Aleppo Pepper Uncovered
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Named after the Syrian city of Aleppo, you’ll also find this chilli going by the name of pul biber, Halaby pepper or Turkish red pepper flakes. A variety of Capsicum annuum, the spice is made from dried and coarsely ground Halaby chillies. It has a fruity, tangy, smoky and cumin-like flavour, with hints of tomato, citrus and raisin. It’s a moderately spicy chilli, ranking at about 10,000 Scoville Heat Units with a heat that builds slowly. For comparison, jalapenos rank between 2500 to 5000 Scoville Heat Units.
The Aleppo pepper is a staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. In fact, Aleppo pepper comes in right under salt and pepper as the most commonly used spice in Turkey. The peppers are traditionally sun-dried with a bit of salt and sometimes olive oil, resulting in chilli flakes which are slightly salty and oily.
In the 15th century, European explorers brought chillies over from the Americas to Europe. The crop soon made its way across the Ottoman Empire, part of which include modern-day Turkey and Syria where the Aleppo pepper was born. Here, it was grown by Christian and Muslim Arab farmers and traded along the Silk Road.
Today, the Aleppo pepper is mostly grown in Turkey. Due to the ongoing conflicts in Syria, many growers moved their operations north across the border. In fact, Aleppo peppers were among $550 million worth of crops destroyed in and around Aleppo each year between 2011 and 2016, according to a 2017 assessment by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
You can use Aleppo pepper in any dish you want to add a complex heat to. Naturally, it works really well in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes like Turkish eggs, muhammara (Syrian red pepper and walnut dip), hummus and ful medames (Egyptian stewed fava beans).
Next time you have the barbecue going, try adding a pinch to rubs and marinades for a delicious kick. Combine it with garlic powder, sugar and spices like turmeric and cumin to elevate grilled meats like chicken and shish kebabs.
You can also use Aleppo pepper as a condiment. Simply mix it with olive oil and use it as a dip for flatbreads. Alternatively, sprinkle a little on your eggs, avocado toast, roasted vegetables, pasta or even on your cheese toastie.
Don’t just use it for cooked meals—the great thing about Aleppo pepper is that you can get really creative with it. If you’re feeling peckish, make a bowl of popcorn and sprinkle Aleppo pepper over it, or swap out the salt and use it to rim margarita glasses for a spicy kick.
Keen to try it out? You can find Aleppo pepper on our website here. Here are some great recipes which use the spice:
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