From Mild to Wild: Thai Chili Options for Every Taste Palette

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Red Trace Chili

Introduction

There are challenges in understanding the spiciness of the chili used locally in Thailand, which is not found in grocery stores in Sweden or in Europe.
There is also a challenge with the level of tolerance for spiciness, which is a result of the amount of spice heat regularly consumed.
Then there is the problem of locally purchasing a suitable chili pepper substitute.
(Ping ICA and you other big food giants).

At swaikitchen.com , we write recipes that are authentically Thai and medium-spicy that a regular Thai eats. This will likely be much spicier than what people might eat in Sweden or areas where spicy food is not the norm. So we encourage everyone to adjust the heat level to their own personal taste.

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Chili pepper – Scoville scale

SHU (Schoville Heat Unit) is the scale used to indicate how spicy a chili is.

Scoville degreesType of chili
15,000,000–16,000,000Pure capsaicin
9 100 000Nordihydrocapsaicin
6 400 000Psycho Serum
2,000,000–5,300,000Regular pepper spray
1,569,300–2,200,000Carolina Reaper
1 463 700Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T”
855,000–1,041,427Naga Jolokia , Bhut jolokia
350,000–577,000Red Savina Habanero
100,000–350,000Habanero
100,000–200,000Rokoto pepper
50,000–175,000Piri-piri [4]
50,000–100,000Thai , Malagueta , Chiltepin
30,000–50,000Cayenne pepper , Berry pepper , Tabasco , Tabasco sauce (scorpion)
10,000–23,000Serrano
7,000–8,000tabasco sauce (habanero)
5,000–10,000Wax Pepper
2,500–8,000Jalapeño
2,500–5,000Sriracha , Tabasco sauce (regular)
1,500–2,500Rocotillo
1,000–1,500Poblano , Texas Pete
600–800tabasco sauce (green)
500–1000Anaheim
100–500Pimento , Pepperoni
0 (No heat)Peppers

You can find more about SHU here

Different kinds of Thai Chili Peppers

Thai Chili – Overview

NameDescriptionSpice Scale (SHU)
Bell Pepper – Prik YuakBell Pepper – Prik YuakThis mild chili pepper is one of the most common chili peppers used worldwide in a wide variety of dishes.0(zero)
Thai Prik NumThai Prik NumThai prik num is a bright green, large chili pepper that looks like a cross between a puffed-up prik chi fah and an elongated pale green bell pepper.500
closeup thai red spur chili peppers picture id1432830012 3290253020Thai Prik Chi Fah Chili Pepper or Spur ChiliThis chili is another mild chili but a little spicier than the paprika. It is from the genus Capsicum Annum and subcategory Acuminatum fingers.1 000
Thai yellow pepperThai Yellow Chili – Prik Pon LuangThis yellow banana type chili can be quite mild or quite hot depending on the type of chili you pick up.15-40 000
Thai Jinda ChiliThai Jinda Chili Pepper – Prik SodThai Jinda Chili pepper is the most common type of chili pepper used in Thai cooking.75 000
Bird's Eye Chili PepperBird’s Eye Chili Pepper or Prik Kee NokA rather unsavory name is transformed into bird droppings chili. Although an unsavory name, it is quite fitting and alludes to the fact that these chilies are eaten by birds immune to the effects of capsaicin, which then fly away and leave the seeds everywhere in their droppings.90,000 (Very Strong)
Prik Kee NooPrik Kee Noo (Nu) variety of Bird’s Eye ChiliPrik kee noo or prik kee nu is another variation of Thai Bird’s Eye Chili. It is similar in size and shape, but maybe a little smaller, than Prik Kee Nok chili.110,000 (Very Strong)
Dried ChiliDried Chili – Prik HaengThere are different types of dried chilies in Thailand which are simply dried versions of some of the above chilies.Varies
Prik Thai OnGreen Peppercorns Prik Thai OnOne of the other common ingredients is fresh green peppercorns. These are usually added in small bunches and although they are not chilies, we include them here because they are another form of spice that provides quite a strong heat in many Thai dishes.

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Bell Pepper – Prik Yuak

Most often called paprika in Sweden

This mild chili pepper is one of the most common chilies, used all over the world in a wide variety of dishes. They come in green, yellow, orange and red depending on how ripe they are when picked.

Chili pepper - Paprika

It has minimal levels of capsaicin and is therefore very mild, so much so that it is often eaten raw with dips or in salads as well as stir-fried as a vegetable or added to stir-fries for color and variety.

The pepper comes in a range of colors, usually green, yellow and red with the color changing from green to red as the fruit ripens.

Although used as a vegetable or salad ingredient, it is strictly speaking a fruit – much like a tomato is a fruit rather than a vegetable.

