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Chili vs. Pepper: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Published on January 26, 2024
Chili refers to hot, spicy fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, while pepper commonly denotes Piperaceae family fruits, used as spice or seasoning.

Key Differences

Chili, a fruit of plants from the Capsicum genus, is known for its heat and is used in spicy dishes. Pepper, typically from the Piperaceae family, includes varieties like black, white, and green pepper, used as a common spice.
The heat in chili comes from capsaicin, a chemical compound, making them a staple in many cuisines for their spiciness. Pepper, often ground into a fine powder, is used to add a mild, distinctive flavor to dishes, without the intense heat of chili.
Chilies vary greatly in size, color, and level of heat, used in both fresh and dried forms in cooking. Peppers, however, are usually dried and ground, or used as whole peppercorns, and are known for their pungent aroma and flavor.
Chili is an integral ingredient in many Asian, Latin American, and Indian cuisines, used to add heat and flavor. Pepper, while used worldwide, is a staple in European and American kitchens, often paired with salt for seasoning.
Both chili and pepper are used to enhance the flavor of food, chili brings a hot and spicy element, whereas pepper contributes a mild, pungent flavor and aroma.

Comparison Chart

Botanical Family


Flavor Profile

Hot and spicy
Mild and pungent

Common Forms

Fresh, dried, powdered
Ground, whole peppercorns

Primary Compound


Culinary Uses

Adds heat to dishes
Common seasoning, adds flavor

Chili and Pepper Definitions


Chili is used in various cuisines for its heat and flavor.
The chili sauce gave the noodles a fiery taste.


Black, white, and green peppers are all derived from the same plant but processed differently.
The recipe required a mix of black and white pepper.


Chili is a spicy fruit from the Capsicum plant family.
He added red chili to the curry for extra spice.


Pepper is a pungent spice obtained from dried berries of the Piper nigrum vine.
Freshly ground black pepper was sprinkled over the salad.


Chili is often used to make spicy sauces and condiments.
He loves adding green chili salsa to his tacos.


Pepper can be used whole, cracked, or ground.
The sauce included whole peppercorns for added texture.


Chilies come in different varieties, each with a unique level of spiciness.
She grew several types of chili in her garden.


Pepper is used worldwide as a common seasoning in various dishes.
She seasoned the soup with salt and pepper.


Dried or powdered chili is a common ingredient in many spice blends.
The recipe called for a tablespoon of chili powder.


Ground pepper is a staple in many kitchens and restaurants.
He added a pinch of pepper to enhance the flavor.


The pungent fresh or dried fruit of any of several cultivated varieties of capsicum, used especially as a flavoring in cooking. Also called chili pepper.


A perennial climbing vine (Piper nigrum) native to India, widely cultivated for its long slender spikes of small fruit.


A stew made of meat or beans (or both) and usually tomatoes, spiced with chili peppers or chili powder.


A pungent black or white spice produced from the dried fruit of this plant, used as a condiment.


(countable) The pungent, spicy fresh or dried fruit of any of several cultivated varieties of capsicum peppers, used in cooking.
Chili pepper


(uncountable) Powdered chili pepper, used as a spice or flavouring in cooking.
Chili powder


(Indian Chinese cuisine) A spicy stew of chicken or paneer, capsicum and onion, eaten as an appetizer.


A dish made with chili peppers and other ingredients, such as beans and beef.
Chili con carne


(Cincinnati) Cincinnati chili.


A kind of red pepper. See Capsicum


Ground beef and chili peppers or chili powder often with tomatoes and kidney beans


Very hot and finely tapering pepper of special pungency


Can I use chili in dessert recipes?

Yes, it's used in some desserts for a spicy kick.

Is pepper good for health?

Yes, it has digestive and antibacterial properties.

What's the difference between black and white pepper?

They come from the same plant but are processed differently.

What is pepper?

Pepper is a pungent spice from the Piper nigrum vine.

Can pepper be used in sweet dishes?

Yes, in small amounts for a subtle flavor.

Does pepper come in different colors?

Yes, including black, white, green, and red.

What is chili?

Chili is a hot, spicy fruit from plants in the Capsicum genus.

What are the health benefits of chili?

Chili can boost metabolism and has anti-inflammatory properties.

Are all chilies equally spicy?

No, the spiciness varies among different chili varieties.

Are chili and bell peppers the same?

No, bell peppers are sweet, not spicy.

Is pepper available in different grind sizes?

Yes, from fine to coarse grinds.

Can I grow chili at home?

Yes, it can be grown in gardens or pots.

Are chili and pepper used differently in cooking?

Yes, chili is used for heat, while pepper is used as a general seasoning.

Can pepper lose its flavor over time?

Yes, especially when ground and exposed to air.

What's the hottest type of chili?

The Carolina Reaper is currently known as the hottest.

Can I substitute pepper for chili in recipes?

Only if you want a milder flavor without the heat.

Do chili and pepper have the same flavor profile?

No, chili is hot and spicy, while pepper is more pungent and mild.

Is chili powder made only from chilies?

Pure chili powder is, but some blends include other spices.

How do I store chili for longer shelf life?

Keep it in a cool, dry place or refrigerate.

What dishes are best with chili?

Spicy cuisines like Mexican, Indian, and Thai.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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