Pasilla peppers are a type of chili pepper used frequently in Mexican cuisine. They are long, dark green chilies that turn dark brown as they mature. Pasillas are one of the milder chili peppers, with a rating of 1,000 to 2,500 on the Scoville scale. This makes them much less spicy than hotter peppers like jalapeños or habaneros. However, pasillas still pack some heat and a lot of rich, smoky flavor. Let’s take a closer look at how spicy pasilla peppers are and how they compare to other chilies.
What is the Scoville Scale?
The Scoville scale is the standard method for measuring the pungency or “heat” of chili peppers. It was created in 1912 by American chemist Wilbur Scoville. The scale works by measuring the concentration of capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their spicy kick. The higher the concentration of capsaicin, the hotter the pepper will taste.
The Scoville scale ranges from 0 to over 3 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Here are a few comparisons to give an idea of the broad range on the scale:
- Bell peppers – 0 SHU (no heat)
- Pasilla peppers – 1,000 – 2,500 SHU
- Jalapeño peppers – 2,500 – 8,000 SHU
- Habanero peppers – 100,000 – 350,000 SHU
- Carolina Reaper peppers – 1,400,000 – 2,200,000 SHU
As you can see, pasillas are at the very low end of the Scoville scale. While they do have a mild spicy kick, they are nowhere near as hot as peppers like jalapeños or habaneros.
Pasilla Pepper Scoville Scale Rating
Most pasilla peppers range from 1,000 to 2,500 SHU on the Scoville scale. This means they are 100 to 425 times milder than a jalapeño pepper. Some particular varieties may be slightly hotter or milder, but overall pasillas sit at the low end of the mild range for chili peppers.
To put this into perspective, bell peppers have a Scoville rating of 0. This means they contain virtually no capsaicin and no spicy heat. Pasillas have just enough heat to add a touch of spice and a warming quality without being too hot for most palates.
At 1,000 – 2,500 SHU, pasillas are in the same general mild range as:
- Peperoncini peppers – 500 – 2,500 SHU
- Peppadew peppers – 1,000 – 2,000 SHU
- Sandia peppers – 1,500 – 2,500 SHU
They are significantly milder than hotter varieties like:
- Poblano peppers – 1,000 – 2,000 SHU
- Anaheim peppers – 500 – 2,500 SHU
- Jalapeño peppers – 2,500 – 8,000 SHU
- Serrano peppers – 10,000 – 25,000 SHU
So while pasillas do register at least some heat on the Scoville scale, they are considered a very mild chili pepper. Their spice level makes them quite approachable for anyone who doesn’t enjoy intense heat.
How Pasillas Compare to Other Peppers
Here is how pasilla peppers measure up on the Scoville scale compared to some other popular pepper varieties:
|Pepper Type||Scoville Heat Units|
|Bell pepper||0 SHU (no heat)|
|Poblano pepper||1,000 – 2,000 SHU|
|Pasilla pepper||1,000 – 2,500 SHU|
|Jalapeño pepper||2,500 – 8,000 SHU|
|Chipotle pepper||5,000 – 10,000 SHU|
|Serrano pepper||10,000 – 25,000 SHU|
|Habanero pepper||100,000 – 350,000 SHU|
|Carolina Reaper pepper||1,400,000 – 2,200,000 SHU|
As you can see, pasilla peppers are significantly milder than jalapeños, habaneros, and other very hot chili varieties. They pack just enough heat to add a touch of spiciness but likely won’t overwhelm more sensitive palates.
Milder Than Jalapeños and Serranos
Pasillas max out at around 2,500 SHU, while jalapeños measure at least 2,500 and can be as hot as 8,000 SHU. So a pasilla tends to be around 2 to 8 times milder than a jalapeño.
They are even milder compared to serrano peppers, which start at 10,000 SHU and can reach up to 25,000. Pasillas have only about 1/5 the spiciness of a serrano at maximum.
Hotter Than Bell Peppers and Poblanos
At the same time, pasillas do have more heat than bell peppers and poblanos. Bell peppers have no capsaicin content, while pasillas contain at least 1,000 SHU. Poblanos top out at around 2,000 SHU, still a bit milder than the maximum for pasillas.
So while pasillas are at the low end for chili peppers, they do have a bit more kick than some other mild pepper types. Their exact heat level can vary, but remains in the 1,000 – 2,500 SHU range.
