The Hot and Only: Urfa Isot

The addictive Urfa Isot

The hot and only Urfa isot: We call it special for a reason. If you love spicy food and want to try something different, Urfa Isot might be your next obsession. Also known as Urfa Biber, this Mesopotamian chili pepper has that signature smoky, raisin-like taste that will have you reaching for the spice shaker over and over again! So, what exactly is it? Let’s take a look!

How hot is Urfa Isot?

Urfa Isot peppers measure 50,000–100,000 Scoville heat units on average. That’s 500-1,000 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper. That is why we call it the hot and of course, only one 🙂 These high grades make it one of (if not) the hottest chili peppers in existence. Because most people aren’t accustomed to chili peppers as hot as Urfa Isot, they can take your breath away at first bite. Your nose might run, and your eyes may water! Hey! But we have got good news for those who do not like hot spice! Urfa isot also comes in a non-spicy version as well. More than a couple of different pepper types are harvested as Urfa isot. A couple of these peppers are so sweet that you would eat them raw and fresh.

How locals made Urfa Isot

Like many other chilis, Urfa isot is a dried product. Farmers harvest the peppers usually when they are red, and they dry the peppers under direct sunlight for 3-6 weeks. First, they wash the peppers, clean the seeds, and lay them on the rooftops as they are inside, facing the sun. Then every morning and night, the sides are switched so that the pepper would dry completely. Afterward, farmers splash salty water on and let it dry for a couple of weeks. The drying process of these peppers creates smoky flavor compounds that give it its unique taste, aroma, and color. Once dried, isot peppers can be used in a variety of dishes.

They have intense heat and peppery aftertaste that adds depth to stews, soups, tomato sauces, or barbecues. The peppers will keep for months when stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

When should I use it?

If you are making a recipe that calls for red pepper flakes or dried chili flakes, it might be a good idea to try Urfa isot. I like its unique taste and coloring—I tend to get dark reds in my recipes when I use them. However, if you can’t find it at your local grocery store, use dried red chili peppers instead. Some of them have a smoky flavor and will work just as well!

Tips for using Hot and Only Urfa Isot Pepper

Use sparingly for extra flavor; avoid it altogether if you can’t take spicy food. If you use too much, it will overpower your dish, in which case it would be better to switch to a milder pepper like cayenne or habanero. When served warm, flavors get very hot and intense, so don’t season dishes with Urfa before they are fully cooked (or at least warm).

Where can I buy this spice?

Some specialty spice stores carry it, and many Turkish, Armenian, or Middle Eastern grocers do. Oh, wait! Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry them as well. If you’re having trouble finding it, several online retailers are selling Urfa pepper online, including Amazon. But the best way of getting the authentic taste, of course, would be visiting our beautiful Urfa and having the most extraordinary food with these unique spices. It is an experience and is worth trying.

A Mesut
Mesut Bektas


Mesut was born in Silvan/Amed in 1986. He was born into a family of 11 as the 6th child of the family. He is married with three beautiful children. Mesut is a professional photographer and movie director. His work is recognized internationally and nationally with many prestigious awards. He is an instructor at the FOTO21 organization and gives very passionate classes about photography and movie making to the young generation of locals of Kurdish regions. His most recent project is a short film named QWX, which is currently nominated for an award at the Sinemaye Kurdi Institution.

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