How many calories in a tablespoon of red pepper flakes?

Quick Answer

A tablespoon of red pepper flakes contains about 8 calories. Red pepper flakes are made from dried and crushed red chili peppers. Since they are dried, red pepper flakes are highly concentrated in flavor and heat. Just a small amount packs a big punch.

Calories in Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes, also sometimes called crushed red pepper or red chili flakes, are made from hot red chili peppers, including cayenne peppers. The peppers are dried and then crushed into small pieces to produce the flakes.

Since red pepper flakes come from dried peppers, they are very low in moisture. Drying peppers concentrates their natural flavors and heat. This process also concentrates the calories in red pepper flakes.

Here are the nutrition facts for a tablespoon (6 grams) of red pepper flakes:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 8
Protein 0.2 g
Carbohydrates 1.6 g
Fiber 0.5 g
Fat 0.3 g

As you can see, a tablespoon of red pepper flakes contains about 8 calories. There are trace amounts of protein and fat. The majority of the calories come from carbohydrates.

The calorie count refers to dry red pepper flakes. If the pepper flakes are reconstituted in oil or water, the calorie content will change based on the amount and type of oil or water added.

Serving Sizes for Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are very flavourful, so you typically use them in small amounts. The standard serving size is 1 teaspoon or about 2 grams.

Here are some common serving sizes for red pepper flakes and their calorie content:

Serving Size Amount Calories
1 dash 0.5 g 2
1/4 teaspoon 0.5 g 2
1/2 teaspoon 1 g 4
1 teaspoon 2 g 8
1 tablespoon 6 g 8

A dash of pepper flakes is usually about 1/8 of a teaspoon. Even though the typical serving size is a teaspoon, most recipes call for 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. This provides a nice hit of heat and flavor without being overwhelming.

Calories in Different Types of Red Pepper Flakes

There are a few different varieties of red pepper flakes available. The calorie content doesn’t vary too much between them, but the heat level can be quite different.

Here are calories for some common types of red pepper flakes:

Type Calories per tablespoon
Standard red pepper flakes 8
Chili de arbol pepper flakes 8
Crushed red pepper 8
Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) 9
Hawaiian red chili pepper flakes 8
Espelette pepper flakes 8

Standard red pepper flakes are made from a mix of hot chili peppers and provide medium heat. Arbol chili peppers are commonly used because they provide vibrant red color and crisp flavor.

Korean gochugaru pepper flakes are made from sun-dried Korean red chili peppers. They provide more mild heat compared to other red pepper flakes.

Espelette pepper comes from the Basque region of France. Espelette pepper flakes have a complex fruitiness in addition to their heat.

No matter the type, one tablespoon of dried red pepper flakes contains around 8 calories. The heat level may vary slightly based on the variety and peppers used.

Ways to Use Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are a versatile ingredient. They can be used to add heat and flavor to all kinds of savory dishes:

– Italian: Sprinkle over pizza, pasta, or as a seasoning for breadsticks or olive oil
– Mediterranean: Add to hummus, flatbreads, lamb, or goat dishes
– Mexican: Mix into salsa, tacos, chili, or guacamole
– Asian: Use in stir fries, fried rice, ramen, kimchi, or soups
– American: Mix into mac and cheese, potato salad, chicken wings, meatloaf or chili
– Middle Eastern: Include in shakshuka, falafel, tahini sauce, or grilled meats

Use just a small amount, about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per serving, to add the right amount of kick.

Red pepper flakes can also be mixed with oil or vinegar to make a spicy condiment for dipping bread. Or reconstitute dried flakes in water to make a quick and easy chili sauce.

Red Pepper Flake Nutrition Facts

In addition to calories, red pepper flakes contain an impressive lineup of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Some of the main nutrients found in a 1 tablespoon (6 gram) serving of red pepper flakes include:

Nutrient % Daily Value
Vitamin A 18%
Vitamin C 8%
Vitamin B6 7%
Vitamin K 5%
Iron 6%
Potassium 2%

Red chili peppers are one of the best food sources of vitamin C. Drying the peppers concentrates this nutrient, allowing just a small serving of pepper flakes to provide a decent amount.

Vitamin A and vitamin B6 are also found in concentrated amounts. Plus, red pepper flakes deliver disease-fighting antioxidants like carotenoids and capsaicin.

So while red pepper flakes are incredibly flavorful, they also add a nice boost of nutrients to your diet.

Heat and Scoville Rating

The heat of red pepper flakes depends on the type of chili peppers used to make them. The most commonly used pepper is cayenne.

The heat level of peppers is measured using the Scoville scale. On the Scoville scale, a higher number indicates more spiciness.

