Aji Chombo: A Close Cousin To Scotch Bonnet & Habanero

aji chombo
The aji chombo peppers are native to Central America and the Caribbean, but today they're found primarily in Panama. With a range of 150,000-350,000 SHUs and fruity flavor, they’re often compared to the more common habanero and scotch bonnet pepper, though aji chombo peppers are rare to find outside of Central America.

What Are Aji Chombo Peppers?

Aji chombo peppers are rare chili peppers that resemble the popular habanero and scotch bonnet. In Costa Rica, these peppers are known as chile panameño.

They are native to Central America and the Caribbean. Today they are common in Panama, where they were brought by the Antilleans, who migrated from the Caribbean.

Aji chombo means Blackman pepper, named after the Antillean who started cultivating them in Panama. These chili peppers are short with an elongated shape and are about three inches long and one inch wide.


They have smooth, waxy, thick, wrinkled skin that starts green and turns to pumpkin-orange before it ripens to a bright, shiny red. The skin covers juicy red flesh and cream-colored seeds.


The taste of aji chombo is best described as fruity and sweet with fiery heat. The taste is a lot like its cousin, the habanero pepper.

Nutritional Value

Aji chombo peppers are a good source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from damage. These hot peppers also contain high levels of capsaicin, a common anti-inflammatory ingredient in pain-relieving lotions and creams.

How Hot Are Aji Chombos?

On the Scoville scale, aji chombos are about 150,000 to 350,000 SHUs. That’s comparable to their cousins, the scotch bonnet and habanero peppers, both in the 100,000 to 350,000 SHUs range.

This heat rating means aji chombos are 140 times hotter than common jalapeno peppers. But they aren’t as hot as the hottest Carolina reaper, with over 2 million SHUs.

How To Use Aji Chombo Peppers

Aji chombo peppers are commonly used in Caribbean cuisine, particularly in Panamanian cuisine. Any dishes prepared using habanero peppers can be replaced with aji chombos. Some traditional dishes where you can use aji chombo peppers include:

jerk chicken
Use aji chambo peppers in place of habanero or scotch bonnet in tradition jerk chicken recipes.

Overall, there are many ways to use aji chombo peppers in dishes. They can add heat and flavor to soups, stews, rice dishes, and more. These peppers can also be pureed to use in marinades or dried and ground as a spicy chili powder for rubs.

What Is Panama Sauce?

The main ingredient of Panama sauce is aji chombos. The peppers are mixed with vinegar to create the sauce, usually served as a condiment for meat or seafood.

To prepare the Panamanian hot sauce, you’ll need various ingredients, including peppers, water, vinegar/lime juice, mustard, onions, and salt. Follow this guide for a step-by-step process to make your own Panama sauce at home.

These ingredients may vary depending on your preferences and the availability of ingredients.

Aji chombo peppers may be difficult to find outside of Panama. However, you may find them at specialty markets or online. Alternatively, you could use habaneros or scotch bonnet peppers.

To turn up the heat even more, use another spicy but fruity pepper, like a ghost pepper or Trinidad Moruga scorpion.

Where To Buy Aji Chombo Peppers

Aji chombo peppers are only commonly found in the Caribbean. If you want to try them, your best bet may be to purchase hot sauce from online retailers. You can also buy pepper seeds and grow them yourself.

Can You Grow Aji Chombo Peppers?

Yes, you can grow aji chombo peppers in a home garden or a pot. These peppers are native to the Caribbean and thrive in warm, sunny climates with well-draining soil.

They should be planted in an area with good sun exposure and watered about once per week to prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged.

Nutrients are essential for the growth of your peppers, so make sure to fertilize your garden or pot with a high-quality organic fertilizer. The peppers will grow to about 3 to 4 feet tall, so ensure you have enough space in your garden or pot for them to grow.


Tabitha's passion for gardening didn't begin until she was in her twenties. She was always interested in plants, but it wasn't until she moved to a rural setting that she realized how much fun it could be. Peppers are part of her edible landscape, and she is constantly looking for new and interesting varieties to try. When she is not gardening, she spends her time reading and writing.

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