The Tasteful Aleppo Pepper
Aleppo pepper—also called the Halaby pepper—is much prized in kitchens of the Middle East, and amongst chefs of global cuisine everywhere. It is a hot pepper of the capsaicin-containing Capsicum family, but it is more flavorful than overwhelmingly spicy. Its origin city of Aleppo, Syria places its roots along the Silk Road, giving it an aura of both historicity and mystique.
When ripe, Aleppo peppers are a deep burgundy red. They are then sun-dried, and crushed or ground. Aleppo pepper flakes do not contain seeds, so they are not nearly as ‘hot’ as the crushed red pepper commonly available in supermarkets.
Aleppo might be considered the philosopher among hot peppers. Its culinary applications are broad, and its flavor can best be described as circumspect…for a hot pepper. It imparts an almost delicate fruitiness and gently invigorating warmth to any dish it is added to, without overwhelming more subtle flavors; it does not embellish, it enhances. It is eminently useable, and most adventurous cooks quickly find it to be indispensable in their kitchens.
Cooking with Aleppo Pepper
The uses for Aleppo Pepper in the contemporary kitchen are extraordinarily broad-spectrum. It is an ideal spice for vegan and vegetarian cooks, and defines tofu beautifully; it is also used frequently in Middle Eastern recipes to enhance the flavors of fish, poultry, pork, and beef.
Aleppo pepper tastes a little like an idealized sundried tomato, with hints of dried fruit and a little heat. It compliments milder flavors very well, and makes a lovely addition to guacamole. Some chefs use it in place of paprika for a little extra depth and kick.
Aleppo pepper is also a natural for grilled foods. It is a marvelous component to a summer marinade, and their mild heat and savory flavor make them ideal as an ingredient for a citrus glaze for grilled lobster.
A few other ideas for using Aleppo:
- Cream-based soups, sauces, and dishes;
- Dips and spreads, including mouhamara, a traditional walnut-based recipe from the city of Aleppo;
- Traditional Middle Eastern dishes like baba ganoush and fattoush salad
- Dressings and vinaigrettes;
- Tomato-based sauces, soups, and dishes;
- A topping for pasta and pizza.
History and Origination of Aleppo Pepper
Aleppo pepper may be one of the finer examples of Silk Road sophistication; in the ancient world, the Silk Road was global cuisine, and the city of Aleppo was an important stop along the way. Aleppo pepper, then, may be considered a definitive expression of early global cuisine.
The Aleppo’s ancestors may have come from the far-flung Indies, but it has flourished in Northern Syria and Turkey for hundreds of years. It is an integral component of the cuisine of the region.
Before the civil war in Syria, when the city of Aleppo became a strategic pawn, Aleppo pepper came from Aleppo. But, since 2011, Syrian farmers growing Aleppo peppers had to relocate to over the Turkish border, or stop growing them altogether.
Cultivation of Aleppo Pepper
Aleppo/Halaby peppers need lots of sun, plenty of hot weather, and moderate rain. Harvesting takes place after the peppers have ripened. They are fermented in salt, dried, de-seeded, and crushed or ground.
Even before the current civil war in Syria, cultivation of these peppers in their native city had been adversely affected. A massive drop in rainfall the region had severely damaged agriculture, leaving many small farms and villages abandoned.
The Aleppo/Halaby is taking root elsewhere, however. Growing of Aleppo peppers has shifted over the border of Syria. The best Aleppo pepper is now sourced from Turkey, where the dried flakes are known as pul biber.
Our Aleppo Pepper
Before the war in Syria, most Aleppo pepper came from the agricultural area near Aleppo. Authentic Aleppo pepper is now hard to come by. Since Aleppo pepper has become one of our kitchen favorites, we’ve worked hard to find a source for this authentic and flavorful product. Our grower is outside of the town of Gaziantep, Turkey, about an hour away from Aleppo. They have the best Aleppo pepper we’ve been able to find anywhere.