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Cowhorn Peppers | Your Complete Guide To Growing & Using

Cowhorn Peppers | Your Complete Guide To Growing & Using

Cowhorn peppers are a variety of chili pepper characterized by their generous size and moderate level of spiciness.

The name cowhorn comes from the shape of the peppers. They are thin and pointed with a slight curve that resembles a cow’s horn. 

Are cowhorn peppers hot? Cowhorn peppers have medium-level heat similar to a mild jalapeno pepper. On the Scoville scale, they measure 2,500-5,000 SHUs, but you’ll note the sweet flavor before you sense any heat. They are delicious in sauces, stir-fries, marinades, homemade hot sauce, and meat and vegetable dishes.

Cowhorn peppers are a favorite among gardeners because of their large yields and family-friendly heat level.

They are not commonly found in grocery stores, so many people choose to grow their own. 

Cowhorn Peppers at a Glance

Cowhorn peppers are relatively easy to grow. This giant pepper is also excellent for cooking.

This combination means the cowhorn pepper is the perfect plant for beginner gardeners, home chefs, and chili-pepper aficionados. 

Cowhorn Pepper Appearance

Cowhorn pepper plants look like most pepper plants. They can grow spindly or bushy, depending on care when the plant is young.

The plants have bright green leaves and can put out lots of peppers.

The cowhorn pepper is considered a giant chili because of its size. The peppers average 8-10 inches long. They are thin and pointed.

While growing, the peppers are green. They will turn red once they ripen. 

Cowhorn Pepper Size

Cowhorn pepper plants are 24-48 inches tall at maturity. They can also grow quite full, up to 24 inches wide. 

The peppers themselves grow up to 10 inches long. This is very large compared to other peppers in the family (like jalapeno and cayenne).

In addition to their large size, cowhorn peppers also have thick walls.

Cowhorn Pepper Scoville

The Scoville scale is used to quantify the “heat” of a pepper. The measurement unit is the Scoville heat unit, which measures the number of capsaicinoids in the pepper. 

Cowhorn peppers measure 2,500-5,000 SHUs on the Scoville scale. This is considered medium heat and is similar to a mild jalapeno. 

Cowhorn Pepper Flavor

Before the heat hits your mouth, you’ll be able to enjoy the fruity and sweet flavor of the cowhorn pepper.

The enjoyable flavor is one of the reasons why cooks love to use this pepper in their dishes. Since the heat is manageable, cowhorn peppers are considered family friendly for most preparations.

Cowhorn Pepper Uses

You can use cowhorn peppers in most cooking preparations. The thick wall means that the peppers won’t fall apart during cooking.

The sweet flavor and medium heat add taste and a small kick to your food. Some suggested uses include:

  • Cajun trinity (onion, celery, peppers)
  • Fried peppers
  • Pickled peppers
  • Hot sauce
  • Marinades
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Asian-inspired stir-fry
  • Homemade sausage
  • Drying for chili powder

In addition to cooking, you can also use cowhorn peppers as a repellent to protect your garden. Many pests, including deer, do not like the smell and flavor of peppers (specifically the heat).

By dehydrating the peppers and grinding them into a powder, you can easily cover your garden with a kick of “heat.” The same powder can be mixed into birdseed to keep squirrels out of your feeders. 

Finally, chilis have long been used as a way to open up your sinuses.

If you are dealing with congestion from illness or allergies, drinking a little liquid with cowhorn pepper or inhaling steam from water infused with cowhorn peppers will open your nose right up!

A handful of red cowhorn peppers on a wood table beside some leafy greenery.

Cowhorn Pepper Ease of Growing

Like most pepper plants, cowhorn peppers are relatively easy to grow. There are two main things to remember to grow fruitful pepper plants.

They like full sun until the temperature reaches 90℉ (then midday shade is best). When the plants are young, pinch or trim the top few sets of leaves to produce a fuller and stronger plant.

Best Location for Cowhorn Peppers

In the garden, your peppers should be kept in full sun. If your location regularly reaches summer temperatures over 90℉, consider a location where your peppers receive some midday shade.

They may not produce as many peppers, but the plant will stay healthier through the hottest parts of the growing season

Due to their natural heat, pepper plants will help protect your garden from insects and other pests.

Basil, onions, garlic, low-growing herbs, and other hot peppers are the best companion plants for cowhorn peppers. 

Cowhorn peppers can also be grown in a container. This is especially helpful if you want to move them around your garden for optimal sunlight.

Since these plants can grow up to 4 feet tall, you should have one 15-18 inch pot per cowhorn pepper plant. 

It is not recommended to grow cowhorn peppers inside. Seeds can be started inside to get a jump on the summer growing season though.

