Heatless Habaneros

Learn about the history behind these heatless habanero peppers that pack all the flavor of a habanero — without the painful punch.

Standing in a friend’s garden, I was assured that the small, red pepper in my hand would be safe to eat. “Take a bite!” she said. “I swear it’s not hot.” The pepper in question looked and smelled exactly like a habanero, one of the hottest peppers in the world. If I took a bite, it would surely singe my lips, tongue, and throat — just like a habanero.

Or so I thought. With my front teeth, I took a small, tentative bite. The signature flavor and aroma of a habanero filled my mouth and nostrils, but the scalding pain never came. Nor did it arrive after a second bite. It didn’t even come as I chewed and swallowed the seeds, which are traditionally the hottest part of the fruit. My friend hadn’t led me astray after all. Indeed, this pepper had no heat.

Photo by Getty Images/BruceBlock

How was this possible? Was the plant a botanical misfit, or had someone removed its heat on purpose? Many pepper enthusiasts would balk at the idea; what’s the point of a chile pepper if it doesn’t pack a punch? And yet, here I was, enjoying a whole, raw, habanero-like pepper without any discomfort.

As I swallowed the last of that “heatless habanero,” I realized this strange pod had a unique flavor, fruity and citrus-like, and because it wasn’t scorching hot, I could better appreciate and discern those pleasant qualities.

Historically Hot

Habaneros are among the hottest chile peppers in the world. They’re thought to have originated in South America, but they’ve achieved a pinnacle of cultural and economic significance in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, where the majority of the world’s habaneros are grown today.

1/10/2020 11:26:02 AM

The 'Habanada' has a nice fruity flavor. It loses its color when pickling. 'Suave Red' is a bust and tastes like a bland version of an Italian pepper. 'Suave Orange' gives a wonderful citrus Habanero taste and retains its color when pickled. 'Arroz con Pollo' was not impressive compared to other aji dulces and tasted like a lesser version of 'Shishito'. I have a years long ongoing trial of mild Habaneros partially to question whether 'Habanada' and 'Suave Orange' were better than existing Caribbean seasoning peppers. They are very good!



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