Red Pepper Flakes: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Explore the health benefits, history, and culinary uses of red pepper flakes, and discover over 900 recipes featuring this versatile and spicy ingredient.

What Are Red Pepper Flakes?

Red pepper flakes are dried red peppers that are crushed (as opposed to ground) into small flakes along with the seeds.

Are Red Pepper Flakes Good For You?

Yes! There are health benefits in red pepper flakes.

Health Benefits Of Red Pepper Flakes

  1. Red pepper flakes may be good for heart health.
    1. Researchers analyzed the diets and health records of more than 22,000 people living in southern Italy and followed them for about eight years.
    2. People who ate chili peppers more than four times a week were about one-third less likely to die of heart disease than those who rarely or never ate the spicy-hot peppers.
  2. Red pepper flakes may be good for the immune system because of the antioxidant components from the capsaicin.
  3. Red pepper flakes may boost our energy and athletic performance
    1. There was a study done on mice where they were given capsaicin for 4 weeks. After the 4 weeks the swimming test performance was greatly improved
  4. Red pepper flakes may help reduce blood glucose levels
    1. A study showed that capsaicin supplementation helped reduce blood glucose levels in mice by increasing insulin levels.
  5. The capsaicin in red peppers has been found to be anti-inflammatory
    1. Study on mice found that when capsaicin was applied to an inflamed area, the inflammation was significantly reduced.
  6. Red pepper flakes may help with ulcers from H. pylori
    1. The capsaicin found in peppers has been found in a study to be effective in treating ulcers because of its anti-inflammatory components
  7. Capsaicin is used as a pain reliever in many ointments and patches. It may first give a burning sensation, but then a soothing quality follows.

History, Background, and General Facts About Red Pepper Flakes

  • Red chili peppers , part of the Solanaceae (nightshade)family, were first found in Central and South America and have been harvested for use since about 7,500 BC.
  • Spanish explorers were introduced to the pepper while on a search for black pepper.
  • Once brought back to Europe, the red peppers were traded in Asian countries and used primarily by Indian cooks.
  • The village of Bukovo , North Macedonia , is often credited with the creation of crushed red pepper.
  • Most of the peppers that become red pepper flakes are dried in an industrial oven. After the peppers are dried, they’re pulverized (seeds and all) and then packaged.
  • Red pepper flakes are also known as crushed red pepper flakes or crushed red peppers
  • The most commonly used pepper for red pepper flakes is the cayenne pepper.
  • Most red pepper flakes will be a mix of peppers usually within the 30,000–50,000 Scoville unit range, with cayenne being most of the pepper.
  • Crushed red pepper is sometimes used interchangeably with cayenne pepper, but that is not always just cayenne. Crushed red pepper could be a variety of peppers, not just cayenne. And cayenne pepper is ground, rather than crushed.
  • So basically red pepper flakes, crushed red pepper flakes, crushed red pepper are often referring to the same thing: red pepper flakes.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Red Pepper Flakes?

Red pepper flakes, also known as crushed red pepper or chili flakes, are a versatile ingredient used in various cuisines around the world. Here are some cuisines that regularly include red pepper flakes:

  1. Italian Cuisine: Red pepper flakes are commonly used in Italian cuisine to add a touch of heat and spice. They are often sprinkled over pizzas, pasta dishes, sauces, and soups. Italian dishes like arrabbiata sauce, aglio e olio, and cacciatore often feature red pepper flakes for a fiery kick.

  2. Mexican Cuisine: In Mexican cuisine, red pepper flakes are frequently used to add heat and flavor. They are used in dishes like chili con carne, enchiladas, salsas, and marinades. Red pepper flakes are also a popular ingredient in Mexican spice blends and rubs.

  3. Mediterranean Cuisine: Red pepper flakes are found in various Mediterranean dishes, particularly those from the Middle East and North Africa. They are used in spice blends like za'atar and harissa, which are commonly used in dips, marinades, and grilled meat dishes. Red pepper flakes are also added to couscous, stews, tagines, and roasted vegetable dishes.

  4. Asian Cuisine: While not as prevalent as in other cuisines, red pepper flakes are occasionally used in certain Asian dishes. They can be found in some Korean recipes like kimchi, gochujang (Korean chili paste), and spicy stir-fry dishes. In Chinese cuisine, red pepper flakes may be used in Sichuan cuisine, known for its bold and spicy flavors.

  5. American Cuisine: Red pepper flakes are also utilized in various American dishes, particularly those influenced by Southern and Cajun cuisines. They can be found in spicy seafood boils, jambalaya, gumbo, and barbecue rubs. Red pepper flakes are also used as a topping for foods like chili, sandwiches, and scrambled eggs.

What Is The Best Way To Store Red Pepper Flakes?

Store red peper flakes in a cool dry area in a well-sealed container away from heat, like in a pantry. The heat and flavor reduce over time, so check the expiration date or give them a smell or taste before using.

Are Red Chili Flakes the Same as Red Pepper Flakes?

Yes, red chili flakes and red pepper flakes are the same thing. Both terms refer to dried and crushed red chili peppers. The flakes are made from various types of chili peppers, which are dried and then crushed into small pieces. These flakes are commonly used as a spice to add heat and flavor to a variety of dishes. The terms "red chili flakes" and "red pepper flakes" are often used interchangeably in recipes and culinary discussions.

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Red Pepper Flakes

  • While there are a lot of health benefits to red pepper flakes, some people may want to avoid them if:
    • You are eliminating nightshades in your diet
    • You experience indigestion or reflux from spicy foods/hot peppers
    • You experience digestive discomfort when eating hot peppers

Should I Use A Spice Grinder With Red Pepper Flakes?

Spice grinders are great to use with many different spices.  Some red pepper flakes for sale are sold "pre-crushed" and some are whole flakes so if you want yours more finely ground for a recipe, we strongly recommend having an extra pepper grinder or a spice grinder to keep red pepper flakes in.

Nutritional Facts
1 cup
Amount per serving
25.8 g
2.1 g
3.9 g
Saturated Fat
0.3 g
33.7 mg
10.6 g
15.2 g