Habanadas Pack Flavor, Not Heat

Meet the habanada

Bite into a typical habanero pepper, and you can expect a wave of heat to rush over you. The pepper hits 300,000 on the Scoville scale, which measures the capsaicin, or heat in a pepper. To put that in perspective, a bell pepper scores a zero, and a banana pepper rings in between zero and 500, while a Carolina Reaper, the hottest pepper in the world, hits 2 million. The heat of a habanero is intense, but a relatively new breed of the pepper proves it doesn't have to be, NPR reports.

"When [diners] question things they know to be absolute—habanero equals intense heat—it gets them to think about eating in a different way," Dan Barber, the chef and owner of Blue Hill, where he serves the heatless habaneros, says.

The new pepper, known as a Habanada, comes from researcher Michael Mazourek who crossbred a modern habanero with an older variety, which had no heat but didn't taste appealing. "After a couple more generations we started to get some non-hot but aromatic peppers," Mazourek explains. The final result is a pepper that is floral, with some describing it as having notes of citrus or guava.

For the moment, the peppers are available only in restaurants or to people who grow them in their own backyards. Ark Foods, the company that popularized the now-common shishito peppers in the U.S., is the only commercial grower. If the Habanada follows in the shishito's footsteps, you may start seeing it everywhere in years to come.