With a unique salt-meets-raisin flavor, Aleppo pepper’s popularity has skyrocketed globally, and for good reason. Originating in Syria, the moderately spicy Aleppo pepper has long been a staple in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean kitchens. It is now more readily available as the rest of the world has discovered how delicious this pepper is when added to a variety of recipes, from egg dishes, meat braises, avocado toast, and grilled vegetables. The spice is sold crushed or ground and packaged in bags and canisters.
What Is Aleppo Pepper?
The Aleppo pepper, also known as the Halaby chile pepper, is named after the Syrian city of Aleppo. It is a variety of Capsicum annuum and is used as a spice. Once ripe, the naturally oily pepper is de-seeded, sun-dried, and coarsely ground into flakes. It's then mixed with salt and olive oil, resulting in a bright red, earthy, moderately hot spice that can be used as a condiment or garnish in place of red chile flakes.
Due to the ongoing civil war in Syria, most Aleppo pepper found in stores is grown in Turkey where the pepper flakes are referred to as pul biber. In that country, Aleppo pepper comes in right below salt and pepper as the most commonly used spice. In the mid-1990s the spice gained popularity in the U.S. and is now being cultivated in America to meet the growing demand.
What Does It Taste Like?
Aleppo pepper is roughly half as spicy as red chile flakes, clocking in at about 10,000 Scoville Heat Units, with a heat that builds slowly. It has a mild sweetness and tanginess with hints of raisin, citrus, and tomato notes, as well as a cumin-like earthiness and roasted flavor.
Cooking With Aleppo Pepper
The ground spice works well in any dish to which you’d like to add slow-building, complex heat. It’s commonly used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine for seasoning grilled meats and kebabs; it's also key to the taste of the Syrian red pepper dip known as muhammara.
Aleppo pepper can be part of a spice mix to use on grilled meats. Combine it with garlic powder, sugar, and spices such as turmeric and cumin for a delicious rub that will add loads of flavor to pork, steak, and chicken. Sprinkle Aleppo pepper on eggs and avocado toast, or infuse olive oil with Aleppo pepper and use as a dip for bread or drizzle over a simple pasta. You can even use it to rim margarita glasses in place of salt for a spicy kick.
Aleppo Pepper Recipes
Aleppo pepper can be used in place of red pepper flakes in recipes, but keep in mind that it will give you a much more nuanced, complex flavor while offering less heat.
If you can’t find Aleppo pepper, the closest substitute is a combination of sweet paprika and cayenne pepper, using a four-to-one ratio (such as 4 teaspoons paprika plus 1 teaspoon cayenne). You can also use ancho chile powder with a little salt added or red chile pepper flakes, but the flavor will be nowhere near as complex—you’ll miss out on those sweet and tangy notes.
Where to Buy Aleppo Pepper
Aleppo pepper may be stocked in the spice aisle at some, but not many, supermarket chains, but is more likely to be found at specialty or Middle Eastern grocers. It can be bought online, but it's best to read the reviews and purchase from a seller you trust; as Aleppo pepper has grown in popularity, some third-party sellers have been making a fake version. Aleppo pepper flakes should have a rich burgundy color and a bright and fruity aroma.
Keep the crushed Aleppo pepper in an airtight container, and store it in the pantry away from light and heat. Kept this way, it should stay fresh for several months.