Scotch Bonnet vs Habanero: Revealing 3 Key Differences in This Spicy Family

As a hot pepper fan, you likely have questions about the Scotch Bonnet vs Habanero. These closely related peppers have similarities (like heat) but distinct characteristics. Let’s look at three key differences – appearance, taste, and uses – so that you choose the perfect chile for your next fiery dish.

Scotch Bonnet vs Habanero

If I didn’t love jerk sauce, it would have taken me longer to discover the Scotch Bonnet pepper. The reason? My beloved Habanero pepper is my go-to for so many dishes (and drinks). 😀

And that’s the thing — these two peppers are incredibly similar. But they do have nuanced differences even though they’re close cousins.

Before we get into the details of the Habanero vs Scotch Bonnet (or vice versa), let’s go over some quick facts and dive into their origin stories for a better understanding of what makes each chili pepper truly unique.

SCOTCH BONNET AND HABANERO FACTS:

Common Names:Scotch Bonnet: Goat pepper, Martinique pepper, Scotty Bon, Bonney pepper | Habanero: Chile Habanero
Scoville Heat Units (SHU):Scotch Bonnet: 100,000 to 350,000 | Orange Habanero: 150,000 to 325,000
Capsicum Species:Capsicum chinense
Days To Harvest:Scotch Bonnet: 120 days | Habanero: 75 to 110 days
Size:Scotch Bonnet: 1 to 2.5 in (2.5 to 6.4 cm) peppers; 1 to 1.5 ft (0.3 to 0.5 m) plants | Habanero: 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) long & 1.5 in (4 cm) wide peppers; 2-5+ ft (0.6-1.5m) tall plants
Flavor:Scotch Bonnet: sweet, tropical, spicy | Habanero: fruity, spicy, floral aftertaste
Culinary Uses:Scotch Bonnet: Caribbean cuisine, jerk recipes, seasoning meat & stews | Habanero: Yucatecan cuisine, hot sauces, salsas 

Are Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets the Same?

habaneros and scotch bonnets
Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets

The short answer is no, these peppers are different, but it helps to understand the history when doing a Scotch Bonnet vs Habanero chili comparison.

Habanero:

The Habanero pepper goes back over 8,500 years with roots along the Amazon Basin in South America.

Havana (the capital of La Habana province in Cuba) became one of the first major exporters of this pepper. Habaneros spread through the world, eventually reaching the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico — now the world’s largest producer of these chilies.

map of the Yucatán Peninsula
Yucatán Peninsula: Largest Producer of Habaneros

As you’d expect, Habaneros are a very important part of Yucatecan cuisine.

» Read More – Habanero Pepper 101: Here’s What You Want to Know

Scotch Bonnet:

The history of the Scotch Bonnet origin also traces back to the Amazon in what is today Brazil. 

The Taíno peoples cultivated these peppers around the year 1400, well before the Scotch Bonnet slowly made its way north to its new home of Jamaica.

map of Jamaica
Jamaica: Main Exporter of Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Today, Jamaica is the world’s leading exporter of Scotch Bonnet chili peppers (aka “Jamaican Hot”). These chiles are a common ingredient in flavorful Caribbean cooking. 

» Read More: What Is a Scotch Bonnet Pepper?

To recap, Habanero peppers and Scotch Bonnets are related, coming from the same Capsicum species, but these peppers aren’t the same.

Appearance

yellow scotch bonnet peppers
Yellow Scotch Bonnet Peppers

So, what are the differences between the Scotch Bonnet vs Habanero appearance? These peppers are strikingly close, but their looks can differ slightly in color and shape.

Color: For Orange Habaneros, the color goes from green, to orange, to a mature red. Common Scotch Bonnets start green, then ripen to bright yellow or red, depending on the variety.

Shape: Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets can look like the same pepper, but there are some differences when it comes to shape. Scotch Bonnets tend to have deeper ridges, and some pods have more of a squished top that resembles a Scottish tam o’ shanter hat. (The Scotch Bonnet gets its name based on this similarity.) Habaneros have a smoother appearance with a more pendant shape and pointed tip.

As for size, both the Habanero and Scotch Bonnet generally grow up to ~2.5 inches (~6 cm) long. (These measurements are for standard varieties and not hybrids.)

Scotch Bonnet vs Habanero Flavor

scotch bonnet vs habanero flavor, habaneros on a plate
Orange Habaneros

The taste and aroma of Scotch Bonnet and Habanero peppers is divided: some hot pepper fans claim that they taste and smell the same. There are actually subtle flavor distinctions between these two chilies — this is one of the main differences between the Scotch Bonnet and Habanero.

Scotch Bonnets are slightly sweeter with a more tropically fruity flavor than Habaneros. Also, Scotty Bons don’t have a slight bitterness like their close relative.

Habanero peppers are less sweet, with a citrusy taste and a unique earthy, floral note. That floral aroma and taste give the Habanero a rich depth of flavor.

As for heat, both of these peppers are very hot — they’re usually the spiciest commercially available chilies. (We’ll get into Scoville heat later.)

Culinary Uses

The uses for Habanero peppers and Scotch Bonnets (fresh or dried) include West African dishes like egusi soup as well as stews, hot sauces, marinades, and chili rubs. Here are some other popular ways Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets add heat and flavor in the kitchen.

Habanero Uses

making roasted habanero salsa
Making Roasted Habanero Salsa

Habanero peppers are a staple in Yucatecan and Mexican cuisine. These chilies are commonly used as pickled peppers, in sauces like mango Habanero wings, in salsas like Xni Pec, dishes like Dzik, and as fiery enhancements to spicy margaritas, hot gummy bears, and more.

