Habanero is a super famous spice in the spice lovers community due to its high level of intensity. From the first bite, you will feel amazed by how spicy and hot it is. The more you chew, the sweeter it becomes, while the spicy disappears gradually.
Therefore, it isn’t easy to find a spice that can provide such a unique flavor as the habanero. But challenging does not always mean it is impossible. After many years of experience, we have come up with a list of 10 habanero pepper alternatives.
Scroll down to learn more and find out the best habanero pepper substitute regarding the taste and aroma!
Which Is The Best Habanero Pepper Substitute?
1. Scotch Bonnet Peppers (Best Choice)
When browsing the Internet, you will find out that most people vote for scotch bonnet peppers and habanero chiles as the best duo. Based on our experience, they do share a lot of similarities.
First, they all have the same level of heat. If you feel the “typical” chili – the Jalapeno – is so spicy to tolerate, then the Scotch bonnet and habanero are over your limit.
However, if you chew more carefully, you can see that the scotch bonnet seems slightly sweeter. The scotch bonnet is a bit less popular than the habanero, though.
So, the scotch bonnet can be used as a habanero substitute based on their similarity in taste. To drop/reduce the spicy level, remove some seeds and membranes.
2. Serrano Chiles
Serrano is the second popular choice on this list, just ranked after the Jalapeno. You can find it easily in any market.
On the Scoville scale, the serrano chiles reach the top at 10,000, which somehow indicates the level of spiciness and heat you will endure when chewing the fruit. Compared to the habanero, the serrano seems to be less intense.
Therefore, if you want to use spice in the meal but think the habanero is too much, serrano chiles are suitable. There is no ideal ratio, but we advise you to use only a few sprinkles of minced serrano for the first taste, then slowly adjust later.
3. Jalapeno Chiles
There is no need to introduce the Jalapeno anymore, as it is the most popular pepper on the planet! You can find it at any market at a low price. So, why don’t you choose it as a seasoning right?
Let’s analyze the flavor of the jalapeno chiles to see how compatible the spice is with the habanero! Well, on the Scoville scale, the Jalapeno reaches 3,500 while the habanero scores 100,000. It is apparent that, between habanero pepper vs jalapeno, the Jalapeno is less hot than the habanero.
That being said, the Jalapeno is much more accessible and palatable to the habanero. Suppose you are cooking a dish for family, children, or people who cannot endure the intense spice; using Jalapeno is the best way – it is cheap, easy to cook and buy, and not too spicy!
4. Rocotillo Pepper
Rocotillo impresses us at first sight because of its unique appearance. It is so hard to illustrate the rocotillo – it just looks awry, weird, small, and seems to be withered (even though it is actually not).
What about the rocotillo’s flavor? In our opinion, the fruit is spicy but not significant. The most distinctive taste of the rocotillo is sweet and pungent. They taste similar to the bell pepper, though.
One significant disadvantage of the rocotillo pepper is that: it is rare. You can only find it in the Caribbean, or especially Puerto Rican culture-influenced stores. Thus, a lot of people don’t know about this unique pepper.
5. Habanero Powder
How spicy is the powder compared to the habanero pepper? Based on our experience, the powder is a bit less spicy. Why is there such a case? What makes the pepper spicy are the seeds and the juice, which can only be found in whole piece pepper. But when you ground the pepper, all liquids and seeds are removed. As a result, the powder seems less spicy than the whole fruit.
When substituting the powder for the pepper, we advise you only use half a teaspoon of powder first and adjust it later.
6. Cherry Pepper
Cherry pepper is an excellent substitute for habanero pepper that we must include on this list. Based on the Scoville scale, the Hungarian cherry bomb ranks from 2,500 to 5,000 points. This is an average point – higher than the Jalapeno but lower than the serrano.
Just like the name – cherry, this spice does not provide the intense heat that makes you “explode” like the habanero at all. In contrast, it feels sweet, earthy, and just a bit spicy. We can comfortably chew the pepper and feel its crispiness without much difficulty.
Hence, if you love the cute cherry bomb shape of the cherry pepper and are willing to taste its sweetness and slight pungency, do not hesitate to use it as a substitution in soups, roasting, pureeing, or any habanero cooking recipes available.
7. Aji Dulce
Many people don’t know about the Aji chili pepper, which is understandable because the Aji family plant is in the locality of the Caribbean and South America area.
Specifically, the Aji Dulce is the fruit that your whole family can enjoy. The overall taste of the Aji Dulce is the sweet, fruity flavor with no strong sense of spice. The more we chew, the smokier it becomes. Such a strange spice, right?
What we love about the Aji Dulce is its unique fragrance. The aroma of Aji Dulce and habanero are so similar that we used to believe the dulce was as spicy as the habanero. Still, it turns out that we were wrong! The fruit is sweet with a slight peppery undertone.
8. Bell Pepper
We usually joke that “Bell pepper is not a spice; it tastes like a vegetable.” But in fact, it is not wrong. The bell pepper is not so peppery but mildly spicy. We find it sweet, crispy, and juicy, making it suitable for everyone – from children to adults to the elders.
There is nothing to complain about this “vegetable.” It is sweet, full of nutrition; we can eat it as a crunchy fruit like apple or lemon!
Therefore, if you run out of habanero pepper, you can try this sweet pepper. Maybe you will love its neutral flavor!
9. Chipotle Peppers
Let us inform you of one tangy spice you may miss when searching for fresh habanero pepper substitutes, but in fact, it is compatible enough – chipotle peppers.
In terms of taste, the chipotle is the star in the tangy herb family. You can quickly feel the savory taste (of course!) along with smokiness. Beneath the heat, the pepper is also sweet. But, unlike some other choices on this list, it is not distinctively sugary. The more it ripens, the more sugary it feels – this is how we feel when eating chipotle hot peppers.
10. Aji Panca
As mentioned above, the Aji family plant is not popular worldwide, so it is inevitable if you do not know about the Aji Panca.
The Aji Panca is a deep red burgundy pepper, sizing only 3 to 5 inches. Like its brother Aji Dulce – the Aji Panca is not so spicy but sweeter and berry-like.
Here is one unique point about Aji Panca – it can be used like citrus zest as the taste and juiciness are compatible. Nevertheless, it also works well with other citrus fruits in a dish. Such an exceptional fruit, right? It can be spicy, sweet, berry-like, but also a bit citrusy.
What Are Tips To Remember When Substituting Habanero Fresh Peppers?
- When it comes to spice, the most crucial criterion is heat levels. So, if you want to find the most compatible herbs to the habanero, please refer to the Scoville rating to measure the tangy taste of each fruit above.
- Even though “the spicier, the tastier”, please remember that too much heat will cause health issues! For some people, heat from spices will make them faint. So, please be aware of the limit.
- Besides being spicy, the habanero is also sweet. So, please do not eliminate a choice just because it is dominantly sweet. Give it a chance, and you may love it.
- Refrigerating spices will reduce the spicy level by 50%.
We have dived deep into the top 10 habanero pepper substitutes regarding their taste, smell, and compatibility with the habanero. There is no “best choice” here since we believe that each person will have their preference.
Personally, our best and first choice of habanero pepper substitute is the scotch bonnet pepper. We prefer the spicy and earthy taste, but we also like the sweetness, and scotch can serve that well.
Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for other cooking guidelines from us!