Red pepper powder

April 9, 2012  •  Category:


A mere 25 minutes from Beirut and you can be right smack in the heart of the Shouf region; this region is beautiful and well-preserved by its locals and is made up of lush  mountains and valleys as well as forests of majestic cedars. 

A short stop at Moukhtara where one can visit a 400-year old palace, led me to the local grocer; on his counter sat a large bag filled with red pepper powder. This is the local chili pepper which is sprinkled on man’ooshes (flatbread). The man’ooshe is topped with yogurt cheese, red pepper powder, crushed walnuts, keshek , tomatoes and onions. 

I asked if he lived in the beautiful mountain year-round and he said that he only comes up for the weekend and spends his weeks working in Beirut. The mountains have seen its locals leave in droves for decades.  I asked the grocer about  his huge vats of yogurt sitting behind his counter and he told me about the line of cheeses he produces here and I vowed to come back.

Did you ever make your own red pepper powder? 

According to my friend Milady Khairallah who at 84  still makes her own red pepper powder, grape molasses and zaatar and cooks everything fresh from her garden in the Kesrouan region, there is nothing difficult about it; just dry your peppers on a large clean cloth in the sun (bring indoors at night to avoid humidity) and grind  in your coffee grinder. If you don’t like heat, discard the seeds. Keep in a jar for up to a year in the fridge.



17 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Belinda @zomppa says:

    That’s incredible! I can’t say I’ve ever done it myself before…gorgeous color!

  2. Rosa says:

    A marvelous spice! What a beautiful color.



  3. Devaki says:

    This is incredible – My mother still hand roasts and grinds all her spices and flour (in the mill that now occupies most of my old bedroom 🙂 so I LOVE seeing these traditions that in the urban world seem to be fading away but are still flourishing in the little pockets and corners of the globe.

    What a lovely post my dear and I wanted to say CONGRATULATIONS on the momentous development with being nominated with Saveur – you absolutely deserve to win and have my vote (it’s done)!

    chow 🙂 Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  4. Lyndsey@TheTinySkill says:

    This is a beautiful red pepper powder. I have made my own before…mostly to keep the heat down (my husband doesn’t like it too hot) so it’s nice to pick your own kind of peppers. I would like to come back to that place with you! 🙂

  5. Alaiyo Kiasi says:

    This is beautiful country, and I enjoyed reading about your trip to the market. I wonder if red pepper powder can be made with any type of red peppers but using the techniques that you described. I generally grow some type of hot, red pepper in my garden during the summer and would be excited to make pepper similar to this.

    • Joumana says:

      @Alaiyo: I am sure it can according to my friend; just make sure it is thoroughly dry. I would try it with the small chili peppers first and go from there.

  6. Barbara says:

    Very interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it dry. I’d love to try it.

  7. T.W. Barritt says:

    Wow – I never thought about the fact that I could make my own red pepper powder. What a beautiful color.

  8. Bo W says:

    I have made some before…only in small batches for specific recipes…gourgeous photos…I watched a lebonese movie the other night on Netflix called Under the Bombs. I thought of you when I saw it on there btw it was a very good movie but terribly sad, since it was about war.

  9. Susan says:

    Beautiful photos of the region! I hope I can be as energetic in the kitchen as that woman who still makes her own red pepper powder. I must try to make some when the peppers hit the farmers’ market this summer.

  10. Christine @ Fresh says:

    I love the vibrant hue of the red pepper powder. I happen to have made my own red pepper powder too, it’s so simple and the flavors much more intense.

  11. Tlazolteotl says:

    Actually the “heat” in the chillies does’nt come from the seeds but from the veins, so discarding the seeds won’t change the result that much. One must remove the veins and the part nearest to the top of the pepper in order to decrease the “heat”.
    Roasted chilli seeds are also a key ingredient in many mexican “moles” by the way and they contribute to the distinguished flavor of certain sauces, but I can understand they are discarded when preparing the powder as they would make the color more dull 🙂

    Greetings from Italy

  12. Tom @ Tall Clover says:

    Your postcards of Lebanon and her people make me want to plan a trip in the future. Each photo says welcome, each smile shines hospitality.

  13. Jamie says:

    Wonderful post and that red pepper powder is gorgeous! What color! I wished I lived in a region with enough sun and heat to do this….I love having powder to make things like macarons and pasta with. Is there any way to do it indoors? It is too pretty.

    • Joumana says:

      @Jamie: i have been told (and I need to verify this from an expert) that fruits and veggies dried in the sun retain nutrients as opposed to drying them in the oven. Will let you know when I do find out.

  14. Caffettiera says:

    It’s always difficult to explain how hard it is to do some basic things when you have no sun available. I still remember a conversation on a train with two guys from Naples. I was explaining my complex procedure to make oven dried tomatoes, and they asked me: why don’t you just leave them in the sun? Sometimes we have to reinvent the wheel to adapt to different climates and challenges.. I’d love to make my own dried pepper powder.

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