I read that cayenne pepper is meant to be moderately hot while red pepper is very hot. At the same time from the pictures it seems cayenne pepper is a red pepper. I'm confused please clarify.

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    There are all types of "red pepper" with varying amounts of capsaicin. "Red pepper" is a generic term. You would have to specify the variety to understand the difference in heat.
    – moscafj
    Sep 24, 2019 at 12:51
  • @moscafj i read paprika is mild and sweet. I then read its also hot. so if paprika isa variety how has it different heats within itself? Sep 24, 2019 at 13:20
  • 'hot paprika' is either pure paprika, in which case it is barely 'warm', less hot than mirch or new mexico, or it is mixed with a hotter variety, piri-piri or cayenne etc, to punch it up a bit. Unless it says on the ingredients, you'll not know until you taste it.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 24, 2019 at 13:27
  • 1
    And meanwhile, when you say "red pepper" I think of a red bell pepper, which of course is not hot at all... pepper naming conventions are weird.
    – Elenna123
    Sep 24, 2019 at 15:27
  • Arbol peppers are a nice red pepper. Not as hot as cayenne, but plenty of varied capsaicinoids to give it a pleasing flavor. Sep 25, 2019 at 0:06

1 Answer 1


The entire world is confused by what type of 'pepper' anything generally called a chilli actually is.

Farmers may know exactly what cultivar they are growing; supermarket or food production/processing buyers may only care about what family it belongs to.

By the time it reaches the supermarket shelf, it's anyone's guess.

Cayenne is already a family of chillies, not one single type. That's further confused by the fact that much 'cayenne chilli powder' sold is actually made from a blend which may not even contain any cayenne specificaly. Many are made from piri-piri.

Something sold as 'hot chilli powder' right next to one sold as 'cayenne powder' may even be the same blend, via a different importer.

That's even if we exclude the ones marked 'chilli powder' that actually turn out to be a blend of herbs & spices for making chilli con carne.

Further confusion… 'red pepper' is a very very vague description to start with.
In the UK a red pepper is a bell pepper, not even a chilli.

Many supermarkets use such descriptions even on fresh chillies, where someone, somewhere, ought to know the precise type. But no, we get to buy 'finger chillies' or 'red chillies' or green chillies… even if you can see it looks like a fresno, you don't know if it really is. Some 'specials', like padron, scotch bonnet or bird's eye might be labelled properly, the rest is a bit of a guess with a "heat index" on the side of the pack with 1 - 5 pictures of a chilli to aid your choice.

To add more confusion - padron peppers. 9 out of 10 are mild… one is hot. You don't know til you eat it.

If you see something as a powder labelled 'red pepper' then unless you can extract further information from the ingredients list [if there is one] then you really have no idea what you may be buying.
It could be paprika, almost zero heat, New Mexico or Kashmiri mirch, which have a little heat but a lot of colour, or right up to Naga, Habanero or California Reaper. You really cannot tell until you smell it or taste it.

  • 1
    This is nit picking, but paprika can be pretty hot. Paprika is the Hungarian word for pepper and the powdered version comes in different varieties. It's true that the most commonly exported parprika (called édesnemes in Hungarian) is sweet and not hot, the hot varieties do get exported as well.
    – Juhasz
    Sep 24, 2019 at 15:38
  • I do agree with you, on a global scale or even Hungarian local [my partner is Hungarian, so these are things I am aware of, but don't see in the UK], but had dropped back to my 'UK definition mode' - where all you can usually get is sweet or hot, but hot is not at all hot compared to chilli. They ought to describe it as 'not sweet' really. Most of it here is simply labelled 'paprika' nothing else. [I was ignoring such as Spanish or smoked… it is confusing enough as it is ;) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paprika for more confusion.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 24, 2019 at 15:48
  • 1
    Point taken. Also, as long as I'm picking nits, "red pepper" usually means bell pepper in the US, too. Except when it's dried, crushed, or flaked. Is that not the case in the UK? That is, do they not sell chili flakes under the name "crushed red pepper"?
    – Juhasz
    Sep 24, 2019 at 15:54
  • Not really, though for any answer I give there's bound to be an exception somewhere ;-) I'm going to stand by my initial claim of "By heck, this is all confusing!!" Here are a couple of links to what I consider 'proper' food importers to the UK to show how even they vary in how clear their descriptions are - Turkish, Bodrum & 'indian', TRS. [contd…]
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 24, 2019 at 16:15
  • […contd] What you tend to find from this type of importer is that they are often bilingually labelled, so if you understand both, you get a better feel for what's inside… but both are still a tad vague on what precisely is in a pack - a 'pepper' or a 'chilli'. [I chose these 2 because of their wildly differing labelling information]
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 24, 2019 at 16:17

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