Red Pepper Flakes: A Little Bit of Heat in the Kitchen

What are Red Pepper Flakes?

If you’re looking for a simple yet powerful way to add a burst of flavor and heat to any dish, look no further than red pepper flakes. These tiny, fiery flakes are packed with complex flavor and a surprising range of health benefits. This makes them an essential ingredient in any kitchen. From classic Italian pasta dishes to spicy Asian stir-fries, red pepper flakes can take your cooking to the next level. So whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice in the kitchen, it’s time to discover the magic of red pepper flakes. So why not start experimenting with this versatile ingredient today. In this article, we’ll explore the many ways you can use them to elevate your cooking. And you can create delicious, flavorful meals that will impress your family and friends.

Background & History

Red pepper flakes have been used in cooking for centuries, and their origins can be traced back to ancient times. The first recorded use of them can be found in ancient Egypt. It was believed they were used in medicinal remedies as well as in cooking. From there, they spread to other parts of the world, including Europe and Asia. Today, they are a staple in many cuisines, from Italian to Korean.

What Form Do They Take?

Red pepper flakes are made by crushing dried red chili peppers into small, coarse flakes. They can be found in most grocery stores and are often sold in small glass jars or plastic bags. The heat level can vary depending on the type of pepper used and how they are processed.

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Organic Crushed Red Pepper Flakes by McCormick’s.

Crushed red pepper flakes are a popular pantry staple known for adding heat and flavor to various dishes.

Pure 100% organic red pepper. This is also Certified USD Organic, and Non-GMO.

7.75 ounces of flavor in a resealable container.

Health Benefits of Red Pepper Flakes

In addition to their delicious flavor, they also offer a range of health benefits. They are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as capsaicin, a compound that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Capsaicin is also believed to have metabolism-boosting properties. Therefore, this makes them a popular ingredient for those looking to lose weight.

Flavor Profile of Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are known for their fiery, pungent flavor, which can add depth and complexity to a wide range of dishes. They also have a slightly sweet, fruity undertone that pairs well with many different ingredients, from tomatoes and garlic to soy sauce and ginger.

You should note that Bukovo Flakes are not the same as red pepper flakes, although they are both types of crushed chili pepper flakes. Here’s why:

Red pepper flakes, also known as crushed red pepper or chili flakes, are a popular spice made from dried and crushed red chili peppers. They are typically a blend of different chili pepper varieties, offering a moderate level of heat and a versatile flavor profile. Red pepper flakes are commonly used in cooking to add spiciness to various dishes.

Bukovo flakes, on the other hand, are a specific type of chili flakes originating from the Balkan region, particularly Macedonia and Greece. They are made from a particular variety of chili pepper called the bukovo pepper (also known as the Alep or Aleppo pepper). Bukovo flakes are known for their vibrant red color, medium heat, and fruity undertones.

The bukovo pepper is traditionally sun-dried and then crushed into flakes. It is prized for its unique flavor and is commonly used in Balkan and Mediterranean cuisines, including dishes like kebabs, stews, and roasted vegetables. Bukovo flakes have gained popularity in recent years as a specialty spice.

While both red pepper flakes and bukovo flakes are chili pepper flakes, they differ in terms of the chili pepper varieties used, flavor profiles, and culinary traditions. If a recipe specifically calls for bukovo flakes, it’s best to seek out the authentic variety for an accurate flavor. However, if bukovo flakes are not available, you can often substitute them with red pepper flakes, keeping in mind that the flavor may differ slightly.

Cooking with Red Pepper Flakes

They can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen. They can be added to sauces, soups, and stews to add heat and flavor. You could also sprinkle them over pizzas, salads, and roasted vegetables for an extra kick. They can also be used as a rub for meats and fish, or added to marinades and dressings for a spicy twist.

How to Make Your Own Red Pepper Flakes

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even make your own at home. Simply dry out fresh chili peppers in the oven or dehydrator, then crush them into flakes using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. The most common types of hot peppers used are jalapeños, serrano’s and Anaheim chilies, but you can choose whichever ones you like. This will allow you to experiment with different types of chili peppers and levels of heat.

