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are scotch bonnets and habanero really the same thing?

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I've read both - some say they are the same, some say they are different, but make good substitutes for eachother. I know supermarkets will use the names synonomously depending on which demographic group they market to. However, are they really the same thing? Are there subtle differences? Can one tell them apart visually?

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  1. j
    Jim Washburn

    From "Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums," New Edition, 1995, by Jean Andrews, page 131:

    "In 1983 when this book first went to press, the general consensus was that Scotch Bonnet was just another name for Habanero... A trip to Antigua to visit with Dr. Brian Cooper, chief agronomist with Caribbean Agricultural and Development Institute (CARDI) was well worth the effort, for he convinced me that they are two distinct cultivars."


    2 Replies
    1. re: Jim Washburn
      Jim Washburn

      Dave DeWitt also says they are different. See link.


      Link: http://www.fiery-foods.com/dave/profi...

      1. re: Jim Washburn

        And Dave does know his peppers!


    2. Yeah, they are different, but the same species. When ripe, one of them looks sort of like a little squashed reddish orange lantern. I can't remember which. I haven't worked with either of them.

      23 Replies
      1. re: Pat Hammond

        Scotch Bonnets are the squashed ones. They tend to be smaller than Habaneros too. Not to be confused with the other relative of Habanero and Scotch Bonnets, Jamaican Hots, bright red and smaller than Habanero.

        1. re: Pablo

          Do they taste similar? I understand that each has a lovely flavor. I doubt I'll ever find out for myself!

          1. re: Pat Hammond

            My experiences:
            Habanero - tropical fruit flavors. I love em!
            Scotch Bonnets - smoky flavor and some fruit flavor.
            Beware Habanero, is hottest fresh, it can take your breath away! If you grow them, good way to keep them is pickle or dry them.

            1. re: Pablo

              You make them sound delicious. Do you eat them raw? Cooked into something? I really can't imagine how one gets past all those Skoville units to taste anythiing.

              1. re: Pat Hammond

                I prefer raw, you get the most flavor. In a ceviche is perfect, or a topping for grilled lobster. Just for the record, I am white half American half Italian born in Africa, don't want you think I am some super Mexican Habanero chomping freak! They are euphoric!

                1. re: Pablo

                  I like to mince them up for chocolate chip cookies. The kids love em. They are hot...but then that sweet chocolate comes to the rescue.

                  1. re: lisamae

                    That's quite interesting! DO you just add them to a regular recipe, like Toll House? How many per recipe, so that they don't kill the average person?

                2. re: Pat Hammond

                  I just got a cookbook from Walkerswood, a co-op outfit in Jamaica that bottles and sells jerk seasoning and other Jamaican goodies. Quite a few of the recipes call for a Scotch bonnet pepper to be laid on top of a simmering dish (as for instance peas and rice, their version of Moros y Cristianos) without letting it pop open, and then removing it before serving. I did do the p&r recipe, and the lovely flavor and very subtle heat did in fact come through.

                  A friend in Nashville whose dad grows habaneros usually puts one into a big pot of chili or of beans, and the flavor and warmth are nice indeed.

                  Do not eat one raw unless you'd enjoy turning into The Human Torch...

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    How big a pot of beans?? I once accidentally chomped down on a bird chili, which I understand is truly the hottest. Thought I'd die. The waitres, good company gal that she was, told me to drink beer. I needed help getting home! Beer does not help.

                    1. re: Pat Hammond

                      Vodka would have.

                      1. re: Pat Hammond

                        If you want the flavor of the chinense peppers without the heat, look in your store for "aji dulce" which are small, crumpled chiles from light green to red sold in hispanic stores and groceries catering to people from the islands. That is what the puerto ricans use in their sofritos.

                        Some pix of aji dulce are attached below.

                        I use 1 scotch bonnet or habenero to season a whole pot of black beans (1 lb beans). that makes it quite spicy You can make a slice in the chile and put it in the pot whole (obviously removing it before serving) or do what I do, deseed, cut into tiny bits and saute with onions, garlic and peppers added later on in cooking.Habeneros are great candidates for freezing - much easier to deseed and chop when frozen or use just part of a chile. I cant imagine using more than one of these in a particular dish.

                        chiles are very variable in flavor and heat - I recently bought a pack of "scotch bonnets" at my NYC grocery that had neither fragrance or spiciness.

                        Link: http://www.chileplants.com/search.asp...

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          I read a year or so ago that evil scientists had modified habaneros the same way they had modified jalapenos - stripping them of all their heat (and value, in my opinion). You may have gotten a bunch of that neutered variety. It's a shame.

                          1. re: adamclyde

                            The scientists are merely catering to a market saturated with limp-wristed floozies who can't take any heat or excitment. Blame the silly consumers.

                          2. re: jen kalb

                            I've decided to first try the real deal, Jen. Tomorrow is my shopping day, so I plan to see what I can find. Thanks for this post. Very interesting! Good pictures in the link too.

