In southeastern Turkey, you'll find black Urfa chili (or its uncured red variety) on almost every table. It's delicious on kebabs and other grilled meats and veggies, cooked into stews and chilis, in salad dressings, sprinkled on fluffy scrambled eggs, and even mixed into brownies and other chocolate desserts for a little extra depth and a hint of heat.
After being cured, the black Urfa chili is packed with salt and a little sunflower seed oil to preserve its natural texture and flavor and prevent it from drying out.
It's been getting some attention. Here's what some folks have to say about it:
“Game-changing spice for home cooks who think they have everything.” -Epicurious
“The one I obsessed over in 2018.” -Bon Appetit
“It’s amazing! As a chef, I really get inspired by it." -Chef Bill Telepan, Oceana
"They've got these beautiful cocoa- and raisin-like flavors, they're lightly smoky, and they bring a lot of cool things to beer... as well as to poached eggs." -Bryan Selders, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
- Origin: Urfa, Turkey
- Aliases: Urfa biber, isot
- Heat level: 5,000-10,000 Scoville units
- Process: Cured in the sun and stone-ground
- Ingredients: Urfa Chili (Capsicum annuum), sunflower seed oil, salt (salt content is 1% by weight, or about 0.5 grams per jar)
- Tasting notes: Raisin • Espresso • Summer Night
Please note that the black Urfa chili contains a little sunflower oil, and may appear to be slightly clumpy or wet as a result, especially at cold temperatures. The oil is part of what makes the chili so delicious, and there's nothing to be concerned about if it looks a little wet.
- Season kebabs and chilis for a rich spiciness
- Top off baba ghanoush and hummus
- Add to chocolate and fruit-based sweets like hot chocolate and brownies
- In One-Pan Garlic and Caper Spaghetti (community recipe)
- In Roasted Fennel with Black Urfa Chili (community recipe)
- In Çilbir-Inspired Eggs (community recipe)
- Pairs well with: Wild Mountain Cumin, Smoked Pimentón Paprika, Cured Sumac
Black Urfa Chili starts out as a red, sweet, spicy pepper almost identical to the more famous Aleppo pepper. It's grown in the hills around the ancient Turkish city of Urfa, where the hot, dry days, cold nights and sandy soil are part of its unique terroir. After harvesting, it's cured in the sun, where it changes color from red to black and develops its characteristic flavor profile, reminiscent of chocolate and dried fruits, with a lingering burn. It goes through a final stone-grinding step, where it's ground into flakes between massive granite wheels with a little bit of sea salt and sunflower seed oil. The oil helps preserve its natural texture and flavor and prevents it from drying out (and is delicious, too!).
Meet the Farmer: Bekir Bey is a chili pepper farmer just outside the city of Urfa, and in this photo he was out picking peppers in the blazing 104-degree heat. He and his family cultivate about 12 acres of chili peppers, almost all of which will be cut up, fermented and ground into the famous Black Urfa Chili Flakes. They spend about 10 months of the year planning, planting, tending, watering and harvesting these very special chili peppers. The combination of pepper variety (same as an Aleppo/Silk Chili), sandy soil, hot dry climate and very particular fermentation method all come together to create a pepper unlike any other in the world.
This has a deep dark flavour, similar to Pu er teas. The heat is also slow but substantial. Very intriguing. People can't place it. It has become a real mystery ingredient with meat dishes. What fun! Jenny
It’s become a staple.
This is not good, we thought it tasted like dirt
Love it! So far I have used it on steaks before grilling, in chili, and in the rub for my pulled pork. It adds a whole new level and intensity of flavor.
Seriously. Pre-Covid, I was having to take 2 in my suitcase to my son in Scotland. He is that addicted. We toss this Chili into whatever starch we are making and blend it with salt and olive oil for meat on the grill. Spread the love to your family and friends.