7 Shades of Red – The Proven Value of Red Chilli Pepper in Indian Cooking

Red chilli pepper

History   |   Varieties   |   Benefits   |   Conclusion

We Indians cannot image our food that lacks spices or without a pinch of red chilli pepper. 

Here’s a puzzle for you. Among all the ingredients available in the kitchen, imagine the hot and fierce one which can get tears in your eyes on excess use of it. 

And which can give you the smoky red color on grinding that same ingredient?

When you hear all these, if you have thought its red chilli then you are perfectly right.

Imagine a curry, sambar, or any red, strong, fierce-looking dish without red chilli pepper? Because I can’t imagine it. 

When I want to prepare any non-veg / veg recipe using red chilli paste gives you both the fierce color and hotness in the dish. 

The use of red chilli pepper in Indian kitchen has a massive role to play on. Some members of red chilli look simple and mild but it has the power of destruction.

Some may look fiercely dangerous which has a mild hot taste and gives you the best color for your dish. 

India is the largest producers and exporters of red chilli across the world. There are large varieties of red chilli peppers. 

Some are known to lend a bright color for food and some to prepare a fierce spicy dish.

Let’s read the brief history on red chilli pepper…

History of Red Chilli Pepper

It is believed that the fierce spice red chillies are 7000 B.C old and originated from Mexico. Mexicans used to spice up their dishes with this ingredient. 

Christopher Columbus has introduced this spice to the rest of the world. As he was in search of another hot and fierce spice i.e Black Pepper, he initially called this ingredient as pepper. 

That’s why it is said that the so-called red chilli is named after ‘Chile Pepper’ or ‘Red Chilli Pepper’.

Around the 15th century, chillies were introduced to India by Portuguese and with its acceptance, it is been grown as a powerful spice all over India.

Varieties of Red Chillies in India

As per the Spice Board of India, there are different vivid varieties of chillies that are grown in different parts of the country. 

They include Byadgi, Jwala, Hindpur, Guntur Sannam, Dhani, Ellachipur Sannam, Kanthari white, Ramnad Mundu, Tadapally and many more.

Among these, let’s explore briefly one by one about the 7 most favourite Red Chilli Peppers used in Indian cooking.

Byadgi Chilli [Indian Paprika]

The native of this Byadgi or kaddi chilli unique and famous chilli is the South Indian state, Karnataka. Here ‘kaddi’ means stick-like in Kananda. This dried chilli is deep rich red in color has an aromatic flavour with mild pungency and wrinkles. 

Apart from Karnataka, nearby states like Goa, Kerala, Maharashtra does use this chilli in their cuisine. Byadgi chillies look wrinkled, deep-red and pointed. These chillies are used in dried form or as in powdered. 

To make masalas for sambar or rasam, these chillies are mixed with other spices and ground to obtain in the form of powder. These powdered form can be used readily anytime.

This red chilli pepper is milder compared to others and adds the strong color to the dish along with its strong pungent smell nevertheless that hot as you imagine.

The chilli is made into fine powder to use as paprika and ground them to use as chilli flakes.

These can be used as a substitute for Kashmiri chillies. Wherein, Kashmiri chillies are medium-sized, wrinkled, cone-shaped and dark red in color.

Jwala Chilli

The most popular hot pepper grown and used in the Indian kitchen is Pusa Jwala chillies. These chillies are originally grown in Gujrat and other places of the country. Intake of this strong hot chilli tends you to drink gallons of water. 

The name ‘Jwala’ itself indicates how fiercely hot this chilli might be. These are also called as ‘Finger hot chillies’. These are capable of creating a burning sensation in your abdomen.

This is the ideal green chilli pepper used in food with its flavouring aroma for Indian cuisine.

Jwala chillies are long light green in color and turn wrinkly wine red when its riped and dried. These chillies are easily available in Indian markets and are imported to other countries too.

These chillies are a must addition to Indian cooking. These are its best when its either fresh or dried. 

Jwala chillies can be easily nursed at home and appear among the most important crop in the country.

Kanthari Chilli [Kanthari Mulaku / Thai Pepper]

This chilli pepper is most commonly grown in Kerala, Meghalaya and some other places. Kanthari chillies are also called as ‘Birds Eye Chilli / Kanthari Mulaku / Thai Pepper’. 

Its called so because of its tiny and fiery structure and birds love to consume this chilli when its riped. These chillies may turn light in color when its riped.

Kanthari Mulaku is small, pungent and hot yet has the power to make you cry on having a single bite. These chillies are healthful.

