NuMex Big Jim: The Gentle Giant Of Chile Peppers

numex big jims
Giant and meaty, but not too spicy. That's the Numex Big Jim chile pepper, a 500 to 3,000 SHU pepper that can grow up to 13 inches long and 3 inches wide.

What Are Numex Big Jim Peppers?

Numex Big Jim peppers are the largest pepper in the world. They are grown in New Mexico and are named after Hatch farmer, James A. Lytle, who collaborated with Dr. Roy Nakayama to develop the pepper.

New Mexico State University (NMSU) uses NuMex to describe hybrid products developed by the university. Big describes the size of the pepper!


In 1975 Dr. Roy Nakayama, a Japanese-American horticulturist from the Chile Pepper Institute, developed the NuMex Big Jim pepper. The NuMex Big Jim is an heirloom cultivar created by crossing a Peruvian pepper and New Mexican chilies.


The taste of Big Jim peppers depends on the maturity of the fruit. Green peppers are mild and grassy, while mature red fruits are sweet and spicy.


NuMex Big Jim peppers assume two colors, green and red. The pepper starts green but transitions to red as it matures.


Mature fruits are 8 to 13 inches long and can grow up to three inches wide. The Guinness Book of World Records listed a large specimen that measured 13.5 inches long. The length explains why NuMex Big Jims once held a record for the longest pepper pod in the world.

NuMex Big Jim Peppers.
NuMex Big Jim Peppers.

Are Big Jim Peppers Hot?

Despite their large size, NuMex Big Jim peppers are not very hot. The Scoville Scale rates the pepper at only between 500 and 3,000 units. While heat levels vary depending on the variety and growing conditions, most Big Jim peppers average about 500 SHUs.

This makes them milder than cownhorn peppers (2,500 to 5,000 SHUs), which are comparable in size.

The heat variations in Big Jims have pushed for the development of a new variety, NuMex Heritage Big Jim. This New Mexico chile pepper has a consistent heat level and a superior flavor to its predecessor.

What To Use Numex Big Jim Peppers For

The large pods and low heat make the Big Jim chili pepper great for adding mild heat to your dishes. These pepper plants are versatile enough for many uses, including:

  • Making chile Relleno – a Mexican dish made by stuffing a pepper with cheese and meat, coating it with an egg batter, and frying until golden brown. Make your own ranchero sauce to top this dish!
  • Adding to salsa – Big Jim peppers are mild enough for use in salsas that need an extra layer of heat and flavor.
  • Making mild hot sauce, or use with other hot peppers for a more complex flavor profile.
  • Making ristras – the large red pods can be dried and strung together to create a colorful chile ristra.
  • Roasting
  • Grilling
  • Adding to stews and soups
  • Pickling
chile rellenos
Big Jims are perfect stuffing peppers for dishes like chile Rellenos.

Are Big Jims The Same As Anaheim Peppers?

The Big Jim is similar to the Anaheim pepper in terms of heat. Their Scoville heat rating starts at 500 and goes up to 2,500 for anaheim and 3,000 for Big Jims. This means they can be used interchangeably in many recipes.

The color changes are similar as well. They both start green and ripen to red. Anaheims are mostly harvested when green but can also be harvested at their red stage.

The similarities don’t end there. They’re both of the species Capsicum annuum and are commonly used in Mexican cuisine.

The main difference between NuMex Big Jim and Anaheim pepper is in size. Anaheim peppers are a little smaller than Big Jims. The Anaheim pepper is about 6 to 10 inches long, while Big Jims are 8 to 13 inches long and 3 inches wide.

Both peppers are great for stuffing because of their size.

Where To Buy Numex Big Jim Peppers

Fresh Big Jims are easy to find if you live in New Mexico or near towns like Hatch. You may also find them in your local farmers’ market and at some grocery stores seasonally.

Substitutes For Numex Big Jims

If you can’t get fresh Big Jims but want to make your favorite stuffed pepper recipes, you can use Anaheim peppers instead. They’re available in most grocery stores and have a similar flavor and texture.

Poblano peppers are also a good substitute if you are looking for a medium-heat pepper. They have a Scoville rating between 1,000 to 2,500, so they’re still mild.

If you’re looking for something spicier than those options, you could use a jalapeno pepper instead. Jalapenos are five times as hot as Big Jims, so they will add a nice spicy kick to your dish. They’re also much more common in grocery stores.

Can You Grow Big Jim Peppers?

Yes, you can grow Big Jim peppers. They grow best in hot, dry climates and are moderately easy to grow.

Start Big Jim seeds eight weeks before the last frost date for your area. Bury the pepper seeds about 1/4 inch deep in the soil, and keep the soil moist and warm until germination, which should take about ten days.

Once the seedlings have at least six leaves, transplant them into a sunny spot in your garden. If you’re into container gardening, use large containers (at least 5 gallons) and fill them with rich soil. Make sure your peppers have plenty of room to grow, as the plants can grow up to three feet tall and produce up to 30 fruits per plant.

After 80 days, your peppers will be ready to harvest.

For a mild flavor, harvest your peppers when they’re green. For a spicy flavor, wait until they turn red.


Tabitha's passion for gardening didn't begin until she was in her twenties. She was always interested in plants, but it wasn't until she moved to a rural setting that she realized how much fun it could be. Peppers are part of her edible landscape, and she is constantly looking for new and interesting varieties to try. When she is not gardening, she spends her time reading and writing.

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