Caribbean Habanero Salsa and Habanero Relish

Habanero-based ferments are versatile and pair well with a variety of flavors. Turn down the heat by using Fresno chiles, instead.

From "Fiery Ferments"
August/September 2017

  • Habaneros add an intense heat that comes on late.
    Photo by Kirsten K. Shockey.
  • "Fiery Ferments," from Storey Publishing, features a wide variety of pepper ferments that feature a variety of peppers.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing/Lara Ferroni.

Yield: About 1-1/2 pints

These two habanero-based ferments are examples of the many flavors that pair well with habaneros. If the flavors sound enticing but you want a little less heat, try substituting Fresno chiles for the habaneros.

Caribbean Habanero Salsa

The thing with habaneros is that the heat comes on late. You always have enough time to taste the rest of the ingredients and think you’ve made it through without pain and sweat. The other thing about habaneros is that they have an incredibly strong, fruity quality. After sampling this salsa, every one of our tasters argued that there must be tomato in the ferment. Nope! Yield: about 1-1/2 pints. Heat index: Hot.

Variation: Habanero Relish

Assemble this fermented pepper relish in the same way as the Caribbean Salsa, but be prepared for a decidedly different flavor. It’s very herbal and very hot, with no tomato notes. The heat comes on late and continues to build for quite some time. We like to put it into a soup right before serving. It’s also a nice addition to flavor a creamy cheese, such as our Buttermilk Cheese (see our book Fiery Ferments for a recipe). Yield: about 1-1/2 pints. Heat index: Hot.


For Habanero Salsa:

  • 1/2 pound habaneros or other Caribbean chiles, such as ‘Scotch Bonnet’
  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced dried thyme
  • 1 tsp freshly ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For Relish Variation:

  • 8 to 10 habaneros, or other Caribbean chiles, such as ‘Scotch Bonnet’
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp minced fresh chives
  • 1 generous tbsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 4 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt


For Salsa:

1. Chop the habaneros and mix them in a bowl with the onion, thyme, and allspice. Sprinkle in the salt and keep mixing. The mixture should become moist quickly.

2. Pack the mixture into a jar, pressing out any air pockets as you go. Press a zip-close bag against the surface of the ferment, fill the bag with water, and zip it closed.

3. Place the jar in a corner of your kitchen to ferment. If you see air pockets, remove the bag, press the ferment back down with a clean utensil, rinse the bag, and replace.

4. Allow to ferment for 7 to 14 days. It’ll be ready when you see the colors of the ferment mute; the brine may become cloudy as well. The ferment will have a pleasing acidic smell and taste pickle-y, and it may have a bit of an effervescent zing. You can let it ferment longer for a more sour punch.

5. Screw on the lid and store in the fridge, where the salsa will keep for up to 12 months.

For Relish:

1. To prepare this pepper relish, follow directions above for Caribbean Salsa.

Find recipes and more about preserving peppers in Fermented Salsas for Preserving Peppers.

Kirsten K. Shockey and co-author Christopher Shockey live on a 40-acre homestead in Oregon, where they’ve created over 40 varieties of cultured vegetables and krauts and have focused their efforts on teaching the art of fermentation. The recipes in this article are excerpted from Fiery Ferments, available in our online store, and are used with permission of Storey Publishing.

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