Hot Paper Lantern: A Habanero For The North

| October 20, 2018 (Last Updated: May 13, 2020)

A habanero better for cooler climates…

Hot Paper Lantern fast facts:

  • Scoville heat units (SHU): 150,000 – 400,000 SHU
  • Median heat: 275,000 SHU
  • Origin: Peru
  • Capsicum species: Chinense
  • Jalapeño reference scale: 19 to 160 times hotter
  • Use: Culinary
  • Size: Up to 4 inches long, conical
  • Flavor: Sweet, Smoky

Habaneros are known for their tropical flair – Caribbean sweet is their thing. So, too, for the Hot Paper Lantern, with a few distinct differences. It’s a tropical-sweet habanero-type pepper with even bigger heat than a common habanero. And where traditional habaneros perform best in warmer climates, the Hot Paper Lantern boasts a shorter growing season. This makes it a perfect habanero for cooler Northern climates where the growing season is shorter.

How hot is the Hot Paper Lantern pepper?

As a habanero-type pepper, the Hot Paper Lantern packs a significant punch. Common habaneros (the orange variety) have a Scoville heat range from 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units. The Hot Paper Lantern starts slightly higher at its floor and reaches a little higher at its ceiling (150,000 – 400,000 SHU). It’s not quite as hot as some other habanero cultivars, like the Red Savina or chocolate habanero, but it’s still an upgrade over the typical.

Compared to our jalapeño reference point, the Hot Paper Lantern is 19 to 160 times hotter than a typical jalapeño pepper, depending on where the compared chilies sit on their heat spectrum.

What do these peppers look like and taste like?

They look as you’d expect a habanero, just a little more pronounced. These are elongated, with a lantern-like shape (some say similar to a pendant-shaped paper lantern, like the name). Hot Paper Lantern peppers are just a little longer than a common habanero (3 to 4 inches) and slightly more exaggerated in their long shape. They age from green to orange and, finally, to a beautiful orange/red.

Their flavor is also “a little more” than a common habanero. They tend to taste a little sweeter, but that’s likely due to a slower heat to the pepper. The Hot Paper Lantern’s spiciness doesn’t attack quite as hard out the gate, allowing the chili’s natural sweetness, and light smokiness, to take more a center stage upon first bite.

How can you use these chilies?

As mentioned, Hot Paper Lantern peppers have a shorter growing season than other habaneros, so those in Northern climates should reach to this chili for their chili pepper gardening. They also do well in small spaces due to compactness of the plant itself, so container gardening works here. Together, this makes for one of the easier chili types to grow successfully even in uncommon areas.

In the kitchen, the Hot Paper Lantern is a thin-walled chili, so it’s a very good option for drying. From there, it can be crushed into powder or flakes or rehydrated for future use.

The sweetness makes the Hot Paper Lantern an excellent pickling habanero (see our pickled habaneros recipe here to get started). The sweetness pairs well with the tangy pickled flavor, and they are delicious used atop sandwiches (for those that can handle habanero heat).

And, like all habaneros, this chili is perfect when used fresh for hot sauces and extra-hot salsas, particularly those with a tropical flavor. There, the sweetness of the Hot Paper Lantern pairs perfectly with the sweetness of tropical fruit like mango or pineapple.

Where can you buy Hot Paper Lantern peppers?

While habanero peppers are commonly spotted in mainstream supermarkets, it’s typically the common orange type that you find. You don’t find these more unique cultivars, like the Hot Paper Lantern, in stores. At least they are not labeled as such. Check local pepper farms or grow these beauties at home. Hot Paper Lantern seeds are easy to buy online (Amazon). Given their faster growing season and compact plant size, this is definitely a chili pepper of interest to even amateur gardeners in atypical climates for chilies.

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