When you visit Guatemala there is no doubt that you will want to eat something spicy. It is Latin America and suddenly your blood will say – hell, I’m a Latino too! And we like to eat spicy stuff. So, you would want to learn something about chili peppers that are common for Guatemala.

Chili peppers are one of the most widely consumed species of spice around the world. Like Mexico and Central America as a whole, Guatemala has been considered by many researchers as a center of origin and diversity of some of the most important species of chili peppers. Some are common with Mexico, some came all the way from Peruvian Amazonas area. Let us see most of the species that you will encounter in Guatemala, their dispersion, and their strength. As you might hear, the unit for spiciness is a Scoville unit. So, let start from less killing ones to the brain damage causing ones. Of course, you can listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers while reading.

Chile huaque or guaque (guajillo)

Area: mainly in the central highlands and in some localities of Sololá, Lake Atitlan.

Description: fresh or dried fruit of black-green color

Use: Guatemalans add it to many traditional, mostly Mayan recipes. It is used also in tamales.

Strength: 2500 to 5000 Scoville units

Jalapeño chile

Area: everywhere. Most popular chili pepper of the world.

Description: its fruit is green with an elongated shape and meaty. When it is dried can be black and it is called chipotle.

Use: It is used fresh, pickled or as a jelly. There are many other types of use. You will not be able to miss this chili pepper.

Strength: 2500 - 10000 Scoville units

Tooth of the dog chile

Area: It is one of the most cultivated chili peppers in the country, and is considered highly pungent. It grows naturally in fences, paddocks and open spaces of the forest, but it is also grown in home gardens.

Description: green to red when ripe, up to 2 inches long

Use: Fresh, pickled or dried

Strength: 5000 to 30000 Scoville units

Chile Serrano | GuatexplorerSerrano chile

Area: It is grown commercially almost everywhere in Guatemala

Description: It is often mistaken for jalapeños. Somewhat smaller and much hotter.

Use: Delicious when pickled. Comes in small cans and you will buy them to take home.

Strength: 10000 – 23000 Scoville units


Chile manzano | GuatexplorerManzano or horse chile

Area: It is distributed in the central and western highlands of Guatemala and in the area of the Verapaces (Upper and Lower)

Description: Yellow or orange color when mature, very meaty so it is not suitable for drying

Use: Most used fresh or prepared as sauce

Strength: 30000 - 50000 Scoville units


Chile Cobanero or Cahabonero chile

Area: Is a variety native to the Verapaces, two Guatemalan departments around the city of Coban. Lately, it is spread in Peren and Izabal departments.  

Description and use: The typical cobanero chile is characterized by being round and of a light red color. It acquires a dark red color after being roasted in the drying oven before being subjected to grinding to reduce it to dust, a form that the Guatemalan population demands.

Strength: up to 100000 Scoville units

Chile chiltepe

Area: warmer parts of Guatemala, almost everywhere out of the highlands

Description: commonly known as chiltepín or chiltepe, it looks like a cobanero chile. Only, it is smaller.

Use: This baby is strong, so it is commonly used as a dust, but also fresh

Strength: 50000 to 100000 Scoville units

Habanero chili pepper

Area: mostly Peten in the north of Guatemala, under Yucatan peninsula

Description: The immature specimens are green, but their hue varies at maturity. The most common colors are orange (semi-hard) and red (ripe), but also exist in white, brown, yellow and pink.

Use: For this one, you have to have a gun permit. Or be Bond, James Bond. Once upon a time, it was considered as the strongest chile on the Planet.

Strength: 325.000 to 580.000 Scoville units (depending on the type)

My advice is that you find some time and visit some of the Guatemalan markets. There you will see some of the chili peppers mentioned here, you will be able to talk to producers. On the other hand, you can visit stores, from ordinary supermarkets to specialized delicacy stores. You will find nice products, already packed spices and sauces (salsas). In last 4-5 years, Guatemala had a boom of domestically produced salsas. Also, some stores have lovely Mexican spicy things, first to mention legendary Tabasco sauce, that will never disappoint you.

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