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The Hot Spot of Hot Peppers

MG Capsaicin per KG of Jalapeno Pepper Outside flesh—5 mg Seeds—73 mg Pith/membrane—512 mg

If you eat foods with hot peppers, you likely know the spiciness, or heat, can vary a lot.

The heat comes from a group of compounds called capsaicinoids, including the well known capsaicin. This fiery compound causes “chemesthesis” in which the receptors inside the mouth react to pain, touch, and heat. Some may call it pain, others call it pleasure.

Chile pepper varieties have a varying amount of heat and can also be quite different within the same variety. Growing conditions will also determine heat in peppers. If the plant is stressed, the peppers will produce more capsaicin.

The pith, or white membrane, contains a majority of the heat from capsaicin. Simply cut out the pith, as well as the seeds, to cool down the heat. Save these to add back to a recipe if more heat is desired. The size of pepper makes little difference in heat pungency.

Source: The Science of Good Cooking, Cook’s Illustrated


About Karen Blakeslee

The Rapid Response Center was formed in 1995 as a resource for Kansas State University Research & Extension Agents. Resource topics included Food Science, Human Nutrition, Food Service, Textiles, Home Care and other consumer topics. Since that time, the Center has grown to be of valuable assistance to Kansas State University Extension Specialists in those areas.

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