Scotch Bonnet vs Habanero: Salient Points

Scotch Bonnet vs Habanero

In the world of spicy and hot peppers, a study of scotch bonnet vs habanero makes perfect sense. Both these peppers and their varieties and cultivars land amongst the hottest peppers in the world. Interestingly, scotch bonnet and habanero belong to the same plant genus and family. 

However, there is a difference in their origin. While scotch bonnet is native to Jamaica, habanero first showed up in Mexico. Given their backgrounds, both these peppers are quite similar in appearance, hotness, and overall flavor. Yet, there are differences in these similarities. Their shape, flavor, and heat all hit different levels. 

Let’s see how these chili peppers and their differences compare.

Comparison Of Scotch Bonnet And Habanero – The Difference

Scotch Bonnet and Habanero have a lot in common. Both of these are super hot chili peppers and belong to the Capsicum Chinense variety. Interestingly, they are both related to many of the extremely hot peppers, like the scorpion pepper.

Both these peppers possess a curvy shape, though there is a slight difference. The scotch bonnet has a curved tip, while the habanero has a sharp tip and takes something of a teardrop shape.

Apart from the heat, both these chili peppers have a fruity-sweet flavor. In the case of habaneros, there’s also a bitter undertone, which is missing in scotch bonnet peppers.

Where Do Scotch Bonnet And Habanero Land On The Scoville Scale?

Both these peppers have very high heat, though generally speaking, the median heat of scotch bonnet appears to be less than the median heat of habaneros. So, it can be said that habaneros are hotter than scotch bonnets, though only by a whisker. 

In the grand scheme of things, that difference barely matters. Both these chili peppers have heat ratings in the hundred of thousands SHU, and a small difference is negligible. 

The conventional SHU ratings on these chili peppers are complicated too!

Most internet reports put Scotch Bonnet and Habanero peppers in the category of 100,000 to 350,000 SHU. However, many of them appear to be getting their numbers from Wikipedia, which in turn, references this list from SpruceEats (older archive link). Surprisingly, the list on that page puts the heat level of habanero and scotch bonnet between 350,000 to 855,000. 

According to this paper in the American Society of Horticultural Science, most cultivars of habanero fall in the range of 350,000 to 855,000 SHU. This paper by Kantar et al appears to support this view, while also putting Scotch Bonnet in the 350,000 to 855,000 SHU range. The overall range for both peppers is supported by this paper as well.

So, with support of scientific evidence, we can say Scotch Bonnet and Habanero score between 350,000 to 855,000 SHU. That’s very hot and puts them in the neighborhood of the hottest chili peppers in the world.

What Is Scotch Bonnet?

Scotch Bonnet

Scotch bonnet has a few popular names, including Bonney peppers and Caribbean red peppers. This super hot pepper belongs to the Capsicum Chinense variety, which is known for some extremely hot chili peppers. 

These chili peppers have something of a round shape, with the tip being rounded as well. They’re quite curvy and look something like a capsicum or bell pepper, rather than your traditional hot peppers. But that’s where the resemblance ends. 

Bell peppers are usually low in capsaicin and can score near zero on the Scoville scale. On the other hand, Scotch bonnets are super hot and score higher than 100,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units).

Scotch bonnets are usually allowed to ripen to red before being harvested, though they’re edible when green as well. You can also get yellow or orange scotch bonnets. 

As for flavor, these chili peppers have a sweet and fruity flavor, though of course, that’s accompanied by a rather fiery hot feel of the high amounts of capsaicin. 

What Is Habanero?

Habanero is better-known than scotch bonnet. This one too is a super hot pepper belonging to the Capsicum Chinense variety. Habanero has a somewhat pronounced teardrop shape. These chili peppers are rounded and curvy towards the top but have a fairly prominent and pointy tip.

The close relation to the scotch bonnet is apparent in the shape as well as the general flavor and heat of the habanero. Though red habaneros are pretty common, you can also find them in yellow and orange colors. Typically, a habanero will reach about 2.25 inches in length.

Habaneros are remarkably hot. You can reasonably expect heat of 100,000 SHU from a habanero, though most are likely to hit above 350,000 SHU. As with most chili peppers, there is a fruity sweet flavor to habaneros as well, though it has bitter undertones. Of course, these flavors are accompanied by the very high heat of these chili peppers.

FAQ And More On Scotch Bonnet And Habanero Peppers

How Hot Is A Scotch Bonnet Pepper?

An average scotch bonnet pepper can have a heat rating of 350,000 to 855,000 SHU. While the reported range is often 100,000 to 350,000 SHU, scientific research papers usually place it in the 350,000+ SHU range. Although, specific varieties and cultivars can vary in heat.

For comparison, a jalapeno chili pepper ranges between 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. 

Where To Buy Scotch Bonnet Peppers?

Whole scotch bonnet peppers are difficult to come by. They can be available at specialty food stores, though many stores don’t keep a ready stock of these chili peppers. There are also options to buy dried whole scotch bonnet peppers online, like on Amazon, Walmart, and possibly some other retailers.

Are Habanero Peppers Hot When Green?

Habanero peppers pack a significant amount of heat, this goes for green peppers as well. Mature and ripe habanero peppers usually get their full heat potential. For example, once the pepper matures to a red habanero (or the color of the specific variety – they can be yellow or orange too), it will have a higher heat rating than the green variant. Nevertheless, green habaneros do have heat and can be impressively hot.

The Bottom Line

Scotch bonnet and habanero are both very impressive and very hot chili peppers. If you need heat for your recipe, the choice between scotch bonnet vs habanero is quite interesting. Both these chili peppers have a similar heat level and are quite similar in appearance as well. The habanero is perhaps more popular and well-known but the scotch bonnet stands tall in its own right.

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