To add a more nuanced kick of spiciness to dishes than red pepper flakes can offer, give Aleppo pepper a try.
We’ve long reached for ordinary red pepper flakes when we want to add straightforward spiciness to a dish. But a more nuanced red flake, Aleppo pepper, is becoming increasingly available. Made from dried, crushed Aleppo peppers (a name that comes from the northern Syrian city), these brick-red flakes are so widely used in Syria and nearby regions that they’re often placed on the table along with salt and pepper.
When we added Aleppo pepper flakes to rice pilaf, tasters noted a complex, almost raisin-like sweetness and a slow-to-build heat with rich, roasty notes. We also found that Aleppo’s heat, tanginess, and salt (salt is sometimes added during processing) work well when it’s sprinkled on pizza and eggs. When we substituted Aleppo for regular red pepper flakes in a spice rub for steak, tasters said that it added a more complex and earthy flavor, with a sweet, gentle heat that let the other flavors come through more. We also compared Aleppo and ordinary flakes when added to a simple pasta dish with garlic and oil and liked the Aleppo for the tart, smoky, rich yet bright flavor that it added compared with the straightforward regular flakes. In our testing we found that Aleppo flakes distributed more evenly because they are ground more finely than regular flakes. Also, because of Aleppo’s added salt, you should season lightly with salt and adjust as needed after adding Aleppo. You can find Aleppo pepper flakes at Middle Eastern markets and online sources like Penzeys Spices.