                          3. re: Pat Hammond

                            He usually made a couple of pounds at a time and then froze half (he and his then-girlfriend didn't mind eating the same thing all week). I think he used one pepper per pound. He did NOT set it gently on top, but let it fall apart and disperse...those were GOOD beans. Made great burritos, too.

                        2. re: Pat Hammond

                          Forgot to mention, riper the better tasting. Do not get green ones. Orange, Red, or Chocolate are preferable.

                          1. re: Pablo

                            The riper the hotter, too? You're my hero!

                          2. re: Pat Hammond
                            Marcia M. D'A.

                            They are delicious, Pat. Very hot but great flavor along with the heat. I make a tomato soup with them that calls for half a pepper but I use a whole one. The heat does vary from pepper to pepper, and when I get good ones, I freeze them.

                            1. re: Marcia M. D'A.

                              Oh, man. I'm weakening. If I try them, I'll report back. I think my Mexican market has them. I've admired them, but just haven't worked up the nerve to try them. I do have a good tolerance for heat though. Can your soup be served chilled? If not, I'll wait until the weather is cooler. Would you post the recipe on Home Cooking, please?

                              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/boards/cooki...

                              1. re: Pat Hammond
                                Marcia M. D'A.

                                Hi Pat, I'll be glad to post the recipe on the Home Cooking board, but I warn you...it's very rich.
                                It is a speciality of a small restaurant we like, and the chef was kind enough to give me the recipe. It tastes just like hers does, too, and it couldn't be easier. Just be careful to start with a small amount of the pepper.
                                I've never served it cold but I suppose it could be done.

                                1. re: Marcia M. D'A.

                                  Rich is perfectly fine with me. Thanks!

                    2. re: Pat Hammond

                      Wow... left for a day and got some great responses.

                      Pat - you really need to head on down to that market in new rochelle and pick up a few. The weird thing about habaneros (or scotch bonnets, whichever the heck I've been getting), is that the fruitiness of them almost makes you not realize that your tongue is burning.

                      I bought a bunch from a farmer in Stamford the other day. I used about 6 of them in a jerk paste for chicken that I smoked. Then I used two others in a black-bean, grilled corn salad.

                      The jerk chicken had some good heat, but if you don't like it, you can take down the heat by not eating the skin. The black bean salad was hot, but not overbearingly so. The fruitiness of the habs/SBs came through as much as the heat. That is what is great about them. Even my 2-year old daughter loved it. (though, she is a garbage disposal and will eat anything, regardless of scoville units. I love that...)

                      Good luck and definitely give it a try. As others suggested, seed and devein, then you get more flaver/per scoville unit.

                      Cheers - Adam

                      1. re: adamclyde

                        Tomorrow's the day I shop in New Rochelle! Hope I can find some nice ones. Not sure what I'll do with them yet, but I'm excited! Thanks.

                    3. If a botanist says they ain't the same, then they ain't - all I know is the ones I've grown, picked or bought were as likely to be called one as the other, and they were all squishy-looking little orange blobs. Very distinctive (and excellent) flavor, more heat than any sane person can handle. If you're going to trim them of seeds and ribs, handle only with heavy rubber gloves, wash gloved hands thoroughly, then wash ungloved hands thoroughly... and keep your fingers away from any sensitive spot on the face or body for at least twelve hours afterwards. AMHIK...

                      1. The following article may or may not answer your question.

                        Link: http://www.fiery-foods.com/dave/profi...

                        1. Don't think they're the same thing. Habaneros are supposed to be hotter than scotch bonnets. But both peppers are supposed to pack a lot of heat, so one can probably substitue for the other if needed.

                          1. go to martinique for a month, get familiar with the scotch bonnets
                            go to mexico for a month . . . you get the picture

                            the botanists are right, but there's more fun to be had here!
                            I think immersion is the only way to learn

                            1. What we need is pictures of both.... so here's a link.
                              (go down the page to category C: Chinense peppers)
                              They certainly look different.

                              1 Reply
                              1. If there really are two diiferent varieties (which I strongly doubt) they are indistinguishable from one another. I think if you grow it in Mexico it's a Habanero - in Jamaica it's a Scotch Bonnet. :) Taste and Heat are the same. I grow one plant of what was touted as the world's hottest pepper and it's a Habanero/Scotch Bonnet. The thing is each pepper has it's own odd shape on the same plant and for color differences, they all turn red when fully mature. I can assure you the heat can be unbearable if not used properly. I used one small one last week minced up seeds and all in a Corn and Tomato salad. (2 tomatoes and 1 ear of Corn) It was very hot.And I can take heat. But what a flavor they impart in addition to the heat! I make a Trinidadian Hot sauce that's mustard based with scallions and cilantro and of course the Hab's or Scotchies.

