Jalapeño Pepper vs Carolina Reaper Pepper (Heat, Flavor, & Size!)

For most people, the habanero or ghost pepper is probably the hottest pepper they’ve ever experienced. Others draw the line at the popular jalapeño. Real thrill seekers, however, may have sought out the world’s (official) hottest pepper: the Carolina Reaper. Those who haven’t experienced this intimidating pepper may find themselves wondering what the big difference between jalapeños and the Carolina Reaper might actually be.

Carolina Reapers are one thousand times spicier than jalapeños! Good luck finding two peppers that are more different from each other. Even their appearances are opposites – jalapeños are incredibly smooth and Carolina Reapers are quite wrinkly. The only thing they have in common is their size, measuring between 2 and 3 inches long.

Read on to learn about all the unique differences between jalapeños and Carolina Reapers!

Comparison – Differences between jalapeño peppers and Carolina Reaper peppers

You’d be hard-pressed to find two hot peppers that have less in common than jalapeños and Carolina Reapers but do you actually know the extent of the differences?

Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers (based on heat, flavor, size, shape, nutrition, and substitutions).

Let’s take a detailed look at the similarities and differences between jalapeños and Carolina Reaper peppers based on the following criteria:

  • Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers heat level
  • Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers flavor
  • Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers texture
  • Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers size and shape
  • Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers nutrition
  • Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers cost and availability
  • Unique difficulties
  • Substitutions
CriteriaJalepeño PepperCarolina Reaper Pepper
Heat level2,000-8,000 SHU2,200,000 SHU
FlavorSweet and brightFruity and incredibly spicy
TextureSmooth with a tough skinVery wrinkled
Size2-3″ 2-3″
ShapeRounded conesIrregularly shaped
Nutrition (per 100g)29 Calories
144% DV Vitamin C
40 Calories
SubstitutionsSerrano pepperTrinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper
Table comparing jalepeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers based on heat level, flavor, texture, size, shape, basic nutrition, and common substitutions

Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers heat level (in Scoville heat units)

Jalapeños don’t come anywhere NEAR Carolina Reapers heat-wise. 

If you think jalapeños are spicy, you may not be ready for the record-breaking Carolina Reaper!

Jalapeños rank at a modest 2,000-8,000 SHU – which is still too spicy for some. Terrifyingly, Carolina Reapers come in at 2.2 MILLION SHU!

Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers flavor

Jalapeños have a wonderful sweet burst to them, while Carolina Reapers have a fruity taste. But you have to work your way up to the spice level in order to taste anything besides, well, ouch!

Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers texture

Jalapeños are impressively smooth, and Carolina Reapers are super wrinkled.

Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers size and shape

Jalapeños are 2-3 inches long and have a cone shape with rounded edges.

Carolina Reapers are also 2-3 inches long, but they have irregular shapes and are extremely wrinkled.

Jalapeños vs Carolina Reaper peppers nutrition

As with all peppers, both jalapeños and Carolina Reaper peppers are low in calories and loaded with Vitamin C! Their capsaicin content also has potent anti-inflammatory properties.

Cost and availability

Jalapeños are SO much easier to find than Carolina Reapers.

Carolina Reaper peppers aren't commonly stocked in grocery stores.

Carolina Reapers aren’t very cheap since they’re a bit of a delicacy with a cult following. Additionally, most grocery stores won’t stock them because of how few people actually want to purchase them in their raw form.

Unique difficulties

If you thought you had to be careful cooking with jalapeños, the level of necessary precaution quadruples (at the very least) when working with Carolina Reapers.

Wear gloves and avoid touching anything – not just your eyes. Be prepared to rinse your eyes just in case. Sanitize your entire kitchen after working with Carolina Reapers and don’t use the cutting board for anything else until it’s been thrown in the dishwasher.

Can you substitute jalapeño peppers for Carolina Reapers or vice versa?

You absolutely cannot substitute jalapeño peppers for Carolina Reapers or vice versa. They are in completely different galaxies heat-wise.

