Mad Hatter Pepper: The Mild Snacking Pepper With A Fun Shape

Mad Hatter pepper
Mad Hatter peppers are a a hybrid of the famous bishop's crown pepper. They're a uniquely shaped sweet pepper with lots of personality! The peppers are small with mild heat, making them great for both snacking and cooking. Native to South America, Mad Hatters are a common ingredient in Bolivian and Peruvian cuisines.

What Is A Mad Hatter Pepper?

Mad Hatter peppers are a variety of Capsicum baccatum pepper that natively grows in South America. It’s a hybrid of the famous bishop’s crown pepper, also known for its unique shape and intense heat.

Developed as a hybrid pepper, the Mad Hatter traces its roots back to Peru and Bolivia. However, it was created by Pan-American Seeds in North America, where it is now commonly grown by home gardeners.  

Mad Hatters get their name from their shape. Simply put, they look like tiny little hats! They get this interesting shape from the bishop’s crown, which shares a nearly identical fruit shape. They have a long, rounded shape starting from the stem and then flatten out widely towards the end of the fruit, resembling a hat’s brim.

Mad Hatter peppers
Mad Hatter peppers.

How Hot Is The Mad Hatter Pepper?

The Mad Hatter pepper is only 500-1,000 SHUs, making it an incredibly mild pepper.

While the Mad Hatter might be related to the Bishop’s Crown, they vastly differ in how spicy they are. Bishop’s Crown comes in at an impressive 5,000-30,000 SHUs, putting them on par with other hot peppers such as the Black Prince Pepper, Count Dracula Pepper, and the Hinkelhatz Pepper. 

Piquillo and cubanelle peppers are good comparisons and substitutes for Mad Hatters, as they share a similar heat level.

Most of the Mad Hatter’s flesh is fruity and sweet in flavor. However, the closer you get to the seeds, the more subtle heat comes through. It isn’t an overwhelming spiciness; in fact, it wonderfully contrasts the bright and sweet flavors.

What Do Mad Hatter Peppers Taste Like?

Mad Hatters are known for their brilliant fruity sweetness. They have interesting fruity notes similar to other sweet peppers, such as the common bell pepper

A bright, citrusy flavor is present on the palate, complimenting the pepper’s mildly smoky and spicy undertones. The pepper’s thick and firm flesh makes for a pleasant crispness when you bite into it.

How To Eat Mad Hatter Peppers

The complexity of the Mad Hatter’s flavor makes it incredibly versatile in the kitchen! While I personally think it is excellent raw in a salad or on a veggie tray, you can also sauté them and add them to just about any dish. Pickling them is another fantastic option, as they’ll retain their crunchiness and pair well with a vinegar brine.

If you’re looking to make an authentic Peruvian dish such as ceviche or lomo saltado but don’t want the intense heat of the bishop’s crown, then the Mad Hatter makes an excellent substitute.

What Color Is A Ripe Mad Hatter Pepper?

Red! Like many other peppers, Mad Hatters start a bright green shade and slowly grow yellow and eventually a deep red color as they mature.

While you can still eat Mad Hatters when green, their flavor will not be as bold and complex as a fully-matured red Mad Hatter.

What’s The Difference Between A Jalapeno Pepper And Mad Hatter Pepper?

While they are similar in size, jalapenos and Mad Hatters are very different types of pepper. Jalapenos are a variety of Capsicum annuum, an entirely different species of pepper plant.

The greatest difference between the two peppers is their heat levels. Jalapenos are one of the most popular spicy peppers, and are considered by many people as a good baseline for judging other peppers’ spiciness

Coming in around 2,500-8,000 SHUs on the Scoville scale, jalapenos are, on average, about 6 or 7 times spicier than a Mad Hatter, which comes in at between 500-1,000 SHUs. This is considerably spicier than Mad Hatters, making their culinary applications vastly different.

Jalapenos are excellent for adding a kick of heat to a dish with a mild pepper flavor, while Mad Hatters are all about their uniquely sweet, citrusy flavor profile.

Where To Buy Mad Hatter Peppers

Mad Hatters can be difficult to find, as they are a rare hybrid pepper that isn’t commonly grown commercially. I’d recommend checking with local farmers’ markets and food stands to see if you have any growers nearby who might have a crop of Mad Hatters.

The best way to consistently buy Mad Hatters is through online seed vendors. That’s right; you’ll have to grow them yourself if you really want to try some of these unique peppers.

Fortunately, Mad Hatters can grow in most climates. I’d recommend buying Mad Hatter pepper seeds through a trusted online seller of seeds, or big companies such as Amazon.

Can You Grow Mad Hatter Peppers?

Having been intentionally hybridized to be hardy and yield more fruit, Mad Hatters are an excellent choice for almost any home garden.

In fact, Mad Hatter peppers won an award in 2017 from All-American Selections in their vegetable plants category for their high yield in fruit, vigor, large size, and exceptional taste.

Mad Hatter pepper plant
Mad Hatter pepper plant.

The plant is rather bushy and can grow as big as 3-4 feet tall throughout a growing season. Mad Hatter plants need a fair amount of soil moisture retention, so it’s recommended to plant them in full sun with mulch covering the soil.

They will yield 40-50 peppers in just one year, making them an incredibly prolific grower. If you live in a climate that has a cold season, you’ll want to bring your Mad Hatter plant inside for the winter or grow them as annuals in the summer.


Leland has spent most of his life in both the garden and the kitchen. A veggie garden is a place of harmony between his love of cooking and working with plants. Naturally, he loves peppers and plants about a dozen new and interesting varieties every year. His current pepper project is preparing to overwinter a jalapeño plant which he hopes will continue to flourish until the next flowering season. Leland is always excited to learn about new spicy and flavorful chilis, and he is constantly looking for new recipes to put his new peppers to the test!

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