Peppers are an incredibly versatile and popular vegetable due to their flavor, texture, and vibrant colors. They are commonly eaten both raw and cooked — but which is hotter? Stick around to learn the differences between cooked and raw peppers and delve deeper into how cooking can affect their spiciness.
What is the spiciest part of a pepper?
The spiciest part of the pepper is the thin, white tissue that runs along the inner walls of the pepper and surrounds the seeds. It has the highest concentration of a compound known as capsaicin, which is what gives peppers their signature heat. The flesh of the pepper, which is the outer part of the pepper that is typically eaten, is generally less spicy than the inner ribs and seeds. However, the spiciness of pepper can vary based on the specific type of pepper and how it is grown and harvested.
Are peppers hotter raw or cooked?
Peppers are generally spicier when they are eaten raw rather than cooked. In its raw form, capsaicin is more pronounced and concentrated. When peppers are cooked, the heat can be lessened or mellowed out, depending on how they are prepared.
However, the spiciness of peppers can also vary based on the specific type of pepper, and how it is grown and harvested, so you may experience a raw serrano chili that barely tastes spicy at all, and then the next day, you might have a dish made with serranos that is extremely spicy.
In most cases, when you cook peppers, the capsaicin (the compound that makes peppers spicy) is distributed throughout the entire dish rather than disappearing entirely. When that happens, the entire dish tastes spicy, but it is diluted by the other ingredients so the spiciness isn’t as acutely powerful as if you bit straight into a raw pepper.
Does cooking a pepper destroy capsaicin?
Capsaicin is generally thermostable, meaning that cooking it (unless with extremely high heat) will not destroy it. However, it is steam volatile, so if you cook it for an extended amount of time, it will dissipate from the dish as it is released into the air in the form of steam.
When peppers and other spicy foods are cooked, the heat can help to break down the cell walls in the peppers, releasing some of the capsaicin. This can produce a milder flavor and less heat in the finished dish. However, the amount of capsaicin released and the resulting level of spiciness can vary depending on how the peppers are cooked and the specific type of pepper used.
Why does cooking chilis in a dish make it spicier?
While chili peppers themselves can become less spicy as they are cooked, the capsaicin oils are released into the dish that you are cooking. That’s why your entire curry or chili will become spicy, even if you take a bite that doesn’t have a chunk of chili pepper.
Are peppers hotter when they are fresh or dried?
Dried peppers contain the same amount of capsaicin as raw ones, but they are technically hotter because it is concentrated in a smaller volume of fruit. When peppers are dried, the water is removed, leaving behind the capsaicin and other flavorful compounds. This can result in a more intense and concentrated flavor, including spiciness.
It’s also important to note that some dried peppers are cooked, as is the case with smoked peppers like chipotle.
Whether you want to eat peppers raw, cooked, or dried, there is no wrong answer! Generally, peppers are spicier when they are dried or raw. However, it can also enhance other flavor notes, like fruitiness or earthiness. It can also be hard to tell or measure whether cooking peppers make them spicier because even within the same species of pepper, the heat levels can vary drastically.