Chilli is a staple of all spice racks, as it's the best way to add some spice to your cooking. Anyone who likes even slightly spicy food is certain to have a jar of chilli, in one form or another. What a lot of people don't realise, however, is the vast difference between chilli powder and crushed chilli flakes.
The main difference between the two is not just that one is ground into a fine powder while the other consists of larger flakes. Chilli powder often contains ingredients other than chillies, so it's not a simple case of using whichever one you have on hand. Here's why it's best to use crushed chilli flakes rather than chilli powder and why you should buy crushed chilli.
You have greater control over flavour
Because chilli powder normally contains ingredients like salt, onion and cumin in addition to the chillies, you have no choice but to add them to your cooking. This means you lose some of the control you get when you're mixing spices, which is bad news for Indian food, and you can't use chilli powder in sweet dishes.
You get tailored, more consistent spice
With chilli powder, you never quite know what type of chillies it contains, and quite how much. Because of that, it's hard to predict what results you'll get, and they're less consistent. Using pure crushed chilli helps you perfectly tailor the levels of spiciness to your liking.
You can choose between flakes or powder
Sometimes powdered chilli is useful, as its flavour spreads more evenly through a dish. If you buy flakes, you can still grind them finely if you want to, but the choice is yours. That makes it a more versatile ingredient to help you get the best out of your cooking.
There's room for experimentation
Chilli powder is usually quite basic, and you rarely know what type of chilli it contains. Dried flakes, on the other hand, are available in a range of chilli varieties, letting you experiment with the different flavours.
It makes a better garnish
If you want to sprinkle chilli on top of a dish, flakes just look so much more appealing than a powder. They make the perfect visual finish to spicy dishes and add a splash of colour to the finished food.
It's best for infusions
Infusing oil, vinegar or even alcohol with chilli is a great way to use the hot flavour for new effects. If you use powder, it's extremely difficult to strain out afterwards, leaving you with a cloudy liquid and sediment at the bottom. Using chilli flakes makes it much easier to achieve a clean, clear infusion with no remnants of the spice left behind.