Malagueta chile

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Malagueta chile (Capsicum frutescens var. malagueta, Solanaceae) is a type of chilli used in Brazil, Portugal and Mozambique. It is heavily used in the Bahia state of Brazil . It apparently gets its name from the unrelated melegueta pepper from West Africa (Zingiberaceae).

It is a small, tapered, green pepper that turns red as it matures. It is about 5 cm (2 inches) in length at maturity. It is a very hot pepper, with a range of 60,000 to 100,000 Scoville units (about the same as Tabasco peppers). There are two sizes seen in markets, which will sometimes have different names: the smaller ones are called "malaguetinha" in Brazil and "piri-piri" in Portugal and Mozambique, and the larger ones are called "malaguetão" in Brazil and "malagueta" in Portugal. They are not different varieties, just peppers of different maturities from the same plant.

This pepper is used to season many regional dishes in Brazil and Mozambique and is also used in sauces. In Portugal it is mainly used to season poultry dishes.


One needs to pay careful attention: The malagueta chile (spelled “mala”), used in Brazilian cooking, is often confused with melegueta pepper (spelled “mele”), also known as "Grains of Paradise," a cardamom-like West African spice (Aframomum melegueta, from the Zingiberaceae [ginger] family). Botanical and culinary writers have made the error of referring to the chilli as the African spice, thinking it to be one and the same. One way to avoid confusion is to refer to the former as the "malagueta chilli" and the latter as "melegueta pepper."