Chilli peppers

Chilli peppers are related to the sweet pepper.

There are hundreds of varieties of chilli peppers and some are more suited to particular end uses than others. If using them raw it is essential to choose a variety that doesn’t have a tough skin. It is normal for many chillies to change colour as they ripen and the colour transition is often green to black/brown to red. The intensity of the heat also increases as the chilli ripens.

Although all chilli peppers are hot, some are hotter than others. As a general rule, the smaller the pepper, the darker the colour, the more pointed the top and narrower the shoulders the hotter it will be – although there are quite a few exceptions.

A. Dutch red

This chilli looks very attractive but has a rather leathery texture. It is best dried, or used in sauces or curry pastes.

B. New Mexican/Anaheim

Anaheim is a mild flavoured, large chilli pepper which naturally ripens green to black/brown to red. It can be stuffed when green or black/brown. When red it is often used for decorative purposes or used in sauces or pastes.

C. Wax

The Hungarian yellow wax is a very attractive large, long chilli. It is very mild if picked when green/yellow. It is ideal to use raw in salads, added to stir fries or it can be pickled. If left to ripen it goes orange and becomes very hot. A banana chilli is similar to this.

D. Jalapeno

Jalapeno chillies are cylindrical in shape with a blunt point and can be green or red. Green jalapeno is most commonly used raw, sliced on nachos or in a salsa. Red jalapeno has a tough skin so is best used in sauces, pickles or dried.

E. South American yellow

A very attractive medium sized, dark yellow chilli pepper which is used raw or cooked. It ranges in taste from medium sweet, ideal for use with chicken, to hot, and is particularly good in meat dishes.

F. Cayenne peppers

The two cayenne peppers most commonly found in New Zealand are the Asian cayenne pepper which is green, and the Mexican cayenne pepper which is red. Both of these are ideal used in chilli and curry pastes, and the red is good in sauces. The skins, often quite thick, are too tough to use raw.

G. Exotics

Thai or Birds Eye Hots are preferred in many Asian dishes and tend to be rather hot. They are a small long thin chilli and are available either red or green. They are very versatile and may be used raw or cooked.

Habanero (Scotch bonnet)

This Mexican chilli is a very attractive, lantern shaped, light green to orange coloured pod. It is extremely hot with an aromatic fruity flavour. Habanero is said to be the hottest chilli grown commercially.

What to look for

Chilli peppers should be well shaped and have skins which are firm and shiny. Avoid those with soft spots or a shrivelled appearance.


Available: all year.


Chillies will stay firm at room temperature for 3-4 weeks. They may begin to dry out but can still be used. Chillies freeze well and may be used straight from the freezer.

How to prepare

Chilli peppers are usually chopped very finely. After handling chillies, avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth until after washing hands. To ascertain a chilli’s ‘temperature’, first touch the tip of your tongue on the pepper and wait one minute. If a burning sensation develops, consider the chilli ‘very hot’. If nothing is felt, cut off a tiny piece, nibble it and rate it medium or mild. Use quantities accordingly.

Ways to eat

Chilli peppers are a key flavouring ingredient in Mexican, Spanish, Indian, Asian and Thai dishes. Large chillies are suitable for stuffing. Roast the skin until charred then place in a plastic bag or cover with a paper towel to allow it to sweat. Slip the skin off, cut in half and remove the seeds. Stuff peppers with a cheese or meat based filling. The roasting causes the sugar in the chilli to caramelise which results in a delicious flavour change. Click here for recipes.

Cooking methods

Bake, grill, roast, steam, stew, stir fry, stuff.


Chilli peppers are a good source of vitamin C and contain a raft of other vitamins and minerals. However, for most people chilli peppers are eaten only in small quantities so are more important for flavour than nutritional value.

Nutrition table

Nutrition Information        
Serving size: 10g  
  Average Quantity
per serving
% Daily Intake per serve Average Quantity
per 100g
Energy (kJ/Cal) 15/4 0% 150/36  
Protein (g) 0.1 0% 1.1  
Fat, total (g) 0 0% 0.4  
 - saturated (g) 0.0 0% 0.0  
Available carbohydrate (g) 0.6 0% 6.2  
 - sugars (g) 0.6 1% 6.1  
Dietary Fibre (g) 0.2   1.5  
Sodium (mg) 0 0% 4  
Vitamin C (mg) 14 35% RDI* 140 A good source of vitamin C
Folate (µg) 2 1% RDI* 21  
Niacin (mg) 0.2 2% RDI* 1.5  
Riboflavin (mg) 0 0% RDI* 0.03  
Thiamin (mg) 0 0% RDI* 0.01  
Vitamin A Equiv. (µg) 64 9% RDI* 641  
Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.04 2% RDI* 0.36  
Vitamin E (mg) 0.08 1% RDI* 0.8  
Calcium (mg) 1 0% RDI* 8.0  
Iron (mg) 0 0% RDI* 0.3  
Potassium (mg) 16   160  
Selenium (µg) 0.0 0 RDI* 0.0  
Zinc (mg) 0 0% RDI* 0.1  
Percentage Daily Intakes are based on an average adult diet of 8700 kJ  
Your daily Intakes may be higher or lower depending on your energy needs.  
 *Recommended Dietary Intake (Average Adult)  
Source: FOODfiles 2018        



Always handle with care as damaged chillies decay rapidly. Temperature control is very important. Use the QR code on labels.

Store between 7-10ºC because if stored below 7ºC, chilling injury or pitting will result and temperatures above 10ºC will encourage ripening and speed up decay. Display different coloured chillies together to make an attractive display.

Purchase chilli peppers with the New Zealand GAP logo.