So, if you’re interested in making your own homemade red pepper flakes, here’s a simple method I use to make my own:

Homemade Red Pepper Flakes


  • Fresh red chili peppers (such as cayenne, Thai, or any other variety of your choice)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Select fresh red chili peppers that are ripe and free from mold or blemishes. The quantity of peppers will depend on how many flakes you want to make.
  2. Wash the peppers thoroughly and pat them dry using a clean kitchen towel.
  3. Preheat your oven to a low temperature, around 175°F (80°C). You can also use a food dehydrator if you have one.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil to prevent sticking.
  5. Cut the stems off the peppers and slice them lengthwise. If you prefer milder flakes, you can remove the seeds and inner membranes, but if you want more heat, leave them intact.
  6. Arrange the pepper slices on the baking sheet, ensuring they are spread out in a single layer to allow for even drying.
  7. Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven or dehydrator and let the peppers dry for several hours. This process can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours, depending on the moisture content of the peppers and the desired level of dryness.
  8. Check the peppers periodically and rotate the tray if needed to ensure even drying.
  9. Once the peppers are fully dried and have become brittle to the touch, remove them from the oven or dehydrator and allow them to cool completely.
  10. Break the dried pepper slices into smaller pieces and transfer them to a spice grinder or blender. Pulse a few times until you achieve the desired flake size and consistency.
  11. Store the homemade red pepper flakes in an airtight container or glass jar in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. They can retain their flavor and heat for several months.

It’s important to note that homemade red pepper flakes may have a slightly different flavor profile compared to commercially produced ones. The variety of chili peppers you use and the level of heat you prefer will influence the taste of your homemade flakes.

Exercise caution when handling chili peppers, as their natural oils can cause skin and eye irritation. Wear gloves or wash your hands thoroughly after handling them, and avoid touching your face or sensitive areas.

Common Uses for Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes, also known as crushed red pepper or chili flakes, are a versatile ingredient that can add heat and flavor to various dishes. However, there are also several non-culinary ways to utilize them. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Mix red pepper flakes with dried herbs, citrus peels, and aromatic spices to create a spicy potpourri. Place it in a decorative bowl or sachets to add fragrance to a room.
  2. Sprinkle some flakes around your garden or near areas where pests like squirrels, rabbits, or cats tend to gather. The spicy scent may deter them from entering.
  3. Use the flakes to create textured and visually interesting art pieces. Mix them with glue or paint to add a speckled or grainy effect to your artwork.
  4. If you’re camping or need to start a fire, mix red pepper flakes with other dry materials like sawdust, dried leaves, or newspaper. The flakes can act as a combustible ingredient to help ignite the fire.
  5. If you have unwanted animals digging in your flower beds, sprinkle red pepper flakes around the area. The spicy flakes can discourage animals from digging due to their strong scent.
  6. Steep red pepper flakes in hot water for several hours, then strain the liquid and transfer it into a spray bottle. This homemade pepper spray can be used as a non-lethal self-defense tool if needed.
  7. Mix some flakes with Epsom salts and essential oils to create a stimulating and invigorating bath experience. The flakes can provide a tingling sensation on the skin and help promote circulation.

Remember to exercise caution when handling red pepper flakes, as they can cause irritation or discomfort. Especially if they come into contact with your eyes or sensitive areas of the body!

Alternatives for Red Pepper Flakes

If you don’t have red pepper flakes on hand, there are several other ingredients that you could try. Try using, crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika or chili powder.

Each of these ingredients has a slightly different flavor profile and heat level, so it’s important to choose the right one for your recipe.

Have a look at our substitutes section for ideas on what other ingredient you can use in place of red pepper flakes.


Whether you’re a fan of spicy food or just looking for a way to add some extra flavor to your dishes, red pepper flakes are a must-have ingredient in any kitchen. From their complex flavor profile to their range of health benefits, there are countless reasons to start experimenting with them today. So the next time you’re in the kitchen, don’t be afraid to add a little bit of heat with some delicious red pepper flakes. Your taste buds (and your health) will thank you!