Chili Flakes vs Red Pepper Flakes: Is There a Difference?

When you’re looking for a classic, spicy seasoning to add a kick to any dish, you’re likely to reach for chili flakes or red pepper flakes. Some people even refer to them as one thing and call them red pepper chili flakes. However, they are technically different and have distinct uses and flavor differences.

The term chili flakes refers to a seasoning that is made from crushed peppers of a specific plant, seeds removed. Red pepper flakes are crushed peppers from multiple types of peppers, seeds included. Chili flakes are not as spicy and have a less complex flavor than red pepper flakes.

To truly understand the differences between the two you have to break them down into their characteristics. These characteristics include the color, composition, uses, and the flavor that each product has.

Are Chili Flakes the Same as Red Pepper Flakes?

Although they may look similar and are often used interchangeably, chili flakes and red pepper flakes are not the same thing. There are several differences between the two, including differences in flavor and color. However, the most basic differences lie in what they’re made from. 

Chili flakes are made from one type of pepper whereas red pepper flakes are made from multiple varieties. Chili flakes are typically made from a specific type of pepper, but that will vary depending on the brand you purchase. Some of the most common peppers that chili flakes are made from are chipotle peppers and cayenne peppers.

Red pepper flakes are usually made from a mixture of several different peppers. The most common base pepper is cayenne pepper which will make up the majority of the seasoning. The rest of the pepper is usually a mixture of jalapeno, bell, Fresno, and anaheim peppers.

The multiple pepper flakes included in the mixture offer a more complex flavor which many people enjoy.

Chili Flakes and Red Pepper Flakes Overview

To decide which pepper you should buy the next time you take a trip to the supermarket seasoning section, it’s important to understand the differences between chili flakes and red pepper flakes. The main differences between the two can be seen in their composition, color, taste, and uses.

What are Chili Flakes?

Chili flakes are a popular seasoning that is made from crushed or pulverized peppers. The exact type of peppers will vary as will the spice level depending on the pepper used.


Chili flakes have no one recipe or flavor profile. All of this will depend on the peppers used to make the chili flakes. This can also make the seasoning more one-dimensional which means that you’ll likely need to combine multiple seasonings to get your ideal flavor.

Chili flakes typically only contain one type of pepper which is dried and then ground up into different consistencies. Some chili flakes are almost completely pulverized into a powder whereas others are roughly crushed to provide a chunkier texture.

One important thing to remember is that chili flakes typically do not contain seeds. After the peppers are dried the majority of the seeds are pulled out before they are pulverized. That way, there is less spice and more pepper flavor.


The next characteristic of chili flakes is their color. Since chili flakes only contain one type of pepper, their color is even throughout and you shouldn’t notice too much variation from flake to flake. 

The overall color of the chili flakes will vary based on the type of pepper that was used. Some chili flakes are a deep read whereas others are closer to a vibrant orange. 


The spice level of your chili flakes will depend on the type of pepper that was used. For example, if your chili flakes were made from habanero or cayenne peppers, they will likely be very spicy. If they were made from a milder pepper, like the jalapeno, then the level of spice should be mild.

However, the chili flakes will almost always be less spicy than the natural pepper because they do not contain the seeds of the pepper.

The flavor of chili flakes is typically one-dimensional. This is because they are only made from one type of pepper. If you are using chili flakes to season a dish, you should make sure to incorporate other seasonings into the food to make it taste like more than just one thing.


Chili flakes are most often used for flavoring other dishes. They are frequently used to add an extra spicy kick to everything from soups to your favorite stir fry. 

Some people also like to use them to top their pasta and pizza however, it is more common to use red pepper flakes for this.

What are Red Pepper Flakes?

Red pepper flakes are thought to have originated in Italy where they were used to top pizza and various pasta dishes. To this day, you’ll always know that you’re in an Italian restaurant by the small jar of red pepper flakes that you’re sure to find on every table.

Eventually, they made their way to other countries and were popularized there as well.


One of the reasons that red pepper flakes are such a popular topping is because they have such depth of flavor. This is because, unlike chili flakes, red pepper flakes are made using more than one type of pepper.

The most common pepper to use as a base in red pepper flakes is the cayenne pepper. Crushed cayenne pepper will usually make up the majority of the base of the red pepper flakes. In addition to cayenne, chili flakes will often include other peppers like bell peppers, Fresno peppers, anaheim peppers, and jalapenos.

These peppers are dried and then roughly crushed until it achieves the flake-like consistency that you’re used to seeing. Unlike chili flakes, the seeds are typically left in which lends to a spicier finish.


An easy way to tell that you’re looking at red pepper flakes and not chili flakes is by looking at the color. Chili flakes typically only have one color since they’re made from one type of pepper. Red pepper flakes are the exact opposite.

