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Urfa Peppers: The Complex Turkish Spice

urfa pepper

Also known by its Turkish name, urfa biber, urfa pepper is a dynamic and complex spice that’s surprisingly versatile.

What does urfa pepper taste like? 

Urfa pepper’s flavor is a combination of spicy, smoky, and fruity. It has sweet and tangy notes reminiscent of raisins or wine with hints of earthy chocolate and coffee.

Rather than a sharp kick, urfa pepper has a mellow heat that intensifies with time. It has a moderate SHU of about 30,000-50,000, putting it in the same range as cayenne pepper.

How is urfa pepper made?

Like most dried peppers, urfa peppers are made by sun-drying fresh peppers. The main difference, however, is the added sweating process. In the daytime, the peppers are laid out in the sun to dry. Then, in the evening, they’re wrapped tightly to preserve the remaining moisture and oils. After about a week of this two-step process, the result is dried peppers with a deep purplish dark hue, a uniquely earthy-sweet flavor, and a rich aroma.

Image Credit: Flickr user Babazar ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )

From there, the dried peppers are coarsely ground and combined with a small amount of salt to prevent clumping. The ground urfa peppers are slightly damp to the touch and are glistening from the natural oils.

How to use urfa pepper in your cooking?

Urfa peppers are a staple of Turkish cuisine, alongside classic spices like zaatar, sumac, and Aleppo pepper. The most popular use for urfa peppers is to season kebabs and other meat dishes. The peppers’ bright flavor is an excellent foil for gamey meats such as lamb or mutton.

Image Credit: Alexei Chizhov from Pixabay 

They are also a wonderful seasoning for vegetables and are commonly paired with eggplant or capsicum peppers. They perfectly echo the charred and sweet flavors of roasted or grilled veggies.

Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes are classics for incorporating urfa peppers. However, urfa pepper’s smoky-sweet heat and fruity acidity create such a balanced combination of flavors that it can be added to almost any cuisine. And you don’t have to limit yourself to savory dishes either. Urfa peppers are a great way to add some spice to chocolate or coffee-based drinks and desserts.

Image Credit: Flickr user QuintanaRoo ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

Feature Image: Flickr user QuintanaRoo ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )

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