11 Scotch Bonnet Pepper Substitutes (Best choices)

11 Scotch Bonnet Pepper Substitutes (Best choices)

In this article I will show you the best Scotch Bonnet Pepper substitutes.

Hot and Spicy food fans and lovers can all agree on one thing, and that is – scotch bonnet pepper is an exotic secret ingredient. With its fruity and distinctive tangy flavor, scotch bonnet pepper makes Caribbean dishes come alive.

But scotch bonnet pepper can be hard to find especially in areas that do not have a high Caribbean population.

So, what do you do when you’ve run out of scotch bonnet pepper and can’t find them in your local grocery stores? You don’t want to buy ‘just any spicy chili’ as substitutes, you need the 11 Best choices when you can’t get your hands on the real thing.

11 Scotch bonnet pepper substitutes

The best Scotch bonnet pepper substitutes

Does your recipe require the hot and tangy flavor of scotch bonnet pepper but you can’t find the exotic Caribbean pepper in your local stores? Don’t worry. With these 11 scotch bonnet substitutes, you wouldn’t miss scotch bonnet pepper that much.

These 11 scotch bonnet pepper offer different characteristics than scotch bonnet pepper. Whichever one you choose will depend on your recipe, the dish you want to cook, and the flavor you are looking for.

Without wasting any more time, let’s look at the 11 best scotch pepper substitutes when you can’t find the real thing.

1) Habanero chili pepper

The first on our list is habanero chili pepper. It shouldn’t come as a surprise since habanero chili pepper is one of the few peppers that match the heat of scotch bonnet pepper and is easier to source than scotch bonnet pepper. 

While habanero chili pepper can match our scotch bonnet pepper in heat, there are differences in flavor between the two pepper species. 

Habanero chili is not as fruity as scotch bonnet pepper and this may make all the difference in the outcome of your dish.

However, it is arguably the best substitute for scotch bonnet pepper in terms of the searing heat level required by your recipe and availability.

Habanero chili pepper also has about 100 times more Vitamin C than oranges. They are a great source of antioxidants that help to boost your immune system, especially during the winter months.

Other substitutes that may be better than habanero chili pepper are rarer and harder to find.

2) Red Cayenne Pepper Powder

Red cayenne pepper is considered a staple ingredient in many dishes. They come in multiple colors including green, orange, red, yellow, and are sold as dried chilies or powder.

The most similar to scotch bonnet pepper is the red cayenne pepper which is very spicy with a high level of heat.

Red cayenne pepper measures about 30,000- 50,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. If you can’t find scotch bonnet pepper, a great option will be the red cayenne pepper powder. They add great flavor to your dish, enhance the taste of your ingredients, and have heat levels that most people can handle. 

Be sparing when adding red cayenne pepper powder to your recipe as a substitute for scotch bonnet pepper. You can start with half a teaspoon before you add more to taste if needed.

3) Jalapeno Chili Pepper

If you are looking for the flavor and texture of fresh chili pepper without the heat of scotch bonnet pepper, jalapeno chili pepper could be your best option. 

Jalapeno is popular and available in most stores. It’s not as fruity as scotch bonnet pepper but it has a great flavor which makes it a perfect choice when making mild sauce. 

If your recipe requires more heat, you can always throw in more jalapeno chili pepper.

Tip: jalapeno seeds add a bitter taste to your dish. It’s best to remove them before you add them to your dish.

4) Chili Powder

Most people think of chili powder and chile powder. They are the same. While the latter is just purely ground chili, Chili powder on the other hand is a seasoning blend that is mixed together to give an intense flavor to your dish.

The blend of species doesn’t have the same depth of flavor as scotch bonnet pepper, but it can match the heat level. Chili powder is a mix of cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and paprika.

The level of heat it produces depends on the amount of cayenne pepper used during the blend. There are mild, medium, and hot varieties of chili powder depending on the heat levels.

Before you use chili powder as a substitute in your recipe, check the type of chili powder you have. 

