Scotch Bonnet Pepper: Substitutes, Flavor, Uses In Cooking

scotch bonnet pepper substitute

What about having a scotch bonnet hot sauce or pickled scotch bonnet peppers? They’re yummy indeed! They are hot, very hot but with a lingering fruity taste.

This article digs into the best scotch bonnet peppers substitute you can use in a pinch, also a little about its flavors and uses.

What Are Scotch Bonnet Peppers?

Scotch bonnet, also known as Bonney peppers, or Caribbean red peppers mostly found in West Africa. Curiously, the name of this pepper comes from its resemblance to a tam o’ shanter hat, a traditional Scottish bonnet worn by men. This pepper is also known in other local names like ‘Bahama mamas’ and ‘Jamaican hots’.

Scotch bonnet is a very hot chile that has a heat rating of 100,000–350,000 Scoville units.

Bonnet chili is very popular in Caribbean cuisines for its heat and fruity tang. This exotic chili is comparatively expensive than other peppers and they are sold sliced, chopped, or as whole peppers.


What do scotch bonnet peppers taste like?

Scotch bonnet pepper produces a lot of heat with an underlying mild sweetness and obscure fruity taste. Its taste is somewhat similar to Habanero peppers known for their high heat intensity enmeshed with a fruity touch.

What can I do with Scotch bonnet peppers?

Bonnet pepper is a usual spice in several recipes like the Caribbean hop pepper sauce, or jerk dishes like chicken

This pepper is highly versatile and suitable for both raw and cooked dishes; boiling, sautéing, and frying. Use them sliced or chopped for the maximum heat or use them whole and remove them at the end of cooking to add minimal heat to your recipe.

Some of the other popular uses of scotch bonnet peppers include barbequed meat, stuffed chili peppers, Creole sauce, and spiced jam.

What’s A Good Scotch Bonnet Pepper Substitute?

It’s hard to find bonnet pepper outside the areas of the Caribbean population. Availability of this pepper even at online stores is rare in most places. If you don’t have this hot chili to prepare a dish that calls for it, then turn to a bonnet pepper substitute instead.

Let’s now look at some of the best alternatives to bonnet pepper that work great and are easy to find as well.

1. Habanero pepper

Habanero pepper is the best replacement for Scotch bonnet pepper in terms of its heat and other flavors. Two close cousins that spice up the upper end of the Scoville scale. They both have a similar heat level that ranges from 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville scale.

There is a big disparity between the two; habanero pepper does not have the fruity sweetness of scotch bonnet pepper. However, the sweetness of peppers isn’t a big issue for most recipes, unless you are preparing a sweet item like the spicy jam.

To your advantage, habanero peppers are easy to find around your area. Use it in a 1:1 ratio to substitute Bonney peppers in your recipe.

2. Serrano Peppers

Serrano pepper is another agreeable stand-in pepper for scotch bonnet peppers in a pinch. This pepper ranks lower on the heat scale vis-à-vis with bonnet pepper but they perfectly match in their fruity sweetness.

To make things easy for you, serrano pepper is conveniently available in most places, so it’s a viable alternative for scotch bonnet chile.

In case, you don’t have the serrano chilies, then think of using Jalapeno pepper as a stand-in ingredient for Scotch bonnet pepper. Of course, Jalapenos rank low on the heat index but they match the bonnet pepper and serrano in sweetness.

3. Rocotillo Pepper

Rocotillo peppers are a lot similar to scotch bonnet chiles though they are 20 times milder than the scotch bonnet. They are more like serrano and jalapeno peppers with mid-level heat with a tinge of fruitiness.

Unfortunately, it is quite hard to find them in most places; perhaps, more scarce than bonnet chilies.

Obviously, Rocotillo peppers are not the best substitute for scotch bonnet pepper, still a useful alternative in a pinch.

The Bottom Line

Scotch bonnet pepper is a very hot chili commonly used in Caribbean spicy dishes.  This pepper is mostly available only in the Caribbean region only. Thus it becomes almost necessary for those living out of the Caribbean to find a replacement for this pepper. I would recommend Habanero pepper as the best substitute for scotch bonnet pepper. Other possible replacement options are Serrano and Jalapeno though they are milder than bonnet peppers.