This is a partial field guide to peppers. With upwards of 2,000 kinds of chile peppers in the world, it’s hard to catch ’em all, but we delved in and picked a peck: 19 of our favorite peppers, from familiar jalapeno and serrano to more boutique Hungarian pimenton and guindilla verde.

Chile peppers are like people: It takes all kinds. Some are sweet, and others burn you (you’ll notice the absence of ghost peppers and Carolina reapers from our list, since they’re more in the realm of “stunt peppers” than regular food ingredient, at least for most folks; that doesn’t mean we don’t love them too, if only from a distance). The more you get to know them, the better you can discern the differences in personality and choose the one to suit your mood.

Related Reading: What Is the Difference Between Sweet & Hot Peppers (Besides the Obvious)?

Possibly originating from South America, chile peppers have been cultivated all over the world for centuries, leading to a wide variety of species with different colors, shapes, flavors, and, of course, spiciness, though most all of them fall into five families (Capsicum annuumCapsicum baccatumCapsicum chinenseCapsicum frutescens, and Capsicum pubescens).

In 2011, we consulted pepper expert and grower David Winsberg from Northern California’s Happy Quail Farms to put together a chart of some common peppers as well as a few less common varieties that were becoming more widely available in the United States thanks to specialty growers like Winsberg. Average size and hotness scale (from 1 to 5) included. And, of course, plenty of pepper recipes so you can put your knowledge to good use.

Related Reading: The Best Gifts for Hot Pepper Obsessives

1. Poblano Pepper (a.k.a. Ancho Chile)

Average Size: About 4 to 5 inches long

Spiciness Scale: 2 to 3

Poblano Pepper (a.k.a. Ancho Chile)

A good, easy-to-find grilling pepper that’s ideal for stuffing to make chiles rellenos with a kick of heat (but another classic use is in Mexican rajas). Poblanos get fairly big and are usually sold fresh, while they are younger and dark green. At their red, mature stage they are usually dried (and in their dried form they are called ancho chiles). Their skin is easy to blister and peel. Winsberg says they have a good flavor, with enough heat to be zesty but not scorch anyone.

2. Guindilla Verde

Average Size: About 6 inches long

Spiciness Scale: 1

Guindilla Verde

From the Basque area in Spain, this is a tender pepper with a distinct sweetness. The variety shown is from the Bilbao region, and Winsberg says it’s a good fryer served alongside meat like lamb or pork. It shouldn’t be confused with the more widely available jarred guindillas. Winsberg says guindilla is a name applied to several distinct regional varieties in Spain ranging from marble-size scorchers to these sweet large fryers, which he says are similar in flavor to a Hatch chile but without the heat.

3. Chilaca (a.k.a. Pasilla Chile)

Average Size: About 7 to 9 inches long

Spiciness Scale: 2 to 3

Chilaca (a.k.a. Pasilla Chile)

This is a Mexican variety that matures from dark green to dark chocolate brown. It’s a versatile pepper that’s good for sauces, roasting, and grilling when fresh, says Winsberg. Chilacas are medium hot but “not so much that they are scary.” When dried, they are called pasillas and are common in mole recipes; pasillas (also known as chiles negros) are available both whole and powdered.

4. Basque Fryer (a.k.a. Piment d’Anglet, Doux Long des Landes)

Average Size: About 6 inches long

Spiciness Scale: 1

Basque Fryer

A French pepper used in many French Basque recipes. It is a twisty, long pepper that when green has a “very distinct peppery taste with a very tender skin, and lend[s] a nice chile zest without adding heat,” says Winsberg. When it turns red, it gets very sweet. It excels in sauces, chopped up and sautéed for a pipérade (the Basque fryer would replace the bell peppers in our recipe), or fried with meats or sausage.

5. Anaheim Chile

Average Size: About 5 to 6 inches long

Spiciness Scale: 1

Anaheim Chile

Named after the city in Southern California, the Anaheim is a big, mild chile that’s good for stuffing. Its skin is a little tough, but it peels pretty easily if you roast it first. Anaheims are good roasted, cut into strips, and thrown into a salad; stuffed with meat and grilled; used in salsa verde; or added to cheese enchiladas.

6. Cayenne

Average Size: About 2 to 6 inches long

Spiciness Scale: 4 to 5

Cayenne Pepper

This bright red pepper is usually consumed in its dried, powdered form, known as cayenne pepper. When ripe and fresh, cayenne chiles are long, skinny, and very hot. Winsberg says they are relatives of wild chiles from South and Central America.

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