the small Mortia version which is smoked for less time. Then you’ve got the Mecco version which is larger and smoked longer to give it a better taste. And just because it isn’t confusing enough you’ve then got the Jalapeño Chico, that’s a Jalapeño that is smoked when it’s green and not ripe.

And then of course there is the Chipotle Grande, that isn’t even a Jalapeño. The Grande is made from it’s cousin, the Huachinango.

This isn’t exclusive to Chipotle, The Poblano gets a new name, Ancho, when it’s dried.

Of course, to the majority of people a chilli is just a chilli. No matter it’s shape, size or colour. It’s just that, a chilli. I regularly take the time to look at the “Hot Mix” bags of chillies you see in Tesco to see what’s happening in there.

Chilli Names The Tesco Hot Mix

All kinds of fun, and not one of them named for your everyday shopper to take note of. Just a “hot mix”. It’s great in some ways, but sad in others.

Unfortunately as much as I’d like this whole article to shed some light on the naming of chillies, I don’t think it can ever be explained with any definitive answers. You’re always going to get some variations on them and not everyone is going to agree on them 100%

2 thoughts on “Chilli Names, whats to be confused about?

  1. Mark Willis

    Good coverage of a difficult subject! With my previous service in the Gurkhas giving me knowledge of their language, I know that in Nepali “bhut” means “ghost”, so that accounts for ONE of the duplications… I have taken to naming my chillis after where I got them – hence I have several “Turkeys”, some “Mexicos” (including “Cozumel”), several “Panamas” and from 2016 a “Tenerife”. I think a lot of the chillis on sale these days are the result of considerable hybridisation, and I know it takes a lot to keep them True To Type.

    1. Paul Speight Post author

      Thanks for the kind words Mark.

      Interesting tidbit about the word ‘Bhut’ as well, didn’t know that or come across it when I was researching other names. Stored in memory for the next time though!

      Yes – Lots of hybrids, can be seen a lot with the F1 ranges from Seed Suppliers. I’ve noticed Mr. Fothergills use them a lot.


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