Cayenne pepper, derived from the dried fruits of the capsicum annuum plant, is a hot and boldly flavored spice commonly used in a wide variety of culinary dishes. These bright red, skinny peppers pack a punch in terms of heat, measured using the Scoville scale. Cayenne pepper not only adds a spicy kick to recipes but also boasts numerous health benefits, including promoting digestion and reducing inflammation.
Home cooks often incorporate cayenne pepper into their dishes for the fiery heat it imparts. It is commonly found in various spice blends and is frequently used as a key seasoning in traditional dishes from various cuisines, such as Indian curry, Mexican salsa, or Creole jambalaya. When using cayenne pepper, moderation is key, as it can easily overpower other flavors if used in excess.
While often loved for its fiery kick, cayenne pepper can also be a tricky ingredient to handle. Many home cooks might find it overwhelming to use due to its heat, but when used with a subtle hand, it can enhance the flavors beautifully. Cayenne pepper is also a go-to ingredient for various food hacks: for instance, it can speed up your metabolism and help burn calories if consumed in the morning. It can also be used as a pest repellent on plants, effectively keeping bugs away.
One mistake often made when cooking with cayenne pepper is simply adding too much of it. The heat level of cayenne can overpower other flavors in your dish if used excessively. Adding it little by little until the desired heat level is achieved is the best approach. Another significant mistake people tend to make is underestimating the heat of this pepper. Even small amounts can yield a big flavor, so always add cautiously. Plus, remember to wash your hands after handling cayenne pepper to prevent any accidental contact with sensitive areas.
Can I substitute cayenne pepper for red pepper flakes?
What gives cayenne pepper its heat?
How do I tone down the heat if I added too much cayenne pepper?
Can cayenne pepper cause digestive issues?
What is the best way to use cayenne pepper in cooking?
How hot is cayenne pepper on the Scoville scale?
What kind of dishes work best with cayenne pepper?
Does cayenne pepper have any health benefits?
What can I use as a substitute for cayenne pepper in a recipe?
How does cayenne pepper compare to other hot peppers like jalapenos or habaneros?
Expiration & Storage Tips
When does cayenne pepper expire?
Cayenne pepper powder stores well because it's dehydrated. An unopened bottle from the store will last about 3 to 4 years. Don't be too concerned if you've passed the expiry date on the bottle, that date is more about when the flavor will start to dull than spoilage. Once opened, aim to use it within 6 months, though if stored properly it will last up to 1 year before it starts to lose its potency. If you've purchased fresh cayenne peppers, they'll last about one week in the fridge. If you've made a sauce or paste, generally it can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for 6 months.
How do you tell if cayenne pepper is bad?
With cayenne pepper powder, look out for any discoloration, usually it will fade and lose its bright red-orange color. This doesn't mean it's spoiled, but it might not be as potent. If you stored it properly and there's no mold, it's most likely safe to consume. Fresh cayenne peppers will start to wrinkle, dull, develop spots, or get moldy when going bad. A homemade sauce will generally smell or taste sour when spoiled.
Tips for storing cayenne pepper to extend shelf life
• Keep your cayenne pepper in a cool, dark, and dry place to retain its potent flavor. The pantry is perfect.
• For fresh cayenne peppers, use crisper drawer of the fridge and wrap loosely in paper towel.
• If you bought too many fresh cayenne peppers, consider drying them, then grinding into a powder for long term use.
• Made a cayenne pepper sauce or paste? Extend its life by freezing it in an ice cube tray, then transfer the cubes to a ziplock bag.