Scotch Bonnet Chili Pepper Substitute

Scotch bonnet, also known as Bonney peppers, is a variety of chili pepper that is originally thought to come from Brazil. If you require a Scotch bonnet substitute, there are various suitable alternatives.

What Are Scotch Bonnets?

The Scotch Bonnet Chili Pepper is a type of hot pepper and a variety of chili pepper commonly used in West African and Caribbean cuisine.

It’s an intensely spicy pepper with a distinct and unique sweetness that is crucial to the unique flavor of dishes like jerk pork. It has a SHU rating of between 100,000-350,000 units on the Scoville scale.

These small and stout-looking peppers can vary in color from green to yellow, sometimes even a deep red. When ripe, they can appear orange and occasionally brown.

Substitutes for Scotch Bonnet Peppers:

Substitute:Scoville rating:
Habanero Peppers100,000-350,000
Jalapeño Peppers2,500-10,000
Serrano Peppers10,000-25,000
Cayenne Peppers30,000-50,000
Rocotillo Peppers1,500-2,000
Guajillo Peppers2,500-5,000

1. Habanero Pepper


People often confuse Scotch bonnets with Habanero peppers. However, they are not the same. That said, this pepper is still the best substitute for the Habanero in most dishes.

While they are often visually confused, there are some differences. The primary one is that Habaneros aren’t as sweet as the scotch bonnet. So they don’t always provide the same taste in dishes where the sweetness is more critical.

However, they both range from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, which means they offer the same heat level.

2. Jalapeño Pepper

Jalapeños are a famous chili pepper with a mild to hot spiciness and a little distinct sweetness. Their sweetness makes a good substitute for scotch bonnets in many common recipes.

You should remember that you might want to combine these peppers with a bit of cayenne pepper powder to add some heat to the dish. Otherwise, the sweetness can be too intense, with the spice too mild.

Note: If you can find the red jalapeño peppers, they make a better alternative to the green variety when substituted for scotch bonnet peppers.

3. Serrano Pepper

Serrano chili peppers have a little more heat than jalapeños. However, they’re still not close to as hot as a scotch bonnet. Serrano peppers have a SHU rating of 10,000-25,000 versus the 100,000-350,000 of the scotch bonnet.

While these peppers don’t have the same sweetness, they have a fresh and grassy flavor that makes them ideal for salsas and sauces.

Related: Best Serrano Pepper Substitute

Combined with other hotter chilis, they make an excellent alternative to scotch bonnet peppers in many recipes, such as curries and salsas, because of their distinctive flavor and the heat they add to dishes.

4. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne peppers are almost famous in Southern cuisine and have roots in West Africa. The scotch bonnet chili pepper is also used extensively in West African cuisine. So unsurprisingly, they do make suitable substitutes for one another.

Cayenne pepper isn’t as hot as the scotch bonnet, with a SHU rating between 30,000 and 50,000 heat units. However, that’s still pretty hot as far as many chili peppers go. To substitute cayenne peppers for scotch bonnet peppers, use double the amount and taste test as you go.

Dried cayenne peppers

Another good thing about cayenne pepper is that most of us keep some at home in the powdered form, which works fine as an alternative to fresh peppers.

The powdered, more concentrated form of cayenne pepper is much hotter and spicier than the fresh alternatives, so taste test while beginning with around ¼ of a teaspoon, to start with and add more as desired.

The cayenne pepper has a mild sweetness, which is why it is popular in many Southern dishes. If you want to try a Southern-inspired take on a recipe, you can add a little brown or muscovado sugar to add some sweetness.

5. Rocotillo Pepper

This lesser-known pepper is more available in parts of the Caribbean and, in particular specialist grocery stores that cater to those Caribbean tastes.

While the Rocotillo pepper is a mild pepper with a rating on the Scoville scale of only 1,500-2,000, it has one of the most similar fruity tastes, which means you can combine it with something hot like the Habanero to good effect.

The main downside to this pepper as a substitute is that it’s not widely available. Otherwise, it would be close to the top of the list when combined with hotter chili peppers.

6. Guajillo Pepper

Guajillo peppers are a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine. They have a distinct sweetness that makes them an exciting and suitable substitution for scotch bonnet chilis. Most often used as a base ingredient for sauces and salsas, you can use these peppers in iconic jerk dishes to give them that sweetness they require alongside the heat.

The guajillo pepper is a mild chili pepper with a SHU rating of 2,500-5,000, making them comparable to a mild jalapeño. So you can always use these in combination with ¼ teaspoon of red cayenne pepper powder to kick up the heat.

They have a more wax-like skin that can affect the texture of the dish so that’s one possible downside of the guajillo option.

Related: Best Guajillo Pepper Substitutes

If you can find these peppers in the store, they do make an excellent, tasty replacement for scotch bonnets in any recipe when combined with the spicer chili options on this list.


You can use one of these alternative options for a Scotch bonnet substitute in a number of recipes and dishes. From delicately sweet to kicking up a lot of heat, one of these options should give you what you need to make your next delicious dish work!