Chiles make the chili. Here are favored hot pepper varieties cited by contestants in the Great Miller Lite Chili Cook-Off. Scoville units measure each chile's heat level; the higher the number, the hotter the chile. For perspective, a bell pepper registers 0 Scoville units.
Pasilla―Most often dried, this pepper gives chili a
deep reddish-black color and smoky flavor.
4,000 Scoville units
Chile de arbol― This hot, slender, bright red pepper
is related to cayenne. In powdered form, it can crank up the fire
in a chili powder mix.
23,000 Scoville units
New Mexican chiles―Many cultivars of this
pod―often found dried― are used in chile verde.
4,500-5,000 Scoville units
Serrano―This small, hot chile is prized for its "back
heat" that registers at the back of the throat.
25,000 Scoville units
Jalapeño―The most widely used hot pepper adds a
bright, forward heat. Pickled jalapeño rings can show up among
5,500 Scoville units
Habanero―Some chili cooks cautiously add
habanero―the hottest chile around―or a habanero hot
sauce to their recipes. This pepper has distinct sweetness but
intensely hot spice. Tip: Orange habaneros are hotter than red
150,000-210,000+ Scoville units