                                1. its not the same. this is a brief history of the pepper. The Scotch bonnet's history has been traced to Central and South America; however, there is no concrete proof as to where the chile pepper was first cultivated. Although frequently confused with the habanero, the Scotch bonnet or Jamaican Hot is definitely not the same as its stout cousin. So how do you know a Scotch bonnet pepper? The mature pepper measures between 1 1/2 and 2 inches in diameter. The color of the immature pepper is green, but the mature Scotch bonnet has an attractive range of colors: bright yellow, orange or red. One of the defining features of this type of pepper is its sweet aroma and unique flavor. In fact, the Scotch bonnet was the first Caribbean hot pepper to be known by a specific name in the export market.

                                  picture of the peppers

                                  1. Scotch Bonnet and Habanero are not the same thing at all, though I understand your confusion as there's a lot of misinformation out there. I've attached a photo of a true scotch bonnet pepper. As you see, it's shaped like a scotch bonnet, therefore it's name, and is typically 1.5 in. long by 1.5 in. wide, and cultivars ripen to either red or yellow. Habaneros are larger and smoother shaped. Another difference is the flavor as scotch bonnets have a smokey, fruity aroma as compared with habs. Don't be fooled by the uninformed.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: binkynh

                                      Good to know, though before we get too much further into this we should note that the original post is from five years ago and the original poster is no longer registered on Chowhound.

                                    2. Absolutely not! Their flavor is totally different. While they are very, very hot, when used judiciously they have a wonderful sweet flavor that is incomparable. Those who would tell you that Scots Bonnet and HabaƱeros are the same don't know what they are talking about.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: Luckylcs

                                        Another informative post on an old thread from a new poster. :)

                                        Hope you stay around long enough to tell us how they differ, especially in taste. My heat tolerance isn't high enough to taste a difference.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          Just another one hit blunder...

                                          1. re: JMF

                                            I think we should welcome new posters, not blow them off if we disagree, even if they're re-opening a very old thread. New ideas and opinions should always be welcomed at CH.

                                            What's more, I agree with Luckylcs. There are many out there who can't tell one chili from another, who should know better and still can't tell the difference.

                                            Another group of chilis that people -- and even groceries -- often confuse is ancho (a dried poblano), mulato (also a dried poblano but with a little background smoke in the manner of Scotch bonnets, and with less shoulder), and pasilla, also called "chili negro" (dried chilaca chili, long and skinny). All three are black and similar in flavor (a prune-y kind of flavor) but at the same time quite distinctive if you actually use them a lot.

                                            1. re: DoctorChow

                                              But if you look at his profile, you'll see the Luckylcs has written only one post - to this thread. And that was nearly a month ago. So he probably didn't even read my reply asking for more information.

                                        2. re: Luckylcs

                                          And I'll add that I think Scotch bonnets also have a tiny bit of natural smokiness in their flavor profile, especially when green, whereas habaneros do not, at any stage of ripeness.

                                          1. re: DoctorChow

                                            What I find funny about all of this is that anyone who has tried to grow SBs from seed would find out that there is soooooo much debate about what exactly a SB is, which seeds are True SBs, etc that I'd wager that there's just as much difference between any two given SBs or Habs than there are between SBs & habs.

                                            1. re: jgg13

                                              Adding to the fun is the "Jamaican hot" chili, which looks ever so much like a Scotch bonnet but is far more thin-skinned.

                                              I think you can be pretty sure that if you taste one of these three chilies and there's a smoky background flavor to it, you've got a genuine Scotch bonnet. No habanero and no Jamaican hot, whether grown commercially or at home from seed, will have a smoky character in it's taste profile.

                                              If you think you grew an habanero and it tastes smoky, the seeds must have somehow been mixed up.

                                              Otherwise, the taste profile of the three is similar -- hot tropical fruitiness -- especially when ripe, but I think there's a clear difference between the three in that respect as well, just like there is between serrano and jalapeno, New Mexico and Aneheim, cayenne and chili de arbol.

                                        3. The scotch bonnet is slightly hotter than the habanero.The habanero is smaller and has a point at the bottom.The scotch bonnet's shape slightly resembles to the shape of a bell pepper.

                                          1. Sorry to post in an ancient topic but I recently made some Jamaican beef patties with Habaneros and I'm wondering if I'm really missing out on an authentic flavor that could only be obtained from using Scotch Bonnets. The smell is definitely very similar but from memory of eating commercial patties, the habaneros I used seemed to have a more muted aroma and an aroma that leans more towards the conventional "red pepper" sweet smell.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: takadi

                                              First, apples to apples. Some of this depends on the ripening stage of the chiles being compared; green, orange, red. The more ripe the chili, the sweeter and fruiter the flavor.

                                              Scotch bonnets have a different bouquet and taste than habaneros in every stage, but this is especially so, I think, in the green stage. Mainly dryer and with a slightly smoky aspect, and with less tropical fruit as they ripen. There are other differences but they're hard to describe. Just different.

                                              So yes, your recipe is missing out by substituting habaneros if you seek "authentic" taste. IMHO.

                                              Most people won't notice the difference, though. They'll be heading for the ice cream. (Not you, of course, but most people.)