Since red pepper flakes are made from multiple crushed peppers, you will see lots of color variation within the flakes. The flakes typically come in a mixture of deep red, bright red, orange, and white depending on the peppers that were used.


Although the red pepper flake mix is often made from a variety of different peppers, several of which are milder on the spice scale, red pepper flakes are known for their heat. This is because, unlike chili flakes, the seeds are left in which the crushed red pepper flakes.

That way, you get the rich pepper flavor from the dried flesh of the pepper and a strong kick from the dried seeds. If your crushed red pepper flakes are made from mostly cayenne peppers, you can expect a very spicy topping. However, if they have a higher percentage of bell peppers or jalapeno peppers, you can expect the spice level to be a bit lower.


Crushed red pepper flakes are most commonly used as a topping for Italian dishes including pizza and pasta. This is why you’ll notice when you go into an Italian restaurant, there is almost always a jar of red pepper flakes on the table along with the parmesan cheese. However, Italian food isn’t the only option that pairs well with red pepper flakes.

You can use red pepper flakes to create a spicy sauce for foods like chicken wings and barbecue. You can also toss some red pepper flakes on things like a salad to add some extra spice and crunch. The options are endless when it comes to using red pepper flakes. 

What’s the Difference Between Red Pepper and Chili Flakes?

Now let’s look at the comparison between both and decide once and for all are chili flakes the same as red pepper flakes.


The difference in color between red pepper flakes and chili flakes is one of the more obvious differences when comparing chili flakes vs red pepper flakes.

Chili flakes usually have a single color that ranges from deep red to orange. This will depend on the type of pepper that was used to make the chili flakes and how ripe it was when harvested.

Red pepper flakes usually have multiple colors since they are made from multiple peppers. The different colors that you will see in a jar of crushed red pepper flakes range from white to a deep red. The more colors there are, the more varieties of peppers were used.

Heat Level

Another major difference between the two is in the heat level. This is due to a difference in processing where one has its seeds removed and the other does not. 

Out of the two, chili flakes are less spicy than red pepper flakes. After the chili peppers are dried, the seeds of the peppers are removed. This helps to lower the overall spice of the chili flakes and brings out the flavor of the actual peppers.

Red pepper flakes are usually spicier because after the peppers are dried, the entire pepper is crushed up without removing the seeds. The exact level of spiciness will depend on the types of peppers used and what proportion they’re used in.


Chili flakes tend to have a more one-dimensional flavor. This is because they only contain one type of pepper and all of that pepper is processed in the same way. For this reason, they are more frequently used as an ingredient than as a final topping or seasoning.

Red pepper flakes have more flavors since they have multiple types of peppers. The exact flavor will depend on the peppers used and how much of each pepper was incorporated.


Chili flakes are typically used to season recipes. They are often used in stews like chili, pizza sauce, and other spicy sauces. Some people also use them to top food, but that is rare since they do not have the multi-dimensional flavor that people usually desire in toppings.

Red chili flakes are a very versatile topping but are most well-known for their use in Italian food. Almost every time that you go to an Italian restaurant you are bound to see at least one person shaking a large amount of crushed red pepper onto their pasta or pizza to add an extra layer of crunch and flavor.

They can also be used on sandwiches, to top salads, and mixed into butter to create a delicious, spicy spread. The variety of flavors that you can get with red pepper flakes makes them a very popular option in various cuisines.

Can You Substitute Red Pepper Flakes for Chili Flakes and Vice Versa?

 If you’re in a pinch and don’t have the exact ingredients you’re looking for, red pepper flakes and chili flakes can make a good substitute for one another. However, you will want to be careful as you’re adding them in.

When substituting red pepper flakes for chili flakes, you will want to cut the regular amount in half, especially if you are sensitive to spicy foods. Since red pepper flakes still contain the seeds of the peppers, they are much spicier than chili flakes and will transfer that heat to your food. 

Of course, if you’re a big fan of spice, feel free to add the same amount and see how much heat you can take.

A similar rule applies the other way around. When you are using chili flakes as a substitute for crushed red pepper flakes, you will want to add about twice the amount that the recipe calls for. Since the flavor of chili flakes is typically much milder, you will need more of it to create a similar effect in the dish.

Final Thoughts

Red pepper chili flakes and chili flakes are delicious seasonings that each have their place in every home cook’s kitchen. However, there are differences between chili flakes vs red pepper flakes that are important to keep in mind.

Chili flakes are made from only one kind of pepper and the seeds are removed after the peppers are dried. This creates a seasoning that has a stronger pepper flavor and less spice since there are no seeds. The flavor is also more one-dimensional since multiple peppers are not used.

Red pepper flakes are made from multiple peppers and the seeds are included in the final product. This creates a spicier flavor that also has more dimension because of the multiple types of peppers that are used.