5) Thai Red Chili Paste

Thai red chili paste is a juicy blend of Thai spices and red chilies mostly used for soups, stir-fries, and other dishes. They are spicy, full of flavor, versatile, and can be a great substitute for scotch bonnet pepper.

Some Thai red chili paste contains seafood extract such as fish sauce or shrimp paste.

Before you add Thai red chili paste as a substitute for scotch bonnet pepper, consider your recipe, the dish you are about to make, and the people who will eat especially if you are cooking for anyone with special food requirements or seafood allergies.

Thai red chili paste produces a flavor best suited for Thai dishes.

6) Tabasco Sauce

Tabasco sauce is a very hot and fiery sauce made from Tabasco chili pepper, vinegar, and salt.

It has heat levels similar to scotch bonnet pepper which makes it a great substitute if you are looking for that spicy and heat flavor of scotch bonnet pepper. 

Because Tabasco sauce is very hot, you should add it slowly when using it as a substitute for scotch bonnet pepper in your recipe. Add ¼ spoon or half a teaspoon for a start. Gently add more until you have the heat level you want.

7) Piri Piri Sauce

Piri Piri sauce has experienced wide fame in recent times due to a chicken restaurant with the same name. This fruity sauce originates from Portugal and dates back centuries ago. 

It is made from the African Birdseye chili – a medium-hot chili – lemon, vinegar, garlic, bay, and oil. You can also add lime or tarragon to produce different flavors of Piri Piri sauce like citrus or herbal flavors.

When added to dishes, Piri Piri sauce produces a fruity flavor which makes it a great substitute for scotch bonnet pepper.

8) Paprika

Paprika provides all the flavors of scotch bonnet pepper without the spice and heat.

Although it is made from a chili pepper base, paprika offers little or no heat compared to chili pepper. It has a flavor or concentrated pepper with a sweet and mild flavor which makes it a great substitute for scotch bonnet pepper in dishes where you want to avoid the spiciness.

It is perfect for rubs, marinades, and sauces that require a rich and earthy flavor.

You can also find smoke paprika for that smokey flavor. 

10) Sriracha 

Sriracha is typically pronounced ‘siracha’ with the first ‘r’ a bit silent. It is a Thai-style hot sauce that comes to the rescue and offers a gentle kick to any dish when you can’t find scotch bonnet pepper.

Sriracha is a great sauce made from:

  • Sun-ripened chili peppers;
  • Blends of salt;
  • Sugar;
  • Garlic, and vinegar. 

Since it is not as hot as Tabasco or Piri Piri, there is no need to be extra cautious about how much you add when using it as a substitute for scotch bonnet pepper.

11) Fresno pepper

Fresno pepper is as spicy as scotch bonnet pepper but packs a punch that scotch bonnet pepper lovers can relate to.

So, if you are looking for the closest substitute to the earthy and tangy flavor of scotch bonnet pepper without much heat, you have to try Fresno pepper. 

What are scotch bonnet peppers?

Scotch bonnet peppers
Image from: PepperScale

Scotch bonnet peppers (aka Bonney pepper or Caribbean red pepper) have an unusual shape compared to other chili peppers. They are round and plump-shaped with wrinkles. The name of the Scotch bonnet pepper comes from their unique shape which looks like a flattened bonnet worn by a Scotsman.

Scotch bonnet peppers are a unique type of chili from the pepper family whose closest relation may be habanero chili pepper. They pack a punch which a distinct tangy flavor that makes Caribbean dishes come alive. No other pepper can replicate its sharp flavor.

They are usually one to two inches long with a wide range of colors from green-yellow through to orange, bright red, and even chocolate brown. Scotch bonnet pepper can also be darkly browned in the case of dried scotch bonnet pepper.

Depending on where you are in the Caribbean, they are popular among Caribbean recipes with different names like “Jamaican hots” or “Bahama mamas.” 

How does scotch bonnet pepper taste?

Scotch bonnet pepper is among the hottest variants of chili with similar heat levels compared to their closest relative. They are super spicy to taste in dishes. 

