The Habanero chili pepper – chile habanero – is one of the hottest chilis used in Mexican cooking. It has a distinct floral aroma accompanied by intense heat. The habanero is commonly used in the Yucatán, as well as many other regions of Mexico and other parts of the world.
Chile Habanero – the Mexican Common Name
Chile habanero is the common name for this in Mexico. That’s how you’ll find it in the markets.
The species is Capsicum chinense.
Also Know As:
- Chinese Pepper
- Bonnet Pepper (not to be confused with Scotch Bonnet Pepper)
Heat Level of Habanero Peppers
Until the late 1990s, the habanero held the spot for the world’s hottest chili. It rates 100,000–350,000 SHU on the Scoville scale for heat. The chiles are green as they are developing. As they turn yellow to orange to red, they develop an even more intense heat. Because of their aromatic flavor, habaneros are often used in fresh salsas. Usually, they are added sparingly or mixed with another ingredient. Too much habanero will become too spicy. Habanero slices are often added to pickled onions to add an extra kick of heat that permeates through the condiment. Occasionally, you’ll find a salsa of pure chile habanero that will burn down to your belly. But some people live for spice.
Where to Find Fresh Habaneros
Native to the Amazon, you’ll find habaneros in parts of South and Central America. These chilies are common in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. They are used in many regions of Mexico, including Chiapas and Mexico City. You’ll also find them used in the Caribbean and parts of the United States.
If you’re in Mexico City, you can buy jars of delicious habanero salsas at Mercado Medellín. Also, check out the restaurant Habanerito in la Roma for their exquisite variety of habanero salsas. The varieties I like are garlic, orange, peanut, or the blackened one. The flavors are so different, but they all definitely have a kick.
How to Use, Choose, and Store
Habaneros are extremely spicy and should be used sparingly to taste. Make sure to let anyone who is eating a habanero that they are extremely spicy. Some people can have adverse reactions, so please eat with caution.
- Mix with other ingredients to create a spicy, flavorful salsa
- Slice to add to soups, pickling mixtures, and use as toppings
- Make a Habanero cream sauce
- Can be dried for preservation and other uses
Choose peppers that have smooth skin and are not beginning to show signs of dehydration (such as wrinkling and browning). Store in a cool area out of direct sunlight for several days.