Even if you’re looking to add an out-of-this-world spice to your recipe, the flavor profiles don’t have much in common. In that case, you’d be better off using a ghost pepper. Since it only comes in at around 1 million SHU, you’ll be losing some heat, but you’ll retain the sweet flavor.

Jalapeño peppers – a complete overview

Now let’s give the spotlight to jalapeños. This common pepper may be the hottest most people ever go, and it’s definitely worth exploring!


Jalapeños have a decently large SHU range- from 2,000 to 8,000.

Graphic showing the relative comparison of select peppers based on their SHU.

Size won’t tell you much when it comes to how spicy a particular jalapeño may be, but a red color can cue you into the fact that it’s on the spicier side.

Capsaicin builds up as jalapeños mature, so redder, more mature jalapeños will be spicier. 


Jalapeños have a decent kick to them, paired with a wonderfully sweet flavor.

Size, shape, and texture

Jalapeños are about 2-3 inches long.

Jalapeños have a distinctive tight, smooth exterior.

They look a little bit like rounded cones.

Nutritional content and potential health benefits

One cup of raw jalapeños has:

  • 26 calories
  • 20% DV Vitamin B6
  • 10% DV dietary fiber
  • 177% DV Vitamin C

Some health benefits of the jalapeño pepper include:

  • Potential weight loss aid
  • May help fight infections
  • May prevent ulcers
  • May increase heart health

Cooking with jalapeño peppers

Many people only eat pickled jalapeños because they can’t handle the full spice of the raw pepper. Pickled jalapeños are popularly used on nachos or subs.

Jalapeños can be stuffed, roasted, sauteed, grilled, blistered – you name it!

While jalapeños are well known for their use in Mexican cooking, they’ve been welcomed all around the world for their incredible combination of flavor and spice.

For a Southen take on this pepper, try adding jalapeños to your cheddar cornbread like in this recipe.

Substitutions for jalapeño peppers

Serrano peppers are the best jalapeño pepper substitute. Spicy jalapeños have about the same SHU as mild serranos, and both peppers are sweet!

Freezing, drying, and preserving jalapeño peppers

If you love pickled jalapeños and want to have some fun, you should try pickling them yourself!

Other ways to preserve jalapeño peppers include freezing, drying, and canning them.

Carolina Reaper peppers – a complete overview

While there are some reports that there are hotter peppers out there, none of them are official.

For now, the Carolina Reaper remains the world’s hottest pepper, but is there more to know about it?

The Carolin Reaper is the reining hottest pepper in the world.


Carolina Reapers are one of the hottest peppers in the world, making it all the way up to 2.2 million SHU!


The Carolina Reaper tastes fruity, although it’s hard to detect any flavor behind the spice unless you’re a seasoned veteran.

Size, shape, and texture

Carolina reapers are 2-3 inches long.

Carolina Reaper peppers are relatively small, irregularly shaped, and very wrinkly.

They’re irregularly shaped and very wrinkled.

Nutritional content and potential health benefits

Carolina Reapers are low in calories, high in vitamin C, and incredibly high in capsaicin.

Vitamin C has potential anti-cancer properties. Meanwhile, the huge capsaicin content may be anti-inflammatory and boost your metabolism.

Cooking with Carolina Reaper peppers

Carolina Reapers should only be used in minute amounts. 

Hot sauce fans like to make hot sauce out of them (or buy it pre-made and use make hot wings). They’re also great for jelly, but always adjust common pepper recipes to account for how spicy Carolina Reapers are!

Daring pepper lovers may want to try and make a Carolina Reaper hot sauce.

Substitutions for Carolina Reaper peppers

Dragon’s Breath peppers are the best substitute for Carolina Reapers.

Dragon’s Breath peppers have almost 2.5 million SHU, actually making them spicier than Carolina Reapers. Watch for an upcoming update to the Guinness world record!

Freezing, drying, and preserving Carolina Reaper peppers

Carolina Reapers are unique in how spicy they are. So while you can technically freeze and dry them, they’re most commonly bought and used in small amounts with no preservation necessary unless you’re growing them in your garden.