When measured on the Scoville scale, scotch bonnet pepper had 100,000 – 350,000 units on the scale compared to 5,500 of jalapeno.

What makes scotch bonnet pepper special is that in addition to the heat, it has a hint of apple, distinctive tang, cherry, tomato, and mango that add to the sweet punch. Scotch bonnet pepper also has a smokey flavor similar to the chipotle chili pepper.

Things to keep in mind about scotch bonnet pepper substitutes

Scotch bonnet pepper substitutes have different features that will alter the overall flavor of your dish than with scotch bonnet pepper. This is okay. It’s almost impossible to find a substitute that will produce the combination of sweet punch and heat peculiar to scotch bonnet pepper. 

Your choice for substitutes will depend on the recipe and the dish you want to make. Also, keep in mind that the amount of substitute to add will vary depending on that particular substitute and the heat level you are looking for.

How to store scotch bonnet pepper?

Storing scotch bonnet pepper in vinegar

Because scotch bonnet pepper can be hard to be found, you may want to buy in bulk to save for scarce days. The good news is that scotch bonnet pepper can be preserved in many different ways.

You can store them in oil and vinegar which will preserve the flavor for up to six months.

Another option is to freeze your scotch bonnet pepper in cube trays with some oil inside. This method will keep your scotch bonnet pepper intact for a longer time.

Health benefits of scotch bonnet pepper

Scotch bonnet pepper offers wonderful health benefits to those who can handle and enjoy the heat. Scotch bonnet pepper is a great source of essential vitamins like vitamin A, B, C; and a source of essential nutrients like magnesium, iron, riboflavin, niacin which helps in metabolism and act as a growth-promoting factor. 

The capsaicin in the pepper which is responsible for the spicy flavor can be used to treat osteoarthritis, diabetic neuropathy, headaches, and rheumatoid pain. Scotch bonnet pepper contains nutrients that help to relieve congestion and sinusitis.

Serrano pepper vs scotch bonnet

Serrano pepper
Serrano pepper

The Serrano pepper is one of the less mentioned substitutes for scotch bonnet pepper. It is named after the mountains in Mexico where they were first produced. Though they are pepper, they are also considered fruit. Why? 

In terms of heat levels, scotch bonnet pepper and serrano pepper are at pole opposites. Scotch bonnet pepper measures over 100,000 units on a Scoville scale while Serrano pepper measures somewhere between 1500 – 2500 units.

If you want to make your dish with the same flavor profile as scotch bonnet pepper but with far less heat, serrano pepper is the best option.

Like scotch bonnet pepper, serrano pepper is commonly included in authentic Mexican dishes.

What is the best peppers similar to scotch bonnet?

Scotch bonnet alternatives and substitute

The best peppers similar to scotch bonnet will include habanero peppers, tabasco pepper, and jalapeno pepper. Serrano pepper is also one of the healthiest substitutes if you are looking for far less heat. 

What is the best replacement for scotch bonnet pepper?

Scotch bonnet pepper has a punch that is so distinctive that makes it hard to find an exact match. But the best replacement in terms of spicy value and background fruity flavor is habanero pepper. 

Where can I buy scotch bonnet pepper?

Although scotch bonnet pepper is very popular, it is can be hard to find especially in areas without a large Caribbean population. 

The best place to buy scotch bonnet pepper is in Asian supermarkets or online

Note that scotch bonnet pepper has the most heat when they are fresh. 

You may also want to consider growing your scotch bonnet pepper.

If you are lucky, you may find scotch bonnet peppers in regular supermarkets.

Final words

Scotch bonnet pepper is in world of its own notable for its profound heat, spiciness, and distinctive sweetness. 

If you are a fan of hot and spicy food looking for scotch bonnet pepper, you can find them in any Asian supermarkets around you or online. If not, do not let the scarcity deter you. Choose any of the 10 great substitutes above when you can’t get your hands on the real thing.

So, what is the best substitute for you to replace the Scotch Bonnet Pepper? Please, feel free to share your opinion in the comments below!

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