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I'm testing out a meatball recipe with aleppo pepper flakes, and although it's good, I want a little more heat. Do you think adding a touch of cayenne would do the trick? Would it pair well with the aleppo or could it possibly overtake the aleppo's unique flavor?

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Try it & see ;)

Aleppo isn't particularly hot; I haven't checked it on the Scoville scale, but just from experience, though it's got a little kick to it, & that kick can be quite variable depending on your source of the pepper, to me, aleppo is used for its flavour rather than its kick.

Cayenne, on the other hand, I always consider to be "free heat". Its largest contribution is to add the 'burn', it doesn't really have much flavour, it's mainly heat.
I always think that by the time you can actually taste cayenne, you have other concerns ;)

On an anecdotal note - I always put a little cayenne in meatballs & most tomato sauces that would go with them. It's just a family 'thing' - we like it that way.

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In your precise situation, where you want to add only heat while leaving the current flavors of the meal unchanged, you will be looking for the chili pepper with the highest heat-to-flavor ratio. This generally means that you will want to go with the hottest chili pepper as possible.

This will allow you to add very smaller quantities of the chili pepper than you would have with jalapeno-level peppers to reach the desired level of heat.

Superhot pepper powders are great for this application. Micro-dosing it is easy, and it won't be enough to change any of the taste. Add very small quantities at a time, taste it, and add more if needed.

Typical superhots used for this are:

  • Ghost pepper (Bhut Jolokia)
  • Trinidad Moruga Scorpion
  • Carolina reaper

There are 100s of superhots that could all do the job, but the 3 listed are most likely the easiest to find.


Alternatively you could use capsaicin extract. That is most likely the highest heat-to-flavor product you can find. However the taste of it is generally less popular, although in very small quantities you won't be able to notice it.

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  • I'd avoid extracts -- they're so hot that a single drop dramatically changes the amount of heat. (2-3 drops in a large pot of chili can be too much for some people).
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 0:06
  • Those are not practical products for adding "a little bit of heat".
    – Sneftel
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 14:08

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