Pepper Profile: The Habanero

It may not be the hottest pepper in the world anymore, but you certainly don’t want to underestimate the habanero! This very hot pepper still packs quite a punch. Ranked the world’s hottest pepper by Guinness in the late 1990s, the habanero has been surpassed by a number of super-hot peppers over the years. Even so, it’s at least 70 times hotter than the average jalapeno, with some measuring even hotter than that.

Similar to the Scotch bonnet pepper in heat level, the real difference between the two peppers comes from the areas of the world in which they originate. While the Scotch bonnet comes from the Caribbean, the habanero originates from South America. Likely to have spread to Mexico by the ancient Mayans, it’s suspected the habanero pepper’s been around for thousands and thousand of years. While most are grown in the Yucatan Peninsula today, the habanero is actually able to grow throughout Central and South America, along with some states in the southwestern U.S., as well.

They start out green but end up turning a variety of colors from red to almost black, with some habaneros even differing on the heat scale within their own species. The scorching Red Savina habanero is the hottest in the line. A popular option for hot sauce, rubs, and powders, the habanero pepper offers up more of a citrusy, fruity flavor, making it an appealing choice for any meal. The pepper works particularly well to balance out sweet dishes. In fact, as far as peppers sold at the average grocery store go, they’re among the hottest you can find. While not quite as prevalent as the jalapeno just yet, they’re starting to pop up in more and more locations across the country. Many pepper enthusiasts use them as a go-to pepper, not quite super-hot, but a step in the right direction.


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