Culinary Arts

How to Cook With Cayenne Pepper: Benefits and Culinary Uses of Cayenne Pepper

Written by MasterClass

May 16, 2019 • 3 min read

Known for its bold red hue and fiery taste, cayenne pepper is not only one of the most recognizable and versatile peppers in the world, but it's also a medicinally powerful ingredient that has been used as a cure-all for thousands of years.

Originating in Central and South America, cayenne pepper was first brought to Europe in the fifteenth century by Christopher Columbus and quickly became one of the primary sources of heat in European cooking.

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What Is Cayenne Pepper?

A member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), along with jalapenos and bell peppers, this flowering crop is used in spicy foods around the world, ranging from rich Mexican sauces to fiery Asian curries and flavorful Cajun dishes.

A member of the Capsicum annuum plant species, cayenne chili peppers are packed with capsaicin, a natural extract that gives cayenne both its blinding heat and medicinal benefits. The spice levels of cayenne peppers fluctuate depending on the amount of capsaicin contained in the pepper.

What Does Cayenne Pepper Taste Like?

The primary flavor of cayenne is defined by a hot, fiery effect on the taste buds. Despite the heat contained in these red peppers, cayenne has a fairly mild aroma. Given its high heat levels, cayenne is best used in small amounts while cooking to guarantee this concentrated spice doesn’t overtake a dish.

The heat range of cayenne can range significantly from 5,000 to 50,000 units on the Scoville scale, which measures the amount of capsaicin contained in different peppers. However, most ground cayenne manufacturers utilize hotter peppers in the 30,000+ Scoville range, guaranteeing a significant amount of heat.

Cayenne Pepper Nutritional Facts

This naturally hot vegetable contains a range of vitamins and minerals, which make it an excellent addition to any healthy diet. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one 5-gram serving of cayenne pepper contains:

  • 17 calories
  • 3 grams of carbohydrates
  • 1 gram of fat
  • 8 milligrams of calcium
  • 8 milligrams of magnesium
  • 107 milligrams of potassium
  • 16 milligrams of phosphorus

One serving of cayenne pepper also includes 15 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, as well as vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin K.

What Are the Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper?

The capsaicin present in cayenne pepper has been credited with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, lowering cholesterol, and relieving pain, thanks to a neuropeptide called substance P, which can restrict the reach of bodily pain signals to the brain and lower pain levels overall. Capsaicin cream can be applied topically to help for pain relief from ailments like arthritis and back pain.

In addition to its high capsaicin count, cayenne is also packed with vitamins and minerals that provide a variety of benefits to the body, including regulating blood pressure and heart rate, maintaining healthy blood flow, fighting infections, promoting weight loss, boosting the immune system, preventing blood clots, regulating body temperature, and acting as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Cayenne pepper was also named by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America as a top food with cancer-fighting properties.

In addition to being consumed in fresh or dried form, the benefits of this pepper can also be utilized by taking concentrated cayenne pepper pills.

What Are the Culinary Uses for Cayenne Pepper?

Given its Central American origins, cayenne pepper is best known for its role in Mexican cooking, used daily to flavor robust spicy sauces, meat marinades, and traditional dishes like enchiladas, tacos, and fajitas. Over time, cayenne has also become a staple in a variety of Asian cuisines, commonly included in dishes like Indian curries and spicy Thai soups. Cayenne pepper is also a major ingredient in homemade ginger ale and Tabasco sauce, which both benefit from its subtle kick.

Cayenne is sold both fresh and ground into a powder made by drying the pepper and grinding the seeds and pod into a bold red spice.

8 Recipes Featuring Cayenne Pepper

  1. Spicy Meat Marinades
  2. Mexican Chile Sauce
  3. Chili Con Carne
  4. Vegetable Soup
  5. Indian Curry
  6. Mexican Hot Chocolate
  7. Cheese Omelettes
  8. Breadcrumb Mixture for Frying