Why You Should Consider Spice Levels When Substituting Aleppo Pepper

Although typically found in Mediterranean dishes and Middle Eastern cuisine, the Aleppo pepper can be sprinkled into any dish, from meat to dips or even Turkish poached eggs. It's known for its deep red color and slightly sweet, yet spicy, flavor that can bring dimension to food you'd typically want to add chile pepper. 

Its name originates from a city in northern Syria where Syrians sun-dry the peppers with salt, creating an oily and salty pepper flake. As a result of the Syrian civil war, most Aleppo pepper you'll find is probably not sourced from its home country; instead, it's grown in Turkey and the United States (via MasterClass and Simply Recipes).

According to Bon Appétit, the Aleppo pepper may bring more flavor than your average red chile flakes, but it doesn't bring the heat. Sounds like a win for those who prefer to keep things mild! Being able to add more to amp up the spice but only a touch to get additional flavor is a major bonus. 

That being said, there are times when you may not have Aleppo on hand. And while you can easily swap it out, you'll need to consider the spice level desired in the recipe.

Aleppo pepper carries half the spice of red chile flakes

Usually found in Middle Eastern supermarkets, spice shops, or online, Aleppo pepper might not always be easily available. When that time comes, MasterClass notes that almost any red pepper flakes can be used as a replacement — but it comes with a caveat: Aleppo pepper tends to be half as spicy as regular crushed red pepper flakes. So depending on the dish you're making, you'll need to adjust the amount you use in place of the Aleppo pepper to achieve similar results.

Organic Facts recommends using ancho chili powder as the closest substitute since this should result in a similar level of spiciness as if you used the Aleppo pepper. Among ancho chili powder, cayenne, paprika, Marash peppers, and Korean gochugaru are fantastic alternatives as well. For higher heat levels, reach for crushed red pepper flakes, whereas, if you want a smoky taste, Marash peppers are what you'll want to opt for. Last but not least, Korean gochugaru brings in the perfect balance of sweet and spicy that you're missing. 

You could even take the liberty to mix paprika and cayenne, although you'll want to add about four times the paprika to match the toned-down flavor profile of the Aleppo pepper (via The Mediterranean Dish).