How to Make Cayenne Pepper Powder

Make your own homemade organic spices and add an extra touch of freshness and flavor to your life. We'll guide you through the process of growing cayenne peppers, drying them and creating cayenne pepper powder. Here's how to make this fiery, homemade spice.

How to make cayenne pepper powder

Updated June 2024

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 dewormer I give the goats.

I'd like to be able to grow more of the things we 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. Knowing it came from your garden makes it even more special. 

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Benefits of cayenne peppers

A member of the Solanaceae family along with other peppers, cayenne peppers (Capsicum annuum) may be beneficial [source] in the following situations:

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

Cayenne may also help you lose weight by curbing your appetite and speeding up your metabolism, and could 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.

Cayenne peppers growing on a plant in the garden. Some are ripe and red, and some are still green.

I babied the surviving plants, keeping them potted in my herb garden for awhile until the grasshopper infestation in the vegetable 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 containers, about 2-3 weeks after the danger of frost has passed. 

You'll find directions for hardening off seedlings in this post about transplanting tomatoes. The method is the same for peppers.

Peppers need 6-8 hours of sunlight daily in order to grow and produce well. They prefer rich, well-draining soil with lots of organic matter. 

Cayenne plants need plenty of moisture, but don't overwater. Let the soil dry out before watering again. Yellowing leaves are a sign of either over- or underwatering (you'll have to figure out which one applies in your situation).

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

How to store cayenne peppers

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 the bag and cause the peppers to spoil. 

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.

A pile of ripe cayenne peppers on a green cutting board.

How to dehydrate cayenne peppers

The first step to making cayenne powder is to dehydrate the 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. It's the same reason you can 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!)

Cayenne pepper slices on a white dehydrator tray.

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.

A white bowl of red dehydrated cayenne pepper slices.

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.

A small beaker of homemade cayenne pepper powder, made from homegrown cayenne peppers

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.

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

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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