Red Pepper Flakes Vs Cayenne: How Are They Different?


If you wonder about red pepper flakes vs cayenne, you’re not alone! What are their differences, and when is the best time to use them?

Short answer: Red pepper flakes and cayenne peppers are two of the most common spicy ingredients that work like magic in a dish! Your red pepper flakes are a combination of three or four types of chilies while cayenne is mainly made from cayenne pepper fruits only.

It is pretty interesting how a pinch of powder and flakes can turn your dish into something so amazingly delicious!

So, if spicy foods pique your interest, then this one is undoubtedly for you. Just a heads up, they do a lot more than make your tongue tingle and your forehead sweat!

In this article, we will discuss how these two popular spices differ from each other. You’ll learn more about the difference between the following characteristics:

  • Composition
  • Taste
  • Uses
  • Price

What Are Red Pepper Flakes?

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Crushed red pepper, commonly known as red pepper flakes, is a condiment or spice prepared from various dried, crushed red chili peppers.

Red pepper flakes are primarily created from a combination of multiple capsicum annum peppers.

The most common peppers used in this condiment are cayenne-type peppers.

In fact, commercial makers may utilize a variety of cultivars with Scoville heat units ranging from 30,000 to 50,000.

Red pepper flakes are the rough-and-tumble cousin of single-varietal chile flakes—not much subtlety there.

Additionally, red peppers flakes are dried red peppers that are ground into minute flakes together with the seeds.

If you take a look at a bottle of red pepper flakes, the seeds are the white parts in the mix.

Lastly, red pepper flakes are the cheapest type of pepper. They’re quite readily available in most supermarkets!

What Is Cayenne Pepper?

Cayenne peppers are somehow related to bell and jalapeno peppers.

Cayenne Pepper comes from the Capsicum annuum species.

It is a spicy chili pepper that is quite popular for seasoning your dish.

Cayenne peppers are long, tapering peppers that are 10 to 25 centimeters (4 to 10 in) long.

Generally, cayenne pepper fruits are skinny and mostly red in color.

It has a curved tip and rippled skin that hangs from the bush rather than grows upright. 

On a deeper note, cayenne is a spicy chili pepper with a medium heat level.

They are native to South America and they are sold as whole or as a finely milled powder.

You can find them in several cuisines, such as Creole, Asian, Indian, Thai, Chinese, and Korean.

What Is the Difference Between Red Pepper Flakes vs Cayenne?

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When we speak about spices, tons of variety come into our minds.

Every spice has its own unique and distinct flavor. It usually comes in a powder or flakey texture.

Some people find it hard to distinguish one from the other and which one works better than the other. 

Cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes both come from the same pepper family. They add spice and heat to foods!

These chili spices are utilized in a variety of cuisines around the world, from Mexican food to Asian meals to Italian fare!

Although these two ground spices are basically identical in nature, there are still a few things you need to note about these two.

Let’s distinguish them between their level of spiciness, flavor profiles, and applications.

Note: Spicy food isn't everyone's favorite thing. Some actually say it's terrible for your health and may cause you to lose your taste buds. On the otherhand, others say spicy food can actually even help you reduce weight!

1. Composition

Since both are in the same pepper family, their composition is almost identical as well!

Note that when we say peppers, the key ingredient that one is familiar with is called capsaicin – a significant component of every pepper!

Capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin are the most common constituents of the capsaicinoids. This component is responsible for the health benefits of the peppers. (*)

Capsaicin promotes circulation and the digestive process while also generating perspiration, giving them their spicy bite.

2. Color

As the name implies, Red pepper flakes are primarily red in color. 

Although the majority are the color red, Cayenne peppers have a few varieties that have a shade of yellow or purple. 

3. Taste

Capsaicinoids are substances that generate a burning feeling when you eat pepper fruits.

Good to know: When we talk about Scoville Heat Units (SHU), it refers to the measure on how hot a pepper is! Remember that the greater the value, the hotter the pepper!

Red Pepper flakes don’t have that much flavor.

Why? It holds a variety of different peppers mixed together. Thus, the flavor can be pretty generic.

Overall, red pepper flakes have a mild, mellow spicy taste,

It apparently has a gentler tone compared to cayenne.

Moreover, red pepper flakes can also taste sweet, depending on the type of chili used in the mix.

Thanks to its precise and fierce heat, cayenne pepper is a go-to for adding a bit (or a lot) of heat to everything from sauces to pilafs.

Overall, cayenne has a unique earthy and tangy taste; it is also quite fiery and aromatic. 

4. Uses

Chili flakes are added to various foods and sauces.

You can give a good dash of chili flakes to your salad dressing if you want it to be spicier.

Moreover, you can also use it to make sauces, pizza toppings, and other savory foods.

Thus, most meals can benefit from a mild jolt now and then!

Cayenne pepper is quite famous in the kitchen and it is apparently versatile in nature.

This spice is quite popular in various cuisines, including Mexican, Asian, Indian, and Southern cooking.

With just a pinch, gives a pot of beans, enchilada sauce, fried chicken, or even mac n’ cheese a sweet-spicy kick.

It also provides a beautiful kick to egg dishes and meat and dry seafood rubs. 

Warning: Handle your peppers with caution as it may irritate your skin! Otherwise, the heat might be unbearable for you. So, if you are a first-timer, you better be careful and wear food gloves when dealing with pepper.

5. Price

Red pepper flakes and cayenne have low-cost and high-cost choices.

To be honest, it all depends on the brand.

In addition, the cost of chili flakes or pepper flakes is influenced by their quality.

Frequently Asked Questions about Red Pepper Flakes Vs Cayenne

1. Can I substitute red pepper flakes for cayenne (and vice versa)?

If you don’t have cayenne pepper on hand when a recipe calls for it, red pepper flakes will nearly always suffice (and vice versa).

Thus, since crushed red pepper flakes and ground cayenne pepper may come from the same pepper combination, it is mostly interchangeable.

Since these peppers are one of the constituents in red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper powder is one of the best replacements you can use. 

However, there are a few things to consider. Expect that there will be changes in the level of spiciness and the taste profile of your recipe.

Anyway, you can just do a few tweaks in your cooking to achieve the flavor you desire. 

2. What else can I use as a substitute for chili flakes?

You can basically substitute chili flakes with your chili powder.

However, because some chili powder contains onion and garlic powder, cumin, and salt, it’s vital that you monitor and taste your food as you go along.

So, if you happen to use cayenne instead of chili powder, you might need to add more spices to attain the flavor you want to achieve. 

3. What makes chili flakes and chili powder different?

Again, chili flakes are basically just crushed chili peppers.

The most common foundation is cayenne pepper, but a milder pepper on the Scoville scale can also be used.

On the other hand, chili powder is a seasoning.

Final Thoughts

Cayenne pepper takes the lead in terms of spiciness.

It’s a lot hotter than the store-bought crushed red pepper.

However, the two peppers have a unique distinct taste profile when it comes to taste.

Thus, red pepper flakes are best used topping for your pizza, pasta, or even sandwich.

While the cayenne peppers work perfectly on your marinate and dry coatings such as chicken breading.

Overall, both cayenne pepper and red pepper are widely used spices, and both can do wonders in your dish!

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