Facts About Scotch Bonnet Peppers

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Scotch bonnet peppers, scientifically known as Capsicum chinense Jacq., is a chilli pepper commonly found in the Caribbean. Both fresh and preserved Scotch bonnet peppers are used to provide the region's typical dishes, such as jerk chicken and rice and beans, with flavour and heat. Scotch bonnet peppers' round shape, pungent smell and high level of heat set them apart from such other chilli peppers as jalapeños and cayenne peppers.

Appearance and Smell

The Scotch bonnet pepper has a circular and squashed shape with four or five lobes. The pepper starts out green but changes to a range of colours, including red, orange and bright yellow, as it matures. A mature Scotch bonnet pepper is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter with a length of up to 5 inches. The plant on which the pepper grows is small, generally less than 40 inches tall. The pepper has a pungent smell. It was even referred to as "Goat Pepper" in 1767 because people thought that it gave off the same aroma as a goat.


While the exact origin of the Scotch bonnet pepper is unclear, it is now recognised as one of the Caribbean's most cultivated chilli peppers. It grows best in tropical climates, such as those found in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. The Scotch bonnet pepper is one of Jamaica's major agricultural exports and can be found in almost all of the country's 14 parishes.


The Scotch bonnet pepper is one of the hottest chilli peppers in the world. The Scoville scale, developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912, measures the hotness of chilli peppers and anything made from chilli peppers in units from zero to 16 million. Scotch bonnet peppers have a heat rating of 100,000 to 350,000, similar to Habanero peppers. In comparison, Tabasco peppers have a heat rating of 30,000 to 50,000, while serrano peppers have a heat rating of 6,000 to 23,000.


Fresh Scotch bonnet peppers can be consumed raw, but are more often used in cooking to flavour soups, rice and meat. In Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean, Scotch bonnet peppers commonly are used to prepare jerk chicken and pork, peppered steak, peppered meat-filled pies and peppered shrimp. Bottles of hot sauces made from Scotch bonnet peppers, in which the peppers are preserved in a mixture of onions, carrots and vinegar, easily are found throughout the Caribbean. The peppers also are preserved through dehydration, which extends the shelf life of the peppers without sacrificing their taste and aroma.

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