Scotch Bonnet Vs Habanero – What’s The Difference?

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They might look the same but scotch bonnet and habanero peppers are fundamentally different in how they look and how much heat they add to recipes!

What is the difference between scotch bonnet vs. habanero? Scotch bonnet peppers are usually redder and rounder than habaneros which can either be green, orange, or light/dark red. Habanero peppers are also slimmer and softer than scotch bonnets, which are usually firm and larger. Both peppers pack quite a lot of heat!

Read below to learn more about each type of pepper, how to use them, how to handle them in the kitchen and how you can use both in different recipes!

All About Scotch Bonnets

Scotch bonnets are a variety of peppers that are ubiquitous in the Caribbean. These peppers pack a lot of heat and have a rating of 100,000–350,000 Scoville units.

On their own, scotch bonnets may not seem any different from habaneros but once you compare each type of pepper, you will quickly notice the difference!

Scotch bonnets have been used in recipes and sauces for generations and are easily one of the hottest peppers in the world. The great thing about these peppers is that they provide a strong kick that subsides over time.

This is in contrast to other types of peppers, like the habanero pepper which provides a mild kick at first that slowly grows in intensity. 

The scotch bonnet pepper can be bought from stores and can also be grown in any well-kept garden.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about these peppers is that they provide quite a lot of flavor apart from the scorching heat.

In fact, in many cases, scotch bonnets are prized for their slightly sweet and fruity flavor that can be extracted in several different ways. 

For example, for recipes where you need to borrow some of the flavor notes of the pepper without adding heat, a great way to extract the flavor of the peppers is to boil them in water or cook them directly in the pot.

Most of the heat of this pepper lies in its seeds but the skin and even its oils can be extremely irritating.

Please keep in mind that this is one of the hottest peppers in the world and should be handled very carefully. We’ll discuss more on how to handle it below. 

First, let’s talk a bit about its characteristics! 


Scotch bonnets have a round shape and a red outer skin. These peppers are known to resemble habaneros but have some distinct and unique characteristics that set them apart. 

As mentioned, apart from their shape, scotch bonnet peppers are shorter and “plumper” than habaneros. They can also have a color ranging from dark orange to red or even dark red

These peppers have firmer skin, allowing them to be submerged in hot water for extended periods without coming apart. This characteristic is one of the reasons why this pepper can lend more flavor before imparting heat than habaneros. 


The flavor of the scotch bonnet can be best described as being fruity and sweet.

These peppers also have a slightly earthy and vegetable-like flavor, but for most uninitiated people, these characteristics will be very hard to pick up due to the intense heat. 

Many experts also note that this pepper does not provide the same slightly bitter flavor as is with habaneros. 

The best thing about this pepper is that, even though it provides a stronger flavor upfront, the heat tends to taper down, unlike other types of peppers in the same Scoville rating range. 

Scotch bonnets are also known for their visible oil that can pool up in small quantities once you cut the pepper in half. This oil, along with the inner surrounding skin is similarly irritating and can cause a severe burning sensation. 

Furthermore, in direct comparison to habaneros, scotch bonnets are known to be a bit hotter. However, since both peppers share the same Scoville rating, the heat of each pepper is highly subjective and can vary from person to person.


Scotch bonnet is mostly used in pepper sauces but it can also be added to different recipes for flavor and heat.

As explained, the seeds of this pepper pack the most heat so by removing the inner stock with the seeds, you can greatly curb the overall heat level of these peppers. 

Scotch bonnets can also be used to flavor stocks. The best way to use them in this particular scenario would be to tie the stock of 2-3 scotch bonnets using a string and then simmer them in the pot

Hovering them in the water will allow the peppers to release some of their flavors along with a bit of oil which will add its distinct fruity and sweet flavor along with a bit of heat. 

However, if the peppers burst or are punctured during the cooking process, then you may end up redoing the recipe because of the added heat!

This is why some people prefer to cut the peppers and separate the flesh from the seeds before adding them to any recipe. 

Using a deseeded and diced scotch bonnet with the inner skin exposed may lend both heat and flavor which will work nicely in stews, broths, and more!

If you feel brave and adventurous then you can even dice up the skin and add it as a garnish to your favorite salads or recipes for an interesting and thoroughly hot experience. 

All About Habanero Peppers

Habanero peppers are known worldwide and can be easily recognizable due to their extensive use in several cuisines – this is also partly why some people may mistake scotch bonnets for habaneros. 

Just like the scotch bonnets, the humble habanero pepper has a similar Scoville rating of 100,000-350,000 Scoville units. However, some habanero peppers, like the Red Savina can have a rating of up to 500,000! 

In comparison, this means that the habanero pepper is around 12 to 100 times hotter than jalapenos and the Red Savina variety can be exponentially hotter! 

Here are some of the characteristics of habanero peppers:


Visually, habaneros are available in green, orange, yellow, or light red colors, but they come in several other colors too! 

The color differences are due to the age of the peppers. Younger peppers start green and change color as they mature. 

In comparison to scotch bonnets, habanero peppers are usually a bit shorter and slightly slimmer.

Even though this pepper can come very close to looking like a scotch bonnet, it is fundamentally different due to its color, size, and shape. 

Habaneros have softer skin and don’t have much of a chew compared to scotch bonnets which allows them to be pureed much more efficiently in sauces. 


