How Many Jalapeño Peppers You Need To Substitute For The Heat Of One Habanero

Peppers are meant to add spice when we throw them in a dish, but how can you tell just how much heat you're actually contributing? Taste testing is one way, but if you're not a fan of super spicy foods, you may regret it if you accidentally sample a super hot pepper. Fortunately, a scale exists to tell us the exact spice level of practically every pepper, in number form so we can compare and contrast: the Scoville scale. If you're trying to figure out exactly how many jalapeño peppers you'll need to reach the heat level of one habanero, the metrics on this scale can be incredibly helpful to get an idea of the differences between the two. 

One jalapeño falls anywhere between 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units, while one habanero ranges between 100,000 and a whopping 350,000. This means that even the mildest habanero can still be about 12 times spicier than the hottest jalapeño. So does this mean you'll need 12 of the latter to equal one of the former? Not necessarily — in fact, you may only need about five jalapeños to replace one habanero. Factors like pepper size, and whether you include the seeds and pithy insides, can affect how hot your pepper ends up being.

Habaneros and jalapeños have flavor and texture differences

If you're substituting jalapeños for a habanero pepper, keep in mind that you won't necessarily get exactly the same results, flavor-wise or heat-wise. Habaneros tend to be a little sweeter with more of a fruity taste — although their heat is so concentrated (and potentially overwhelming), you may not be able to tell. Jalapeños, on the other hand, have more of a bright, yet earthy flavor, along with a crisper texture. So when you're subbing them in, your dish will have more crunch than if you used a habanero, plus you'll be more likely to taste their flavor underneath the heat.

But if you want to make the swap, we advise starting small. After all, you can always add more heat, but once your dish has become too spicy for your tastebuds, it's difficult to calm it down. You may need more than five jalapeños to achieve the true heat level of a habanero, but start there, taste, and add more accordingly. As an alternative, you can incorporate five jalapeños into your recipe, then add in another form of spice (like red pepper flakes) to get your dish to where it needs to be. Since the size and spice level of both of these peppers can vary widely, it's a good idea to start slow and take your time.