Habanero vs Scotch Bonnet: What’s the Difference?

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Does your mouth simply water at the thought of spicy food? Perhaps you love peppers, but your newest recipe calls for habanero peppers, and you can’t find any anywhere! 

Never fear, you can definitely substitute with scotch bonnet peppers, and here’s all you ever wanted to know about these similar (but slightly different) peppers. 

Habanero and scotch bonnet peppers have similar heat profiles, though scotch bonnet peppers are slightly sweeter while habanero peppers are more bitter. Habanero peppers are more popular and readily available, but you can certainly use both interchangeably. Both are fruity peppers and staples in Caribbean dishes. 

If you are torn between knowing which pepper to use, habanero or scotch bonnet, it’s always a good idea to know a little more about each. 

What Is Habanero?

Habanero is a chili pepper from the Capsicum Chinense species that originated in the Amazon. Once the 1-2 inch green fruit ripens, they become red and orange colored. 

Habaneros are spicy and hot, reaching 100,000-350,000 units on the Scoville Scale that ranks the hotness of chili peppers. 

With the range of colors, habaneros are visually stunning additions to meals, and the pod-like shape is smooth and glossy, hiding the fiery truth of the sweet but spicy habanero zing. 

In terms of popularity, habanero chilies are the most popular, and you can also get them in a range of colors to add something special to your dish. 

Choose from the typical orange shades or go extra risque with a red mature habanero, and you can also be unique with a Peruvian white habanero blitzing in your salsa. 

What Is a Scotch Bonnet?

Scotch bonnet is another Caribbean chili (originally from the Amazon) that is fast gaining popularity, and if you can’t find habaneros, a scotch bonnet will hit the same flavor profile, though it’s a bit sweeter. 

The unique shape of the scotch bonnet pepper reminds one of the tam o’shanter hat, or scotch bonnet of old, and this is how these 1-2.5 inch peppers got their name. 

Scotch bonnet chilies are widely used in the Caribbean region, and it’s an authentic hot-sauce taste that features in the region’s cooking. 

Scotch bonnet chilies also belong to the Capsicum Chinese family, and like Habaneros, it has a heat rating of 100,000-350,000 Scoville units.  

The Difference Between Habanero vs Scotch Bonnet

If you are looking for some differences between habaneros and scotch bonnet chilies, you’re in luck as there are a few clear differences: 

Firstly, scotch bonnet chilies are known to be sweeter than habaneros, while both have similar heat ranking on the Scoville scale. 

Biting into a scotch bonnet is like eating a juicy tomato with the added flavor of berries, while habaneros are sweet but lacking the “fruity” flavor of scotch bonnets. 

Scotch bonnets can be used in all types of meat dishes, and you can use the chili whole to achieve flavor without the worst of the burn. 

Habaneros are ideal for most dishes as they lack the extreme fruity sweetness and combine better with other dishes and ingredients. 

So the differences in a nutshell:


Both chilies are similarly shiny in appearance, though the habanero is available in green (immature), orange, and red (ripe). Scotch bonnets start green, then turn bright yellow before finally turning red. 

The scotch bonnet has more prominent ridges, while the habanero has a prominent tip. The scotch bonnet has a squashed top at times, which is where the name comes from. 


Whereas the scotch bonnet is more belle shaped, the habanero has a slightly elongated shape, despite the habanero being a little shorter than the scotch bonnet chili. 

Heat Factor

Both chilies rake in the heat at 100,000-350,000 Scoville units, but habaneros can be slightly hotter since it’s missing the cool berry taste that comes with a scotch bonnet chili. 


Habaneros have a typically sweet chili flavor, which makes it ideal for use in a wide range of dishes, while the scotch bonnet chili has a more fruity taste that is sweeter, but this limits its use in meat dishes. 

Is Scotch Bonnet the Same as Habanero?

So are the Scotch bonnet and habanero the same? Yes, and also a resounding no. 

You can definitely use both chilies interchangeably, but they don’t quite have the same flavor profile, nor are they as sweet. 

Scotch bonnet and habanero are from the same chili family, but they are more closely related cousins than twins. 

If you are making authentic Caribbean cuisine, you would need to search for the chili being called for to achieve the genuine taste. 

Can I Substitute a Scotch Bonnet for Habanero?

In a pinch, you can use scotch bonnet or habanero as substitutes for each other in a ratio of 1:1. However, you may have to adjust your recipe slightly to match the intended flavor of the dish. 

If your dish calls for sweetness, you may need to add some coconut sugar or corn syrup to up the flavor if you substitute scotch bonnet with habanero. 

If you need a scotch bonnet and you don’t have it and don’t have habanero, what other chilies can you substitute with? 

Easiest to find is probably serrano peppers or jalapeño, though the flavor profile doesn’t quite match as nicely as when using habaneros. 

Perhaps you want a fruity substitute for scotch bonnet peppers without burning a hole straight down to the underworld? 

Then rocotillo peppers are an ideal match. At a mere 1,000-2,500 Scoville units on the heat scale, this little pepper offers all of the sweetness and substantially less of a burn. 

My Last Foodie Thoughts 

I love cooking with scotch bonnet peppers when I entertain my Jamaican neighbors, and they appreciate the original Caribbean meals I prepare, but sourcing these cute little fireballs can be challenging. 

Fortunately, I have a well-stocked vegetable market nearby, and most days I can find scotch bonnets or one of the great substitutes I mentioned, such as habaneros, Jalapeño, Rocotillo peppers, or serrano peppers. 

So turn up the heat, y’all!

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