Habanero peppers get their name from the city of Havana in Cuba, which is La Habana in Spanish. Despite the name, habanero chilies originated on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula where they are still cultivated today. These chilies also grow in other parts of the Americas including Panama, Belize, and the United States. Habaneros are no longer at the top of the list of the hottest peppers in the world, but they are still very hot and should be used sparingly by all but the most experienced hot pepper fans. There are many habanero varieties including:
Common orange habanero
The orange habanero is the most common habanero variety, which means that it is also the one that most people have seen in their local grocery store. Orange habaneros provide a fruity sweet flavor to go along with their heat. They range from 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units (SHU).
Caribbean red habanero
Considerably hotter than its orange cousin, the Caribbean red habanero is used throughout the Americas and is a favorite in salsa. It has a high maximum heat level of 445,000 Scoville heat units.
Red Savina habanero
Before the arrival of the ghost pepper, the Red Savina habanero held the title of the world’s hottest pepper. With a max Scoville score of 577,000 SHU, the Red Savina is almost twice as hot as a standard orange habanero. It was created in California via selective breeding and is now grown on a commercial scale in California and Central America.
Scotch bonnet peppers
Despite the difference in shape, scotch bonnet chilies are a variety of habanero. The name comes from the fact that its shape resembles that of a tam o’shanter hat, a type of Scottish cap. It is popular in the Caribbean and is associated mainly with traditional Jamaican cooking though you can find it in Guyana and other Caribbean countries. Most scotch bonnet peppers ripen to yellow and they are a common source of heat in jerk seasonings and marinades for jerk dishes. Scotch bonnet peppers top out at around 350,000 SHU, which puts them on par with the common orange hab. They have a similar flavor, but with a little more fruity sweetness.
The chocolate habanero is another pepper associated with Jamaican cooking. It gets its name from its brown color though it is sometimes referred to as a black habanero. The shape is the standard habanero shape. The chocolate habanero is hotter than the average hab with a max heat level of about 577,000 SHUs. They have a more earthy, rich flavor as well.
Datil peppers are a habanero variety, but they are sweeter and fruitier than other habaneros. In the United States, they primarily hail from St. Augustine in North Florida where an entire culture surrounds the datil. Datil peppers came to the United States from Minorca, brought over by immigrants. Datil peppers are one of the relatively mild habaneros with only 300,000 SHUs at its hottest.
Peruvian white habanero
Peruvian white habaneros are a relatively uncommon habanero variety with a smoky flavor and moderate heat. As the name suggests, they originated in Peru. These chilies have a bean-like shape so they don’t look like a typical hab, but their heat is just as aggressive (and often surprising for the size).
Roatan pumpkin habanero
The Roatan part of the Roatan pumpkin habanero’s name comes from the fact that this pepper is native to Roatan Island, off Honduras’s coast. The pumpkin comes from the deep orange color and a shape that tends to look quite pumpkin-like. These habaneros have a particularly wrinkled appearance but a high maximum heat level with 500,000 SHUs.