Ghost Pepper vs. Jalapeno: What Are the Differences?

ghost pepper plant in the garden
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Written by Nikita Ross

Updated: August 9, 2023

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While they’re in the same family, ghost peppers and jalapeños are at the opposite end of the spiciness spectrum. If you like a little kick, jalapeño peppers are an excellent addition to appetizers and sauces. If you’re looking for something shockingly scalding, ghost peppers are the hottest. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast these two spicy peppers. Here’s everything you need to know about the ghost pepper vs. jalapeño.

Comparing Ghost Pepper vs. Jalapeño

Ghost PepperJalapeño
ClassificationCapsicum chinense × Capsicum frutescensCapsicum annuum
OriginNortheast IndiaMexico and Central America
DescriptionPlants grow up to 4 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. Fully mature peppers grow 2 to 3 inches long with a tapered end at the bottom. Mature peppers are red with a pockmarked texture with a shiny, waxy appearance. Leaves are green and deltoid.Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and 16 to 18 inches wide. Fully mature peppers grow 2 to 3 inches long with a tapered end at the bottom. Mature peppers are green with a shiny, waxy appearance with a smooth texture. They may turn red and become spicier if left on the vine past ripeness. Leaves are dark green and elliptic.
UsesUsed in hot sauces and defense weapons, like pepper spray and chili grenades.Traditionally used as a spice for cooking. Notable dishes include salsa, chili, moles, and jalapeño poppers. Red jalapeños are often used in sriracha. 
Scoville Scale Rating855,000 to 1,001,304 SHU2,500 to 8,000 SHU
Flavor ProfileFruity, sweet, spicyVegetal, spicy, bitter
Growing TipsStart seeds indoors in temperatures between 80 and 90F, using plant lights and humidifiers. It takes 4 to 6 weeks for seeds to germinate. Transfer sprouts and grow in a greenhouse. Requires consistent moisture and drainage.Start seeds indoors in temperatures between 65 and 80 F. Takes 2 to 3 weeks to germinate. Transport to loamy soil in a terra cotta pot or garden after the last frost. Requires full sun and frequent watering with adequate drainage to prevent root rot. 

The 5 Key Differences Between Ghost Peppers and Jalapeños

While ghost peppers and jalapeños are both members of the Capsicum family, that’s where the similarities end. These two peppers are at opposite ends of the heat scale, come from different parts of the world, and offer different benefits.

Let’s dive into the differences in detail.

ghost pepper plant in the garden

Ghost peppers are incredibly hot and can reach more than 1 million on the Scoville scale!

Ghost Pepper vs. Jalapeño: Classification

The jalapeño is a naturally-occurring member of the Capsicum genus in the family Solanaceae. This family of flowering nightshades originates in North and South America, with the genus and species varying between regions. 

The ghost pepper is a hybrid of Capsicum chinense (habaneros) and  Capsicum frutescens (tobasco). The ghost pepper is a naturally-occurring hybrid of the two peppers, formed through cross-pollination in Asia.

Ghost Pepper vs. Jalapeño: Origin

Although the ghost pepper has only been a part of the western hemisphere for a few decades, it’s been present in India for centuries. It was known as the Bhüt Jolokia or “Bhutan Pepper” until a mistranslation resulted in its known moniker. The word “bhut” (without umlauts) translates to “ghost.” In parts of northeast India, they call it the “poison pepper” or bih zôlôkia.

The jalapeño was originally cultivated in Veracruz, a state in Mexico. The name “jalapeño” translates to “of Jalapa,” the English word for Xalapa-Enríquez — the capital city of Veracruz. Despite their Mexican origins, jalapeños are the official “State Pepper of Texas.” 

Ghost Pepper vs. Jalapeño: Description

Although both ghost peppers and jalapeños are similar in shape and size, they have notable visible differences. Ghost peppers are red, whereas jalapeños are usually harvested while green. Ghost peppers also have a wrinkled, rough texture, while jalapeños are smooth. Finally, the jalapeño has a longer, oblong shape, while the ghost pepper is slightly more triangular. 

The flavors are quite different. In addition to the extreme difference in spice, ghost peppers have a sweeter taste. The jalapeño tends to be more bitter and vegetal.

Ghost Pepper vs. Jalapeño: Uses

Ghost peppers and jalapeños are both used in sauces, salsas, and hot sauces. As jalapeños are more palatable, they’re often featured in appetizers like nachos and jalapeño poppers for spice. 

The high Scoville rating of ghost peppers has led some innovators to weaponize this pepper. Scientists have developed chili grenades as a non-toxic form of crowd control. It’s also used in some pepper sprays. In 2015, the Indian Army effectively ousted a terrorist using chili grenades. 

Jalapenos Chili Peppers or Mexican chili peppers

Jalapeños are often used in appetizers and hot sauces.

Ghost Pepper vs. Jalapeño: Growth Tips

Jalapeño plants are easy to grow. Start the seeds indoors at temperatures between 65 and 80 F, and transfer them to the garden or a patio pot after the risk of frost has passed. It takes approximately three weeks for jalapeño plants to germinate. Place the peppers in full sun and water often.

Ghost peppers tend to be tricker, as they need heat and humidity similar to their natural environment. Start seeds indoors in temperatures between 80 and 90F. Use a humidifier to cultivate the seeds. Ghost peppers take 4 to 6 weeks to germinate. Transfer the sprouts to a greenhouse after the risk of frost has passed. Keep the soil warm and wet. 


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About the Author

Nikita Ross is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering plants, gardening, and yard care. Nikita has been writing for over seven years and holds a Marketing diploma from NSCC, which she earned in 2010. A resident of Canada, Nikita enjoys reading in her library, epic beach naps, and waiting for her Coffea arabica plant to produce coffee beans (no luck yet).

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