Habanero Powder: Extreme Spice From The Mayans

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The Chinense species to which habanero chilies belong has a history that goes all the way back to 6500 BC. The habanero pepper’s origin is believed by many historians to lie in the Yucatan Peninsula. They were domesticated there so that there were many varieties across South and Central America as well as in the Caribbean islands by 1000 BC.

In the 1900s, the pepper got the Chinense name because taxonomists of the time mistakenly believed that it came from China. The habanero pepper itself is named after the city of Havana in Cuba. More recently, there has been some controversy as to whether it originated in Cuba or in Mexico. Many point to the fact that there is no Mayan name for it. It is a relative of the Scotch bonnet pepper, which is popular in Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Chili peppers like the habanero have been preserved by drying since the time of the Mayans, a tradition that was adopted by the Aztecs after them. The dried peppers were often ground and used in traditional moles.

Today, most of the habanero peppers in the world come from Mexico. Other major producers include Belize and the US.

Habanero powder flavor profile

Not too long ago, habanero peppers were considered the hottest peppers in the world. While other peppers like the Carolina Reaper have since surpassed habaneros in terms of capsaicin concentration, it is still a very hot pepper. Habanero powder offers the heat of the fresh pepper along with mild fruity notes.

Health benefits of habanero powder

Like fresh habanero peppers, the powdered version contains compounds that are beneficial for health. How much of them you get depends on the serving size and your tolerance for heat. Here is a look at the nutrients in habanero powder:

  • Vitamins: Habanero powder is a good source of vitamin A. You can get 7143 IU of it from a 0.25 g serving. The vitamin A content is largely a result of the beta-carotene in the fresh fruit, which is what gives these chili peppers their vibrant colors.
  • Fiber: Depending on which product’s ingredient panel you read, habanero powder can contain a reasonable amount of fiber.
  • Capsaicin: Capsaicin is the compound that gives hot peppers their heat. The intensity of the heat is directly related to the concentration of capsaicin. A relatively hot pepper like habanero will have more capsaicin when compared to a milder one like the jalapeño.

Habanero powder may be useful for treating or preventing health conditions like:

  • Diabetes: Capsaicin can relieve pain from diabetic neuropathy and can help to control insulin spikes after meals. Its effect on blood sugar means that it may be effective for preventing or slowing the onset of type 2 diabetes.
  • Cancer: Studies have shown the capsaicin found in hot peppers like habaneros to be effective against certain cancers. For example, it is known to induce apoptosis (cell death) in prostate and breast cancer cells.
  • Inflammation: The capsaicin in habanero powder can help you to reduce your body’s production of a peptide called substance P, which causes swelling.

Common uses of habanero powder

This extreme chili powder can be used to add heat to salsas and can be a good starting point for a homemade hot sauce. You can use it in dry rubs or to give a chili a little more heat than you would get from guajillo or ancho chilies.