a single chocolate habanero pepper

Chocolate Habaneros: Heat, History, Uses, & More

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If you’re looking for a unique pepper with a lot of flavor, heat, and character, the chocolate habanero is a great pick. It’s a popular pick to grow at home, and because of the complexity of flavor, it’s also commonly used in commercial products like hot sauces. Read on to learn more about the famous chocolate habanero!

Facts about
Chocolate Habaneros

Heat level:
Extremely hot
425,000 – 577,000
Capsicum chinense

What is a chocolate habanero?

The chocolate habanero is a chocolate (brown) colored cultivar of the habanero pepper that was bred for characteristics including heat, size, and density of the fruit. It is a type of habanero pepper that has a unique earthy and smoky flavor that complements its typical habanero sweetness.

History and origins

The chocolate habanero originates in the Caribbean and has been around for over 7,000 years, as evidenced by the discovery of ancient seeds. It was previously known as habanero negro, or described as a chocolate habanero, which stems from the indigenous Nahuatl name, xocolātl. But the British referred to it simply as a “black habanero” because they struggled with pronouncing the Nahuatl name.

Appearance and characteristics of chocolate habanero plants

The chocolate habanero plant takes considerably longer to grow than other habanero chili varieties, but the peppers can be preserved for long periods of time in dried form and reconstituted in water. The pods of the chocolate habanero tend to be slightly larger than those of the typical habanero pepper, about 2 inches long. They start emerald-green, and as they ripen, they take on a unique dark brown color, for which they are named.

How hot are these peppers?

Chocolate habaneros are a spicy alternative to your typical pepper, and they pack quite the punch! On the Scoville scale, which measures the heat of peppers, they typically rate between 425,000 and 577,000 Scoville units, making them hotter than regular habaneros.

Chocolate habanero vs. regular (orange) habanero

The most obvious difference between chocolate habaneros and other types is the color: chocolate habaneros are a rich, orange-ish brown, while most habaneros are vibrant orange.

In terms of the Scoville scale, chocolate habaneros tend to hit around 425,000 – 577,000 SHU, making them significantly hotter than the regular habanero, which rates between 150,000 and 325,000 SHU. The chocolate habanero is also said to taste somewhat smokier than normal habaneros.

They are closer in heat level to the Red Savina, which is another type of habanero. The main difference is that the mildest Red Savina normally clocks in around 350,000 SHU, which is much milder than the mildest chocolate habanero (around 425,000 SHU). There are also many cultivated variations of the chocolate habanero, which are slightly different, such as black Congo and Jamaican hot chocolate. These peppers all share a similar dark aesthetic, sweetness, and higher heat levels.

What do they taste like?

Despite their intense heat, chocolate habaneros have a unique taste that sets them apart from other peppers. They have a distinct earthy and smoky flavor, with a slightly fruity undertone that becomes more pronounced as you chew. This makes them a great addition to dishes like mole, salsa, and even pizza!

How to cook with chocolate habaneros

When cooking with chocolate habaneros, it’s important to take some precautionary measures first. The capsaicin oils in the peppers can burn your skin and eyes, so it’s recommended to wear gloves and eyewear. Once you’ve prepared your peppers, you can add them to your dishes for a spicy and flavorful kick. They work well in Jamaican jerk sauce, mole, stew, and salsa.

If you find the heat level of these peppers to overwhelm your dish, you can remove the pith and seeds to mellow them out a little bit.

Where to find chocolate habaneros

Unlike regular habaneros, chocolate habaneros are not commonly found in supermarkets. However, you can order seeds and plants online from places like Amazon. There are also a variety of salsas and hot sauces available that feature chocolate habaneros.

How to grow these pepper plants in your home garden

If you’re interested in growing your own chocolate habaneros, it’s best to purchase seeds or plants online. You can grow them directly in the ground or in containers like 5-gallon buckets or grow bags. Make sure they get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight and regular fertilization. Note that pepper plants also like a little bit of shade during the hottest parts of the afternoon.

With proper care, you can enjoy a plentiful harvest of these spicy and flavorful peppers in your own backyard!