Texas State Native Pepper


Chiltepin peppers on cowboy ladle

Chiltepin peppers on cowboy ladle; photo by Steven Leggett on Flickr (noncommercial use permittted with attribution / share alike).

Official State Native Pepper of Texas

Texas designated the chiltepin as the official state native pepper in 1997 (the jalapeño pepper is also a symbol of Texas). All Food Symbols

The name "chiltepin" is believed to be Aztec in origin. A tiny round berry slightly larger than a peppercorn. Experts believe the Chiltepin is the original wild chile - the plant from which all others have evolved!

The bush grows an average of 4 feet tall, but there are reports of plants growing 10 feet and living 25-30 years. Heat level: 8 on a scale of 10 - very hot.


WHEREAS, The Lone Star State's reputation as a haven for lovers of hot and spicy food is well deserved, and the native chiltepin pepper has contributed greatly to this proud legacy; and

WHEREAS, A member of the genus Capsicum, the chiltepin grows wild in our temperate climate and is both undeniably American and typically Texan; its distinctive flavor makes it ideal for hearty stews and red hot Texas chili, and it is a staple in many Tex Mex favorites; and

WHEREAS, Even the mockingbird, our state bird, recognizes the appeal of this piquant pod, choosing to dine on it almost exclusively when the pepper is in season; wild turkeys, too, are often seen feeding on these tasty little morsels, and these and other fruit eating wild birds play a vital role in the chiltepin's proliferation; and

WHEREAS, Found in abundance from the southern United States to northern South America, the chiltepin has been used for many years by the various peoples who have populated our great state; known variously as chile mosquito and chile bravo, the Spanish described this zesty fruit as "arrebatado," meaning that although its spiciness is immediate and intense, this bold sensation does not linger long; and

WHEREAS, The chiltepin is used in both fresh and dried forms, combined with vinegar to make a tangy sauce or sprinkled into soup to provide just the right seasoning; perhaps the most amazing attribute of this indigenous spice is that it has been shown to increase the human metabolism by as much as 25 percent, making it a promising means of controlling weight gain; and

WHEREAS, The chiltepin's storied history even includes a footnote to one of our greatest American presidents, Thomas Jefferson; an avid gardener, President Jefferson acquired some of these exotic tiny peppers from a fellow horticulturist and displayed a keen interest in establishing a market for this Texas pepper; and

WHEREAS, It is important to acknowledge and promote our endemic natural resources, for they are an integral part of our heritage and help to make us recognizable to other cultures around the globe; the chiltepin is Texas' only native pepper, and its long history and wide variety of uses make it truly deserving of special recognition and endorsement; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the 75th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby declare the chiltepin the official State Native Pepper of Texas.



Chiltepin pepper plant; photo by trekr on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with attribution / no derivative works). 

Chiltepin pepper plant