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1 October 2020

Best Buy chillies

Offering good-looking and great-tasting fruit, our Best Buy chillies are hot stuff
Ceri Thomas

The combination of attractive fruits that are also good to eat makes chillies one of the most popular crops to grow. We wanted to find out which varieties will produce great crops of fiery fruit when grown outside in the UK as they make such useful plants for the patio or windowsill. 

To help you find the tastiest varieties that also produce great yields, we've rounded up our Best Buys to make it easy to choose from the huge range of varieties available. They've all been grown by our experts and put through our rigorous testing so you can be sure you're growing the best chillies.

The best chillies
What it looks like Chilli variety Average number of fruits per plant Hotness

This charming, very compact, leafy plant is ideal for a window box or as a centrepiece on an outdoor table. It has lots of little fruits that go from deep purple, through cream and orange, to a bright red when they're ripe. We liked the prolific fruiting and the variety of colours on the plant, even though few of the chillies were fully ripe; the plant grown under cover looked even better. Watch out if you're using the chillies in the kitchen - they're very hot.

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These plants have large, dark-green leaves, which contrast well with the ripe fruit, and are compact enough not to need staking. Our plants looked healthy and we were impressed by the large number of good-quality, bright-orange fruit they produced, which successfully ripened outside despite the poor summer. The chillies themselves are quite large and taste fruity, rather than hot - our panel thought they tasted especially good when cooked.

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Introduced in 2012, this is a chilli bred with ornamental value in mind. It's a compact plant, with small, dark-green leaves and pretty purple and cream flowers. We thought that the small rounded fruits looked very attractive, both when they were an unripe cream and purple and when they turned a ripe, rich red, though it was a shame more didn't ripen fully. Like a lot of smaller chilli fruits these are hot, but our tasters liked the flavour.

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"This is a more traditional variety of chilli pepper, which has long green fruits that ripen to red. Ours successfully ripened outside, despite the poor summer last year. The plants grew up to 40cm tall, so they needed staking, but we were impressed by their nice, neat shape and healthy green leaves. The chillies themselves have a medium heat - our panel quite liked how the fruits tasted raw, but thought that the thick skin could put some people off.

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For sheer impact, this chilli is a winner. The eye-catching profusion of red fruits grew upright from the top of the plants and were set off perfectly by the healthy dark-green leaves - they really stand out on a patio. Some of the plants grew a little lopsided and needed staking, but the fruits successfully ripened from a mottled green and purple through to a bright red. When it comes to eating, the chillies are quite hot with a good Thai-chilli flavour.

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Which? grows and tastes all the chillies it recommends

We chose 15 varieties of chillies with colourful fruits or attractive foliage, including some old favourites, and ordered them as plants to be delivered to our test site in the West Midlands.

All the chillies were potted up and kept outside, except for one plant from each variety that was grown under cover. They were fed weekly as soon as they started flowering. At the end of September, we assessed the plants for their ornamental value and how much ripe fruit they had produced. We asked a small panel of tasters to assess the taste and heat of the chillies, both raw and cooked.

To read about our latest veg trials, as well as trials of flowers, gardening techniques and products, be sure to try Which? Gardening magazine.

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