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 cultures. 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’ve got a few options for you here. 

Of comparable heat: 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 option. 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 slight tang to them, but nothing compared to a scotch bonnet.

Still, it may be easier to find habaneros around your area. It’s not as common as the option below, but if you can find it, it may be the best scotch bonnet substitute out there.

Easiest to find: Jalapeño or serrano peppers

Nearly every grocer carries jalapeñosand serrano peppers are becoming more popular as well. Both can serve as scotch bonnet substitutes in a pinch, but you’ll be giving up both the comparable fruitiness and the heat of the scotch bonnet in this trade-off. Still, these hot chilies are everywhere, so they are an excellent option to know about.

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. It’s 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.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on August 17, 2019 to include new content. It was originally published on March 12, 2014.