top of page
  • Lynn Blattmann

Chilli: Hot around the globe

When Columbus set out to find a sea route to India, he did so in order to secure a larger profit in the spice trade for his donors.

Pepper, cinnamon and cardamom could be bought beforehand, but since the spices came by land from distant India, they became more expensive every time they were reloaded on the long journey on foot through Asia. If the Europeans could buy the spices directly in India, so the idea of the traders, then they could reap the whole profit without having to share it with the many spice traders on the land between India and Venice.

Chilli instead of pepper and cinnamon

The idea was impressive, but unfortunately Columbus landed somewhere in the Caribbean in 1492 and not in India. There he found neither pepper nor cinnamon. However, he discovered that the people there seasoned their food with a fiery red fruit that tasted hot. He thought it was a kind of pepper and, in addition to the starchy tuber, also took some of the supposed pepper on board to bring it to his donors.

Unfortunately, his financiers were not particularly enthusiastic about the beautiful, shiny red pods of the Capsicum, because resourceful monks and nuns at home in Europe had quickly discovered that the pretty spice plant could easily be grown in Italy, Spain or France. Of course, with the easy cultivation possibility in Europe, the dream of the traders of big money died. The strange potatoes were also not well received at the Spanish court, and they were more or less forgotten at first. Not so the chilli.

The chilli began to spread in the Mediterranean countries. It was much cheaper than pepper and found its way into the popular kitchen. Many new species have also been bred to suit people's tastes.

Africa's cuisine likes chilli

Chilli is changing the cuisine in Africa

Thirty years later, when Magellan sailed around Africa to find a way to India, he had Capsicum seeds in his luggage. The African farmers also quickly discovered the flavor advantages of the hot pods, they began to grow it themselves and cook with it. From West Africa, the chilli spread across the entire continent, and the red piquant has also become an indispensable part of African cuisine.

Unimaginable without chilli: Indian cuisine

The Indians love chilli

When Magellan or one of his successors finally arrived in India, he must have still had some seeds in his luggage. The chilli was completely unknown in India until then, but the seeds from the Caribbean also thrived splendidly in India. Chilli went perfectly with the already available spices and was immediately integrated into the local cuisine. Capsicum is omnipresent in Indian cuisine today, it is an important component of curry.

In Indonesia and Thailand, too, the red pods fell into the hands of enthusiastic cooks, who conjured up unforgettable dishes for which we still love Southeast Asian cuisine today.

Well integrated with the Chinese: Chilli

Chilli spreads along the Silk Road

From India, the chilli spread to the east via the pepper trade routes. The Chinese were also delighted by the fiery pungency of the nightshade plant and built the chilli into their traditional cuisine.

The Turks also liked the chilli, they grew it themselves and also used it in their kitchen. Pul Biber, dried chilli with salt, has become an important spice in Turkish cuisine.

Hot peppers are also a mild form of paprika (photo by Jörg Schneider, Unsplash)

How paprika came to Hungary

Goulash and paprika are so strongly part of Hungary today that one thinks that the Hungarians invented paprika. But that was not the case. When the Turks occupied Hungary in 1526, they already had peppers in the luggage of their soldiers' kitchen. This is how the red pods came to the Puszta, where they are still grown today with varying degrees of heat and have long been part of the national cuisine.

In Switzerland, paprika is rarely used, most likely with raclette

And here?

We are chill-resistant! While the Italians invented the spaghetti al oglio, aglio e peperoncini and they also make their penne with chilli really arrabiata, the Swiss remained strangely indifferent to the chilli. We've been eating chilli con carne since Betty Bossi and have two spice jars with paprika in the cupboard (hot and mild), but we hardly need the red powder. Except maybe for the marinade when grilling or in small quantities on the raclette cheese. Swiss cuisine is still seasoned with black pepper and salt. In the meantime, the Aromat has gone out of fashion as a favorite spice, but we still don't use the red powder to spice our food up. Especially now, when the days are getting a little gray and darker, a little Hot Chilli Pepper in our food would also do us good.

If you are still unsure how to use chilli properly, check back soon on our food blog, I'll be posting some recipes for it in the near future.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page