Heat Level Can Vary
It’s worth noting that Scoville ratings are averages, and individual pasilla peppers can deviate from the norm. Factors like growing conditions and genetics can cause the capsaicin content to range higher or lower.
For example, a 2011 study measured the heat of pasilla peppers from Oaxaca, Mexico. The average heat level was around 1,189 SHU. But individual peppers ranged from 461 SHU on the low end up to nearly 2,300 SHU on the hot end.
So always remember that reported Scoville ratings are guides. Your particular pasilla could be a bit milder or a bit spicier than the averages indicate. Taste a tiny bite first if you want to check the exact heat level before using it.
Heat Builds as Pasillas Mature
Another thing to keep in mind is that pasilla peppers increase in heat as they ripen. An unripe, green pasilla will be milder than a fully mature brown pasilla.
This is because capsaicin and other compounds that generate spiciness accumulate in the peppers as they grow. More time on the vine allows the heat to build.
So harvest time makes a difference in the pasilla pepper heat level. Early in the season, they may register at the lowest end of their Scoville range. Late harvest pasillas are likely to be a bit spicier.
Cooking Reduces the Heat
When you cook with pasilla peppers, you’ll likely find their heat drops compared to eating them raw. Heat breaks down when exposed to sunlight, air, or heat.
One study found that oven drying caused a nearly 95% drop in capsaicin levels in pasilla peppers. Traditional air drying led to around an 80% reduction.
This means pasillas may seem less spicy when roasted, added to sauces, or cooked in dishes. The heat doesn’t entirely disappear, but it does mellow out significantly.
Keep this in mind when deciding how to prepare pasillas. Use them raw if you really want to taste the full heat level. Opt for roasting or cooking if you prefer more toned down spice.
Tips for Managing the Heat
Here are some quick tips for working with the mild spiciness of pasilla peppers:
- Remove the seeds and ribs to reduce heat.
- Soak in lime juice for 30 minutes to extract some capsaicin.
- Roast, sauté, or simmer to mellow the flavor.
- Mix with sweeter veggies like carrots or corn.
- Add dairy like cheese or sour cream to balance the heat.
- Use smaller amounts until you know your tolerance.
With their relatively mild spice rating, pasillas offer new chili pepper fans an approachable way to start enjoying some heat. Even seasoned spice lovers appreciate the pasilla’s nuanced, moderately spicy kick. Adjust amounts and preparation methods to get the desired pasilla heat level in your dishes.
The Bottom Line
Pasilla peppers measure just 1,000 to 2,500 SHU on the Scoville scale. This places them in the very mild range for chili peppers. They have a bit more kick than a bell pepper or poblano, but significantly less heat than jalapeños and other hotter pepper varieties.
Within the pasilla variety, individual peppers can range slightly hotter or milder. Heat also increases as the peppers ripen. Cooking tends to mellow the spice level.
Overall, pasillas bring a mild to medium heat, making them very versatile peppers. Their rich flavor shines through without overwhelming heat for most palates. With a few adjustments, cooks can easily control the spice level of pasilla peppers in their dishes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are pasilla peppers hot?
Pasillas do have some heat, but are considered a mild chili pepper. On the Scoville scale they measure 1,000 to 2,500 SHU, giving them a mild spiciness. They are significantly less hot than peppers like jalapeños or habaneros.
What are the mildest chili peppers?
Some of the mildest chili peppers include:
– Bell peppers – 0 SHU
– Poblano peppers – 1,000-2,000 SHU
– Pasilla peppers – 1,000-2,500 SHU
– Anaheim peppers – 500-2,500 SHU
– Pimento peppers – 100-500 SHU
Are pasilla peppers spicier than poblanos?
Pasillas tend to be slightly spicier than poblanos. Poblanos max out around 2,000 SHU, while pasillas can reach 2,500 SHU. But there is significant overlap and both are considered very mild.
Can you eat pasilla peppers raw?
Yes, pasilla peppers can be eaten raw. They tend to be most spicy when raw. If you want to experience their full heat level, try them fresh. Cooking generally reduces some of the spiciness in pasillas.
What do pasilla peppers taste like?
Pasillas have a rich, smoky, almost raisin-like flavor. They are mildly hot with a touch of sweetness. When roasted, pasillas develop an earthy, complex flavor that works well in sauces, stews, and other dishes.