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Hot and fierce with a warm light orange color, spices up fish, shellfish, boiled eggs, vegetable or cheese dishes; essential condiment in deviled sauces.

The cayenne chilies probably originated in the French Guyana and now are grown in many other countries. It is a thin, pointed, fiercely hot chili. There is not much difference between cayenne and other hot chilies. Cayenne powder is more finely ground because it is used as a table condiment, in the same way as salt and pepper. However, any fine chili powder can replace cayenne; in fact the red powder found in the stores under the name of cayenne pepper is a blend of several ground tropical dried chilies.


Cayenne was a key hot spice in Western countries, widely used to cheer sauces and fish or to enliven many Anglo-Indian dishes, such as kedgeree; it was added to deviled kidneys and other popular offers in Victorian and Edwardian breakfast menus. Its use diminished as new fresh and dried chilies became available.

Cayenne is an interesting spice, though, lending its spiciness and light orange color to soups, sauces, and fish dishes, in particular those from North America southern states, many of which are a combination of Spanish, French and West African cooking.

How to identify cayenne

Cayenne pepper is the mixture of finely ground powder precedent from dried fruits of hot varieties of tropical red chili. Cayenne chili sizes range from 2 to 5 inches length and about ½ inch diameter. They are green and yellow when unripe, turning bright red when matured. The plant grows to 6 1/2 ft (2 m) and it has thickly branching stems, long pod-like, ovate fruits, and small flat seeds.

Possibly native from Cayenne French Guyana; now widely grown in Africa, Mexico, the USA, India, Japan and other tropical and subtropical regions. Cayenne chilies are usually sold dried.  Most of them are employed to make cayenne pepper.

How to use and store

It is used mainly as a condiment at table with seafood, in fish pastes; to flavor cheese dishes, soups and sauces. Sometimes found still in cooking as in the Caribbean kedgeree or deviled sauces.

Be careful not to sprinkle too much on food; apart from being to hot, it tends to clog and then it come out in lumps. Apply the general guidelines for spices: buy in small quantities since the flavor deteriorates with time; store away from light in airtight containers.

Cooking with cayenne

Cayenne is widely used and it can be found in dishes from kedgeree to jambalaya.

If you don't have it, other chili can be used as a substitution. Substitute ½ tsp ground cayenne pepper with:

  • ½ tsp chipotle powder -smokier flavor- or ½ tsp ancho powder -darker color, less spicy.
  • ½ tsp hot paprika -similar orangy color, much milder.
  • ½ tsp red chili powder -less hot and sometimes it has other spices mixed.
  • ½ to ¾ tsp chrushed red chili flakes.
  • 1 very small red chili.
  • A few drops of hot pepper sauce.
  • 1-2 tsp chili paste.

Try to sprinkle some cayenne pepper on your egg salad or egg mayonnaise for extra zest.

capsicum frutescens (solanaceae) cayenne - Spanish: pimienta de cayena.

How to grow

It is a shrubby perennial plant propagated from seeds in nurseries. It requires a tropical climate and a long growing season for the fruits to ripen.