What do you do when it’s late summer and you have way more hot peppers than you know what to do with? This is where we found ourselves this past summer. The perfect remedy? Dry out those peppers and turn them into red pepper flakes. Let’s dive into the ins and outs of how to make red pepper flakes at home.
Easy Food Preservation When Time Is Limited
By the time September rolls around, the garden is bursting in abundance. And while this is wonderful, it can also be a little overwhelming. However, once we changed our mindset from growing food to enjoy while it’s fresh and in-season to growing food for feeding our family all year round, everything changed.
All of the sudden the question wasn’t, how will we possibly consumer 50 hot peppers in the next 2 weeks before they go bad? Instead the question was, how can we preserve these peppers to last us until September of next year?
There are a lot of different food preservation methods: freezing, canning, fermenting, and dehydrating to name a few. And while all of these could work to preserve hot peppers, with a young family and a very full life, we often gravitate toward methods that are the quickest and easiest.
Certain vegetables lend themselves well to preserve by freezing, canning, or fermenting. When it comes to hot peppers, we find drying them out and turning them into red pepper flakes is our favorite—it’s so simple!
Dehydration Benefits and Methods
Dehydration is exactly as it sounds: the process of drying out or removing any moisture. This is one of our favorite simple food preservation methods. We use a similar method to preserve nettle and kale as well as more obscure things like orange peels and egg shells.
The beauty of dehydration is that:
1) No special equipment is necessary.
2) Food can easily preserve this way safely for many months if not years.
3) It’s a great way to turn a huge quantity of something into a powder that takes up a mere jar’s worth of space on your counter or in your pantry.
While the use of a dehydrator can speed up the process, having one isn’t necessary. After our dehydrator stopped working several years ago, I never picked up a replacement. But we found that we’ve been able to dehydrate everything we’ve wanted to between either an air or sun drying method. Or, for some things, using the lowest temperature setting on our oven.
How to Dry Out Hot Peppers
There are a few methods that you can use to dry out your peppers in order to turn them into red pepper flakes: dehydrating in the oven, a dehydrator, or by hanging or sun drying.
Dehydrating Hot Peppers in the Oven
This is the fastest option when it comes to drying out peppers. To do this, simply lay clean peppers in a single layer on a baking sheet. Small peppers could be left whole but larger one’s are better to cut into uniform size pieces. Leave them in the lowest temperature that your oven will go (usually around 150-170°F) and leave the oven cracked open to let moisture escape. Let the peppers dry for 1-2 hours, checking occasionally until they are completely dry with a crunchy texture.
Using a Dehydrator
Prepare peppers by making sure they are cleaned and place in a single layer on the trays of your dehydrator. Smaller peppers can be left whole while larger ones can be cut in uniform sizes. Dehydrate at around 130°F for 4-12 hours until the peppers are completely dried out and brittle.
Hanging or Sun drying Hot Peppers
This is our favorite method to dry out peppers. To do this we like to dry peppers on a string and hang until they are completely dried out. Our favorite method is to thread a needle with a double length of heavy duty thread or fishing line. Stick your needle through the stem of the pepper and pull the thread or line through. Once all your peppers are hung on string, hang in your home, doubling as a festive decoration.
Once your peppers are dried, store until you are ready to turn into red pepper flakes.
A Word of Caution Before Making Red Pepper Flakes
Capsaicin is the agent in hot peppers that gives them their signature heat. But it is also an irritant.
Wear gloves when handling peppers whenever possible. Wash hands thoroughly after handling them and be sure to avoid touching sensitive parts of your body, like your face, after handling peppers. Speaking from experience, this is not something to take lightly!
A mask and a well ventilated area are other considerations when making red pepper flakes. Especially in the grinding step, the red pepper flake particles can fly all over and be quite irritating when inhaled.
How to Make Red Pepper Flakes
After your hot peppers are dried, they are ready to be ground into red pepper flakes. This can be done either by hand, or with a blender, food processor, or grinder.
If grinding by hand, my favorite method is to remove any stems and strings from the pepper (leaving seeds) and place in a gallon size ziplock bag. Using a rolling pin, or your hands, crush red peppers until they become the texture of coarse flakes.
If you are looking for a less coarse texture, using a blender or food processor can turn red pepper flakes to be more of a powder. Simply place peppers with the stems removed into the container of a blender or food processor and process until the desired texture is achieved. Not all blenders will work for this application. Higher powered blenders tend to work much better. We specifically love our Vitamix Blender and use the dry container when making red pepper flakes.
How to Use Red Pepper Flakes
After making your red pepper flakes, there are many ways to put them to use. Jim enjoys sprinkling some onto his scrambled eggs in the morning. They would be a perfect addition to add to chili, enchilada sauce, or dashing over a slice of pizza. If anything needs a little extra spice, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes can fit the bill.
Red Pepper Flakes Recipe
Hot Red Peppers (Cayenne Peppers, Chili Peppers)
Clean fresh hot red peppers, then dry using either the oven, dehydrator, or sun drying (see above for how to do each).
Once dried, grind peppers with stems removed in either a food processor, dry blender, or by hand. If by hand, place peppers in a ziplock bag and mash by hand or with a rolling pin until desired texture is achieved.
Store in a glass jar in a dark place. Red pepper flakes can last for months or even years in this form. For maximum freshness, consume within the first year of making.
We get excited around here about anything that further removes us from needing to rely on the grocery store and produce food ourselves. For more check out:
How to Make Kale Powder With or Without a Dehydrator
How To Preserve Nettle
Farm Fresh Eggs | What’s the Difference and How to Use Them Safely
Red Cabbage Sauerkraut – How to Make Your Own
Cooking With Lard and How to Render Lard Yourself
How Eating Liver Changed My Life
How to Make Flour | Using A Hand Grain Mill At Home
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- Hot Red Peppers (Cayenne Peppers, Chili Peppers)
- Clean fresh hot red peppers, then dry using either the oven, dehydrator, or sun drying (see above for how to do each).
- Once dried, grind peppers with stems removed in either a food processor, dry blender, or by hand. If by hand, place peppers in a ziplock bag and mash by hand or with a rolling pin until desired texture is achieved.
- Store in a glass jar in a dark place. Red pepper flakes can last for months or even years in this form. For maximum freshness, consume within the first year of making.
See notes in post for how to protect yourself when making red pepper flakes.