Chili-Lime Hot Sauce Isn't Complete Without Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Hot sauce connoisseurs may start out with something mild like sriracha or Frank's RedHot, then move on up the Scoville scale to Tabasco before branching out into exploring a wide range of different flavors and heat levels. A real game-changer, however, is discovering that it's possible to DIY your hot sauces and customize them to suit your personal preferences.

Developer Susan Olayinka, who tells us, "My family is spice-loving, so we go through a lot of hot sauce," came up with this recipe for a sauce flavored with lime juice. This ingredient, she says, "really brightens up the flavor," but it also serves to tone down some of the heat from the particularly incendiary pepper variety she favors: scotch bonnets. These chiles start at around 100,000 Scoville units on the milder end and range up to about 350,000 units or so –- for comparison, even the hottest jalapeno only has about 8,000 units. Because Scotch bonnets are so hot, Olayinka cautions "If you're not used to working with them, it's very easy to accidentally rub your eyes or nose after cutting them." Needless to say, you should avoid this at all costs, and you should probably wear rubber gloves when chopping the chiles to make this chili lime hot sauce.

Habaneros make a great substitute if you can't find Scotch bonnets

Olayinka lives and cooks in the UK, where Scotch bonnets are the preferred pepper for Caribbean cooking. Here in the U.S., however, you may be more likely to find habaneros in your supermarket, depending on where you shop. Can you use habaneros in place of Scotch bonnets for this recipe? Why, of course you can. The two peppers are very closely related as they share a genus and a species (Capsicum chinense, for all you botany fans) and the heat level is quite similar, as well. Habaneros, like Scotch bonnets, have 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville units, while some varieties can be even hotter than that. The Scotch bonnet variety known as Moruga Red might have half a million Scovilles, while Red Savina habaneros can be over 550,000 units. 

Apart from their similar heat profile, the flavors of the two peppers aren't too far apart, either. Both have a certain fruity sweetness to them (or perhaps a sweet fruitiness, if you prefer), although there are a few very subtle distinctions since Scotch bonnets tend to be the sweeter of the two, while habaneros may have more floral or even smoky notes. Still, these differences are negligible, so in most recipes (this hot sauce included), these chiles can be used interchangeably. Whichever pepper you pick, you'll wind up with a tangy, tasty sauce that Olayinka tells us is "great on tacos, burritos, or pretty much anything."