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Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper: Main Image

Buying Tips

Fresh cayenne peppers are available in specialty stores in the produce section. As these peppers mature they turn from green to red in color. They can be used for cooking at any stage, but the red is spicier than the green. Dried, ground cayenne pepper is available in most grocery stores.


Cayenne chile peppers are extremely hot and provide the heat for many spicy dishes. When fresh, cayenne peppers appear wrinkly and may be either deep green or bright red (when mature). They can range between 5 and 10 inches (12.5–25.5cm) long and are generally about 1/2 to 1 inch (1.2–2.5cm) across. The red, mature pepper is hotter than the green. Cayenne peppers tend to be long and hooked and they terminate in a sharp point.

Cayennes are pungent peppers with heat scores that measure between 30,000 and 50,000 Scoville heat units. How high a chile pepper scores on the heat scale is determined by high-performance liquid chromatography measurement of how many parts per million capsaicin it contains. This figure is then converted into the historic Scoville heat units that signify how much dilution is necessary to drown out the chile’s heat. The heat level of a chile is given as a range because it varies with how and where the pepper was grown and how mature it is.

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The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2016.

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