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All About Chile, Chili & Chilli & The Low FODMAP Diet

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Chill Out: Let’s Talk About Chile, Chili & Chilli

There is some confusion about the various spellings for capsicum and peppers and what they refer to and some of this is due to differences in spelling from country to country, but some of this is also due to inappropriate use of attaching certain spellings to certain ingredients or finished dishes. This article, All About Chile, Chili & Chilli, is for clarification and how it affects us in relation to FODMAPs.

Overhead shot of different fresh hot peppers in bowls.
A mix of hot and mild peppers freshly picked from Robin’s garden. Red habaneros, green habaneros, red and green cayenne, red, green and black jalapenos, mild green bell peppers and anaheim peppers. Photo by Robin Jaffin

For our purposes, being based in the US, we use the spelling “chile” when we are talking about an actual pepper, and “chili” when we are referring to “chili powder” or the finished meat, vegetable or bean-based dish, such as our All Beef Chili. (see below).

Low FODMAP all beef chili closeup on rice in white bowl

Monash University uses the spelling “chilli” on their app when they are referring to raw peppers, dried peppers and also ground powders. FODMAP Friendly uses this spelling as well.

Chili Powder Can Mean Many Things

In the U.S., if you see a recipe calling for, or you are shopping for “chili powder” (U.S. spelling) you will actually be using a blend, typically made up of some sort of ground chile powder (such as ancho), cumin, garlic and oregano and often including cayenne or other chiles, paprika and/or salt as well.

The ingredients used to create a chili powder vary hugely from brand to brand! You HAVE to read ingredient lists.

Are FODMAPs Lurking?

Because of the inclusion of garlic in most chili powder blends this can be one of those “hidden” FODMAP occasions where you season your food and don’t even realize that you are using a high FODMAP ingredient.

 Monash University lists “chilli” (their spelling) powder in their app under Spices.

The chilli powder that they have tested is ground Serrano pepper, which we determined via private correspondence.

There are a couple of issues with this. First of all, dried, ground Serrano is not easily sourced in all parts of the world (certainly not in the U.S). Secondly, ground Serrano pepper is much spicier than most chili powders that are blends.

This can wreak havoc when following a recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon of chili powder and you use an equivalent of straight ground chile pepper!

various peppers on white background

About Chile, Spicy Food & IBS

Hot and spicy foods, including those seasoned with chiles, can be tolerated by some people with IBS, yet for others it is a digestive issue. Capsaicin is what gives chiles their “heat” and spiciness and can trigger heartburn and digestive upset.

This can only be determined for you, by yourself, and everyone will have unique reactions. Perhaps this will be discovered during a structured Challenge Phase, or maybe you have always had issues with spicy food. Know your tolerances.

In terms of how “hot” a pepper is, chiles can be graded by Scoville units. The higher on the Scoville index, the hotter and spicier the pepper. You can see below, for instance, that Habanero are much hotter than Serrano, which in turn are hotter than Anaheim.

Scoville chart depicting heat index for peppers
In 1912, Wilbur Scoville, a chemist, developed the Scoville Heat Index, a scale to measure the spiciness of peppers. Heat is measured in multiples of 100 units, based on how much sugar-water it takes to dilute the pepper to the point where tasters can’t notice its heat. Pure capsaicin can be three times hotter than pepper spray (Image Credit: Essential Oil).

What’s Low FODMAP In The Chile World?

Here is the U.S. many of us have ground cayenne pepper in our spice cabinet along with crushed red pepper flakes, and certainly these are the two most common dried form of chile that is called for in U.S. recipes.

A glass bowl of red and green cayenne peppers shot from overhead.
A glass bowl of freshly picked red and green cayenne peppers from Robin’s garden. Photo by Robin Jaffin

Then there is the liquid version: HOT SAUCE! Folks who like things hot, love hot sauce and it isn’t unusual for them to have a selection at hand. Tabasco is a very popular commercial brand. Tabasco peppers have not been tested.

Let’s look at how all of these relate to FODMAPs.

Green Bell Peppers

We can all find fresh green bell peppers at the market and they are low FODMAP in amounts of 52 g or about ½ cup.

Red Bell Peppers

These sweet red peppers are also easy to find. By the way, red bell peppers have shown no detectable FODMAPs in lab tests by Monash University. What is important to note is that red bell peppers are typically ripened green peppers. This means that the ripening process has affected the FODMAP content. You can read more in our article, How Dehydration, Ripening and Storage Affect Fruit.

Ground, Dried Serrano

We worked closely with Monash on wording for using “hot pepper” in recipes and wanted to understand exactly what they have lab tested and approved. They told us that their ground “chilli” powder was made from pure ground Serrano chiles. They often refer us to their images, alongside each lab tested food entry in their app, as a means of helping understand what the item is. The image shows a dark red ground powder, which could not immediately be identified as ground Serrano, hence our questions. This is an issue, because oftentimes in recipes, when the ingredients call for “chili powder”, it is a much milder blend.