Habaneros have a slightly different flavor profile than scotch bonnets. Both of them share similar fruity and sweet flavor notes but with one exception: habaneros tend to have a slightly earthy and bitter flavor

While this discrepancy might not be noticeable to someone who is trying the pepper for the first time, most aficionados agree that the habanero pepper has a unique bitter flavor that hangs around in the background. 

Furthermore, habaneros can also be used to flavor food by extracting its flavor in the same way as scotch bonnets. 

These peppers can similarly be simmered in water to extract their oils and flavor.

However, since habaneros have softer skin, you might not want to simmer them for longer than 5-10 minutes or the peppers may start to leak a lot of heat into the food!

Speaking of heat, these peppers also have a different heat response. For example, once you bite into a habanero you might not immediately notice its heat.

This is when you will get most of its subtle flavor notes; however, the pepper starts to really kick in after just a few seconds! 

Just like the scotch bonnets, the heat level of this pepper may vary from person to person; although, most people believe that the habanero is slightly less hot

Please keep in mind though, that both peppers are extremely hot and can even be very irritating to the skin! 


Since habaneros can be dangerously hot to many, they are not used as a standalone ingredient. However, they have a variety of uses in other recipes and are commonly used in making sauces, dressings, salsa, and more

Once deseeded, these peppers will provide a slightly more tamed flavor and heat but we would still recommend that you not use the pepper on its own to avoid any mishap.

Again, the outer skin and inner flesh of the pepper along with its oils are highly irritating. 

Once these peppers are cut open, they are strong enough to make people cough even without making any direct contact. 

Scotch Bonnet Vs Habanero Peppers

Here is a simple visual guide to help you understand the difference between these two similar but equally unique peppers!

QualityScotch BonnetHabanero
ShapeRounder and firmer but larger.Slightly slimmer and shorter. 
Size1 to 2 1/2 inches.3⁄4 to 2 1⁄4 inches 
ColorLight to dark orange—light to dark red. Green, yellow, light to dark orange—light to dark red.
FlavorSlightly sweet and fruity. Immediately provides a strong and spicy kick.Slightly sweet and fruity with a bit of bitterness. Gradually increases in heat. 
Scoville Rating100,000-350,000 SHU100,000-350,000 SHU
UsesSauces, salsa, dressings, and more.  Sauces, salsa, dressings, and more.  

Handling Scotch Bonnet And Habanero 

Since both of these peppers share more or less the same heat, you must handle them extremely carefully when working with them in the kitchen. Both of these peppers are sold in plastic bags that are well sealed. 

Make sure that you buy intact peppers from the market. Even if one pepper gets punctured, it may add a lot of heat to the entire pack. 

When handling the peppers, try to always wear gloves to avoid any skin irritation.

While you can easily become accustomed to handling the peppers without gloves, wearing a protective layer will ensure that you don’t transfer the seeds or oils to other surfaces, or your skin. 

Even if the oil gets into your nails, it is enough to cause irritation, even after you wash your hands. This is especially true when you dice the peppers along with the seeds. 

Furthermore, we recommend that you work in a well-ventilated environment. You can open a window to avoid the peppers from irritating the skin, eyes, and lungs

Freshly cut peppers can cause mild coughing and because they can easily irritate the eyes, you may be instinctively forced to touch your face, which will surely cause a lot of problems! 

Once you are done working with the peppers, clean the surface area with water followed by soap to neutralize the heat of the peppers.

If you do come in contact with the seeds or oil of the peppers (or in the event of general irritation) do not touch your face or rub your hands against your clothes. Simply wash your hands repeatedly until the burning stops. 

Alternatively, you can also try pouring milk or a solution of baking powder and water over the affected area to neutralize the sting.

Storing Habanero And Scotch Bonnets

Storing these peppers is extremely easy and if kept correctly, you can keep the peppers fresh for up to a year!

The best way to extend the life of the peppers is to place them in an airtight plastic Ziplock bag.

Make sure that you store the peppers dry or the moisture on the skin of the peppers will cause them to spoil within a few weeks or months. Both habaneros and scotch bonnet peppers will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge. 

You can get even more out of the life of these peppers if you choose to freeze them using the same method. Store the peppers at 0F in the freezer for up to a year!

For the best experience, try to consume the peppers within the 6-month mark. You can also process the peppers near their expiry period and use them in making salsas, sauces, salad dressings, and more!

Related Questions 

Scotch bonnet and habanero peppers are one of the hottest peppers in the world but due to their varying heat levels (compared to other hotter peppers), they are famously used to make a range of sauces and other delicious side recipes. 

Now that you know the difference between both peppers, here are some interesting related questions!

Can scotch bonnet substitute habaneros? 

In terms of heat, yes, scotch bonnets can easily substitute habaneros of the same maturity (color).

Keep in mind that both of these peppers share the same heat rating on the Scoville scale. So, in theory, you may be able to get away with using each as a substitute for the other. 

However, when serving the peppers to aficionados, you may have to consider the varying flavor differences of both peppers as well.

This is all because scotch bonnets are known to be sweet and fruity without the accompanying bitter flavor that is commonly found in habanero peppers. 

Which is healthier, habanero or scotch bonnet?

In terms of nutrition and health benefits, both of these peppers provide similar nutritional values but scotch bonnets may end up being a winner by a small margin

Scotch bonnets are an excellent source of cancer-preventing chemicals like phytochemicals and heart-disease-preventing substances like vitamin A.

Both peppers also contain immune-boosting vitamin C and can even help in blood pressure modulation due to their magnesium content. 

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