Isot Pepper: Turkish Urfa Biber Chile Flakes

isot pepper
Isot pepper is a Turkish medium-spiced pepper that's sun-dried in a two-stage process to bring out a unique flavor. Also known as Urfa biber, isot pepper makes popular Turkish dishes intensely flavorful and delicious. Its versatility makes it a staple in spicing a variety of cuisines.

What Is Isot Pepper?

Isot pepper is a tasty chile from the capsicum annuum species. It originated from Turkey’s southeastern city called Urfa. Urfa refers to a Turkish city, while biber is a Turkish name for pepper, which is why isot pepper is also sometimes called Urfa biber.

Isot peppers are dried in a unique two-stage process. They are naturally sun-dried during the day and wrapped in an airtight bag at night to capture moisture. The night process is called sweating, and it takes over seven days. Sweating helps keep this dried Turkish chili pepper soft, nutrient-rich, and chewy despite drying.

Urfa biber chiles are red when fresh, but they darken to maroon and purplish-black when dried. The distinctive smoky, chocolate, coffee-like taste, with an acidic twist similar to spicy raisins, makes isot popular in Turkish or traditional Kurdish dishes.

urfa biber fresh pepper
Fresh urfa biber peppers.

Isot peppers are similar in appearance to bell peppers, only slightly shorter. They are over 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. After drying, the peppers are grounded into flakes or powder for use in your favorite meat, pizza, and other dishes.

How Spicy Is Isot Pepper?

Fresh isot biber has a moderate pungency. With a rating of 30,000-50,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, Isot pepper has similar heat as Cayenne chile.

Compared to the typical Jalapeno (2,500-8,000 SHUs), the Urfa biber pepper is almost 20 times hotter. Isot’s pepper cousin, Aleppo chile (10,000-23,000 SHU), is 3-5 times milder in spice, while the Chinese Tsien Tsien pepper (50,000-75,000 SHUs) ranks similar in heat level with Urfa or slightly hotter.

Isot pepper’s heat level affects people differently. Some people still find it hot despite being classified as a medium-spiced pepper.

Is Urfa Pepper The Same As Aleppo Pepper?

Urfa pepper and Aleppo are grown in the same geographical area: Turkey. However, they aren’t the same.

Let’s explore some of their differences:    

Origin:  Isot pepper is Turkish, while Aleppo is Syrian in origin.                         

Heat level (SHU): Urfa pepper has a range of 30,000-50,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, whereas Aleppo contains mild heat with a rating of 10,000-23,000 Scoville heat units.

Color: Isot pepper presents an attractive dark maroon, purplish-black color when ripe, while Aleppo turns into a deep red hue.

Taste: Urfa chile has a smokey, earthy, coffee-like flavor compared to Aleppo’s fresh, oily taste. Both peppers have a raisin-like tone.

Size: Isot peppers are longer—over eight inches. On the other hand, Aleppo chile grows up to 2-3 inches in length.

Isot Pepper Vs. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Urfa peppers and crushed red pepper flakes are dried and ground or crushed chilies. However, they have unique features as follows:

Isot pepper has a purplish color due to the two-stage drying process, while red pepper flakes exhibit the color of red chili peppers.

Urfa chiles are dried and ground, whereas dry red bell pepper flakes only go through crushing.

The isot pepper (30,000-50,000 SHUs) is almost three times hotter than red pepper flakes (15,000-30,000 SHUs).

Isot pepper gives your dishes a smoky taste with a raisin-like flavor. Conversely, red pepper flakes have a sharp earthiness with a distinctive spiciness.

What Is Isot Pepper Used For?

The unique texture, taste, and color, coupled with moderate heat, make isot pepper a popular spice in Turkish cuisine. You can use it like you would crushed red pepper, but for more heat and smokiness.

You can use this pepper in the following creative ways:

Flavoring fresh vegetables – Include Urfa chile flakes in your fresh vegetables for a memorable smoky flavor.

Brownies, cookies, and cakes – Isot pepper’s acidic raisin-like taste gives snacks and treats such as cookies and baked brownies a sweet and savory taste.

Hot chocolate and coffee beverages – Use isot pepper to make tasty spiced beverages, including Mexican hot chocolate.

As a topping for Pizza – Isot pepper flakes on your pizza give it a spicy and smoky flavor.

Pan-fried breakfast eggs – Cook your eggs with isot pepper flakes to wake up your tastebuds in the morning.

For spicy harissa- Isot peppers are excellent in flavoring and heating Urfa Biber Harissa.

Salsas and soups – Sprinkle on salsas and soups as a finishing pepper.

Where To Buy Urfa Pepper

Urfa pepper is mainly used in cuisines as flakes and powders. Fresh ones are rare to find.

Isot pepper is available in major online stores such as Amazon. Additionally, you can check the spice section or international aisle of your grocery store. The spices are also widely stocked in grocery stores and specialty markets throughout Turkey.

Substitutes For Isot Pepper

If you can’t find isot pepper, try these substitutes:

Chipotle powder Chipotle powder makes a great isot pepper substitute since it’s made from drying jalapeno peppers. The powder is mild in spice and also has a smoky taste, like Urfa chiles.

Cayenne pepper – Cayenne and isot peppers can substitute each other. Both chiles have the same heat level ranging between 30,000-50,000 SHUs. Cayenne chili powder has more of a fruity flavor than isot pepper. Consider adding smoked paprika to mimic the smokiness of isot.

Taking cayenne also has additional health benefits.

Red pepper Chilli flakes – You can also use red chili flakes for recipes requiring isot pepper. However, red chili flakes have a lower heat level than Urfa peppers.


Aside from being a writer, Regie is a food lover. She loves adding chili to almost everything – apart from tea. Within her small compound, she has lots of red and green chilis that grow throughout the year. She looks forward to sharing her love and passion for pepper through crafting informational pieces that you’ll love. Happy reading!

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