Paprika in Thai cooking

Paprika is widely used in Chinese food but a little less in Thai food although it is still quite common. They are used in pad pak ruam, or stir-fried vegetables, and in several other dishes. They add a lot to the visual appeal of a dish and are used primarily for that purpose.

Since the taste is quite mild, they do not add much to the taste of a dish but add antioxidants and vitamins and make your dish look nicer.

Substitutes for Paprika:Available everywhere but Pimento, Shishito and Italian peppers are substitutes
SHU :0(zero) heat
Spicyness:Gentle, sweet
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Thai Prik Num

Thai prik num is a bright green, large pepper that looks like a cross between a puffed up prik chi fah and an elongated pale green pepper. It is one of those mild chili peppers that is a variation of banana pepper with a little kick on the back end. About the same spice level as prik chi fah.

Chili pepper - Thai Prik Num

Thai Prik Num in Thai cooking

Thai Prik Num is a mildly spicy chilli that is added to stir-fries as well as when making Nahm Prik Num – a mildly spiced paste eaten in Northern Thailand with fresh vegetables, fried pork snacks or as a dip served with the main course. It is also eaten stuffed with various fillings.

Substitute for Thai Prik Num:Banana chilli or paprika (which will be much milder)
SHU :~500
Spicyness:Quite mild

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Thai Prik Chi Fah Chili Pepper or Spur Chili

This chili is another mild chili but a little spicier than the paprika. It is from the genus Capsicum Annum and subcategory Acuminatum fingers.

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If you go to the local Thai market, you will see these on every vegetable stand. About as thick as the thumb and about 5 or 6 inches long with a waxy finish to the skin. You can of course find both longer and shorter ones.

Thai Prik Chi Fah translates to “Chili Pointing to the Sky”, an apt name derived from the fact that these chilies grow with their pointed ends pointed towards the sky.

Thai Prik Chi Fah or Spur Chili in Thai cooking

You can find these green, yellow and red, but the red and green are more often used to add a little spice and a splash of color to dishes. They have a bit more flavor when you chew them (if you chew them), and are quite mild.

For this reason , Thai Prik Chi Fah is a very good milder substitute for chili pepper if you want to make a recipe much milder than a Thai would eat it.

Substitute for Prik Chi FahItalian Sweet Pepper, Mild Anaheim or Poblano – but adjust for heat
SHU :1000
Spicyness:Moderately mild

Thai Yellow Chili – Prik Pon Luang

This yellow banana type chili can be quite mild or quite hot depending on the type of chili you pick up. It is a small cone-shaped chili that is usually more orange than yellow as the name suggests (‘Luang’ is yellow in Thai)

Thai Yellow Chili – Prik Pon Luang

Similar in shape to Fresno pepper but a little smaller, it is used quite a lot in various Thai dishes where the spice level is a little higher than usual.
Substitution depends on the level of spice you want on your dish, due to the wide range of heat this pepper can have. Choose a milder or hotter chili from the list according to your preferences.

Thai yellow chili in Thai cooking

Prik Luang is not quite as common as the red Jinda chili in Thai cooking, but can be found to add more color to fried rice , in some curries and soups, and sliced ​​and pickled.

It is quite a hot chilli but not as hot as the Thai Jinda chilli and is mostly used to add some variety rather than for flavour.

Substitutes for Thai Prik Luang:Fresno pepper (usually red), Cayenne, Serrano, Jalapeno (often milder)
SHU:15-40 000
Spicyness:Pretty Hot

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Thai Jinda Chili Pepper – Prik Sod

Thai Jinda Chili pepper is the most common type of chili pepper used in Thai cooking. It is longer and milder than the bird’s eye chili, which is used mostly in Thai soups and which according to the Scoville scale would be classified as a hot chili pepper.

Thai Jinda Chili Pepper

This is the chili to use unless the recipe specifically calls for a milder or spicier style of chili. However, it is still a very hot chili for most people (Swedes).

Jinda chili pepper is a Thai variety that is not so easy to find outside of Thailand, but it can be bought online.
In my research for this article, I encountered a lot of confusion around the names given to different chilies around the world, including the Thai Jinda Chili Pepper. So if you buy online, check carefully that it is actually Thai Jinda Chili Pepper and not some other red pepper.

Thai Jinda Chili in Thai cooking

This is a hot chili pepper that is very common in many Thai dishes.

Commonly used throughout the country by Thai Street Food vendors, because although Thais love hot spicy food, bird’s eye chili is too hot for most people to eat on a daily basis.

Thai Jinda chili peppers strike a good balance between providing a lot of heat without being just too hot for most people’s usual Thai food.

If you get a craving for super spicy food, then order the dish with the addition “phet”, which means spicy, in which case these Jinda chilies will be replaced with the spicier chilies that follow.

