Learn all about the amazing Thai chili pepper- from its origin to different types, spiciness levels, and preparation methods. Discover how these peppers are used in Southeast Asian cooking to add flavor and fire! With this guide, you can explore a world of flavorful possibilities when using Thai peppers in your cooking.
🥜 In a Nutshell
- Thai peppers are often called bird's eye chili or prik kee noo. They are small but extremely hot chili peppers from the Thai pepper plant. These peppers originate from Southeast Asia, especially Thailand. They are frequently used in Thai, Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asian dishes to add a spicy kick.
- They are extremely hot, scoring 50,000 to 100,000 on the Scoville scale, hotter than jalapenos and on par with habaneros. The level of heat can vary based on factors like pepper type, soil, and climate.
- Thai chili peppers come in different types, including Bird's Eye Chili (prik kee noo), chiles pointing to the sky (prik chee fah), and banana peppers (prik num). Each type offers a unique flavor and spiciness, opening up diverse culinary options.
- These peppers are super versatile, too. You can dry them and grind them into a powder for seasoning, toss them fresh into curries and stir-fries to add flavor and heat, blend them into sauces and dips, try making sambal oelek chili paste, or mix them with other ingredients to make spicy pastes like sriracha sauce.
- This post provides insights into their origin, types, spiciness levels, and versatile uses.
❓ What Are Thai Peppers?
Also known as bird's eye chili or prik kee noo, Thai peppers are small, thin-skinned chili peppers that are typically green or red in color. They originate in Southeast Asia, especially Thailand. They are commonly used in Thai, Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asian cuisines.
These peppers are extremely spicy and have a bright, tangy flavor that can add depth to dishes. Thai peppers come in a range of colors, including green, red, yellow, and orange.
🌶️ How Hot Are Thai Peppers
Thai peppers are up there with some of the spiciest peppers in the world. They rank between 50,000 to 100,000 on the Scoville scale, which measures the spiciness of peppers. That means they are hotter than jalapenos and comparable to habaneros.
However, the heat level can vary depending on the type of pepper, soil, and climate in which they are grown. So, it's essential to taste a small piece of the pepper before adding it to your dish. Remember that the heat level can also vary based on the pepper's ripeness - red Thai peppers are typically spicier than green ones.
🔖 Types Of Thai Chili Peppers
While many think there's just one kind of Thai chili, there's actually a whopping 79 different kinds grown globally, each with its own special taste and use in recipes.
- Bird's Eye Chili (Prik Kee Noo): This small, slender pepper comes from Thailand and can be found in green, orange, or red shades. Not only is it visually striking, but it's also known for its intense spiciness, with a Scoville rating of 50,000 to 100,000 units.
- Chiles pointing to the sky (Prik Chi Fah): This chili, native to Thailand, stands out with its upward-pointing growth and bright red color. It's less spicy than some others, with a heat level ranging from 5,000 to 30,000 Scoville units.
- Banana Peppers (Prik Yuak): The Prik Yuak is also called the banana pepper since this chili looks like a banana. This green chili maintains its light shade and doesn't darken or shift as it matures. It's popular for its mild spiciness and natural sweetness, making it a top pick for those who like mild food.
Besides these, Thai cooking uses many other chilies like Prik Jinda, Prik Ban Chang, Prik Kaleang, Prik Mun, and Prik Leung. Each one has its own taste, spiciness, and use in cooking, showing off the versatility and variety of Thai chilies in different dishes.
🌡️ How To Use
Thai peppers are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways in your cooking. Here are some tips on how to use them:
- Dried Thai peppers can be ground into a powder and used as a seasoning in marinades, rubs, and spice blends.
- Fresh Thai peppers can be sliced or diced and added to curries, stir-fries, and soups to add heat and flavor.
- Thai peppers can be blended into homemade sauces like sambal oelek and dips, such as salsa, hot sauce, or pesto.
- Thai chilies can be combined with other ingredients, such as garlic and ginger, to create a fragrant and spicy paste.
