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The 5 Best Substitutes for Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Have you ever tried to scotch bonnet pepper?

When most people hear the phrase ‘pepper’, they picture any number of non-spicy round and red fruits.

However, this is an inaccuracy: that popular ‘red pepper’ comes from capsicum species.

The scotch bonnet pepper is a popular and very spicy variant of this type.

While their flavor is not for everyone, it is widely considered one of the most delicious varieties of capsicum available.

That said, not all people enjoy this taste.

That’s why it’s important to know how to substitute scotch bonnet pepper when cooking.

In this article, we will explore five of the best alternatives.

What is Scotch Bonnet Pepper?

what is scotch bonnet pepper

The scotch bonnet pepper is a cultivar of the species “Capsicum chinense” and originates from Jamaica.

Many people refer to it as a type of chili pepper.

However, this is incorrect because it’s not a variety of Capsicum annuum, including most spicy peppers such as jalapeños and cayenne peppers.

The scotch bonnet pepper is very hot – often compared to its close relative, the habanero chili pepper, a type of “Capsicum chinense”.

Scotch bonnet peppers typically measure 100,000 – 350,000 Scoville units, and the common habanero chili pepper measures over 100,000.

When eating or cooking with a scotch bonnet pepper, it is important to wear gloves.

The oils from the pepper can contact your skin and cause a burning sensation.

If you rub your eyes after touching the pepper, this could also cause a burning sensation, especially if you have sensitive skin.

In terms of taste, the unique flavor of the scotch bonnet pepper is somewhere between a bell pepper and a hot chili.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Scotch Bonnet Peppers

If you’ve never tried a scotch bonnet pepper before and want to experiment with this kind of chili, it is important that you first consider your tastes.

While the scotch bonnet pepper is a hot chili – it isn’t as bad as some very hot chili varieties such as the habanero or ghost pepper.

Below are five possible substitutes for the scotch bonnet pepper:

1 – Jalapeño Pepper

jalapeo pepper

The jalapeño is a cultivar of the species “Capsicum annuum”.

This chili is very common among Mexican dishes – it is also popular in the United States.

The jalapeño has many health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and increasing your body’s metabolism.

It contains capsaicin which acts as an appetite suppressant.

The jalapeño is much milder than the scotch bonnet pepper – but it has a similar flavor.

It’s also important to note that this chili can be consumed raw or cooked in dishes.

It’s great for salsa, guacamole, and hot sauce.

Due to its strong heat level, it is also great for sauces and soups.

2 – Serrano Pepper

serrano pepper

Another chili that can be considered is the serrano chili, a cultivar of the species Capsicum annuum.

This chili typically has more heat than the jalapeño but less than the scotch bonnet pepper.

It’s typically harvested in a green stage and may be eaten raw.

To grow the serrano pepper, it’s crucial to plant seeds indoors 4-8 weeks before the last frost in your area.

This chili can also be dried and smoked, just like the jalapeño.

It has a bit of smokiness, ideal for spicy dishes such as salsa verde or enchiladas.

When dried, the serrano pepper can be consumed as a whole or ground into flakes.

3 – Habanero Pepper

habanero pepper

The habanero is a cultivar of the species Capsicum chinense.

It’s very hot and typically measures between 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units.

This chili pepper originated in the Amazon region of South America.

While it is incredibly spicy, it contains large amounts of vitamin A – just like carrots or squash.

This chili is also rich in beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A).

We can use the habanero pepper fresh or cooked.

It’s very pungent and works well in salsa, hot sauces, and curries.

While it turns bright orange when ripe – it may be consumed green.

Depending on the desired heat level, it’s important to note that this chili can be de-seeded before cooking.

The seeds may also be removed after the pepper has been consumed.

4 – Pequin Pepper

pequin pepper

The pequin pepper originates from South America and is a cultivar of the “Capsicum annuum” species.

It’s very similar in appearance to the habanero chili – but typically has less heat.

This chili is typically harvested at a green stage, after which it will be consumed raw or cooked.

When dried, this chili is typically smoked and consumed whole.

It is very popular in China, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina – where it is consumed fresh or cooked in dishes like soups and stews.

The pequin pepper is much more pungent than the scotch bonnet pepper but less spicy than the habanero.

The heat of this chili may be lessened by removing the seeds before cooking.

It is a great option for fresh salsa and hot sauce.

5 – Fresno Pepper

fresno pepper

Last on this list of alternatives is the Fresno chili pepper.

This chili is a cultivar of the species Capsicum annuum and typically has less heat than some other chilies on this list.

Because it’s milder, it’s great for people who don’t favor spicy foods but still want that hint of spiciness to their dishes.

It measures between 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville heat units.

The Fresno pepper is typically green but may also be dried and smoked like the jalapeño chili.

If grown in optimal conditions, this chili has a general shelf life of about one year.


Scotch bonnet peppers are so hot that they can’t be substituted in any recipe – but we’ve outlined five options for you here.

Whether you’re looking to cut the heat but not the flavor, or you want a more mild chili pepper – these alternatives might be of use to you.

So the next time you have a craving for that spicy chili taste, remember these alternatives.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Scotch Bonnet Peppers

The 5 Best Substitutes for Scotch Bonnet Peppers
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Jalapeño Peppers
  • Serrano Peppers
  • Habanero Peppers
  • Pequin Peppers
  • Fresno Peppers


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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