Scotch Bonnet Vs. Serrano Peppers

The scotch bonnet and serrano pepper are two of the world’s most popular and well-known chili peppers. Therefore, it’s common to want to understand the differences for various reasons. In this comparison article, you’ll find all you need to know about the scotch bonnet vs. serrano pepper.

What Are Scotch Bonnets?

Sometimes known as Bonney peppers and Caribbean red peppers, the Scotch bonnet is a chili pepper widely used worldwide but predominantly in Caribbean cuisine.

These peppers are small-medium chilies with a squashed, contorted shape around 1 to 2.5 inches in length and a diameter between 1 and 2 inches. The color varies based on maturity, including green, orange, red, and brown.

With a Scoville heat unit (SHU) rating between 100,000-350,000, these peppers are considered hot to very hot and have a spicy, sweet flavor when mature.

You can use scotch bonnets in numerous recipes, but they’re often used for hot sauces, jerk dishes, ceviche, rondón, and more.

What Are Serrano Peppers?

Serrano peppers have a medium-heat profile with a rating of 10,000-23,000 SHU, giving them a median heat rating of 16,500 SHU.

Originating in the Puebla region of Mexico, they’re widely used in Mexican, TexMex, and similar cuisines where they add heat and their bright, smoky flavor. They are now grown in Mexico and the Southern States of the U.S.

The taste of the serrano pepper is known to change with age. When they’re less mature and younger, they have a bright, grassy flavor; as they mature, they develop a hotter, smokier flavor which is when they also change from the color green to red.

With a size of around 2-4 inches in length, they have a noticeable curve that makes them look similar but still distinct compared to the jalapeño that they are often mistaken for.

You can use them for salads, salsas, stews, pickling, tortillas, burritos, and much more.

What’s The Difference Between Scotch Bonnet and Serrano Chili Peppers?

Scotch BonnetSerrano Pepper
100,000 – 350,000 Scoville heat units (SHU)10,000 – 23,000 Scoville heat units (SHU)
Sweet, Fruity, EarthyBright, Grassy, Smoky
1-2.5 inches long with thin-medium cavity walls2-4 inches long with thin cavity walls
Originally from BrazilOriginally from Mexico

There are some big differences between the scotch bonnet and serrano pepper. The intensely hot scotch bonnet is many scores higher in terms of its SHU rating, while the medium-heat serrano pepper would still taste hot to your average person.

In addition to the apparent heat differences, these two chilies look distinct from one another. The scotch bonnet isn’t as long but has a considerably thicker diameter. They look short and stout with exciting shapes, but the serrano pepper is long and thin.

In terms of the overall flavor, these two peppers are quite different. Scotch bonnets have a sweeter, almost tropical fruitiness to them, whereas the serrano pepper has a bright flavor that becomes smokier as they mature.

This means that while they are often used for the same types of dishes, like salsas, they aren’t always going to be exact substitutes for one another, as using one over the other will change the taste and the heat level of a dish.

  • Size: Scotch bonnets only grow to a maximum length of around 2.5 inches, whereas serrano peppers can be as large as 4 inches. Scotch bonnets also have a larger overall diameter, between 1 and 2 inches in total, compared to the 0.5″ diameter of the serrano pepper.
  • Appearance: Besides the size differences, the colors are often similar depending on maturity, but unlike the scotch bonnet, you will most often find serrano peppers being sold while less mature and green in appearance. The shape differences are also notable, with scotch bonnets having a short squashed appearance to the long and curved appearance of the serrano pepper.
  • Taste and texture: Both of these peppers have similar skins that add some bite and a little chewiness to the overall texture of a dish. In terms of taste, the scotch bonnet has a distinctive sweetness, whereas the serrano varies from bright and grassy to smokey.
  • Culinary uses: Scotch bonnets are widely used in Caribbean cuisines, like Jamaican dishes such as jerk chicken and jerk pork. You will most often find serrano peppers used in Mexican cuisine like salsa verde, huevos rancheros, and more.


There we have it. All you need to know when comparing scotch bonnet vs. serrano peppers. They’re distinctly different in many ways, used in different cuisines, albeit sometimes for similar purposes. They can be used as substitutes in some scenarios but expect that to change the overall flavor of the food. Despite what some think, there are more significant differences than the heat levels alone. Now you know!