What Is Calabrian Chili Powder?

Calabrian chili peppers are a variety of peppers grown in the Calabria region of southern Italy. They are known for their unique spicy yet sweet flavor profile. The peperoncino peppers thrive in Calabria's hot climate and nutrient-rich soil.

What Is Calabrian Chili Powder

These small, fat, red chili peppers pack quite a spicy punch but also have a sweet, salty, earthy, and fruity taste. This makes them incredibly versatile to cook with. The peppers are rich in vitamins A, B-6, and C as well as capsaicin which provides gut and heart health benefits.

Calabrians traditionally preserve chili peppers by packing them in olive oil. The peppers are also used fresh or dried to add heat and flavor to various Italian dishes like spicy Nduja sausage, pasta arrabbiata, and tuna and breadcrumb dishes.

Real Italian Flavor From Tutto Calabria

Since 1970, Tutto Calabria has been producing high-quality Calabrian chili pepper products using traditional methods. The company was founded in the town of Presila Catanzarese in the Calabria region, surrounded by local flavors and aromas.

Tutto Calabria chili pepper products like the sliced peppers preserved in olive oil provide an authentic Calabrian flavor. The sliced peppers can be used to make a spicy Calabrian chili paste that is delicious in pasta, stews, and other dishes.

Calabrian Chili Powder's Ingredients and Uses

The main ingredients in Calabrian chili powder are simply Calabrian chili peppers and salt. This makes the powder vegan and gluten-free friendly.

The powder can be used to add heat and depth of flavor to many dishes like pizza, pasta, bread, stews, and salsas. It's a versatile sprinkle that takes recipes up a notch. The powder is especially good in pasta dishes like spaghetti aglio e olio.

Both a "hot" version and a slightly sweeter version of the Calabrian chili powder are produced. This allows cooks to choose their desired level of heat.

Flavor Profile of Calabrian Chili Powder

The dried chili pepper powder maintains the enticing fruity, smoky, and spicy flavor of the fresh Calabrian chili pepper. It has a medium hotness around a 6 out of 10 on the spice scale.

The complexity of flavors sets Calabrian chili powder apart from other red chili powders. It brings a pop of fruity sweetness followed by a warming, smokey heat. The powder is also known for its beautiful, vivid red color that adds vibrance to dishes.

Traditional Uses in Italian Cuisine

In the Calabria region, chili powder is used abundantly to add spice and color to many traditional dishes:

  • Pasta dishes - The powder is tossed with pasta or mixed into pasta sauces like arrabbiata to add some heat.
  • Pizzas - Calabrian chili powder is commonly sprinkled on pizza to give it a spicy kick.
  • Soups and stews - The powder infuses body and spice into soups like minestrone or tomato-based stews.
  • Seafood - Fish and shellfish dishes are often seasoned with powder. It stands up well to heartier flavors.
  • Meats - The chili powder is rubbed onto or mixed into cured meats like sausages, adding characteristic heat.
  • Legumes - Dishes of beans, lentils, or chickpeas gain an extra dimension from a dash of Calabrian chili powder.
  • Vegetables - Simply roasted or grilled vegetables come alive with a sprinkling of the powder.

How to Cook with Calabrian Chili Powder

Calabrian chili powder is extremely versatile in the kitchen. Here are some tips for using it:

  • Start with a small amount and add more to taste. The powder can quickly make a dish spicy.
  • For less heat, bloom the powder in oil before adding other ingredients. This mellows the chili flavor.
  • Mix the powder into marinades, dressings, and sauces for a spicy kick.
  • Use it as a dry rub on proteins like chicken, beef, pork, lamb, or seafood before searing or grilling.
  • Sprinkle on top of finished dishes like pizzas, pasta, and soups. The vivid red powder adds visual appeal.
  • Make a spicy chili oil by heating olive oil and infusing it with the chili powder.
  • For desserts, add just a pinch of powder to brownies, chocolate ganache, or chocolate molten lava cakes.

Calabrian chili powder should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. It will keep its potent flavor for about a year. A little of this Italian chili powder goes a long way in amping up spice and flavor!

History and Popularity of Calabrian Chili Peppers

The Calabrian chili has a long history in Southern Italy. The peppers have been cultivated in the region for centuries and are intrinsically tied to Calabrian cuisine and culture.

Locals even hold an annual Peperoncino Festival dedicated to the chili pepper. It features local chefs, vendors, and artists, and attracts spicy food lovers from around the world.

Internationally, interest in Calabrian chili peppers has grown steadily, especially by chefs looking for new flavor inspirations. The complex flavor profile works well in a variety of global cuisines.

As the chili pepper's popularity expands, Tutto Calabria and other Calabrian companies continue to export high-quality products to share the quintessential Italian flavors.


What kind of dishes pair well with Calabrian chili powder?

Calabrian chili powder is very versatile but especially shines in hearty dishes that can stand up to its big flavor. Pastas, stews, soups, meats, and seafood are all great vehicles for chili powder. It also makes a bright, spicy addition to simpler foods like eggs, avocado toast, dips, and dressings.

What are some recipe ideas using Calabrian chili powder?

Some delicious ways to use this chili powder are:

  • Mixed into marinara sauce for pasta
  • Whisked into vinaigrettes for salad
  • Rubbed on chicken or shrimp before grilling
  • Sprinkled on pizza or flatbreads
  • Swirled into hummus or bean dip
  • Added to meatballs or sausage
  • Sprinkled on deviled eggs
  • Used in chili or beef stew recipes

Should you cook with the chili powder or add it as a finishing touch?

You can do both! Lightly cooking the powder in oil mellows its raw bite. But sprinkling it on at the end ensures you get that fresh chili flavor and red flecks of color. In sauces, aim for balance by cooking in some powder and sprinkling additional on the finished dish.


Calabrian chili powder may seem obscure, but it should be on every adventurous cook's radar. With its sweetly complex heat and vibrant red color, the powder can transform all kinds of savory dishes.

Made from a beloved Italian pepper, Calabrian powder combines wonderfully with other Mediterranean flavors like garlic, tomato, and olive oil.

Whether used in its native southern Italy or across the globe, this chili powder brings character and just the right amount of fire.

Sarah Cortez
Sarah Cortez

My name is Sarah and I'm a baker who loves trying out new recipes and flavor combinations. I decided to challenge myself to use a new spice or ingredient powder in my baking each week for a year. Some successes were the cardamom sugar cookies, vivid turmeric cake, and beetroot chocolate cupcakes. Failures included the bitter neem brownies and overwhelmingly hot ghost pepper snickerdoodles. Through this experience I've discovered amazing additions to spice up desserts while learning how to balance strong flavors. Follow my journey as I push the boundaries of baking with unique powders!

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