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7 October 2013

Scoville Heat Units: 100,000 – 350,000 SHU

The Scotch Bonnet pepper is a cultivar of the habanero and is among the hottest peppers anywhere. If you’ve ever tried a habanero pepper, you know it carries some serious heat. The Scotch Bonnet is equally hot, measuring in at 100,000-350,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Compare that to a jalapeno pepper, which averages about 5,000 SHU, and you’ll understand the heat level.

It is very often used in Caribbean cooking, where it originated and is widely grown. Dishes like jerk chicken or Jamaican Hot Pepper Sauce require the flavor and heat of the Scotch Bonnet.

It appears primarily in the Carribean and in Guyana and the Maldives.

The Story of the Scotch Bonnet Name

Its name derives from its resemblance to the Scottish Tam o’ Shanter hat.

Other names for these chili peppers include Bahamian, Bahama Mama, Jamaican Hot or Martinique Pepper, as well as booney peppers, bonney peppers, Boabs Bonnet, Scotty Bons and goat peppers.

Scotch Bonnet Look and Taste

The Scotch bonnet pepper is usually red or yellow at maturity. However, other varieties can ripen to orange, yellow, peach, or even a chocolate brown. Very much like the habanero pepper.

Its size ranges from 1 to 2 1/2 inches in length and from 1 to 2 inches in diameter. It’s shape is similar to the habanero, though flatter and wider, resembling a hat. Hence, the name.

The flavor is fruity and bright, with a bit of sweetness. If you’ve ever tasted a habanero, it is very similar in both flavor and heat.

For flavor comparisons, there are hints of apple, cherry, and tomato.

To test the heat and flavor, try slicing off a sliver and tasting it, and even chewing it up if you feel the initial taste is safe enough.

Always remember, however, to handle hot peppers with care. Wear gloves when cutting them. Some experts even say that wearing gloves alone is not enough but that the gloves and cutting board should be cleaned with bleach and/or detergent after cutting the peppers to avoid spreading their capsaicin.

To decrease the heat of the overall heat before adding it to your dishes, you can remove the inner white placental tissue.

I, for one, love the level of heat and use them all the time.

It typically features with jerk dishes including pork and chicken. Its apple-and-cherry-tomato flavor also pops up with other dishes in the Caribbean islands, Grenadian, Trinidadian, Jamaican, Barbadian, Guyanese, Surinamese, Haitian and Caymanian cuisine.

How Hot is a Scotch Bonnet?

Scotch Bonnets pack quite a bit of heat. While not considered one of the hottest peppers in the world, it still has a respectable level of heat. They range from 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) which is anywhere from 12 to 140 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper.

That just might knock your socks off a little!

Also compare it to the extremely fiery ghost pepper, one of the super hots, which is just about 1 Million Scovilles. It’s not that far below.

Mike’s Personal Notes

Scotch bonnets are one of my favorite peppers for several reasons. I grow them in my garden most years. Not only are they easy to grow, but the plants are always very productive. I get dozens of pods each season.

They’re a perfect combination of both flavor and heat for me. When ghost peppers might be a bit too hot for some recipes, the Scotch Bonnet really shines. I greatly enjoy the sweet fruity taste. And the heat.

Try some of my recipes that feature the Scotch Bonnet:

Relevant Links

6 comments

  1. Hi, very informative article! I was wondering though, my supermarket has green, red, yellow, and orange scotch bonnet peppers. Are the green ones the hottest or the red ones? I’m making a dish that has scotch bonnet peppers but i don’t want it too spicy.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Vanessa. The green Scotch bonnet peppers are more likely unripened peppers. They’ll be hot, but not any hotter than the others. They’re all quite equally hot from my experience, with more of a variation from plant to plant. If you’d like to use them to dial back on the heat, core them out and remove the innards. Just be sure to wear gloves when handling them to avoid the dreaded chili pepper skin burn.

  2. Chillihead scottish variant

    You can probably tell why I have an affinity for this pepper from my username lol.
    Was gonna use jalapenos for the creamy Jalapeno sauce recipe (which I’m trying tonight) but I’m going to use some of these instead. Mainly because they are actually easier to find here, my local shop sells them by the bag (don’t have a chilli farm as of right now)

  3. Certainly sweet little cute chillis, eat a little, wait …… 20 seconds later WOW that’s a chilli!

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