While most people will interchange red pepper and cayenne pepper, they are different in their plants, flavors, culinary, and medicinal uses.
Red Pepper and Cayenne Pepper are both types of peppers that you can grow in a garden. While many people use the terms interchangeably when it comes to cooking, they are actually from two different plants. Red bell peppers are the ones you traditionally see with Tex-Mex-style foods. Cayenne peppers are a variety of hot peppers that pack more of a spicy flavor, similar to the jalapeno pepper.
You will usually see red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper powder or just cayenne powder for culinary uses. Both red bell pepper and cayenne pepper are part of the same family. They are both a variety of Capsicum annuum, though they have a different heat level from each other.
The capsicum family includes almost all types of peppers that grow on a bush. The exceptions would be black pepper and white pepper since they come from peppercorns.
Originally Published On: March 17, 2023
Both the red peppers and the cayenne peppers grow on plants above ground. Red bell peppers are defined by their shape as they are generally bell-shaped wide peppers. Cayenne peppers are skinnier-shaped pepper plants that have curved tips and sometimes have wrinkles along the fruit. You’ll find the majority of peppers are grown in Central and South America, though they are easy to grow in any moderately warm climate. Cayenne peppers are believed to have originated in Cayenne, French Guiana.
Some people tend to stay away from peppers because they are part of the nightshade family. They grow on small bushes with green elliptical leaves that sprout small white, purple, or yellow flowers that eventually develop into the peppers that hand from the plant.
There is a wide range of heat levels when it comes to peppers. Bell peppers are known to be the mildest with 0-100 Scoville Heat Units. The Scoville scale was developed to test the spiciness of peppers. The scale is based on human taste buds which is why there is a range for each pepper. Since everyone perceives it slightly differently, there are some discrepancies.
|Scoville Heat Units (SHU)
|15 to 16 million
|up to 2,200,000
|Trinidad Moruga Scorpion
|up to 2,009,231
|up to 1,041,427
|Chocolate Habanero Pepper
|425,000 to 577,000
|350,000 to 577,000
|Orange Habanero Pepper
|150,000 to 325,000
|125,000 to 325,000
|100,000 to 350,000
|50,000 to 100,000
|30,000 to 50,000
|30,000 to 50,000
|10,000 to 25,000
|Hungarian Wax Pepper
|5,000 to 10,000
|2,500 to 8,000
|500 to 4,000
|1,000 to 1,500
|100 to 500
|0 to 500
|0 to 100
Capsaicin is the active component in peppers that give them their heat. Bell peppers lack this extra heat which is why they are so mild. But a variety of peppers have an abundant amount, giving them more heat.
Cayenne powder is a spice blend that often contains a few types of peppers, including red cayenne peppers and red chili flakes. These are crushed into a fine powder used for culinary purposes with a smoky flavor.
The main difference between red pepper and cayenne pepper, besides the heat level, is how they are used in cooking.
Red peppers go well as toppings for salads and pizza. While it’s botanically a fruit, all peppers are used as a vegetable in cooking. Red pepper flakes are often used on pizza as well as in pickling recipes, spaghetti sauce, and sausage recipes.
Cayenne pepper has more fiery spices, so it is used to make things such as hot sauce. Cayenne pepper is also a great addition to soups and stews and similar meals to add a kick of heat without adding too much flavor.
There aren’t a lot of options for a good substitute for red pepper since it’s so mild. If you want to add some heat, you can sub in a small amount of cayenne pepper. But if you are looking to get a similar flavor without the spicy taste try substituting it with fresh peppers or paprika.
The best substitutes for cayenne pepper are red pepper flakes, hot paprika, or hot sauce to keep the same intense heat in your dish.
There are a variety of ways you can cook with red peppers, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper.
Red Pepper Recipes:
- Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
- Rosemary Steaks with Red Pepper Feta Relish
- Gnocchi with Spinach and Red Pepper Sauce
- Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Cayenne Pepper Recipes:
A raw red bell pepper is 94% water, 5% carbohydrates, 1% protein, and contains negligible fat. A 100 gram (3.5 oz) reference amount supplies 26 calories, and is a rich source of vitamin C – containing 158% of the Daily Value (DV) – vitamin A (20%), and vitamin B6 (23% DV), with moderate contents of riboflavin (12%), folate (12% DV), and vitamin E (11% DV). A red bell pepper supplies twice the vitamin C and eight times the vitamin A content of a green bell pepper.
Cayenne peppers and other types of hot peppers are a concentrated source of many nutrients and can be a healthy addition to your diet. Here’s the nutritional breakdown for one 45-gram hot red chili pepper: Calories: 18, Protein: 0.8 grams, Fat: 0.2 grams, Carbs: 3.9 grams, Fiber: 0.7 grams, Vitamin C: 72% of the DV, Provitamin A: 48% of the DV, Vitamin B6: 13% of the DV, Vitamin K: 5% of the DV
Herbs have been used in medicine for thousands of years. You can find a plethora of information about how each has been used for a variety of ailments and medicinal uses all over the world.
Red Peppers may help with:
- Immune System Support
- Eye Health
- Skin Health
- Lower cancer risk
Cayenne Peppers may help with:
- Relieving pain
- Managing weight
- Easing itching
- Reducing inflammation
- Treating colds and congestion
- Protecting the nervous system
Grow Your Own
When done correctly, you can enjoy growing a variety of peppers in a backyard garden. Make sure you know what your planting zone is and the best time to plant. Most peppers prefer temperate climates so will do better outside in the warmer seasons.
Start your bell pepper plants inside about two months before the last frost date. It takes some time for the plants to grow, so you want to make sure they are ready to transplant when the time is right. They also tend to do better if you slowly acclimate them to the outside by moving them out there for increasing amounts of time over a course of 10 days. Then you can move them into the ground.
Cayenne peppers do best in hot climates. They are a more hardy plant, so you can start seeds in the ground about 10 days before the last frost in your area.
Almost all varieties of pepper need full sun to grow properly. The best bet is to have them in full sun as long as possible throughout the day.
Soil temperature has a major impact on the health of your pepper plants. Both red peppers and cayenne peppers like it hot, including their soil. The ideal temperature is about 70F-75F. If it’s starting to get warmer, you can add a bed of mulch over the soil to help hold in water and keep the ground cooler.
Don’t be afraid to water your plants! Peppers want the ground to be moist at all times and do best with a consistent, regular watering schedule. If the leaves start to wilt and/or turn yellow, the plants are being overwatered.
When removing a pepper from the plant, it’s best to use shears or a harvesting tool to prevent damage to the plant. Peppers will take anywhere from 60-100 days to ripen, depending on the variety and how soon you want to harvest. The longer you leave a pepper to grow, the hotter it will be when you eat it. For bell peppers, they will first be green, then continue to change color to yellow then orange then finally red.
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