Pequin Pepper (Chile Piquín): A Tiny Red Pepper That’s Big on Heat

The Pequin pepper (a.k.a. Chile Pequin or Piquín) is a red pepper small in size, but big on heat. You can use them whenever you want to add a spicy, earthy flavor to your food. Here are all the details on this tiny pepper, including how to grow Piquins at home.

Pequin Pepper

When it comes to Pequin peppers, good things do come in small packages. After biting into this chile for the first time, I discovered Pequins bite back. This spicy heat and depth of flavor are probably why Piquin peppers are a favorite in salsa and hot sauces like Cholula.

If this sounds like your kind of pepper, you might wonder how to use chile Piquín and where to buy them. Here’s some info to get you started.

Chili Pequin Facts:

Common NamesPequin Pepper, Chile Pequin, Piquín, Chile del Monte, Bird Pepper
Pequin Peppers Pronunciationpee / puh • KEEN
Scoville Heat Units (SHU)40,000 to 60,000 SHU
Capsicum SpeciesCapsicum annuum
Days To Harvest100+ days after transplant
Size1/2 to 1-inch (2.5 cm) long peppers; ~2 feet (~0.6 m) tall plants
FlavorNutty, Earthy, Citrusy, Spicy
Culinary UsesSalsa, Hot Sauce, Pepper Flakes / Powder, Pickled, Chili Oil

Let’s continue!

What Is Chili Pequin?

what is chili pequin

Pequins are tiny hot peppers that are used as a spice in their fresh or dried form. Pods grow up to an inch long (2.5 cm), and Pequin plants generally get up to two feet tall (0.6 m). In the wild, Pequins can grow 6 feet tall (1.8 m) or more!

Chile Pequin grows on its own in Central and South Texas and is found in other forms throughout Mexico, South America, the Caribbean and other locations [source]. These peppers go from green to a brilliant red when mature. 

Piquíns go by many names, which is probably why they often get confused with the Chiltepin. In my dad’s home state of Texas, they call Pequin peppers “Chile del Monte” where they grow naturally.

Even more, this chile is also called the “Bird Pepper” because birds eat these little peppers and, ultimately, spread the seeds during the process. Chile Piquin in English is thought to originate from the Spanish word “pequeño,” which means “small.” 

Pequin Pepper Scoville

pepper pequin scoville chart

So, how hot is a Pequín pepper? On the Scoville scale, Pequins rate between 40,000 to 60,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). This rating is similar to the Cayenne pepper, over ten times hotter than a Jalapeno and slightly hotter than the chiles used to make Tabasco sauce.

Besides the heat rating, Pequin peppers tend to burn your whole mouth when eating them. It’s different from other peppers like the Habanero that burn the back of the throat. I find that Pequin heat lasts for about 15 minutes. 


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Chili Pequin Varieties 

chili pequin varieties, yellow pequin pepper
Yellow Pequin Pepper Seeds

Pequin peppers are green in the immature stage and bright red when mature. You can also find other Piquin varieties like the yellow Pequin and ornamental purple Pequin. 

Another variety is the NuMex Bailey Piquin, which is hotter at 50,000 to 100,000 SHUs. This Pequin pepper, developed by New Mexico State University, grows to be ¾ inches long (1.9 cm) and ¼ inches wide (0.6 cm).

» Related: The Best Places to Buy Chili Pepper Seeds Online

Chile Piquín Flavor

chile piquin flavor, dried piquin peppers
Dried Pequin Peppers

Chile Piquin tastes smoky, nutty, spicy and a tad citrusy. I find this pepper has a depth of flavor that makes it perfect for sauce, salsa and chili oil.

What Are Pequin Peppers Used For?

Here are some common ways to cook with Chile Pequin peppers.

  • Fresh Pequins: Slice a couple of peppers, and add them to a pot of soup or stew to flavor the whole dish. If you have a high heat tolerance, you can eat them like candy, just like my grandpa. 😀
  • Dried Pequin Peppers: Grind dried peppers into red pepper flakes or chili powder. You can use these powders to make hot sauce or on any dish where you want a spicy, nutty kick.
  • Pickled Pequíns: Pickle your peppers with vinegar and spices, then enjoy pickled Pequíns on foods like eggs, tacos and rice.

» Related: The Best Supplies for Growing and Cooking with Peppers

How Do You Grow Pequin Peppers From Seed?

how do you grow pequin peppers

Start Piquin pepper seeds indoors about eight weeks before your last expected frost. You can use this seed-starting calculator to automatically get the best planting dates for your location.

Planting Pequin Seeds:

  1. Fill a seedling tray with moistened seed-starting mix, then drop three seeds in each pot. Cover seeds with a light layer of mix and lightly spritz water on top.
  2. Cover your tray with the lid and slide open the vents for airflow. If you don’t have a lid, use plastic cling wrap and poke holes in the top.
  3. Place your containers over a plant heat mat to keep the temperature between 80° to 90°F (27° to 32°C), which encourages germination. Pequin seeds take a long time to grow so use heat to get them to sprout!
  4. Watch for the seedlings to emerge past the soil. (Pequins can take a couple of months to germinate.) Remove the lid and give your plants light.
  5. Keep your Pequin pepper plants indoors until temperatures are regularly above 55°F (13°C). Harden off your plants before moving them outside.

In general, it can take seven months to grow a Pequin pepper plant from seed to harvest. (This timeframe may be less, but germination can take a while.)

» Related: Growing Peppers from Seed to Harvest – The Ultimate Guide

First time growing peppers from seed?

Learn to grow peppers with my step-by-step, illustrated ebook. It’ll help you skip a lot of beginner mistakes so that you can enjoy harvesting your own chilies!

Where To Buy Chile Pequin Plants, Seeds and Peppers

where to buy Chile Pequin on Etsy
Pequin Peppers On Etsy

Chile Pequin isn’t usually available in grocery stores unless you live in a location that has them. Look for dried Pequin peppers in a grocery store’s produce section or spice aisle, or go to a Mexican grocer if you have one. 

For fresh Chile Pequin and plants, check your local farmer’s market. You might also see Pequin plants in a nearby garden center.

Another trick to finding Pequin peppers nearby is to search Instacart. Type “Pequin” in the search field and you’ll get a list of local stores that carry this pepper. 

Here’s where you can buy Pequin peppers, seeds or chili Pequin plants online.

» Related: 30 Places to Buy Pepper Seeds Online (Worldwide)

Pequin Pepper FAQs

Wrapping Up

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Pequin Peppers. These are some flavorful little peppers that are fun to grow and eat if you love the heat!

What’s Next?

If you want to grow Pequíns, check out my step-by-step pepper growing guide. And, if you’re more into cooking with peppers, here’s the Spicy Kitchen page for some fun ideas!  

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AUTHOR

Jenny is the creator of Grow Hot Peppers as well as the writer of the gardening guides and many recipes on this site. She’s been growing peppers and all kinds of veggies for over 10 years. When she’s not writing or gardening, she loves eating spicy foods, hiking and going to the ocean.