A few weeks back, I was working on a chutney recipe that married dried apricots with a luscious, sweet dessert wine. I threw in some of these chili flakes, and the flavor became complex – at once, sweet, fruity, those peach-lychee notes from the wine and a tart bite with a touch of heat from the Aleppo chilies. Although I’ve used it in cooking before, in that moment it dawned on me that I would no longer be reaching for typical crushed red pepper for my weekly (yes…once a week) pizza binge.
Aleppo chilies come from Syria and are named after the northern city of Aleppo. A pinch of Aleppo is called for in various Middle Eastern dishes and in foods throughout parts of the Mediterranean. This chili flake has often been compared to ancho and is fruity, moderately hot, with smoky undertones that come from being sundried. It has an acidic tartness to it (think sundried tomatoes with a kick!) and is actually a little salty; the heat hits fast and then subtly lingers.
What I realized during that last time I was cooking with it was that it’s just a really balanced chili flake, and it doesn’t require a ton of cooking or toasting to bring out flavor (thus using it to sprinkle on hot, cheesy pizza). It works as well with sweeter dishes, like a chutney, as with savoury, and is the perfect finale to a bolognese, in a kebab marinade, or, simply, to dress up a salad. The focus is a lot more on flavor here than heat.
Like the Urfa chili I mentioned a few months ago, this flake has a ton of oil, and I find that it keeps longer in the freezer. Middle Eastern grocers will have some of this in stock, but I’ve also seen it in some higher-end, gourmet shops and even William Sonoma.