Dried Chipotle

This entry on the Monash app states that dried Chipotle peppers are high FODMAP in amounts of “1 chilli” at 18 g and Moderate at 1 teaspoon or 3g. They did not test smaller amounts, which is truly a shame, as even ⅛ teaspoon could add loads of flavor and heat to a serving. We have used reports from our RDs and their clinical expertise and believe that small amounts can be tolerated by many people with IBS. Also, several prepared products that contain chipotle have been lab tested and certified low FODMAP by both Monash and FODMAP Friendly, so we do know that there is some amount that is low FODMAPYour experience, of course, might vary. Please read our article, What Is A Low FODMAP Serving Size?

As of Fall 2020 Monash has now tested ground chipotle pepper (ground/dried) and it is low FODMAP in 1 teaspoon amounts of 2 g.

Jalapeno

Monash has tested pickled Jalapeños and they are low FODMAP in 1 Australian tablespoon, drained (15 g). Only trace FODMAPs were found. Fresh jalapeños have not been tested. We have found jalapeños listed on certified low FODMAP products, however, such as Fody Medium Salsa, so why not try a small amount of fresh jalapeño for yourself.

Green Habanero 

ALERT: Robin and I both have iPhones and have the most updated Monash app, and yet we can see different entries. You might have noticed that green habaneros were listed in the Monash app, but now that entry is gone on some of our updated apps, and yet still showing on other updated apps! In its place (and/or in addition) is green habanero sauce. Monash had listed green habaneros as low FODMAP in amounts of 1 chile (9 g).

We asked Monash why they had tested green habaneros, and not ripe red and orange habaneros, which are more commonly used. We did not receive a clear answer to this.

They told us that the app entry was a mistake and that they would update it to be sauce, not the raw pepper. What they tested was Green Habanero Sauce and it is low FODMAP in 88 g amounts, which is generous! We look at the initial reference for 1 green habanero at 9 g as a guide.

This spicy pepper is typically used in its ripe form, in either orange or red, at least in the U.S. As we know, ripening and processing can affect FODMAP levels therefore we caution anyone making extrapolations about fresh habaneros, either unripe or ripe.

A large wooden bowl of green habaneros shot from above.
A large bowl of green (unripe) habenero’s from Robin’s garden. On their way to becoming habenero hot sauce. – Photo by Robin Jaffin
A basket of red (ripe) habenero chiles shot from overhead.
A basket of red ripe habenero chiles just picked from Robin’s garden. Photo by Robin Jaffin

Fresh Green Chile

Monash has told us in private correspondence that they tested Serrano chiles for the fresh green chiles listed on the app. They have indicated that Serrano are the most common chiles in their markets. They are low FODMAP in 28 g servings, which is a chile about 11 cm long. We do not know their Moderate or High FODMAP portions.

Fresh Red Chile: Serrano & Cayenne

Monash has told us in private correspondence that they tested Serrano chiles for the fresh red chiles listed on the app. They have indicated that Serrano are the most common chiles in their markets. They are low FODMAP in 28 g servings, which is a chile about 11 cm long. They become Moderate for fructans at 35 g.

FODMAP Friendly has told us in private correspondence that they tested Cayenne chiles for the fresh red chiles listed on the app. They state that they are low FODMAP in 28 g amounts, which is “1 medium” chile.

Dry, Ground Cayenne

Dried, ground cayenne has not been lab tested. We now know that FODMAP Friendly has tested raw, fresh Cayenne peppers. We also know that drying produce can alter the FODMAP content. We know of at least one Monash Certified Low FODMAP product, Fody Foods Korean BBQ Sauce & Marinade, that has been lab tested and contains cayenne pepper. Also, FODMAP Friendly has certified some products that contain cayenne, such as Casa de Santé Organic BBQ Coffee Rub, their traditional BBQ Rub and their Garam Masala spice blend. What this tells us is that at some level, cayenne is low FODMAP.

Dried Red Pepper Flakes

These have not been lab tested. Different brands can be made from different varieties of peppers but the most common is Cayenne. Same recommendation as above.

Ancho Chile Powder

We know of at least one Monash Certified Low FODMAP product, Fody Foods Taco Sauce, that has been lab tested and contains ancho chile powder as the last ingredient. What this tells us is that at some level, ancho chile powder is low FODMAP.

Sriracha

This red, hot pepper sauce contains garlic in small amounts. Monash has lab tested it and it is low FODMAP in 1 teaspoon (5 g) servings. It becomes Moderate for fructose at 3 teaspoons (15 g).

Canned Mild Green Chillies

As of a fall 2020 app update, Monash has tested canned chopped mild green chillies (their spelling) and they are low FODMAP in 2 Australian tablespoon amounts or 28 g.

Indeterminate Chiles

There are several certified low FODMAP products that list ingredients such as “chili” and “chili pepper” with no further description or definition. Since we know that many chiles, fresh, dried and liquified can be low FODMAP, we recommend that you try small amounts for yourself.

Please read our article, What If A Food Has Not Been Lab Tested for FODMAPs? for more info.

How Do You Use Chiles?

Some people complain that the low FODMAP diet is boring or tasteless. We hope that if you take the time to hang out here at FODMAP Everyday® that you will see that it is anything but.

We love cooking with chiles and use them all the time. Check out these recipes:

We hope this has helped you understand chiles and chili a little better.
Do YOU like cooking with chiles? Tell us about your favorite low FODMAP dish featuring chiles!
Smoky Spicy Chicken Wings with Blue Cheese Dressing
Smokey Chicken Wings – CLICK IMAGE FOR RECIPE

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