To produce fruits, these plants need plenty of sunlight. The only way to get the plants to bloom and grow peppers indoors is to use grow lights and a professional setup. 

Cowhorn Pepper Plant Care

Cowhorn peppers are easy to grow once you know what to do. 


You can grow your cowhorn peppers from seeds or starter plants. Many people choose to start their seeds indoors before the growing season starts.

Seeds or starters can be planted outside after the fear of frost has passed (usually two or more weeks after the last actual frost). 

Plant the seeds or starters 18-24 inches apart. The peppers should be in a location that receives full sun (or partial shade in extremely hot locations). 

Once the plants are approximately 10 inches tall, pinch or trim off the top couple sets of leaves. This will promote lateral growth, leading to a stronger and fuller plant. 

Watering and Fertilizer

If your location receives abundant summer rain, you may not need to do any additional watering during the summer.

For manual watering, your cowhorn peppers will need to be watered 2-3 times per week (depending on the temperature and humidity). 

You can amend your soil with fertilizer when you are planting your cowhorn peppers. After that, wait until blooms have started before fertilizing again.

Choose a fertilizer rich in potassium (Espoma Garden-tone is excellent), which helps plants grow better fruits and use water efficiently. 

Pests and Disease

Cowhorn pepper plants are natural pest repellents for some pests but not all. Check your plants frequently for aphids or beetles, especially when peppers are growing.

If you have any pest issues, treat them with neem oil (I always see good results with this organic neem) or an organic insecticide.

Many diseases that affect pepper plants thrive in moist environments with stagnant air. Plant pepper plants far apart to allow airflow between the plants.

Additionally, do not overwater your cowhorn pepper plants. 

When To Pick Cowhorn Peppers

Cowhorn peppers will turn red once they ripen. You can pick them immediately or allow them to remain on the plant for a week or so.

Unripe (green) cowhorn peppers are also edible and can be picked at any time. Green peppers will not have the same amount of flavor or heat as red peppers.

Are Cowhorn Peppers Hot? 

Cowhorn peppers are considered medium-heat peppers with a Scoville rating of 2,500-5,000 SHU. However, hot-pepper enthusiasts often consider these a mild pepper. 

Is a Cowhorn Pepper Hotter Than a Jalapeno?

Jalapenos have a Scoville rating of 2,500-8,000 SHU and cowhorn peppers have a rating of 2,500-5,000 SHU.

They are similar in heat, but the jalapeno is capable of reaching a higher level of heat. Many chefs prefer using a cowhorn over a jalapeno because the level of heat is more predictable.

How Do You Know When Cowhorn Peppers Are Ripe?

It is very easy to tell when a cowhorn pepper is ripe – it will turn red. The growing peppers are light green until they ripen. 

Can You Eat Green Cowhorn Peppers?

Yes, green cowhorn peppers are edible; however, you can expect less flavor and heat. The closer the pepper is to ripening, the more heat and flavor it will have. 

Are Green Cowhorn Peppers Hot?

Heat builds in a pepper as it grows and ripens. Therefore, a young cowhorn pepper will have very little heat. A green cowhorn pepper that is close to ripening will have mild heat. 

Do All Cowhorn Peppers Turn Red?

If given the opportunity to finish growing, all cowhorn peppers will turn red. If picked early, you can ripen your peppers to red by leaving them in a warm location in your kitchen. 

Since cowhorn peppers will continue to grow peppers throughout the growing season, it is possible that you will hit the first frost with unripe peppers on your plant.

These can be eaten as is or ripened in your kitchen after they are picked. 

How Long Does It Take for Cowhorn Peppers To Turn Red?

From planting to harvest, it takes approximately 90 days for cowhorn peppers to begin producing ripe fruit.

There is some variability based on the amount of water, nutrients, and sunlight that a plant receives while the peppers are growing. 

Can You Dry Cowhorn Peppers?

Cowhorn peppers are an excellent hot pepper for drying. The thick walls of the pepper mean they hold their shape well after being dehydrated.

You can store them as whole dry peppers or grind them down for chili powder. 

Can You Freeze Cowhorn Peppers?

Yes, you can freeze cowhorn peppers. They can be frozen fresh or dried. 

How To Get More Peppers Per Plant

  • Start seeds indoors to extend the growing season.
  • Amend the soil with compost before planting.
  • Use a balanced or low-nitrogen fertilizer.
  • Trim young plants to promote stronger stems.


With this complete guide to cowhorn peppers at your disposal, you are ready to grow a plentiful harvest. After that, enjoy your peppers pickled, grilled, fried or in any of your favorite dishes or sauces.