How To Use Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Scotch Bonnet flavor in jerk marinade
Scotch Bonnet Jerk Marinade

The Scotch Bonnet pepper is prominent in West Africa and Caribbean flavors, which include Trinidadian, Jamaican, and Haitian cuisine. These peppers are famous for their many uses, like Caribbean Scotch Bonnet pepper sauces, jerk marinades, Jamaican oxtail stew, curry goat, and even pepper jam, which play off the sweet Scotch Bonnet flavors.

Can I Use Habanero Instead Of Scotch Bonnet?

Being so alike, you can easily substitute Scotch Bonnet and Habanero peppers in your recipe. This is especially helpful for Scotch Bonnet peppers because they can be harder to find in grocery stores.

Note: You may notice a slight difference in sweetness and overall taste, but you’ll still get the heat and depth of flavor with either pepper.

safe handling

The Habanero and Scotch Bonnet are super spicy: be sure to wear gloves before handling them, and always wash your hands afterward so you don’t get capsaicin oil on your skin or eyes.

Scotch Bonnet vs Habanero Scoville

Scotch Bonnet vs Habanero Scoville chart

So, what’s hotter Scotch Bonnet or Habanero? To answer this question, we need to look at their Scoville ratings.

If you’re not familiar, researchers measure the heat rating of peppers with Scoville Heat Units (SHU). This is the internationally accepted standard scale for how hot peppers rank. 

» Read More: What Is the Scoville Scale for Peppers?

The Scotch Bonnet Scoville comes in at 100,000 to 350,000 SHU, while the typical Orange Habanero ranks 150,000 to 325,000 SHU. Bottom line: these peppers have practically the same heat level.

However, some Habanero varieties can get much spicier than your average Scotch Bonnet. The Chocolate Habanero, for example, has a Scoville score of 425,000 to 577,000 SHU.

On the flip side, neither of these peppers are as hot as the Ghost Pepper, which was the Guinness World Records holder when it reached over 1,000,000 Scoville units! 

Talking about the Scoville Heat Units can get a little abstract, so here’s a concrete way that you can think about the heat of these peppers. Scotch Bonnets and Habanero peppers are about 140 times hotter than the Jalapeño pepper Scoville. 

Health Benefits

All chilies, from the sweet Bell pepper to hot ones like the Habanero and Scotch Bonnet, offer lots of health benefits. Here are just a few examples: peppers are particularly rich in Vitamin A and C, and they help with inflammation, metabolism, blood pressure and decrease the risk of chronic diseases [sources: 1, 2].

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Habanero and Scotch Bonnet Varieties 

chocolate habanero pepper
Chocolate Habanero Pepper

Scotch Bonnets and Habaneros come in many different varieties. Here are some of the most popular types of each pepper.

Habanero Varieties

  • Chocolate Habanero (seeds): These rich brown pods have a higher heat level at 425,000 to 577,000 SHU with an earthy, smoky taste. When it comes to the Scotch Bonnet vs Chocolate Habanero, this dark variety of Habanero is hotter.
  • Yellow Habanero (seeds): Also known as “Lemon Habanero,” these bright yellow pods register 150,000 to 325,000 SHUs and have a fruity, citrusy flavor. The Yellow Habanero vs Scotch Bonnet comparison ranks these two peppers at about the same heat.
  • Red Habanero (seeds): These bright, crimson pods are fruity, citrusy, and, depending on variety, a bit smaller than Orange Habaneros. When comparing Red Habanero vs Scotch Bonnet, varieties like the Caribbean Red Habanero pepper (up to 475,000) and Red Savina (up to 577,000 SHU) have more heat than the Scotch Bonnet. 

» Related: 30 Places to Buy Pepper Seeds Online

Scotch Bonnet Varieties

  • Jamaican Scotch Bonnet (seeds): The Jamaican Scotch Bonnet pepper is known for its sweetness and ability to stand up to long cooking times. These chilies have a SHU of 100,000 to 350,000. 
  • Chocolate Scotch Bonnet (seeds): The Chocolate Scotch Bonnet has a rich, smoky flavor and a dark brown color. It’s also on the hotter end at 300,000 SHU. 
  • Red Scotch Bonnet (seeds): The Red Scotch Bonnet matures to a stunning crimson color and has a crisp flesh that is perfect for cooking or even preparing raw. This pepper has a SHU of 100,000 to 350,000.

Where To Buy Scotch Bonnet Peppers and Habaneros

growing habanero pepper
Growing Habanero Pepper

It’s usually easier to find fresh Habaneros in store over Scotch Bonnets. Even so, you may need to do some hunting for both of these peppers.

(Side Note: Start growing peppers from seed so you don’t have to depend on stores and enjoy any variety you want!) 😀

If Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets aren’t available in your local grocery, look for them in Asian, Caribbean, Mexican, or other global markets.

Otherwise, specialty grocery stores like Sprouts and Whole Foods have been known to carry these peppers. Your might also find Scotch Bonnets and Habaneros at your local farmers market.

buying peppers online

If you can’t find fresh Habaneros or Scotch Bonnets locally, here are some ways to find these chilies on the web:

Pepper FAQs

Wrapping Up

Ultimately, choosing between Scotch Bonnet vs Habanero peppers comes down to subtle taste differences and availability. If you have the choice, use the pepper most authentic to the dish – you can’t go wrong with either of these deliciously hot chilies!

Ready to grow the Scotch Bonnet or Habanero? Here’s my Ultimate Guide to Growing Peppers where I show you how to grow seeds into healthy pepper plants. 🌶

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AUTHOR

Jenny is the creator of Grow Hot Peppers. She is a self-taught gardener and has been growing peppers and a plethora of veggies for over 10 years. When she’s not writing or gardening, she loves eating spicy foods, hiking, and going to the ocean.

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