Even though the Carolina Reaper and the habanero pepper are the same species, they are very different peppers. If you’re trying to decide which of these peppers to grow, we really recommend you grow both. They’re completely different in terms of flavor and heat.
We have had great success growing both Carolina Reaper peppers and habanero peppers. Let’s talk about the differences between these two varieties.
Carolina Reaper vs. Habanero History
While the history of the habanero pepper is not 100% certain, it is well accepted that this variety originated in the Amazon. The habanero pepper is named after the Cuban city, La Habana. Some may argue that the origin of the Carolina Reaper is a bit controversial, but we’ll save that conversation for another day.
The Carolina Reaper was created by the founder of The Puckerbutt Pepper company, Ed Currie. The infamous Reaper was the result of cross-pollination between two other Capsicum chinense varieties. It’s a unique pepper that is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone that dares to take a taste.
Carolina Reaper vs. Habanero Heat
You almost cannot compare the heat level of these two pepper varieties. The habanero pepper clocks in on the Scoville scale at 100,000- 350,000 SHU. On the other hand, the Carolina Reaper will knock your socks off with a Scoville level of about 2.5 Million.
The Carolina Reaper is no walk in the park. It currently holds the place of hottest pepper in the world. Don’t get us wrong, a good habanero has a significant kick, but it’s nothing like the Carolina Reaper.
We’ll admit, we’re not huge fans of the Scoville Scale. We have grown habanero peppers at home that left us sweating and almost in tears. We have also had habanero peppers from the supermarket that we could only describe as “duds.” These peppers were on-par with the heat of a jalapeno.
Simply put, the spice level of a habanero pepper will vary, but the Carolina Reaper will undoubtedly be much spicier (by a lot!).
Carolina Reaper vs. Habanero Flavor
There is no arguing that the habanero pepper is more versatile than the Carolina Reaper. We love a good deadly hot sauce, but we prefer making our sauces with tasty habaneros and complimentary tropical fruits.
If you have ever bitten into a Carolina Reaper, you know that the flavor is quickly drowned by the ridiculous, scorching heat on your taste buds. Most of the hottest hot sauces we have tried contain Carolina Reapers.
When it comes to hot sauce, often it’s the flavor of the secondary ingredients and spices that linger as opposed to the Carolina Reaper itself. Carolina Reapers have an initial sweet flavor, but it can be difficult to appreciate the complexity alongside the lingering burn.
Habanero peppers exhibit a more floral-fruity taste, and are much more tolerable in terms of heat. We like habaneros so much that sometimes we eat them pickled on pizza. However, we would never do that with a Carolina Reaper. It’s just not that kind of pepper. There is a time and place for the Carolina Reaper, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Carolina Reaper vs. Habanero Appearance
It is not difficult to tell these two peppers apart. Habanero peppers are smooth in texture and range from yellow to red in color, depending on the variety. We have had some varieties grow to be several inches long.
Carolina Reaper peppers are red and bumpy with a distinctive shape and sinister pointed tail. These peppers start off green and eventually turn red. They appear as deadly as they taste. Similar to the habanero, the pods vary in size.
One of the most satisfying aspects of growing peppers is watching them change color. Here is a photo of a Carolina Reaper ripening to its final stage.
Carolina Reaper vs. Habanero Growing
When it comes to growing hot peppers, we grow habaneros and Carolina Reapers every single year. We love the versatility of habanero peppers, but we can appreciate the challenge and novelty of growing a healthy Carolina Reaper plant as well.
Habanero plants are much more prolific than Reaper plants. We have harvested more habanero pods than we knew what to do with! Be sure to check out our article on what to do with your habanero peppers. Some of our (huge) Reaper plants produced only a couple healthy pods, while others were a bit more prolific.
In our experience, Carolina Reaper plants are more difficult to grow and maintain. Sometimes the plants grow large and bushy with little fruit payoff. They require a bit more attention and loving care. In the end, we think it’s worth it to grow both.
Where To Find These Pepper Varieties
We typically grow our peppers from seed, but there is nothing wrong with nurturing an established seedling. There are many places online you can buy pepper seeds for both Carolina Reaper and habanero varieties.
If you’re looking for fresh habanero pepper pods, you should have luck finding these at the grocery store or farm stand. However, they may not be as spicy or flavorful as homegrown pods.
If you’re in the market for Carolina Reaper pods, you’re up for more of a challenge. Be sure to check out our post on where to buy Carolina Reapers. Your best bet is to grow these guys on your own and freeze the fresh pods.
We hope this article helped you learn more about the differences between Carolina Reaper peppers and habanero peppers. We hope you will choose to grow both so you can really appreciate how unique these two peppers really are.