Mad Hatter Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

| February 6, 2021 (Last Updated: February 11, 2021)

What are Mad Hatter peppers?

The Mad Hatter pepper is a hybrid of the unique mitre-shaped Bishop’s Crown pepper and a 2017 winner of the All-America Selection Award (AAS). It has a similar sweet, fruity taste as the Bishop’s Crown, but with much less heat (500 to 1,000 Scoville heat units.) Plus, the Mad Hatter has been developed to perform much better in North American climates (and with higher yields.) This is one fun chili to grow with a spiciness almost everyone can enjoy.

Mad Hatter pepper fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)500 to 1,000
Median heat (SHU)750
Jalapeño reference point3 to 16 times milder
Capsicum speciesBaccatum
OriginUnited States
UseCulinary, Ornamental
Size2 to 3 inches wide, “smushed” shape
FlavorSweet, Fruity, Citrusy, Floral

How hot are Mad Hatter peppers?

The Mad Hatter may sound (and look) like it should pack a spicy punch. After all — the scotch bonnet pepper (100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units) has a similar “smushed” appearance. And the chili it was hybridized from — the Bishop’s Crown — can carry close to cayenne level heat (5,000 to 30,000 SHU.) But the Mad Hatter is nowhere near as “mad”. In fact, it’s a mild pepper, ranging only from 500 to 1,000 Scoville heat units.

To put that in perspective: That’s even less heat than the very mild poblano pepper (1,000 to 1500 SHU) and well below a jalapeño (2,500 to 8,000 SHU.) It ranges from three to sixteen times milder than the jalapeño, so this is a spiciness that’s no doubt family-friendly.

Where do these chilies originate?

Its roots come from South America (the Bishop’s Crown) — particularly Peru and Bolivia. But the Mad Hatter chili hybrid was developed by Pan-American Seeds, an American seed company. Pan-American focused on creating a hybrid that was amenable to the more extreme temperature swings in North America. The hybrid is also more prolific, sometimes growing 40 to 50 fruits on each plant.

Mad Hatter peppers on a plate

What do they look like?

There’s a reason it’s called “Mad Hatter” and it’s not for the heat. No, the shape is one of the more unique you’ll find on the Scoville scale. Imagine a chili that’s been smushed, taking on a mitre-like shape in the process. It looks a lot like a bishop’s hat. The fruits grow to two to three inches wide, and they age from green to red gaining in flavor along the way. The plant itself grows to roughly three feet tall (and about the same wide.)

It’s a fun shape, no doubt. In fact, it can perform double duty as an ornamental pepper in some home landscaping situations (the wider fruit and unorthodox shape makes it somewhat niche.) But take care. Most other chilies with this shape come in at much hotter levels. As mentioned, both the bishop’s crown and scotch bonnet share in the look and pack much more of a punch.

What do Mad Hatter peppers taste like?

The Mad Hatter isn’t just a looker, it walks the talk on flavor, too. This is one delicious chili. It’s fruity-sweet, with both citrus and floral notes that gain in intensity as the fruits mature. The chili’s thin walls also add to the eating experience. They provide a crispness to the fruit when it’s eaten fresh.

Mature red Mad Hatter pepper on the vine
Mature red Mad Hatter pepper on the vine

How can you use this pepper?

That crispness and flavor make the Mad Hatter pepper an excellent choice as a raw bell pepper alternative for salads. They are also excellent raw peppers to use as crudités — they pair exceptionally well with cheese.

Really, anywhere you’d use a bell, you could use the Mad Hatter chili. Try it in salsas, on sandwiches, or atop pizzas. And while the Mad Hatter has thinner walls, the wide body of the fruit does allow for use as a stuffed pepper. And a bold cheese (again) is a perfect foil to the fruity-sweetness you get here.

That sweetness, too, works with pickling. So if you want a twist on pickled jalapeños (or another pickled peppers recipe), try giving this chili a try.

Where can you buy Mad Hatter peppers?

You won’t typically find this chili at your local supermarket, but it is growing in popularity across the United States given how hardy and prolific it is in North American climates. Check local pepper farms and farmer’s markets.

Really this is a chili pepper that you want to grow yourself as it’s very forgiving no matter your climate. Mad Hatter pepper seeds are widely available (Amazon). And remember: they’re quite prolific (40 to 50 fruits per plant), so you’ll have abundant chilies even with only a few plants. The plant itself, as mentioned, is large (roughly three feet by three feet), so if you plan to grow Mad Hatter peppers in containers, be sure to use large containers.

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