We all know about the famous habanero pepper. But have you heard of the habanada pepper? Michael Mazourek of Cornell University developed this variety to have the flavor of a habanero with none of the heat.
The name says it all! While many heat-free peppers exist, the plant breeder had a specific goal with this variety: Keep the floral and fruity flavors of the habanero pepper while removing all of the heat.
The process of creating a new pepper variety takes time. While cross breeding pepper plants is relatively straightforward, stabilizing a new phenotype is tough. The habanada took approximately 13 generations of plants to be considered fully stable.
We love seeing professional and amateur plant breeders develop new pepper types. The variation across the capsicum genus is remarkable, and the habanada pepper continues to popularize the practice.
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About Habanada Peppers:
Scoville Heat Units (SHU): 0
Width: 1 – 1.25 inches
Length: 2 – 4 inches
Species: Capsicum chinense
Buy Seeds: Rareseeds
In This Article:
- Habanada’s creation
- Growing habanadas
- Other non-spicy peppers
- Using habanadas
The Habanada Pepper’s Creation
As mentioned, the habanada pepper was developed by Michael Mazourek, a plant breeder at Cornell. He is also known for his work on creating the honeynut squash (a smaller, sweeter variety of butternut squash).
The habanada was finished as early as 2007, but was not widely available until years later.
The process of creating a new pepper variety involves cross-pollinating two compatible plant varieties. In this case, Mazourek crossed the orange habanero plant with a “bad tasting” heat-free pepper variety.
In order to reach a consistently heat-free and flavorful pepper, the plants were grown through 13 full generations. The result is a brand new, stable pepper variety that can be grown year after year.
Habanada Pepper Traits
The habanada pepper is claimed to taste just like a habanero, without any of the heat. It mostly lives up to that claim, but we noticed some differences while growing them.
For one, the habanada plant is slightly less prolific than a standard orange habanero. We still got a lot of peppers off of our plants, but the habanero produces more.
We also found that the habanada plants were lower and wider, while a standard habanero plant is taller and fuller. As a result, the plants were a bit difficult to keep up off of the ground, with leaves tending to droop into the dirt. We could likely have done better about pruning low branches early on.
The shape of the pepper pods is different from standard habaneros. The habanada peppers are smooth like habaneros, but are elongated and curvy.
Most of our habanada peppers measured 3-4 inches, while orange habaneros are typically 1-2 inches. This gives them more of a bhut jolokia (ghost pepper) shape than a standard habanero, but we can see the resemblance.
Mazourek also spoke about the plant needing lower nitrogen levels, consistent watering and warm, full sunlight. With too much nitrogen, most pepper plants can turn into a fruitless bush rather than a bountiful plant.
The flavor is also different than standard habaneros. While habanadas do have some of the aromatic traits of a habanero, the actual taste is very different.
Habanada Pepper Flavor
I love the flavor of orange habanero peppers. They are crisp, fruity and floral, without having an overpowering perfume flavor. This pungent bite is addictive, and pairs perfectly with the intense heat.
Main flavor notes:
- Super sweet
- Slightly floral
- Fruity and bright
- Less aromatic than a habanero (we miss the bite)
With the habanada, the flavor is more mellow and fruity. The flowery aroma is significantly dumbed down, and the pungent flavor is as well. It doesn’t taste bad, but it certainly does not hit the spot the way a spicy habanero does.
Our perceived difference in flavor from normal habaneros could be partially due to bias. To be honest, we really love hot and spicy peppers. However, the habanada’s flavor just feels less rewarding and distinctive than its spicy chinense siblings.
This doesn’t mean that the flavor isn’t interesting. Habanada peppers are totally different from jalapenos, bell peppers, banana peppers and any other common pepper.
If you are looking for a new flavor to cook with, these will be fun for experimenting! Some even suggest using them for dessert…
Growing Habanada Peppers
Growing habanada peppers is ultimately the same as growing any other pepper variety. The original cultivator did mention that the plants prefer low-fertility soil, so keep the nitrogen levels down.
How Long Until Habanadas Are Ripe?
Our habanada plants began producing ripe peppers around the same time as our other sweet pepper plants. Simply put, habanadas take about 80-90 days to produce ripe peppers after transplanting outdoors. This places them somewhere in the middle for grow time of peppers.
Tip: Use Garden.org’s useful tool to see exactly when you should plant pepper seeds in your hardiness zone.
Since the habanada is stable, you can also save your seeds and grow them again the following year. Or, share the seeds with friends to spread this special pepper to a wider audience.
Other Non-Spicy Pepper Varieties
If you are looking for more non-spicy peppers to grow, here are a few ideas. Some are more common, but we tried to choose interesting varieties for you to grow yourself.
The nadapeno follows the same formula that the habanada pepper does: Remove the heat, but maintain the general shape and flavor of the jalapeno. Jalapenos are not very spicy on the Scoville scale, but some people just don’t like any heat. Try the nadapeno for an un-spicy jalapeno.
These Japanese peppers are so versatile for cooking. The thin pepper walls makes them great for snacking, pickling and pan frying. They are great as a side dish, and the plants are impressively productive. Quick to produce, easy to grow and quite photogenic.
We grew this sweet pepper variety for the first time in 2020. The plant is not very productive, but the peppers are huge (almost bell pepper sized) and have a gorgeous teardrop shape. The deep red color is also unique, and the flavor is very sweet and juicy.
How To Use Habanada Peppers
While we prefer the super-spicy habanero peppers for flavor, the habanada has its uses in cooking, too. You can substitute habanadas for all of the typical habanero uses (except making food spicy).
- Pickling – The relatively thick walls of the habanada pepper make them great for pickling. Crunchy and sweet, you can use a standard dill pickle recipe for a sweet sandwich topper. Also a great way to preserve your peppers.
- Hot sauce – Use your habanadas to make not-too-hot sauce. Mix them with other mild peppers and fruits to keep the heat level bearable.
- Pepper powder – This pepper is perfect for making homemade pepper powder. Use it as a seasoning to add fruity flavor to soups and stews, stir fry or even dessert!
I hope enjoy specialty pepper varieties as much as we do. The habanada pepper is certainly a special pepper that has inspired us to experiment in our garden and kitchen.