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Indian Spice Question

comestible Nov 22, 2009 06:02 PM

I'm running out of cayenne and was going to buy some at one of the two Indian groceries in the neighborhood. They have tons of bagged spices but nothing labeled "cayenne." There is plenty of what is labeled "chili powder" or "chilli powder." Is that the same thing? If so, are certain brands better?


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  1. goodhealthgourmet RE: comestible Nov 22, 2009 06:33 PM

    it's not the same thing. cayenne is a specific pepper, while standard "chili" powder found in the US is usually a blend of various ground chiles and other spices such as oregano, cumin, garlic & salt. since you found it in an Indian market, it may be Indian chili powder (as opposed to the more common Mexican), so it won't contain the cumin & oregano, but it still won't be pure cayenne, nor will it be as hot as cayenne.

    regardless, it's not cayenne...but if using it for Indian dishes i'd go for the one labeled "chilli" with two L's - that British spelling tells me there's a *slightly* better chance it's the one better suited to Indian cooking.

    3 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet
      LauraGrace RE: goodhealthgourmet Nov 22, 2009 07:20 PM


      The one I have from Patel Bros is "Chilli Powder."

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
        Scrofula RE: goodhealthgourmet Nov 22, 2009 11:27 PM

        To Indians, chili/chilli powder means just that: powdered chili. There almost certainly aren't any other spices in it. So it's like cayenne powder, just possibly made with a different variety of chili. I don't think the chili/chilli distinction is important.

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
          Harters RE: goodhealthgourmet Nov 23, 2009 06:24 AM

          I'm with goodhealthgourmet if the OP is looking at a product with the British spelling. Chilli powder will usually be a mix of ground chillis and other spices. Cayenne is cayenne.

        2. g
          ghostpeppergirl RE: comestible Nov 22, 2009 11:50 PM

          I've purchased lots if different bags of chili powder over the years from Indian markets. I can tell you it's all been pure chili powder and it has all been wicked hot (delicious). Think cayenne but hotter- it definately does depend on the type of chil to indicate flavor and heat but in my experience, it's only ever been labeled 'chili' - my mom put hers in a special jar marked'hotter than Hades' :-)

          1 Reply
          1. re: ghostpeppergirl
            alkapal RE: ghostpeppergirl Nov 23, 2009 05:43 AM

            you are absolutely correct, ghost-girl!

            it is pure ground chiles, and it is hotter than cayenne. a lot hotter. mine came from my mother-in-law who brought it from sri lanka.

          2. Axalady RE: comestible Nov 23, 2009 05:06 AM

            The internet is your friend - from Wikipedia; Chili powder, chile powder or chilli powder (British English) is a powder consisting purely or mainly of powdered hot chili pepper, most commonly either red peppers or cayenne peppers, which are both of the species Capsicum annuum.

            I've purchased chilli powder from our local Indian store and I have used it in lots of different dishes. It's plenty hot and if there's a difference between it and McCormick cayenne powder we can't tell it.

            The brand I purchased is Radhuni and this is their product description "Radhuni powdered Chilli is vivid in color, precious in flavor. Best variety of red chilli provides more hotness."

            Go ahead and purchase it.

            1. g
              gordeaux RE: comestible Nov 23, 2009 05:14 AM

              It'll just be straight ground chile. It might not be cayenne, but it will be plain ground chile with no other spices added. The heat level might be different than cayenne. I'd venture to say it will have better flavor than cayenne, but that's an opinion. I don't find cayenne particularly flavorful.

              1. s
                scott123 RE: comestible Nov 23, 2009 07:16 AM

                Comestible, congratulations, you found pretty much the only store where you can't buy cayenne :) Cayenne is everywhere. Your local supermarket, box stores (Walmart, Target, Kmart), dollar stores, Latin grocers- it's all over the place.

                And, unlike other obscure spices that can vary tremendously in price from store to store, everywhere you go there's almost always a bargain brand that's of perfectly acceptable quality. Skip the overpriced McCormick. It might say 'cayenne' or the label might say 'red pepper' or 'hot pepper.' Hot pepper flakes are cayenne as well, and, if you're inclined, can be ground down in a spice grinder, although I recommend doing it somewhere with phenomenal ventilation.

                'Chili/Chilli powder' in Indian grocers can be a ground version of a myriad number of chilis, ranging from mild to hot. I've bought probably 10 different shades of this powder and none of them had the heat of cayenne.

                If, for whatever reason, you are hell bent on buying your hot pepper from the Indian grocer, look for a whole dried chili that approximates this shape/size and grind it:


                Otherwise, go somewhere else. Anywhere else.

                1. luckyfatima RE: comestible Nov 23, 2009 07:44 AM

                  If you want cayenne because you like it, that is fine. However, if you intended to cook Indian food with it may I suggest you just buy regular Indian ground red chile powder or possibly Kashmiri chile powder. I see a lot of Indian recipes meant for a North American context say "cayenne powder" but I think that is merely suggested as a subsitute for people who won't have access to Indian chile powders. If you don't have to use cayenne in Indian cooking, you really shouldn't. Unless of course it is just your personal preference.

                  1. c
                    comestible RE: comestible Nov 23, 2009 08:48 AM

                    Thank you for all your replies. I have been using Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian cookbook, and was puzzled that she specifies "cayenne" in the recipes themselves, but in the glossary in the back only "chili powder" appears. That is curious.

                    I always thought "cayenne" was the name of a specific pepper.

                    I gather from the responses that I can't go too far wrong. I'll try the packaged chilli powder from the Indian place; sounds like it may be a different and hotter experience. And I can get cayenne anywhere, so I can enjoy both at my whim.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: comestible
                      alanbarnes RE: comestible Nov 23, 2009 04:31 PM

                      Sounds like you've got it under control. Just remember that "chili powder" from the Indian market is not interchangeable with "chili powder" from the grocery store.

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