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Is Mild or Medium Hotter? 5 Levels of Heat Scale to Know

If you love peppers but are sensitive to spice, knowing the difference between mild and medium can make a world of difference.

You’ve probably wondered, “Is mild or medium hotter?”

The short answer is that medium is hotter than mild.

While you can rest assured with that knowledge, you may want to know the hows and whys behind this answer. If you’re curious to learn more, read on to find out why mild isn’t as hot as medium spiciness.

Is Mild or Medium Hotter?

Based on the Scoville scale [1], medium is hotter than mild.

Mild ratings go up to 2,000 Scoville heat units (SHUs). On the other hand, medium falls between 2,500 and 30,000. That’s quite a significant difference.

red hot chili paste

Peppers like the Pimento pepper (100 – 500 SHU) and the Banana pepper (500 SHU) are considered mild.

Meanwhile, the Poblano pepper (1,000 – 1,500 SHU), Jalapeno (4,000 – 8,500 SHU), and Tabasco pepper (30,000 – 50,000 SHU) are considered medium heat.

If you’ve ever eaten any of these peppers, you know there’s a big difference in heat and spice levels between them. With their higher Scoville heat units scores, the medium spice peppers are hands down the “winner” in the which-is-hotter competition.

How Is Heat in Peppers Measured?

To measure the heat in a pepper using Wilbur Scoville’s method, the following is done:

  • Human subjects are used as taste testers for peppers, and a recording of the heat level is made.
  • After that, the sample peppers are diluted in the lab until the head can no longer be sensed by the subjects.
  • The dilution is called the Scoville heat unit.

Scoville ratings are based on the unit of dry mass. Therefore, the numerical value of the specimen typically varies depending on its cultivation. It is no longer considered a reliable way to ascertain a pepper’s heat level.

Scientists have since developed a method of determining a pepper’s Scoville rating by measuring the presence of alkaloids [2]. Alkaloids are what cause the heat in peppers.

If you don’t know the Scoville heat unit rating of a particular pepper and don’t have your phone to look it up, a simple (but not scientifically accurate) way of measuring its heat is by smelling it.

If your pepper smells earthy and plant-like, it is less likely to be spicy or hot. If the smell burns your nostrils and seems spicy, it likely is.

The 5 Levels of Heat Scale

The heat of a pepper is measured using the Scoville scale. The scale gives a numerical rating to the heat index of peppers. Number ratings for the Scoville scale range from 0 to over 3,000,000!

Named after its creator, Wilber Scoville, each pepper is assigned a Scoville heat unit number. There are 11 categories within the Scoville Heat units. The categories are as follows:

  • 1,500,500 – 3,000,000+ SHU (Example: Pepper X)
  • 750,000 – 1,500,000 SHU (Example: Ghost pepper)
  • 350,000 – 750,000 SHU (Example: Red savings habanero)
  • 100,000 – 350,000 SHU (Example: Scotch bonnet pepper)
  • 50,000 – 100,000 SHU (Example: Malagueta pepper)
  • 25,000 – 50,000 SHU (Example: Tabasco pepper)
  • 10,000 – 25,000 SHU (Example: Serrano pepper)
  • 2,5000 – 10,000 SHU (Example: Jalapeno pepper)
  • 1,000 – 2,500 SHU (Example: Anaheim pepper)
  • 100 – 1,000 SHU (Example: Banana pepper)
  • 0 – 100 SHU (Example: Bell pepper)

We can further simplify this to five levels of heat:

  • Mild (100 – 2,500 SHU)
  • Medium (2,500 – 30,000 SHU)
  • Hot (30,000 – 100,000 SHU)
  • Extra Hot (100,000 – 300,000 SHU)
  • Extremely Hot (Anything over 300,000 SHU)

Heat Level



Anaheim Hot Pepper, Poblano-Ancho Hot Pepper


Spicy Slice Jalapeno Pepper, Hot Burrito Pepper, Early Flame Jalapeno Pepper


Red Hot Chili Pepper, Tabasco Hot Pepper, Hot Cayenne Pepper

Extra Hot

Habanero Hot Pepper

Extremely Hot

Carolina Reaper, Red Ghost Pepper

On this five-level heat scale, a Carolina Reaper is considered “extremely hot” with a Scoville heat unit rating of 1,641,300. The Habanero pepper is “extra hot” because it ranks 100,000 – 300,000 on the Scoville scale.

Red hot chili peppers fall under “hot” with a Scoville heat unit rating of 40,000 – 50,000. With a rating of 4,000 SHU, spicy slice Jalapeno peppers are “medium.” Anaheim peppers are “mild,” falling on the Scoville scale between 500 and 2,500 SHU.

FAQs You May Like

If medium is hotter than mild, what’s hotter than that? Is there a difference between mild and medium salsa? We have answers to these burning questions, so keep on reading!

What’s the hottest pepper?

The hottest pepper in the world is Pepper X [3]. Pepper X is said to be twice as hot as the infamous Carolina Reaper. And that’s no coincidence since Pepper X was bred by the same genius who created the Carolina Reaper!

pepper x

Pepper X was developed after ten years of selective breeding. It is scorching, with a Scoville heat unit rating of 3,180,000.

Before being dethroned by Pepper X, the Carolina Reaper was the world’s spiciest pepper. It was ranked at 1,641,183 SHU and held the Guinness World Record in 2017.

What’s the hottest sauce?

The hottest sauce in the world is Mad Dog 357 Plutonium No. 9. Mad Dog has a rating of 9,000,000 SHU, making it the most extreme hot sauce you can buy today.

The sauce is an extract that comes in a 1oz bottle. It is so hot that the manufacturer’s website has a disclaimer stating that you should not consume the sauce directly. It should be used as a seasoning or additive for food.

What’s the difference between mild and medium salsa?

The peppers used for medium salsa have higher Scoville heat unit ratings than the ones used in mild. As such, medium salsa is hotter than mild.

It can be difficult for the average person to differentiate between the two. However, someone with a sensitive tongue or a good sense of taste will notice that medium salsa contains more heat.


There’s no need to ponder whether mild or medium is hotter. Now you know that medium spiciness contains more heat than mild due to its Scoville heat unit and you can safely get your spice on!

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I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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