Fans of hot and spicy food around the world rave about Scotch Bonnet peppers! With their fruity and tangy flavor, they bring a great taste to many dishes, especially Caribbean cooking.
However, Scotch Bonnet peppers can be hard to find, and sometimes you may need a substitute.
What if your grocery store doesn’t sell these spicy chilies – what are the best substitutes for Scotch Bonnet peppers? You can use other types of chili pepper, such as habanero or jalapeno chilies. You can also substitute Scotch Bonnet peppers with other spicy alternatives such as Piri Piri sauce or paprika
Got a recipe that asks for Scotch Bonnet peppers, but your cupboard is bare? Don’t panic, these substitutes will make sure your dish still tastes delicious!
Let’s take a look at the 9 best substitutes for Scotch Bonnet peppers and how to use them.
What Are Scotch Bonnet Peppers?
Don’t be misled by the cute name – Scotch Bonnets do come from the pepper family, but they are actually a type of chili. They are closely related to the habanero chili and are extremely hot.
Scotch Bonnet peppers do look quite unusual in comparison to other types of chili pepper. Their shape resembles a pepper that has been shrunk in the wash, like a plump rounded pepper with wrinkles!
They are normally about 1 inch long, and range in color from green-yellow through to orange, bright red, and even chocolate brown.
These funny little chili peppers pack quite a punch and have a very distinctive flavor. They are popular in many types of cooking, particularly in the Caribbean. They are one of the key ingredients in Jamaican Jerk sauce and Jamaican curries.
What Do Scotch Bonnet Peppers Taste Like?
Like any other type of chili pepper, the key point about Scotch Bonnet Peppers is that they are super spicy!
Scotch Bonnet peppers are one of the hotter varieties of chili. In fact, it is one of the hottest – this is not a chili to mess with! If you want a comparison, they are equal in heat to the habanero chili.
The heat of chili peppers is measured using the Scoville scale. The Scotch Bonnet rates between 100,000-350,000 units on this scale. Jalapeno peppers are just 5,000 units, so you can see how spicy these little chilies really are!
But the reason for the popularity of the Scotch Bonnet is not just the heat it adds to dishes. This chili pepper has a very distinctive fruity tang, with hints of tomato, apple, and cherry.
These little chilies also have a slight hint of sweetness, and the notorious spicy kick that many chili lovers adore. Scotch Bonnet peppers also have a slight hint of smokey flavor, similar to Chipotle chili peppers.
Can You Substitute Scotch Bonnet Peppers?
Although traditionally Scotch Bonnet Peppers are the chili of choice for authentic Jamaican cuisine, you will be glad to hear that you can substitute many other types of chilies instead!
So, if you only have one other type of chili, or are looking for something with less heat, you can use an alternative type of fresh chili in your recipe.
Different types of chili pepper will have different characteristics to Scotch Bonnet peppers, so they may alter the overall flavor of your dish.
They may also have different levels of heat, so you may need to adjust the amount of chili you use in your recipe.
There are also other alternatives such as different spices that can be used as substitutes for Scotch Bonnet peppers.
Which one of these you choose depends very much on your dish, but many of them can work very well as a Scotch Bonnet substitute.
The 9 Best Scotch Bonnet Pepper Substitutes
So now we’ve got you all excited about Scotch Bonnet peppers, we need to turn our thoughts to what you can use as a substitute for this delicious fruity chili pepper.
There are plenty of options available, so don’t be disheartened if your local store doesn’t stock Scotch Bonnet peppers!
Here are the 9 best substitutes for Scotch Bonnet Peppers:
1. Habanero Chili Pepper
Habanero chili peppers come top of our list as Scotch Bonnet pepper substitutes as they are very similar when it comes to the level of heat.
Substituting Habaneros for Scotch Bonnets on a like-for-like basis will give you the same searing heat levels your recipe requires.
