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All About the Big Jim Pepper

Brimming with flavor and known to grow over one foot long, the Big Jim pepper is a captivating chile pepper variety that deserves to be admired.

This pepper was hand-crafted to be great and undoubtedly shines as one of the best chile peppers out there.

Keep reading for all you need to know about the Big Jim pepper!

Looking for Big Jim pepper seeds? Check availability.

Green Big Jim peppers.

History of the Big Jim Pepper

The Big Jim pepper originated in 1975 at New Mexico State University (NMSU). It was created by Dr. Roy Nakayama and Jim Lytle, and is a cross between New Mexican chiles and a Peruvian pepper. It’s from Jim Lytle that the Big Jim pepper receives its unique name!

The “Chile Pepper Institute” at NMSU has dedicated itself to the study and research of chile peppers and has proudly created many spicy chiles in addition to this variety.

Rows of green chile pepper plants.

The Big Jim may also be called the NuMex Big Jim, as “NuMex” is how the Chile Pepper Institute hallmarks its involvement with developing new pepper varieties.


The Big Jim pepper is a rather large specimen – in fact, it was even granted the title of world’s largest chile pepper by the Guinness Book of World Records!

Man holding large green chile peppers.

This pepper can grow up to a whopping 14 inches, but it’s more common for these peppers to grow to an average length of around 7 or 9 inches. About 2 or 3 inches is this variety’s typical width.

This annual pepper plant generally stands about 36 inches tall at its full height with dark green leaves and white flowers. Large, thick green peppers scatter the plant. If left to ripen, the Big Jim pepper turns to a deep fiery red color.

Big Jim peppers that have ripened to red color.

Eating Big Jim Peppers

The Big Jim pepper is absolutely packed with flavor, making it one of the most versatile chile peppers to eat and cook with. This chile variety has a mild to medium spice level, ranging from 500 to 3,000 Scoville units. Typically, this variety is comparable to a very mild jalapeño.

Green chile from Hatch, NM.

These chile peppers are often picked when they’re still green. Using this pepper as a green chile is a great way to appreciate a mild, fresh flavor! Once Big Jims turn red, their heat intensifies, and sweeter notes become more present with each bite.

These enormous peppers have thick walls, making them a great candidate for stuffed peppers or the classic Mexican chile relleno.

These peppers are even great for making chile ristras – a New Mexican tradition that involves hanging a bundle that is said to bring good luck and health. Moreover, chile ristras are a great decoration that can be used to dry chile peppers for cooking and homemade spices!

Chile ristra in New Mexico.
Chile ristras.

Cooking With Big Jim Peppers

In addition to being great for stuffing, these unique peppers are delicious when added to salsas, stews, salads, sauces, and more!

These peppers roast and grill easily. Once roasted, the skin effortlessly slips off, leaving the pepper with a mouthwatering smoky flavor.

Roasted green chile peppers.
Roasted green chiles.

Try adding a roasted Big Jim pepper to your next burger and see how the topping elevates your meal!

The pepper has become an everyday staple of New Mexican and Latin dishes, and you can never go wrong with appreciating its flavor as a green chile. The Big Jim pepper is also an excellent substitute for bell peppers to elevate your classic dishes with subtle spice.


Not sure what to make with your Big Jim peppers? Check out these delicious recipes for some inspiration!

A chile relleno and rice.
Chile relleno.

Health Benefits

Although the Big Jim pepper doesn’t contain as much capsaicin as other peppers, its presence still provides many benefits such as boosts in metabolism, digestive aid, and supporting a healthy heart.

Capsaicin also relieves pain and can help alleviate migraines and joint pain. The anti-inflammatory properties of capsaicin have even been proven to reduce the risk of cancer and fight the flu and common cold!

Growing at Home

Young pepper plants.

Starting Indoors

Big Jim peppers do well when transplanted, and it’s recommended to start them from seed indoors approximately 6 to 8 weeks before nightly temperatures stay above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The seeds should be placed in a starter tray and sown 1/4 inch deep.

To promote vigorous growth, place a heat mat under the starter trays and keep the temperature around 85 degrees. Consistent light and moist soil are keys to facilitating germination. Your pepper plant should germinate within 7 to 21 days!

These peppers may be transplanted into a bigger pot before being moved outside. Once your pepper plant starts to sprout a few leaves, moving your plant to a larger container may be a good idea if outside conditions are not yet ideal.

Moving Your Plant Outside

A young pepper plant in a garden.

Once brought outside, plants should be placed 18 to 24 inches apart and placed about 3 feet between rows. Big Jim peppers prefer full sun, rich and well-draining soil, and daily temperatures that range between 70 to 85 degrees.

Most plants stand 24 to 36 inches tall and produce about 25 to 30 peppers per plant. Peppers are ready for harvest in about 80 days and can be picked when green. Try letting the peppers ripen until red for a richer and spicier flavor!

Due to the weight of the large peppers, it’s important to support your plant during the growing process. Using a trellis as support is a simple yet effective way to ensure your peppers get the care they need.

Where to Buy Big Jim Pepper Seeds

Pepper seedlings in small pots.

The Big Jim pepper is commonly found in New Mexico produce stands due to its local origins at NMSU. In other states, it’s possible to find this variety at local farmer’s markets, but it can be hard to find depending on your region.

Your best chance of getting your hands on this variety is to buy the seeds online and grow your own pepper plants.

To add these peppers to your garden lineup, we recommend the Big Jim Pepper seeds from one of our favorite seed retailers, Hoss Tools. And then check out our blog post, How to Plant Peppers, and get started on your pepper adventure!

Trying the Big Jim Pepper

Young green chile peppers on a plant.

With so many benefits that go above and beyond just a heavenly flavor, the Big Jim pepper is a fruit to be celebrated. Add them to your garden or to your meals, and you’ll see what the fuss is all about!

Want to learn more about different pepper varieties? Visit the Pepper Plants page on our website for all you need to know!