I have the 75th anniversary edition of Joy of Cooking. I've now come across two recipes that call for "ground red pepper" (enchiladas and a dry rub). I've never heard of ground red pepper before and cannot find it at the store.

Is it ground red bell pepper or something hot like cayenne? What should I use as a substitute?

  • 2
    This sort of problem is probably characteristic of American books like Joy of Cooking; for example, a Mexican cookbook would probably be more specific in an enchilada recipe.
    – Cascabel
    Jun 18, 2012 at 19:43

6 Answers 6


The term "ground red pepper" is ambiguous in English. Things sold under that name in the US have a wide range of heats, and likely are made from multiple varieties of peppers, though I'd say they're more commonly hot things like cayenne, or other varieties with somewhat less heat.

That said, don't worry about it too much in these cases. Anything from mild paprika to cayenne would likely fit within what the authors meant, and you're not going to harm a recipe by increasing or decreasing the heat, or by using a chile powder with a slightly different flavor. Just use something (or a blend) that provides the heat level you want, and you'll be fine.


In most instances I've seen, in American cookbooks, "red pepper" refers to cayenne pepper or chili powder (not the spice mix designed for making chili con carne, but dried, ground chilis). It is usually spicy rather than being red bell pepper.

Edit to add: I'm talking about this type of product:

McCormic Ground red pepper McCormic Ground red pepper

another container Source

  • In my experience, it is seldom spicy. In Germany, there are actually grades of it (the name is btw Paprikapulver, not red pepper) - normal red pepper is "sweet" just like bell pepper, then there is "rose-sharp" which is a mixture of sweet red pepper and cayenne, and then there is "hot", which has lots more cayenne. Pure cayenne is considered the highest level of hotness, and isn't called Paprikapulver any more.
    – rumtscho
    Jun 18, 2012 at 15:37
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    Chili powder being the dried, ground chilis not the spice mix which includes onion, cumin, etc. Jun 18, 2012 at 15:40
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    @rumtscho And you're certain that Joy of Cooking is referring to Paprikapulver? Given that it's an American cookbook, I would assume that ingredient would be referred to as "Paprika" germanfood.about.com/od/herbsandspicesglossary/g/… Jun 18, 2012 at 15:50
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    @rumtscho The 75th anniversary edition was published in 2006; since there was no German origin specified, I have serious doubts that it's talking about a German ingredient as opposed to what I can pick up at the grocery store: google.com/products/… or spiceplace.com/mccormick-ground-red-pepper.php Jun 18, 2012 at 16:01
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    Yamikoronue is correct. As someone who first learned to cook in the 70's, "Red Pepper" is a generic American term for hot ground capsicum peppers, usually cayenne, but sometimes other chiles such as arbol or hot paprika.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jun 19, 2012 at 3:16

I had a red pepper spice by Astor out of Jacksonville, Florida. They are out of business, now, to my regret. Their pepper was not hot but has a very nice flavor and smell. I would use this spice without having to use salt or any other spice. It would change the smell of meat to delicious even as you sprinkled it on. I have not been able to find anything like it. It was not cayenne nor chili. Just labeled "ground red pepper". I saw on internet the same pepper by Astor "the Tin" for sale, it's very old so I probably will not bother with it. In other words, there was once a ground red pepper spice, not cayenne nor chili.



A generic bulk product labeled and called only "red pepper" is sold very cheaply in most International Markets, Asian and Chinese grocery stores in US.

It is always a very finely ground red powder sold in 500g (and much larger) clear plastic pillow shaped bags that I can never use up. (Normal label just says Brand, "Red Pepper", weight.)

I think it can be used to make the hot flavors when preparing "Chinese" dishes and I use it to add "heat" to any "Chinese Food" that was not made spicy enough.

Careful, this dry power will make you sneeze and irritates the eyes more than finely ground black pepper. Sometimes without even opening it.

It contains it's seeds and is a bit hotter than any crushed red pepper used on Italian food. (Mostly because that "crushed" is more coarsely grated flakes than any coffee grind.)

Every decade or so when it turned brown, I searched for another market that didn't exist long enough for me to get it again.

I add 1/8 teaspoon to a 1 pound skillet dinner.

So, I only buy one of the smallest packages and repack it in a canning jar or a used spice dispenser container saved and washed from something mild enough to use up. (Like Italian seasoning)


Growing up in the 70s, we had spices, refills for sets. We had both red pepper and cayenne pepper spices. Red pepper was just abit more bite than black pepper, but was not half as hot as cayenne. Even into the 80s, bbq restaurants which employed me as a teen had big containers of Red Pepper. Honestly I have no idea which type of peppers were used, but they were not cayenne. I understand the confusion because I have old recipes that call for red pepper and were not particularly warm.


It's just crushed cayenne pepper!

  • Usually crushed means flakes, and if this is calling for ground, I would think they want a powder texture.
    – SourDoh
    Oct 10, 2013 at 18:46

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