The good thing about using Habanero peppers as a substitute is that they are often a lot easier to source than Scotch Bonnets. Many grocery stores sell Habanero chilies or try your local Asian food store.
Habanero chilies might match Scotch Bonnet peppers when it comes to heat, but there are some slight differences in flavor. Habanero chilies are not quite as fruity, so the overall flavor of your dish will not be quite the same.
Nevertheless, when it comes to substitutes, we think that the Habanero is the most commonly found chili which is close to a Scotch Bonnet.
Other rarer types of chili are more similar, but chances are if you can’t find Scotch Bonnets you will struggle to get hold of these too!
2. Red Cayenne Pepper Powder
Many of us have a jar of cayenne pepper stashed away in the cupboard, and not many recipes seem to call for it.
However, cayenne pepper makes a great substitute for Scotch Bonnet peppers, as it carries similar levels of heat and flavors.
Cayenne peppers are actually a type of chili pepper, sold as dried chilies or powder. They come in different colors, including green, orange, red and yellow.
The type most similar in flavor to Scotch Bonnet peppers is the red cayenne peppers.
Using powdered red cayenne pepper will give you a good level of heat in your food. It is very spicy, so be sparing when using it as a Scotch Bonnet substitute.
We’d suggest starting with as little as ¼ teaspoon and adding more to taste if necessary.
Remember that adding a powdered chili such as cayenne pepper means you won’t have any fresh chili in your dish, but once you’ve finished cooking your dish it is unlikely that anyone will notice.
3. Jalapeno Chili Pepper
Do you want the flavor and texture of a fresh chili pepper without the heat of a Scotch Bonnet? Jalapeno chilies are a popular mild chili and are widely available in grocery stores.
Jalapeno chilies have a great flavor, although they are not quite a fruity as the Scotch Bonnet. For a mild sauce, substitute them on a like-for-like basis for Scotch Bonnets. If you want a bit more heat, just add more chilies!
Remember when cooking with jalapeno chilies that the seeds must be removed, as they can add a bitter tang to the recipe.
4. Chili Powder
The name chili powder is a bit misleading – many people assume that this popular addition to the spice rack is just dried chilies, ground to a fine powder.
However, chili powder is actually a seasoning blend, carefully put together to give a deep and intense flavor.
We just need to clear one thing up here – chili powder is not the same as chile powder! The latter is purely ground-up chilies, not a blend of spices.
Chile powder is perfect if you are just looking for some heat in your recipe, but it doesn’t have the same depth of flavor as chili powder.
Most chili powders are made of a combination of cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and paprika. Chili powders are available in mild, medium, or hot varieties, with the amount of cayenne pepper varying in each one.
This combination of flavors will give your recipe a great flavor, and works well as a substitute for Scotch Bonnet peppers. The amount you add will depend on the heat intensity of the chili powder you are using.
5. Thai Red Chili Paste
Thai red chili paste is a juicy blend of red chilies and Thai spices, resulting in a base for stir-fries, soups, and other dishes. This fragrant and versatile paste is spicy and full of flavor, making it a great substitute for Scotch Bonnet chilies.
However, it is important to bear in mind that some Thai red chili pastes may contain seafood extracts such as fish sauce or shrimp paste.
While this flavor tastes great in Thai dishes, you may want to think carefully about how this will work in your recipe!
This is especially important if you are cooking for anyone with special dietary requirements, such as seafood allergies.
6. Tabasco Sauce
Tabasco sauce is a very hot sauce, with a heat comparable to Scotch Bonnet peppers. It is made from a combination of Tabasco chili pepper, vinegar, and salt.
The heat levels of Tabasco sauce are similar to that of Scotch Bonnet peppers, and it can make an excellent substitute if you want a good level of spicy heat in your recipe.
Start slowly when adding Tabasco sauce to a dish, as it really is very hot! We’d suggest adding no more than half a teaspoon to start with, and gently increasing the amount until you have the heat you require.
