Extra Habaneros? Seven Fun Habanero Uses

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Habanero peppers were once considered some of the hottest peppers in the world. These chilies acquired their notoriety long before the rise of the super-hots like the ghost pepper and the Carolina Reaper came around. Habanero chilies are nowhere near as hot as today’s hottest peppers but they are still plenty spicy. Their heat can make them difficult to use, but for those that like spicier fare they are a ton of fun to play with in the kitchen. Looking for some inspiration? Here are seven fun and fiery habanero uses (including links to many habanero recipes) that’ll have you sweating in no time.

Table of Contents

In hot sauce

Fresh habanero peppers shine in homemade hot sauces. If you want something that is noticeably hotter than a jalapeño but not so hot that you can’t taste anything else, habaneros are your best bet. They have a delicious fruitiness to them that pairs especially well with tropical fruits, making them a perfect fit for Caribbean-style hot sauce recipes. For instance, our homemade mango habanero hot sauce recipe is a delicious blend of heat and sweet.

Pickled for use as a fiery condiment

If you have a large number of fresh habaneros and you don’t eat spicy food all that often, pickling is a great option for preserving them. Pickled habaneros make a great addition to everything from tacos to bloody Marys. The brine itself will become a spicy ingredient that you can use to add a spark to salad dressings and marinades. Check out our recipe for pickled habaneros to get you started.

Added to fresh salsas

Fruity salsa, in particular, shine with fresh habanero peppers, but this extra-hot chili can be used in any type of salsa. Anywhere you’d use a jalapeño in salsa is fair game for habanero consideration. But note: it’s a very big step up in heat. Use in moderation to start and ramp from there. Take a look at our peach habanero salsa as a place to get started.

In extra-fiery pepper jams

Habaneros are versatile and work well in sweet applications like pepper jam. Not only will they provide noticeably more heat than pepper jam staples like the jalapeño, but these peppers also deliver an attractive color well. Just note: give people some warning before serving habanero pepper jam. Jams look unassuming in terms of heat – they can easily take your taste buds by surprise without some warning.

In jerk seasoning

If you are making jerk seasoning you will need a strong source of heat. The traditional chili pepper used to make extra-spicy jerk chicken and pork is the scotch bonnet. Scotch bonnets are becoming more widely known outside of the West Indies but still aren’t easy to source. Habanero peppers and scotch bonnets are in the same ballpark when it comes to their respective heat levels. Both also provide a significant amount of flavor to go with the heat. Plus, habanero peppers are much easier to find.

In chili oil

Like any other chili pepper, habanero chilies are great for making chili oil. Simply heat it in the oil of your choice with garlic and any other seasonings you want to complement the heat. Smoke-point isn’t an issue since you don’t need to get it that hot. Note that while habaneros can come in a range of colors, orange is the most common variety in the United States. A habanero chili oil might not have the bright red color that you would get from an Asian chili oil made with Thai bird’s eye chilies. As for a recipe: Our jalapeño infused olive oil can be used with habaneros just as well.

Dried and ground into a useful fiery powder

You can dry and grind habanero peppers just like you would cayenne. You can use habanero powder as you would cayenne powder. Though note: It’ll have a fruitier flavor to it and plenty more heat. Cayenne pepper powder typically ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units while habanero powder runs from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU. If you’d prefer not to dry and crush habanero, we also offer habanero powder in our Spicery.



  • Our Hot Pepper List: Discover over 150+ pepper profiles (from bell pepper to Carolina Reaper and beyond.) Search our list by heat, flavor, uses, origin, and more.
  • Peach Habanero Salsa: Here’s a great salsa recipe for those extra habs – peaches are a surprisingly tasty pairing.
  • Ghost Pepper Vs. Habanero: How do these two hot peppers compare? The ghost pepper is of course hotter but by how much? And how about flavor?

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on June 28, 2022 to include new content.
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