While Aleppo pepper has grown in popularity for authentic Mediterranean cuisine, it’s notoriously difficult to source. Good luck finding it at your local grocery store, and even spice shops have a hard time keeping it on the shelf due to conflicts in this chili’s Syrian and Turkish home regions.
So where can you turn? What’s a good Aleppo pepper substitute that provides comparable heat and nods to the Aleppo’s flavor complexities? You have a few options, and the best is an easy spice pairing from a well-stocked spice rack.
Your best bet: A sweet paprika and cayenne pepper mix (with an optional pinch of salt)
Aleppo pepper is known for its earthiness with hints of raisin and tomato, so using solely cayenne pepper would leave your recipe with too much heat and tasting slightly flat. But if you mix sweet paprika – a milder chili pepper spice with a comparable level of flavor complexity to the Aleppo – you have a winning combination. The paprika adds the flavor and the cayenne provides the heat. The salt – if you prefer – adds that slightly salty quality that Aleppo pepper has due to its drying process.
The proper proportion for the best alternative to Aleppo pepper: Mix four parts sweet paprika to one part cayenne. Optional: Add a tiny pinch of salt.
If you don’t have Hungarian sweet paprika or Spanish dulce paprika in your spice rack, a generic variety can do. It, too, will be mild, but it won’t quite have the same sweetness or complexity of flavor.
In a pinch: Crushed red pepper
It doesn’t provide the same complexity of flavor, but if you’re in a bind, generic crushed red pepper can do. It has a comparable level of heat due to its mix of chilies, but that’s basically it. This is an “if you must” solution for when you have no other choice and you’re on the clock. To bring out some of the flavors in the crushed red pepper, we recommend crushing the flakes into a coarse powder using a mortar and pestle.
Go exotic: Turkish Marash or Antebi peppers or Korean Gochugaru
While none of these are likely to be your “in the moment” substitutes for Aleppo pepper, they can easily replace the chili in most recipes due to their deeper flavor profiles: Gochugaru is a sweet and smoky coarse chili powder; Marash pepper has a smokiness too with a little more heat and Antebi tends to be a little fruitier (and milder) than the Aleppo. If you have these options in your spice rack or have a local exotic spice store, feel free to substitute any into your recipe.
Photo by: FoodCraftLab CC 2.0