I once got from the library this big book of Mexican recipes. A lot of them called for habaneros and a few of them called for red habaneros.

My mother suggested that if I see a recipe calling for habaneros that I should use jalapenos instead and even suggested a ratio, 3 jalapenos to 1 habanero.

The reason? Jalapenos have more fruity flavor than habaneros (a lot more) so if I use jalapenos for something with the same amount of heat as habaneros then I will get more fruity flavor for the same amount of heat.

But can I really get the same amount of heat that is in 1 habanero from 3 jalapenos? Or should I change the ratio?

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    Beware the TAM Mild Jalapeno: m.bonnieplants.com/varieties/tabid/61/id/105/… With a high yield per plant, they're becoming quite popular in grocery stores. They look like large Jalapenos, but have barely more heat than a green bell pepper. If your 3 jalapenos equal one habanero, it'll take a dozen of these. Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 0:05
  • That mild of a jalapeno sounds like it is right in the heat range of a banana pepper which is the hottest pepper I have ever had by itself and the banana peppers I have have quite a bit of zing(which probably has to do with the pickling process) but other than that aren't very hot, especially the red ones. The red ones have barely any heat at all and are more like sweet peppers than hot peppers.
    – Caters
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 0:31
  • Use GLOVES!!!! I made the mistake of not using them once lol.
    – haakon.io
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 0:51
  • @WayfaringStranger that would be a great thing to get out there as a Q&A.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 2:00

3 Answers 3


Yes, you can usually make that substitution without a problem. The key thing in substituting peppers is that you like the substitution. So, experimentation is necessary to find what is ideal for you.

Personally, I like the flavor (separate from the heat) of habanero peppers more than I like the flavor of jalapenos, but I usually have jalapenos on hand. So I often make that substitution and then just add crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne to make up the difference in heat because I'm a big-time chili-head. Doing it that way, you don't need to use more jalapenos than you would habaneros, but you can. After all, it's your dish.

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    I also like the flavor of habaneros better but some of that is because jalapenos are always sold unripe. When I grow them myself and let them turn red on the plant, they taste sweeter (and hotter). Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 20:12

My general advice is just to taste your food as you cook it. Start with a little hot pepper and figure out the "heat level" you like, with whatever peppers you use, and then you can add more to calibrate the recipe. Keep in mind you can always add more spice with more peppers, but it's difficult to lower the "heat level."

If you can stand to taste the peppers directly, you can also use that to get a sense of when you might have a hotter or milder batch. I'd probably start with 3 to 5 jalapeños to substitute for a habanero, but it'd depend on the recipe, the size of the peppers, and the spiciness of the batch.

In terms of flavor, I find habaneros to actually be more "fruity," but it's hard to experience that since the heat is so intense. Jalapeños are more "vegetal" and "bright" in flavor, more like a bell pepper with some heat. If you want chunks of juicy hot pepper in your dish, jalapeños are probably a better choice.


An exact conversion is impossible here. Peppers can vary quite a bit in size, and different varieties of jalapeño or habanero can vary significantly in hotness (in both cases, the hottest varieties can be at least 5 times as hot as their milder forms).

Roughly speaking, habanero peppers are about 50-100 times as hot as jalapeños (on the Scoville scale). But that's in terms of density of heat, which may be very roughly correlated with heat per unit weight. (Traditionally the Scoville scale was based on empirical tasting methods that were quite variable, but more recently the American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) scale has adopted a more precise method based on dried chilis and chemical measurement of spice components. But the ASTA scale also has limitations since it is based on dried samples, whereas fresh peppers are mostly water.)

In any case, since habaneros are much smaller and thinner than jalapeños, it's really hard to come up with an exact conversion for equivalent heat. My personal experience would suggest that you'd need several jalapeños to equal one habanero, but it's really tough to judge. Many supermarket habaneros I've had seem quite mild: I could add several to a large pot of chili and still find it not excessively spicy. But I've also had homegrown habaneros that were so hot that even one would make a pot of chili barely edible (to "normal" folks who aren't into excessively spicy food).

In general, I agree that the juicy, larger fruit of jalapeños is often desirable. I tend to use them in a dish where I want the crunch or taste of "peppers" in addition to heat. With habaneros, unless you want really spicy food with a high concentration of them, you're not going to taste the "pepper" elements -- it's more like generic "heat." I would just be very careful to chop habaneros very fine. (Also, use gloves and do NOT touch your face.)

  • Beware, too, in dishes that are sensitive to the water content of ingredients. As you mentioned, habaneros are much smaller and thinner, which means that you're adding quite a bit more "flesh" into the recipe when you use jalapenos. This can affect everything from cooking time to consistency. Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 17:12

TL;DR: you will never get the same heat from any quantity of jalepenos as you will from 1 habenaro. Read on for why.

So, those two peppers have different flavor profiles. Additionally, habaneros are magnitudes hotter than jalapeños. I can handle, but not enjoy eating a habanero because it's really too hot, but I can easily eat whole jalepenos one right after the other without any real discomfort.

The short coming of jalepenos is once you have achieved maximum hotness through quantity you will not get any hotter. It's not just the quantity of capcacin that increase heat, but the density of it. Or in other words how much per bite. So the questions you need to ask do I want this hotness, and can my my recipe handle the additional pepper fruit material in the dish.

If you are making something like a stew, the additional jalepenos aren't likely to hurt anything, but if this is more of a dry recipe such as A Mexican style rice, it may be too much.

It's always worth experimenting, because then you will know exactly why and why not to do something from direct experience.

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    Who -1'd it and why, what he writes is solid. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 20:38
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    I think most of the statements here are true but the conclusion isn't necessarily. First off, the OP wants the pepper flavor and likely won't mind having some extra. Second, the absolute statement about maximum heat level given as a tl;dr is an exaggeration. Sure, you'll never get hotter than pureed jalapeños. But at heat levels well short of that, you can absolutely increase the heat by adding more jalapeños. If a dish has one habanero in the whole thing, it's not likely anywhere close to that absolute maximum heat level, and it's likely really easy to reach the same heat level.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 21:40
  • How can you say that? Puréed jalapeño can only be as hot as the jalapeño can be. It doesn't get hotter because you add more. A puréed habanero is FAR more hot. Even one habenaro will taste hotter than jalapeños no matter how many jalapeños you eat.
    – Escoce
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 22:54
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    Raw jalapeno can't get any hotter than itself, but it can be far hotter than a little bit of habenaro mixed with a lot of whatever you're actually cooking. It is extremely easy to put enough jalapenos into a dish that most people will consider it too hot. For those people, the difference between the peppers is flavor and/or price. The jalapenos will have more (and potentially different) flavor for the same heat, while probably being more expensive since you need more of them to get the same heat. Also, eating multiple jalapenos (or hot wings) does actually increase the sensation of heat.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 6:50
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    I think you misunderstood my comment. Pureed jalapeño is the absolute maximum, and I agree you can't get past that. But the OP is making a dish with one habanero in it, not a pepper puree. They're way short of maximum heat, so adding more does help. Answering in terms of the maximum is true but kind of missing the point.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 19:42

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