Don’t let the name fool you
Scoville heat units (SHU): 100,000 – 350,000
Jalapeño reference point: 12 to 140 times hotter
A Scotch Bonnet pepper may sound timid, but it is nothing of the sort. It’s one of the spicier peppers (100,000 to 350,000 SHU, same as a habanero) that you may potentially find at a supermarket, especially in geographic areas high in Caribbean residents.
Why the Caribbean? Because this is THE pepper of the region. In fact if you say you want a hot pepper in most of the Caribbean islands, the Scotch Bonnet pepper is what you are handed. Scotch Bonnet is used in all sorts of Caribbean cuisine, including the well known jerk chicken (or jerk pork).
The shape of this famous pepper is what inspired its name. In shape, the pepper with its squashed look appears like a Scotsman’s bonnet (called a Tam o’Shanter hat). Simple as that. Nothing else Scotch about this pepper, but it does have a name that’s hard to forget. It has other names, too, including the Bahama Mama, the Jamaican Hot, the Bahamian, and the Martinique pepper.
It’s very similar in spice to the habanero pepper, making it one of the hottest chili peppers in the world. Let’s give it a comparison to our jalapeño reference point. Scotch Bonnets run between 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). The hottest possible Scotch Bonnet is potentially 140 times spicier than the mildest jalapeño you may find (around 2,500 SHU). That’s a lot of heat.
What does a Scotch Bonnet pepper taste like? This chile has a slightly sweet taste to it, sort of like a tomato with an slight hint of apples and cherries. It’s very closely related to the habanero, so if you’ve tasted a habanero you’ll have a decent idea of what a Scotch Bonnet has in store for you in terms of heat. Just add in more sweetness.
This sweetness makes the Scotch Bonnet a very popular chile for Caribbean cooking and hot sauces. It’s a really distinct sweet-heat flavor that a lot of people love.
There are a lot of variants of this chile out there, from the Tobago Scotch Bonnet to the Chocolate Scotch Bonnet and many in between. The flavor and heat, as with any chiles, will adapt to the region and soil it’s grown in, so these varieties will slightly differ in spice and sweetness. You’ll also find some that are more elongated than squat in shape, and the colors will range from orange-pink to chocolate-brown. There’s a whole world of options out there for this pepper, and that makes it a fun one to explore in terms of eating.
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