Here are some of the best substitutes for Thai chili peppers, their heat level, and the ideal dishes where you can use them.
1. Cayenne pepper (SHU 30,000 to 50,000)
- Cayenne pepper is a popular substitute for Thai peppers as it shares a similar heat level and flavor profile.
- It's a great addition to soups, stews, and chili as it adds depth and complexity to the dish. It's also commonly used in spicy meat rubs and marinades.
2. Tabasco pepper (SHU 30,000 to 50,000)
- This pepper originated from Mexico and is a chili pepper commonly used to make hot sauce.
- They have a similar heat level to Thai chili peppers and are great for adding a fiery kick to stir-fries, marinades, and sauces.
- Tabasco peppers are also great for pickling and adding to sandwiches and wraps.
3. Serrano peppers (SHU 10,000 to 25,000)
- The pepper's flavor is slightly sweeter than Thai chili peppers and has a bright, fresh taste.
- This chili is versatile and can be added to guacamole, salsas, and dips.
- Serrano peppers can also be used to add some heat to stir-fries or as a garnish for tacos and burritos.
4. Jalapeños (SHU 2,500 to 8,000)
- Jalapeños are one of the world's most commonly used chili peppers.
- They have a milder taste than Thai chili peppers, making them a great substitute for those wanting a less intense spice level.
- Jalapeños work well in salads, sandwiches, and tacos. Try pickling them to add a tangy twist.
5. Habaneros (SHU 100,000 to 300,000)
- Habaneros are one of the spiciest substitutes for Thai chili peppers, so only use them if you're a fan of heat.
- They have a fruity flavor and work well in dishes with tropical flavors like mango and pineapple.
- Habaneros are commonly used in hot sauces, jerk seasoning, and marinades.
🙋 People Also Ask [FAQs]
Thai peppers are very hot, measuring between 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville units on the heat scale. That puts them in between a jalapeno and habanero pepper on the spicy scale.
To dry Thai chili peppers, place them on a baking sheet in an oven set to the lowest temperature for 6-8 hours or until they are completely dry and brittle.
💡 Expert Tips and Tricks
- Look for freshness: When buying Thai chili peppers, choose ones that are firm, glossy, and vibrant in color. Avoid peppers with wrinkles, soft spots, or signs of mold.
- Buy in small quantities: Thai chili peppers have a shorter shelf life, so it's better to purchase them in small quantities to ensure you use them while they are still fresh and flavorful.
- Store properly: To extend their freshness, store Thai chili peppers in a perforated plastic bag or a paper towel in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator. The perforations allow for proper airflow, preventing excess moisture buildup that could lead to mold.
- Freeze for long-term storage: If you have more Thai chili peppers than you can use, consider freezing them. Wash and dry the peppers, then place them in a sealed freezer bag. They can be stored for up to six months in the freezer.
- Drying as an alternative: Another storage option is to dry the chili peppers. String them up or use a food dehydrator until they are completely dry. Once dried, store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Theres dried Thai chili peppers can last for several months and are perfect for making chili powders and flakes.
- Rehydrate when needed: If you have dried Thai chili peppers, rehydrate them by soaking them in warm water for about 15 minutes before using them in your recipe.
🌎 My Personal Exploration of Birds Eye Chili
As birds eye chilies, a type of Thai pepper, are one of the most popular chili peppers in grocery stores, I tried them in many recipes.
Jay is always looking for the next spicy sauce, and this pepper has been featured in many of our trials, mainly mixed with other ingredients, such as onions and scallions, as they are incredibly spicy.
You will mostly find them in 30g/one-ounce packets, and their shelf life is very short; although you may be tempted to overstock on them, don't - they soften and expire very quickly!
Although these hot peppers are not like Indian green chilies, I have occasionally used them in Indian cooking, and they do work well. When doing so, I tried to opt for the greener birds eye chilies, as they are a little milder, and with the red chili powder in Indian cooking, they are more than enough.