The Basics

Cayenne is  a fire engine red pepper whose namesake comes from a town in the French Guiana. (Never heard of it? You’re not alone. It’s described as a French overseas department, huh?, bordered by Brazil and Suriname.) This is sensible because cayenne, being a chili, is a perennial that sub-tropical and tropical regions. Cayenne is a fiery pepper but the ground form can add a richness of flavor to a variety of dishes with a complimentary heat.

The Form

Cayenne is a fruit and usually dried and ground. Some Asian cuisines prefer to use it in its whole form in sauces. The insides of the cayenne pepper fruit will also be pulped (scraped out) compressed into cakes, dried and ground. Cayenne is also used in a flake form and is quite popular on pizza and pasta.

The Flavor

Wow, where to start? I think it’s difficult to describe the flavor of cayenne because it’s used in so many versatile dishes which coax different flavors and experiences. It’s been said that chefs like whole cayenne peppers because they don’t have a dominate flavor of their own so they are perfect for adding heat without radically changing the taste of a sauce or dish. A chef friend told me that you can remove the seeds and ribs (those pale, fleshy lines that run longitude inside the pepper) to remove some of the heat.

The Story

While not entirely specific to cayenne pepper this story certainly includes it. According to legend, chili powder (which most certainly includes cayenne) was a concotion of an Englishman who was living in Texas in the mid 1800’s. Being English he wanted to recreate the curry powder he enjoyed in India. His mistake gave rise to the chili powder that graces American spice cabinets and lends its yee-haw kick to chili sauce and BBQ blends across the U.S.A.

If you’re not up for making your own chili powder Simply Organic makes an excellent one already bottled.

Health Benefits

Pain Relief: All chile peppers contain a substance called capsaicin. The more capsaicin the hotter the chili. This substance has very real health benefits. It’s an inhibitor of something called Substance P,  which is triggers the inflammatory process. The simple explanation works something like this: capsaicin inhibits Substance P from causing inflammation…at least it slows it down. That means people who suffer from inflammation pain (like arthritis) will find relief with capsaicin.

Sex Toy: Capsaicin also increases blood flow to all parts of the body. (You know where this is going…) Yes, as a result cayenne is valued for “a libido enhancing aid” to certain male organs that benefit from increased blood flow.

Appetite Suppressant (a.k.a. bikini’s best friend): Shape Magazine recently described a study in Physiology & Behavior explaining that as little as 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne can boost metabolism and cause the body to burn an average of an extra 10 calories. If you don’t eat hot foods regularly the news gets better. That same 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne cut an average of 60 calories off the meal.

Try It!

Cayenne is so versatile, take your pick and try it in any of the following easy but tasty recipes:

Cayenne Deviled Eggs

Cayenne Detox Tea

Basic Mexican Chocolate Ice-Cream (no cooking!)

5 Minute Spanish Everything Sauce