Here are Scoville heat units (SHU) for some popular red pepper flake ingredients:

Pepper Type Scoville Heat Units
Jalapeno 2,500-8,000 SHU
Cayenne 30,000-50,000 SHU
De Arbol 15,000-30,000 SHU
Thai chili 50,000-100,000 SHU
Habanero 100,000-350,000 SHU

As you can see, cayenne peppers are moderately hot, while habanero can be extremely fiery. Most commercial red pepper flakes use a mix of pepper varieties, along with seeds and membranes removed, to achieve a balance of heat, flavor, and color.

If you see a bottle of red pepper flakes made from pure habanero or Thai chilis, that will provide extreme heat that is not for the faint of heart!

Health Benefits

Don’t be afraid to sprinkle red pepper flakes liberally on your food. Red chili peppers and red pepper flakes are linked to some impressive health benefits:

Inflammation reduction: The capsaicin in chili peppers has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Enjoying spicy red pepper flakes regularly may help lower inflammatory markers.

Heart health: Population studies show that people who eat spicy chili peppers have lower rates of heart disease and stroke. Capsaicin helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels.

Weight loss: Adding some spice to your diet can ramp up metabolism slightly. The capsaicin in red pepper flakes may suppress appetite as well.

Cancer prevention: Red chili peppers contain high levels of antioxidants. These compounds can help prevent DNA damage that leads to cancer development.

So don’t be afraid to spice up your meals with red pepper flakes. The nutrients and antioxidants they contain are great for your body. Just be aware of the calories in tablespoons versus teaspoons. Stick with a teaspoon or less per meal if watching your weight.

Finding Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are easy to find in the spice aisle of any grocery store. They sometimes may be labeled as crushed red pepper or red chili flakes.

Some tips for buying high-quality red pepper flakes:

– Check the ingredients list for 100% dried chilis – avoid fillers like seeds or stems
– Look for bright red color – this indicates fully ripe chilis were used
– Smell the pepper flakes – you should notice a robust, spicy aroma
– Buy whole dried peppers instead of pre-crushed flakes when possible

Whole dried peppers allow you to freshly grind flakes at home. This provides the most flavor and aroma. But pre-crushed red pepper flakes are highly convenient when cooking.

You can find exotic pepper flakes like Espelette and Korean gochugaru at specialty markets or online spice stores. Have fun experimenting with different types of flakes in your cooking.

Store red pepper flakes in an airtight container away from light and heat to preserve freshness. Properly stored, red pepper flakes will keep their flavor for about 3 years.

Making Your Own Red Pepper Flakes

It’s easy to make DIY red pepper flakes at home. Here is a simple process:

– Fresh red chili peppers, such as cayenne, serrano, or red jalapenos
– Olive oil or vegetable oil (optional)

1. Wash fresh peppers and dry thoroughly. Remove the stems and seeds for milder heat.
2. Place peppers on an oven tray and broil 2-3 minutes per side until slightly charred.
3. Put peppers in a paper bag or wrapped in paper towels to steam for 10 minutes. This helps loosen skins.
4. Rub or peel skins off peppers. It’s fine if some charred bits remain.
5. Place peeled peppers on the oven tray and bake at the lowest oven temperature, around 170°F, for 2-3 hours until fully dried.
6. Remove dried peppers from oven and allow to cool completely. They should be brittle when cool.
7. Place peppers in a food processor and pulse until crushed into flakes. Don’t overprocess into a powder.
8. Toss flakes with 1-2 teaspoons oil per 1/4 cup flakes to maintain freshness.
9. Store homemade red pepper flakes in an airtight container up to 1 year.

Making DIY red pepper flakes allows you to customize the heat level and flavors to your taste. It also maximizes the freshness of the flakes.


Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about red pepper flakes:

Are red pepper flakes Keto friendly?

Yes, red pepper flakes are a Keto-approved ingredient. They add lots of flavor with minimal carbs and calories. One tablespoon of red pepper flakes contains about 1.5 grams net carbs.

What’s the difference between red pepper flakes and crushed red pepper?

There is little difference between these two terms. They both refer to dried red chili peppers that have been crushed into small flakes. Crushed red pepper is sometimes used to specify a coarser texture versus finely ground red pepper flakes. But in general, the names are interchangeable.

Can you substitute red pepper flakes for fresh chili peppers?

Yes, but you’ll need to adjust the amount. Dried red pepper flakes are much more concentrated in flavor than fresh peppers. As a general guideline, use 1/4 to 1/2 the amount of red pepper flakes compared to fresh chilis. And add the flakes at the end of cooking versus at the beginning.

How long do red pepper flakes last?

Properly stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, red pepper flakes will last 3-4 years. Over time, they will slowly lose some vibrancy and flavor but will still be useable. Check old pepper flakes for any off odors or appearance before using.

Can you use black pepper instead of red pepper flakes?

Black pepper and red pepper flakes have very different flavors. Black pepper has an earthy, pungent taste, while red pepper flakes are bright, acidic, and spicy. For best results, stick with red pepper flakes in recipes that call for them. The flavor profile won’t be the same with black pepper.

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