What’s A Good Scotch Bonnet Pepper Substitute?

Scotch bonnet peppers – with their heat and fruity tang – are very popular in Caribbean cuisine, but they can be tough to find. They are not common in most general supermarkets, unless you live in the sub-tropics or in an urban area with a high population of Caribbean people. So what happens when you stumble upon a great looking recipe that uses scotch bonnet peppers? What is a  good scotch bonnet substitute that may be easier to find? We have a few options for you here. 

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05/19/2022 11:03 am GMT

Table of Contents

Your best option: Habanero pepper

If your goal is to find a substitute that’ll bring a similar level of heat to the recipe, then the habanero pepper is your best bet. In fact, the habanero and the scotch bonnet are close cousins. They both range from 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville scale, with the biggest difference coming from the overall sweetness. Habaneros aren’t as fruity sweet as scotch bonnets are. There is a fruitiness to habaneros, yes, but not as pronounced as a scotch bonnet.

The biggest benefit to a habanero as a scotch bonnet alternative, they are likely easier to find around your area. Many stores carry habaneros as it’s a very popular chili. And if they don’t, they are common sites at farmer’s markets and a popular crop at chili farms. Your chances are much greater of finding habaneros in a pinch.

Easiest to find: Jalapeño or serrano peppers

Nearly every grocer carries jalapeñosand serrano peppers are becoming more popular as well. As they are easy to find, both can serve as scotch bonnet substitutes in a pinch, but you’ll be giving up a lot in both flavor and heat.

Jalapeños (2,500 to 8,000 Scovile heat units) and serranos (10,000 to 23,000 SHU) are mere blips on the Scoville scale compared to the extra-hot habanero. If you’re looking for your recipe to be extra-hot, neither of these chilies will deliver that level of spiciness.

The flavor tradeoff (especially for green jalapeños and serranos) is noticeable as well. Both of these chilies have a bright, grassy bite. If you’re looking for something sweeter, look for the fully mature red versions of these peppers. These red versions will be sweeter – not fruity, but sweeter and less grassy. They are much better options than their green counterparts (if you can find them.)

–> Learn More: Green Vs. Red Jalapeño

A good low heat fit (but hard to find): The rocotillo pepper

There’s no doubt about it, if you’re having trouble finding scotch bonnets, then finding a rocotillo pepper may be even harder. But if you happen to live in an area with Caribbean peppers around, and your reason for looking for a good scotch bonnet pepper substitute was due to the high heat, then take a look at this tasty hot pepper.

Rocotillos are much milder, at 1,500 to 2,500 on the pepper scale. That’s less than a jalapeño, so nearly everyone can take the heat the rocotillo brings. And best of all, it has a comparable fruitiness to it, so you’ll definitely get the right flavors for Caribbean cuisine.

  • Scotch Bonnet Vs. Habanero: We compare these two chilies head-to-head. Yes, they are very similar, but learn the differences.
  • The Hot Pepper List: This pepper is one of over 150+ we profile on our filterable list. Search by heat, flavor, origin and more.
  • Are Dried Peppers Hotter Than Fresh? If you go with a dried chili as an alternative, what should you expect in terms of heat? Do chilies lose spiciness when dried?

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on April 15, 2022 to include new content.
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