Popular Indian Chillies


Cooking without Indian Chillies in India is like cooking without fire. We are the kings of spice. The substance that gives chillies their heat and intensity when eaten is called capsaicin. Its mainly found in the seeds of the chillies. So if you want the flavor but less heat, then take out the seeds and use the skin alone. The general rule of thumb is that the smaller the chilli, higher the heat. When you eat a chilli, the capsaicin chemicals sends a message to the brain that something hot has been eaten. The pain receptors sends this message from the tongue and the throat. The brain in turn responds to the heat in the mouth by raising the heart rate and brings in the sweat / perspiration.

There are numerous varieties of chillies available in India. India is the worlds largest producer and consumer of chillies. We eat a lot of chillies. I have just compiled the most popular ones that I have used and come across.

Kashmiri Red Chilli – Its an intensely colored chilli. It does not have much heat to it but its the most sought after chilli for its color. When ground, the seeds are removed and the skin is ground to a fine powder. The chillies as such are not widely used. Its more known for the powder that’s made out of it. Its called as Kashmiri mirch.

Guntur – Guntur chilli has to be the most popular chilli in South India. Its spicy and a hot variety of chilli. It comes from Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. Guntur sannam is a sub-variety that’s very popular and has high demand.

Salem Gundu – Its the most popular chilli used in Tamilnadu and its medium hot. Gundu in Tamil means fat. Its a small round fat chilli with lots of seeds in it. Its widely used in making chutney and sambar and for tempering / tadka purposes.

Byadagi – Byadagi Chillies come from the Haveri district in Karnataka. The chilli is long and wrinkled and deeply red. Its not very hot but imparts a dark colour and aroma. This is my favorite chilli. Its widely used in udipi and mangalore cuisine.

Dhani – Its the dried form of birds eye chilli. Its really spicy and hot and pungent.

Here is a picture of the other popular chillies around the world.

Image courtesy for this picture above Food52

16 thoughts on “Popular Indian Chillies”

  1. Hi Mam,

    Thank you so much for such a detailed blog, it really help for a person like me to know this spices better.

    I wanted to move away from buying readymade chilli powder packets and want a get them grounded personally in the mills.

    I stay in Bangalore and have access to Guntur, Byadagi and Dhani.

    My question is for a perfect chilli powder what would be your recommended ratio ? to create a flavourful, mildly pungent and good red colour chilli powder.

    Note: I am from Andhra and most of our cuisines are on the higher spicy side 🙂

    Thank you so much.

    1. Though I use whole chillies mostly, and stock four or five varieties (including ‘kantari’ and ‘Salem’, but not gundu, which aren’t mentioned in the blog) I make and keep a ‘basic’ chilli powder at home. For this, I mix equal numbers of Guntur Sanam (for heat) and Kashmiri for the colour. Largely though, Kashmiri’s are bigger per chilli, so you may want to adjust the numbers, unless you weigh each. (And a tip to getting a fine grind is making them brittle by keeping them exposed, perhaps in a bowl, in a refrigerator for a couple of days.) For a default ground chilli, this should work. However, I encourage you to explore a variety of chillies, since their flavour profiles are very different apart from the pungency, and pairing the right chilli with the dish will make a big difference. And yes, Byadagi is my favourite chilli too. And a word of caution: many store keepers will tell you Byadagi and Kashmiri are the same. They are not.

  2. Suman Nelaballi

    Do you by chance know how to get Byadagi Chillis in Chennai. I don’t seem to get it in any store. Amazon.in is fleecing money at 200 Rs for 200 gms. Any pointers will help.

  3. Hahaha. Thanks for demystifying chillies for my tadka. It was rather confusing. No. More. 🤗

  4. Chandan Kumar.S

    Salem Gundu – Its the most popular chilli used in Tamilnadu and its medium hot. Gundu in Tamil means fat. Its a small round fat chilli with lots of seeds in it. Its widely used in making chutney and sambar and for tempering / tadka purposes.

    My question: Can we use it as Chilli powder? For what dish can we use as powder or even by grinding etc.

    Will be glad to recieve a small response

    1. Asha Shereen

      Thank you so much for the clarification and detailed explanation with picture. I was really confused with kashmiri and byadagi.

      Keep up your work. Thanks again.

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