The Turkish spice known as Urfa biber. Known for its distinctive deep red appearance, the exotic spice comes from a type of Middle eastern chili pepper which is harvested, sun-dried for weeks, and then ground into a coarse powder. Urfa biber gets its name from a combination of the location where it’s most commonly grown — the city of Urfa in southwestern Turkey — plus the Turkish word for pepper, which is “biber.”
In Turkey, Urfa biber is used in a number of dishes. It’s a popular add-on to a type of thin crust pizza-like dish known as Lahmacun which is typically served with ground meat and vegetables. It’s also widely used in a number of dips and spreads including muhammara and hummus. But Urfa biber is easy to include in more popular American dishes as well. For example, it can be a perfect addition to any tomato-based sauce or stew, adding a rich smoky flavor you might not get from other spices.
Turkish chefs may use Urfa biber in their kebabs, and it can be a head-turning addition to meatloafs, meatballs and even classic homestyle hamburgers that will have everyone asking about your secret ingredient.