Cayenne pepper is a workhorse in the kitchen and a must-have in every pantry. Whether you use a little or a lot, it adds a certain oomph and kick to the dishes you add it to.
Cayenne pepper is made from, well, the cayenne pepper which is a type of chile pepper. If you want to get specific and scientific it is known as Capsicum annum. They are thought to have originated in Cayenne, the capital city of French Guiana.
This pepper ranges in size from two inches long to five inches long and usually about a half an inch in diameter. They range in color from green to bright red when they are fully ripe. Interestingly enough, they are related to a bunch of other peppers we use often: bell peppers and jalapeno peppers included.
While you can use the fresh pepper, you will most often see this in the spice aisle. The fresh variety is picked, dried, and then ground into the powder we all know and love.
In terms of the heat levels, this red powder packs a punch. The Scoville scale rates the heat of peppers and foods. These range from 30,000 – 50,000 units. To put that in perspective, a jalapeno ranges from 2,500 units to 8,000 units and while cayenne pepper is not the hottest, it isn’t mild either.
When it comes to cuisine, the uses of cayenne are far-reaching. It is commonly used in Mexican, Thai, Korean, Chines, Creole, Indian, and many other cuisines. A quick sprinkle can add a little kick to your deviled eggs or a rub for meat and seafood. And while it does have quite a bit of spiciness to it, cayenne also has some sweetness.
Fun fact: Cayenne is the main ingredient in Tabasco.
What is the difference between cayenne pepper and chili powder?
Cayenne is a single type of chili pepper that has been dried and ground into a powder. Chili powder is a blend of spices and peppers and typically includes some cayenne. The former is going to be about 8 times hotter than the latter so I would not recommend using one as a substitute for the other.
Are cayenne pepper and paprika the same thing?
That would be a big fat no. These two might have that same fiery, red color but they are most certainly different. Cayenne is a single pepper that is ground, dried, and bottle while paprika is a blend of different chilis. The result is a much different flavor.
This might surprise you: not all paprika is spicy which certainly can’t be said for cayenne.
Can I use paprika instead of cayenne?
Potentially. There are a few types of paprika. If you have sweet paprika aka Hungarian paprika, you aren’t going to get the spice level you want. Your best bet will be to use Spanish paprika as it is a combination of dried and ground bell pepper as well as chili peppers.
You could also use smoked paprika, but as you probably guess, this will add a heavy smokiness to whatever dish you are adding it to which might throw off the balance of things.
Is cayenne pepper an anti-inflammatory?
You hit the nail on the head there. Cayenne along with other chilis have long been touted and praised for their health benefits all the way back to ancient times. The benefit lies in the natural compounds they contain which are called capsaicinoids.