Nowadays, you may find red pepper shakers, along with salt and pepper shakers, on restaurant tables; especially those which serve Italian food. In fact, crushed red pepper is indispensable as far as pizza parlors are concerned. So, this spice is also known as 'pizza pepper'. Apart from its use as a condiment, crushed red pepper is widely used in pickles, chowder, gumbos, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and sausage.
What is Crushed Red Pepper?
These red pepper flakes are nothing other than red chili peppers, that are hot dried and crushed. It has a hot, smoky, and pungent flavor. While cayenne pepper is mainly used for this purpose, it can also be a combination of different types of peppers, like ancho and bell pepper. You might have noticed that crushed red pepper has a high concentration of yellow seeds. These seeds add heat to the spice. It is said that half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper is equal to a whole dried chili (small). You may come across labels like 'crushed red peppers treated with radiation'. This denotes the process that makes the food free of pests and other microorganisms.
Crushed red peppers can be made at home. If you have peppers in excess, dry them in the oven and crush the dried peppers. In order to crush them, fill the dried peppers in a freezer bag that has to be placed inside a cloth bag (an old pillowcase will also do). Crush the peppers with a rolling pin and store in an air tight jar. You may either use a single variety of chili pepper, or a combination of different types.
Crushed red pepper can be replaced with red chili powder, mild paprika, red pepper flakes, chile de arbol, cayenne pepper powder, or chili paste. If you use ground chili powder of any type, use only half the amount of the required quantity of crushed red pepper. The substitutes must be selected according to the recipe and the requirement. However, it is always better to use crushed red peppers, if it is required in a recipe. Apart from adding flavor, it offers some health benefits too. Crushed red pepper is said to be effective as a blood purifier, metabolism booster, and as a stimulator for burning fat.
A few flakes of crushed red pepper is enough to spice up any boring and bland food. While you can go for store-bought ones, making this spice at home is also possible, and is more preferred.