7. Piri Piri Sauce
Piri Piri sauce may have risen to fame because of a certain chicken restaurant, but it originates from Portugal and dates back several centuries.
Portuguese traders traveled the world and brought spicy flavors back to their home country, now famous for its Portuguese chicken in Piri Piri sauce.
Piri Piri sauce is made primarily from a medium-hot chili, the African Birdseye chili.
It also contains lemon, vinegar, garlic, bay, and oil, and it may also have citrussy or herbal flavors such as lime or tarragon. It is this fruity flavor that makes Piri Piri sauce a great substitute for Scotch Bonnet peppers.
Want all the flavor of Scotch Bonnet chilies without the spice? Then paprika is the spice for you!
Paprika is made from a chili pepper base but has little or no heat compared to chili powder. With a flavor reminiscent of intensely concentrated peppers, it has a sweet undertone and mild flavor.
This would make an excellent substitute for Scotch Bonnet in dishes where you want to avoid any spiciness. Paprika is also available as smoked paprika, perfect for rubs, marinades, and sauces where you want a rich and earthy flavor.
The name might not be easy to pronounce, but Sriracha is a great little sauce that might just come to the rescue if you don’t have any Scotch Bonnet peppers!
Sriracha is made from red jalapeno peppers, so it is not quite as hot as Tabasco or Piri Piri sauce.
A gentle blend of chili, salt, and vinegar, Sriracha is one of those sauces which will add a gentle kick to any dish, and once you have a bottle you might find you start adding it to everything!
The nice thing about using Sriacha as a Scotch Bonnet substitute is that you don’t need to be quite as cautious about how much you add. So, no worries about accidentally turning your delicious dish into a red-hot fiery disaster!
Now that we’ve gone over the absolute best substitutes for scotch bonnet peppers, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
How can you get the flavor of a Scotch Bonnet chili without the heat?
If you’re looking for the same flavor as a Scotch Bonnet pepper, but without the heat, the best bet is to substitute it with a milder type of chili pepper.
The most distinctive part of Scotch Bonnet flavor is its fruitiness, so we need to find a chili pepper to match this.
Unfortunately, the fruity tang to Scotch Bonnet peppers is so distinctive that it is difficult to find an exact match. None of the chili peppers that are on general sale quite match up when it comes to flavor, although many are equally as hot.
If you can find a specialist chili store then you might be in luck. Chili lovers rave about varieties such as Trinidad Perfume, Aja Duce and Grenada Seasoning for their mild but fruity flavor.
However, you may have to grow these yourself, or you might be fortunate enough to find them in fresh or dried form.
Is a Ghost Pepper hotter than a Scotch Bonnet pepper?
If you’re a fan of spicy chilies, then you might be trying to find out which is the hottest! Some people get a real buzz out of spicy food, and Scotch Bonnet and Ghost Pepper chilies are two of the hottest out there.
But which of these is the hottest? Well, you’d have to be pretty brave to try a Ghost Pepper chili, as they are at least twice as hot as a Scotch Bonnet!
And as a Scotch Bonnet is already at the higher end of most people’s comfort zones, that is pretty spicy indeed!
Which chili peppers have the best smoky flavor?
Many people don’t realize that not all chilies are the same! They can be fruity, rich, spicy, mild, earthy, and even smoky. But if you’re trying to get a distinctive smokey flavor, which chilies should you use?
The undoubted champion of smoky chili peppers is the Chipotle pepper. This is why you will often find Chipotle peppers in BBQ rubs and marinades, as well as sauces and stews.
The Chipotle pepper is a medium heat level, with a rich and earthy flavor, packed full of smokey goodness.
If you want a smoky flavor without the heat, there are some milder chili pepper options available to you.
Peperone di Senise, Santa Fe Grande, and Ancho chili peppers all have an intensely smokey flavor, with just a subtle hint of spiciness. However, you may need to go to a specialist chili store to find these.