Replacement for Prik Jinda:Fresno Chili, Hot Anaheim, Jalapeno, Cayenne, Serrano, Jwala – adjust for spiciness
SHU:75 000
Spicyness:Pretty Hot

Bird’s Eye Chili Pepper or Prik Kee Nok

Now we move upwards in the pepper scale, there we find prik kee nok. A rather unsavory name that translates to “bird droppings chili”.

Prik Kee Nok

Although an unsavory name, it is quite fitting and alludes to the fact that these chilies are eaten by birds immune to the effects of capsaicin, which then fly away and leave the seeds everywhere in their droppings.

These types of chili peppers are given similar names around the world, but the varieties and spiciness vary greatly. Thai Bird’s Eye chili pepper is very hot on the Scoville heat scale, most people cannot eat these chilies.

Bird’s Eye Chili in Thai cooking

Prik kee nok is mainly used in Thai soups although it is also used in stir-fries by Thais who like particularly spicy food.

On this swaikitchen.com very few recipes are prepared with these small chilies and they will be explicitly specified if we use Bird’s Eye Chili in the recipe

As stated earlier, be careful when ordering or selecting chilies online or at the market as they are often misdescribed and misnamed. Especially if something is only called “Thai chilli”.

Substitutes for Prik Kee Nok:Chiltepin, Siling Labuyo, Hot Cayenne, Peri Peri, Habanero, Scotch Bonnet – Adjust for spiciness
SHU:90 000
Spicyness:Very hot

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Prik Kee Noo (Nu) variant of Bird’s Eye Chili

Prik kee noo or prik kee nu is another variation of Thai Bird’s Eye Chili.

It is similar in size and shape, but maybe a little smaller, than Prik Kee Nok chili.

Prik Kee Noo

It has a similarly disgusting name that translates to “mouse dropping chili,” referring to its diminutive size and shape.

Prik Kee Noo in Thai cooking

The use of prik kee noo is simply an alternative to prik kee nok.

It is used where the dish is to be made for someone who wants the spiciest serving and is largely used interchangeably with prik kee nok. Prik Kee Noo is slightly hotter on the Scoville scale.

Substitutes for Prik Kee Nu:Hot Cayenne, Peri Peri, Haberano, Scotch Bonnet – Adjust for spiciness
SHU:110 000
Spicyness:Very hot

Dried Chili – Prik Haeng

There are different types of dried chilies in Thailand which are simply dried versions of some of the above chilies.

Dried Chili – Prik Haeng

You can generally tell which chillies the dried versions are from by looking at them and they are mainly either dried Thai Jinda chillies or the larger dried Spur (Chi Fah) chillies. The dried Jinda chilies are much hotter than the Chi Fah chilies.

It is personal preference whether you choose to eat them or more commonly to put them aside.

Dried chili in Thai cooking

The smaller, hotter dried Jinda chilies are used to increase the heat in quite a few Thai dishes. You will often see them used in soups like Tom Yum or in salads like in Spicy Som Tum.

The larger dried chillies are also used, sometimes instead of the dried Jinda chillies to give a lesser heat. They are also used to make sauces such as Som Tam sauce and to color other dishes.

To some extent, they are interchangeable and their use is determined by the level of heat required in the dish or by the chef’s taste.

Substitute for dried chilies:If it’s just heat you’re after, you can substitute chili flakes or ground chili peppers, but neither will give the appearance of dried chilies, which is a big part of why they’re included in Thai dishes in the first place.
SHU:Varies
Spicyness:Medium to Hot

Green Peppercorns Prik Thai On

One of the other common ingredients is fresh green peppercorns. These are usually added in small bunches and although they are not chilies, we include them here because they are another form of spice that provides quite a strong heat in many Thai dishes.

Green Peppercorns Prik Thai On

In fact, Thai cooking used various forms of pepper and peppercorns grown in India as well as locally, instead of chili before chili was imported to Thailand by traders a few hundred years ago.
Chili has since overtaken the use of pepper as the mainstay of Thai cooking as it is loved by most Thais who associate chili as their national spice, history aside.

Use of green peppercorns in Thai cooking

Green peppercorns are found in many dishes, especially Thai soups and curries as well as dishes such as Phad Cha which is a hot dry curry, green curry, Klua Kling curry and many others.

There is also a green peppercorn dip made by crushing green peppercorns, red Jinda chilies and garlic. It’s good because it helps you sweat which in turn cools you down, Thailand is hot *phew*

Substitutes for fresh green peppercorns:Although green peppercorns are just unripe black peppercorns (and white peppercorns are black with the skin removed), they’re not really a good substitute.
SHU:Pepper is not measured the same way as Chili
Spicyness:Spicy but not really hot in the same way as chili

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