Yes, you heard it right. Thai pepper is used in increasing appetite, to burn more calories, acts as an antioxidant, reduces cholesterol and increases metabolism, to ease arthritis pain and many more. It is said that these chillies are packed with vitamins and minerals.

Because of its discrete flavour and great fragrance, Kanthari chillies are used in Kerala to prepare dishes. These chillies are also dipped in buttermilk to relinquish the strong flavour to it.

These chillies are soaked in salt and curd, then it is dried in sunlight. This is used as a condiment.

Guntur Chilli

Guntur chilli

Even though it’s fiery spicy, yet you dare to go back with the same emotion and feeling for it. The origin of Guntur chilli is Andhra Pradesh. 

These chilli peppers can be added to any dish that you wish to make it really hot and spicy. In Andhra cuisine, they use these chillies in almost all dishes they prepare to get the pungent strong flavour with spicy hot taste. 

You might have noticed people having Andhra dishes cannot stop themselves from shedding tears because of its spiciness. 

The love for these Guntur Sannnam chillies is abundant in the heart of Andhra people as it is named after its district called – ‘Guntur’.

Guntur chillies have become so famous that, it is one among the largest producer and exporter of maximum varieties chillies around the world. 

These chillies are mainly used in the preparation of mutton curries, chicken fries which is also famous that represents Andhra cuisine.

Bhut Jolokia [Ghost Pepper]

One of the worlds hottest of all chillies is Bhut Jolokia, originated from northeast India. Bird’s eye chillies are grown in Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and most favourite among Nagaland.

Bhut Jolokia is also known as Dhani / Ghost pepper, these are small and pureblood red in color with a distinct aroma. Try having a nibble of this chilli, will make tears streaming down your face.

These chillies are the player ingredient in some of the dishes prepared in northeast India. The chilli peppers are pickled or dried and also used as in whole by the locals.

The people from Mizoram and Manipur use this chilli in their pickles and also used as in the form of food and spice.

Kashmiri Chilli

Indian cooking is incomplete without using ‘Kashmiri Lal Mirch’ meaning – Kashmiri Red Chilli. This is one of the famous red chilli pepper in Indian cooking and incomplete without its appearance in the Indian kitchen.

As the name suggests, it is well-known for its red chilli in India for its color. The powdered form of this chilli pepper gives a remarkable color to the dish.

It’s not that hotter and spicier as per its look. It is less hot and pungent compared to other chilli pepper found across India.

Ramnad Mundu [Gundu Chilli]

Ramnad mundu chilli

The spherical shaped chilli is widely grown in districts like Kadaladi, Sayalkudi areas, Mudukulathur and mainly in Ramnad district of Tamil Nadu. It is also called as Ramnad s9 red mundu chilli.

Ramnad Mundu chilli peppers are round spherical shaped, yellowish red, shiny layer and have medium pungency.

These chillies come with stems or stemless, crushed form like chilli flakes, dried chilli powder. The whole chillies can be used in grinding fresh masalas and powdered one to get blended with curries.  

Mundu or Gundu chillies have a powerful aroma and add a strong flavour to the dish. These are mainly used in Chettinad cuisine to add the essence to the dish.

Let’s learn more about its medicinal use in the field of Indian medicine.

Benefits of Red Chilli Pepper in Ayurveda

Red chilli pepper benefts

Red Chillies are not only used as a spice in cooking also it plays an important role in Indian Medicine so-called Ayurveda too. 

Red chilli peppers are used in the treatment of cholera, joint pains and swelling, headache, sore throat, digestion problem and many more.

It plays a huge part to fight against inflammation, boosts immunity, prevents stomach ulcers, stops the spread of prostate cancer, clears congestion and performs as natural pain relief.


There are lot more varieties of chilli peppers available in and around the world. By giving a lot more flavour, bright hue to dish and diversities of aromas to the dish, red chilli pepper plays an important part among the list of essential spices in Indian cooking.

The chillies like Kanthari, Byadagi, Ramnad Mudu are from the southern part of India, Dhani or Bhut Jolokia are from Northeastern part of India, Kashmiri chillies, Jwala chillies are from the Western part of India. 

Like this, the varieties of chilli peppers are shattered all over India and some places are named after these chillies.

We have also seen, even though chillies are not only meant as a spice they are also used in Indian medicine and saw the benefits of the same.

Red chilli pepper stepped into India in the 16th century, is now a major commercial crop grown and exported to many other countries around the world and now became an important spice in Indian cuisine.


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