Red Pepper Flakes vs Cayenne – A Thorough Comparison

With red pepper flakes vs cayenne, we take a look at the fiery red combination that lights up any recipe. Both these are hot, spicy, and red! These are similar, but they’re not the same thing. There are tangible differences between red pepper flakes and cayenne, which are worth a look to get a better understanding of this spicy hot combo.

Let’s take a closer look.

Red Pepper Flakes vs Cayenne – The Highlights And Comparison

Key Differences Between Cayenne And Red Pepper Flakes

As we can note from the discussion above, there are straightforward differences between both these options. To summarize, they are:

  • Cayenne pepper flakes or powder are made exclusively with cayenne chili peppers. Red pepper flakes include a mix of several chilies, including cayenne pepper, jalapeno, anaheim, serrano, and fresno. 
  • On average, cayenne pepper flakes or powder is hotter than red pepper flakes or powder. This can change if super hot chili peppers like ghost pepper become part of the red pepper flakes, though such additions are not part of the usual recipe.

What Is Cayenne?

What Is Cayenne

Cayenne, or cayenne pepper, is a hot red chili pepper closely related to jalapeno pepper. Much like their cousin, cayenne peppers are spicy and hot. Although to be clear, cayenne peppers are usually allowed to ripen before being used. 

So while jalapenos are usually green, cayenne peppers are available in their beautifully brilliant red color. For conventional use, the mature cayenne pepper is crushed to make cayenne flakes or ground to make cayenne powder.

Cayenne peppers are pretty hot and score somewhere between 30,000 to 50,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. For comparison, the average jalapeno pepper scores between 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. If you’ve ever had a hot jalapeno pepper, you can very well imagine how much hotter an average cayenne pepper could be.

When sold in the market, cayenne pepper is available as whole red chilies, dried chilies, cayenne flakes, or cayenne powder. Each of these has its specific culinary uses. For example, the whole chilies can be used chopped or whole for a recipe. 

The powder or flakes usually find themselves adding color and heat to a recipe. If you want color and for the heat to cover the entire recipe, going with the powder is the way to go. 

Remember not to underestimate how hot and spicy this chili is!

What Are Red Pepper Flakes?

What Are Red Pepper Flakes

Conventionally, red pepper flakes are a combination of various red chili peppers that are mixed and crushed. Several chili peppers can go into conventional red pepper flakes.

Generally speaking, red pepper flakes will usually have a base of cayenne, with the addition of other chilies like jalapeno, serrano peppers, and anaheim peppers. Most of these chilies are lower than cayenne flakes on the Scoville Scale, so the average red pepper flakes will pack less heat than cayenne flakes or cayenne powder.

While this is usually true, it’s not always true!

There is no fixed recipe for red pepper flakes other than it being a combination of various red peppers. Some manufacturers might add super hot chili peppers like the ghost pepper to raise the overall heat of the pepper flakes. In this case, red pepper flakes will be hotter than cayenne peppers.

Although when such a super hot chili is brought to the mix, manufacturers will make a note on the packaging to describe the addition and thus change in heat from the conventional expectation.

FAQ And Related Questions

Is Cayenne Pepper The Same As Red Pepper?

Cayenne pepper is a red pepper, but there is a difference between commercial cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes. Red pepper flakes or powder use several chili peppers for their recipe. This blend can include several red peppers, though the usual ones are cayenne, jalapeno, anaheim, and serrano peppers. 

Cayenne pepper powder or flakes are made exclusively with cayenne pepper. In a conventional setting, cayenne pepper flakes are hotter than red pepper flakes.

Crushed Red Pepper vs Cayenne – Key Differences?

Crushed red pepper is generally the same as red pepper flakes. These flakes are a combination of several chili peppers including cayenne, jalapeno, and anaheim. Cayenne or cayenne pepper flakes use only cayenne peppers and are usually hotter than crushed red pepper.

Which Is Hotter Cayenne Or Crushed Red Pepper?

Cayenne pepper has a Scoville Scale rating between 30,000 to 50,000 SHU, which makes it hotter than conventional crushed red pepper. This is because crushed red pepper is a blend of several peppers, which usually are cayenne, jalapeno, serrano, and anaheim. All these peppers have a lower SHU score than cayenne, so the overall heat of crushed red pepper is lower than cayenne peppers.

Is Ground Red Pepper The Same As Cayenne Pepper?

Conventional ground red pepper contains some amount of cayenne pepper. However, it will also contain other types of red peppers like anaheim, serrano pepper, and any other red pepper that the manufacturer wants. Ground red pepper is a blend of red chili peppers, including cayenne pepper.

The Bottom Line

There is a fine, but clear line in the red pepper flakes vs cayenne comparison. While they overlap, they are noticeably different food products. They’re both excellent picks for adding color and spicy hotness to your food.

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