Think a smoky, mildly spicy raisin sounds like an incredible treat? Then you’re bound to like 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. You can also add it to your favorite lentil and bean-based soups.
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.