The same or subtle differences?
There are few food terms that cause more confusion than red pepper flakes and crushed red pepper. Are they the same thing? Are they similar, but with subtle differences? Do they use different chilies in the mix? All of these questions and more will be answered – in what may be the shortest ever – PepperScale Showdown.
Are red pepper flakes and crushed red pepper the same thing?
Yes. These are two terms for the same exact spice that’s created from crushing different varieties of red chili peppers, but most often with a base of cayenne pepper. They are both also known as “pizza pepper” due, of course, to its prominence next to salt and pepper at pizza restaurants.
So there aren’t even subtle differences between the two?
No. This is cause for a lot of confusion, mainly due to the belief that crushed red pepper is crushed finer than red pepper flakes. Sure, there are different levels of “crushed” when it comes to this spice, just like there are different levels of grinds for chili powder. But these labels don’t denote one or the other. You can find something labeled “red pepper flakes” that’s more finely crushed than something labeled “crushed red pepper” and vice versa.
Do crushed red pepper and red pepper flakes use the same chilies?
They do, but in the sense that every manufacturer (or homemade recipe) may use different varieties of red chilies or in different proportions. So a jar of red pepper flakes from company A may be slightly hotter than the jar labeled “crushed red pepper” from Company B. Sure there’s a normal heat level people expect and manufacturers of “generic” red pepper flakes typically match it batch to batch, but there can still be small differences in heat and that’s in no way tied to the name.
There are of course brands that push the extremes in terms of heat. Their bottles are typically labeled if the chilies used within are hotter (or milder) than the normal range of heat for generic pepper flakes. Take note before buying anything that says extra hot (or names an extremely hot chili) – those flakes definitely fall within the range of extreme eating.