DIY Cayenne Pepper Powder

How and why to make your own cayenne pepper powder

Updated March 2022

This year I grew both cayenne and paprika peppers. 

My goal was to grow and dry those peppers to make my own cayenne and paprika powders. I use a lot of both in cooking, and I add cayenne powder to the herbal wormer I give the goats.

I'd like to be able to grow the things I use most, instead of being dependent on the grocery store. (If you're interested, here are 25 things I no longer buy at the grocery store.)

Cayenne is also beneficial to our health in many ways. It's definitely something I want in my pantry as well as on my herbal medicine shelf.

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About cayenne peppers

A member of the Solanaceae family along with other peppers, cayenne peppers (Capsicum annuum) has many health benefits [source] such as:

  • pain relief
  • treatment for psoriasis as a topical cream
  • digestive aid
  • reducing high blood pressure
  • prevent blood clots and strokes
  • may slow the growth of cancer cells
  • high in antioxidants and several vitamins

Cayenne may also help you lose weight by curbing your appetite and speeding up your metabolism, and can increase circulation and reduce plaque buildup in arteries.

However there are some side effects as well. Eating too many cayenne peppers can cause heartburn or indigestion. Cayenne can also react with certain medications.

Cayenne can seem quite hot when eaten, but it's actually considered a "medium hot chili" in comparison to some of the world's hottest peppers. Cayenne peppers have a score of about four or five on a scale of ten, with ten being super-hot. They are about twelve times hotter than jalapeƱo peppers.

How to grow cayenne peppers

I planted and nurtured the seeds and had half a dozen plants of each just about ready to transplant, but our dogs attacked them and reduced that number to one plant of each variety. I was thankful they spared those two plants.

I babied the two remaining plants, keeping them potted in my herb garden for awhile until the grasshopper infestation in the raised bed garden died down a bit. 

Cayennes are commonly grown as annuals, and the seeds are usually started indoors about 6 to 8 weeks before your last spring frost. 

Sow the seeds in light, well-drained soil and keep them in a sunny location. They are rather fussy, and prefer a temperature of at least 60°F. The seeds should sprout in about 16-20 days.

Harden off the seedlings before you transplant them outdoors in the garden or in pots, after the danger of frost has passed.

Cayenne plants need plenty of moisture, but don't overwater. Yellowing leaves are a sign of either over- or underwatering.

Harvest cayenne peppers when they are 4-6 inches long, bright red, firm and shiny, after about 70-80 days.

Store unwashed peppers in a paper bag or wrapped in paper towels, and place in the crisper drawer in your refrigerator. 

To keep your peppers fresh longer, avoid using plastic bags to store cayenne peppers. Excess moisture will collect inside and cause spoilage. Wrinkled, soft peppers, or those with dark spots, are past their prime and shouldn't be eaten.

Wash cayenne peppers when you are ready to use them, not before.

From just that one cayenne pepper plant I harvested 46 red peppers. How many would I have had if all six plants had lived?

How to dehydrate cayenne peppers

Don't forget to wear gloves when you cut up hot peppers of any variety. Peppers contain capsaicin, an oil that will burn your skin when handled, and also burn your tongue when you eat them. 

And woe to you if you rub your eyes after cutting your cayenne peppers, or try to remove your contact lenses. 

So wear gloves. Nitrile gloves will protect your hands and still give you enough dexterity to handle a knife.

Cut the tops off the peppers and cut them into pieces about half-an-inch long.

Remove the seeds at this point. Yes, you can leave them for a little extra heat if you like, but the texture of your cayenne powder will be smoother if you remove them. (Don't forget the gloves!)

Lay the pieces in a single layer on your dehydrator tray. 

It took about 24 hours for my pepper slices to dry to a brittle state.

When they are completely dry, grind them up into powder. 

I used my electric coffee grinder to do this. I only use it for spices, not for coffee. A manual coffee grinder would also work, or use a mortar and pestle.

I left the seeds in my cayenne strips, and you can see the seeds in the "powder" that is still rather chunky. Removing the seeds will result in smoother powder.

Those 46 peppers from my one plant yielded just shy of two ounces of cayenne powder. This will help me decide how many plants to grow next year, as long as I can keep my dogs from eating the seedlings.

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