Scotch Bonnet Pepper Substitutes: 3 Ultimate Alternatives

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.

The Scotch Bonnet pepper is a cultivar of the habanero. It carries some serious heat measuring in at 100,000-350,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Besides the wicked heat, it can have an almost sweet, vaguely fruity taste underlying the spice. It’s a popular chili in the Caribbean and West African cooking.

This article digs into the best scotch bonnet peppers substitute you can use in a pinch.

Bonnet Pepper Substitutes

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. In case of unavailability, even a substitute pepper for serranos could be usable in most recipes.

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.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers


Can I use chili powder instead of the scotch bonnet?

All brands of chili powders aren’t the same and are available in mild, medium, or hot varieties. Chili powder made of a mixture of hot chilies could work as a good substitute for Scotch Bonnet in recipes that call for dry ground chilies.

Are habaneros and scotch bonnets the same?

Scotch bonnet is a cultivar of the habanero but both of them have noticeable differences in heat and taste. Habaneros are mildly sweet and fruity but are a tad bitter. On the other hand, Scotch Bonnets are sweeter and fruitier but are not bitter. Both peppers come in a variety of colors although habaneros are more pointy or elongated in shape.

What pepper is similar to scotch bonnet?

Heat-wise, Habanero, Bird’s Eye, and Jamaican Yellow Mushroom peppers come in the same heat range of Scotch Bonnets. If you consider the easy availability factor, then serrano, jalapeno, and cayenne peppers are a better match for bonnet peppers though they lack the same heat and flavor.

Can I use cayenne instead of the scotch bonnet?

Cayenne pepper is a fantastic culinary chili bringing medium heat that ranges between 30,000 and 50,000 Scoville heat units with a neutral peppery flavor.  Scotch bonnet is a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 12 times hotter than regular red cayenne pepper. You can use cayenne as a substitute for Scotch bonnet but you’ll miss the scorching heat and sweet, fruity flavor.

Can I use Jalapeno instead of a scotch bonnet?

Jalapenos are the most commonly used chili everywhere thus an easy replacement for Scotch Bonnets but you’ll be giving up a lot on heat and flavor. The Scotch Bonnet can be anywhere from 12 to 140 times hotter than Jalapenos and has a sweet, fruity flavor as opposed to the plain vegetal flavor of Jalapenos.

Is ghost pepper hotter than scotch bonnet?

Generally, the ghost pepper is 2-4 times hotter than Scotch peppers, in fact, one of the hottest peppers in the world. These two peppers are a lot similar in shape and color; also they have similar sweet flavors.

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.

Read Next: Dorset Naga Chili: all facts including its Scoville, origin, look, flavor, and uses.