Popular Chillies Used in Indian Cuisine

Chillies are a staple ingredient in many traditional Indian dishes, regardless of the region the dish originated in. Chillies are used to deepen the flavour of a dish, and several varieties are used, with each type having their own unique taste profile. Don't be tempted to substitute one variety of chilli for another when cooking, as a substitution could change the flavour of the dish and could clash with other spices used in the recipe.

Here's an overview of a few popular chillies used in Indian cuisine:

Bird's Eye

Bird's eye chillies are small, but they pack a punch, and only a small amount is needed to add a touch of fiery heat to your dish. They are popular in the northeast and commonly found in Indian homes, as they are considered a staple ingredient. Bird's eye chillies are a vital ingredient in many chutney and relish recipes, and meat is often flash-fried with their chillies and other spices, such as ginger and cumin.


Kashmiri chillies are used to give some Indian curry dishes their deep red colour. They are commonly used in both home and restaurant cooking across northern India and are a mild variety of chilli. Kashmiri chillies impart a slightly sweet flavour and are often used in marinades for meat or fried with onions and tomatoes as a base for curry sauces. The mild flavour can be used to balance the meaty, almost gamey, flavour of mutton, which is a popular meat across India.


Naga is one of the hottest varieties of chilli peppers in the world. It's grown in Northeast India and has a slightly tart flavour with a smoky aftertaste that makes it a popular ingredient in relish. It's also eaten raw alongside a main meal and used to add spice to tikka dishes and hot sauces. Those who are new to the naga chilli pepper should start slowly and ensure their body can handle the heat level.

These are just a few examples of the types of chillies you can commonly find in traditional Indian dishes. Some varieties can be difficult to find in supermarkets in Australia, but they can easily be sourced from chilli suppliers. Buy chilli from a specialist supplier who gives you the advantage garnering advice and recommendations regarding the types of chillies that might suit your needs. Sometimes, discounts are available when larger quantities are ordered.