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Guide to Urfa Biber Pepper: How to Use Turkish Chile Flakes

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 2, 2020 • 1 min read

The Turkish urfa biber pepper adds smokiness and depth of flavor to Middle Eastern dishes—plus, its dark purple color is unlike that of any other pepper flakes.



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What Is Urfa Biber?

Urfa biber (Capsicum annum), also known as isot pepper, is a hot pepper named after the southeastern Urfa region of Turkey. These Turkish chile peppers are similar to their Syrian relative, Aleppo pepper (pul biber), but much larger—about the size of a bell pepper. Like Aleppo pepper, urfa biber undergoes a sun-drying process that preserves its oil content, making it an ideal condiment for Turkish cuisine.

What Does Urfa Biber Pepper Taste Like?

Unlike red pepper flakes, urfa peppers ripen to a dark maroon and, once cured, are so dark that the resulting chile flakes are often called "black pepper." Urfa pepper's dark color belies its flavor profile: dried fruit, coffee, chocolate. Urfa biber is very hot. It rates 50,000–80,000 Scoville Heat Units, making urfa biber hotter than chipotle peppers (2,500—8,000 SHU) and cayenne peppers (30,000–50,000 SHU).

Where to Buy Urfa Biber Pepper

You can find urfa biber pepper in Middle Eastern grocery stores, specialty spice shops, and online. Urfa biber peppers are rarely sold whole, since they are typically ground immediately after drying. Urfa biber chile flakes should be slightly oily, and mixed with a little salt to prevent clumping.

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How to Use Urfa Biber Peppers

Urfa biber pairs well with cumin, sumac, paprika, za'atar, and chocolate (try it in brownies). It's a natural seasoning for all kinds of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, including:

  1. Lamb kebabs and meatballs: Urfa biber is a classic condiment and marinade ingredient for lamb kebabs, since its sour, smoky flavor balances any gaminess.
  2. Hummus: If you like your hummus with a little heat, try a sprinkling of urfa biber, which complements the tanginess of the lemon in the Middle Eastern chickpea dip. Sprinkle urfa biber pepper over the finished dish for a pop of color.
  3. Baba ganoush: Traditional baba ganoush should have a smoky flavor from charring the eggplants over an open grill. Urfa biber not only adds pleasant heat, but it brings out the smokiness. Learn how to make Chef Gordon Ramsay's baba ganoush recipe here.

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