The chile habanero is one of hottest chilis used in Mexican cooking. It has a distinct floral taste accompanied by an intense heat. The habanero is commonly used in the Yucatán, as well as many other regions of Mexico and other parts of the world.

Until the late 1990’s, 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.

ALSO KNOWN AS
  • Bonnet Pepper (not to be confused with Scotch Bonnet Pepper)
HOW TO USE IT
  • Use fresh to make saslas
  • Add slices to Mexican pickled onions
  • Can be dried for preservation and other uses
WHERE TO FIND IT

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. You’ll also find them used in the Caribbean and parts of the United States.

You can buy habanero salsa at Mercado Medellín in Mexico City.

HOW TO CHOOSE & STORE IT

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.

Habanero Chiles
Habanero chilis for sale at a market in Mexico