When you have a chill in your bones and a quick beach getaway is out of the question, take leave for the next-best place to warm up: the kitchen! To really beat the cold, seek out a hot soup made with spicy chili peppers. Study after study has found that the source of their fiery taste -- a chemical called capsaicin -- actually has a physical effect on our bodies, from raising our metabolism to alleviating pain to inhibiting the growth of cancerous tumors. And, of course, it warms us up.

But when it comes to heat, not all peppers are alike. Thanks to the Scoville Scalecreated in 1912 to measure capsaicin concentrations, chilis' spiciness is ranked by Scoville heat units (SHU). For example, a pimento has 500 SHUs. A jalapeño has 10,000. And one of the hottest peppers in the world, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, has a scorching 2,009,231 SHUs. No, we're not using anything that hot -- but don't worry, these soups are still guaranteed to warm you up.

Read on for four of the best fiery chili-pepper soups, bisques and chowders to try -- starting with the least spicy and progressing to the spiciest. Enjoy!

1. Oven-Roasted Poblano Pepper Soup by A Beautiful Bite 

Photo by A Beautiful Bite

Besides adding a touch of heat, the peppers in this recipe -- four poblanos and one jalapeño -- have also been found to boost metabolism and curb appetite. But where do poblanos rate on the Scoville scale? They clock in at a pretty mild 2,000 SHUs.

Of course, chilis aren't all this soup has to offer. It also includes potatoes, cilantro and light cream (which can be swapped with skim milk to lower the calorie and fat content). Is this recipe intense? Not so much. Is it delicious? Absolutely.

 

2. Jalapeño Chicken Chowder by This Gal Cooks 

Photo by This Gal Cooks

For those craving a little kick in their chicken chowder, look no further than this simple spiced-up recipe that can be whipped up in under an hour. But it's not the chicken (which is high in protein) or the garlic (good for heart health) that make this dish a showstopper. It's the jalapeños. How spicy is this chowder? Since it contains four jalapeños (at 10,000 SHU apiece), it's definitely packing some heat.

Unfortunately, it's also packing some cals. Feel free to substitute a cup of skim milk for the cup of cream (yikes!), and to cut out the butter completely.

 

3. Thai Shrimp And Serrano Chili Pepper Bisque by Inspiration Kitchen 

Photo by Inspiration Kitchen

If you’re making your way down this list and wondering, “Where’s the real fire?”, try this serrano-and-shrimp bisque for a major kick. The serrano is no garden-variety chili pepper -- it definitely packs some heat, as each one measures 23,000 SHUs. This recipe calls for up to 1/4 cup minced serrano peppers (which, depending on the size of the peppers you're using, could require more than one). There’s also vitamin-rich coconut milk, digestion-aiding lime juice and antioxidant-filled cilantro in this spicy -- but tasty -- recipe. Olé!

 

4. Habanero, Charred Corn And Sweet Potato Chowder by Lattes and Leggings

Photo by Lattes and Leggings 

This hearty, healthy soup is as spicy as it is filling. It’s made with cancer-fighting, beta-carotene-rich sweet potatoes, oxidative-stress-busting garlic, low-fat milk and, oh... a single habanero pepper. But hey, one is probably plenty. In fact, it’s recommended that you wear a pair of gloves when mincing this little chili. Why? Because the habanero ranks in the six digits, at 350,000 SHUs per pepper. Warm enough now?


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