Avocados and chile peppers are the power ballad of the fruit world: The fiery duo go way back (both have roots in Mexico), and when brought together they bring joy (and at times, tears) to their hordes of fans.
Similar to your taste in music, recipes for spicy guacs vary. But how spicy is too spicy? Judge for yourself: Using the Scoville scale — a measurement of capsaicin, the chemical stuff that makes chile peppers hot — we rated the following popular peppers so you can adjust your spicy guacamole to cater to any crowd.
Hatch Green Chile (1 chile pepper on the heat index)
Scoville heat units (SHU): 1,000–8,000
Get them while they’re hot: These smoky, subtle peppers grow in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico — hence the name — and have a short cultivation season (August to September).
To keep the flavor year-round, roast and freeze the peppers for a mild version of spicy guacamole dip that won’t scare delicate palates.
Jalapeño (2 peppers)
Fun fact for your next spicy guacamole get-together: This popular pepper is also known as “chile gordo” — or the fat chile pepper — due to its stout shape. Most jalapeños are grown in New Mexico, Texas, and California, or are imported, and the fire factor varies based on location and thickness, among other elements.
For example, the senorita jalapeño is mild, about one-tenth the strength of a regular store-bought jalapeño, and when smoked becomes a chipotle chile.
If your jalapeño is too spicy, reduce the heat by removing the innards. Or, choose red jalapeño peppers, which are sweeter with less heat. Try it minced with avocado or as a medium jolt to other fresh guacamole recipes.
Cayenne (3 peppers)
Be warned: A pinch of cayenne goes a long way for spicy guacamole. These skinny red peppers have a mild aroma but pack a considerable punch — a slow heat — when added to homemade dressings, marinades, and other avocado dishes.
As a staple in Southwestern and Mexican cuisine, cayenne peppers are commonly dried and used as a powder or sliced fresh.
Habanero (4 peppers)
Some like it hot, and those people are habanero lovers. This potent, slightly fruity pepper is typically red or orange and hails from the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.
The thin, waxy skin thrives in hot weather, so it’s fitting that the round, small peppers bring the heat in small doses (Note: The habanero’s oil will spread easily to the skin, so protect yourself with gloves when slicing and dicing).
The actual degree of hotness varies according to climate and genetics. For a tame version of spicy guacamole, try removing the seeds and membrane, the hottest parts of the habanero.
Ghost Pepper (5 peppers)
Think of this one as the Anthony Kiedis of peppers. Bhut jolokia — the ghost pepper — is a chile hybrid cultivated in India and one of the hottest peppers in the world (more than 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce!). Ripe peppers are red, yellow, orange, or chocolate color and can be used fresh or dried.
Those who want to feel the burn should still proceed with caution: One seed is so intense, you may feel like you’re breathing fire for more than 30 minutes after consuming it.
Feeling the burn? Here are more spicy guacamole recipes to spark your interest.