Bowl of red pepper flakes on marble background
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Any fans of spicy foods? January 16 is National Hot and Spicy Food Day.

Red pepper flakes – or crushed red pepper – are a great way to add spice and heat to recipes. Red pepper flakes are dried hot peppers that are crushed into small pieces and served along with the seeds.


Red pepper flakes are very spicy, so the amount typically eaten is small. There are not significant calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein, or vitamins or minerals in a few shakes of red pepper flakes.

  • Buy: Many brands of red pepper flakes come in small plastic or glass jars in the spice aisle of your store, and may also be available in bulk sizes. Like other spices, look for containers with a "use by" date as far off as possible.
  • Do-It-Yourself: We made our own red pepper flakes! Read our sister blog – Know How, Know More – to see how we did it - and how you can too!
  • Price: Price will vary by brand and package size. Choose a style that fits your budget.
  • Store: Store spices, including red pepper flakes, in dark, cool areas to maintain better quality. While dried spices do not spoil, they do lose flavor and potency over time. Smell spices every 6 months, and throw out those that lack their signature aroma.
  • Prepare: Other than measuring what you want for your recipe, red pepper flakes are ready to use!
  • Eat: Pizza is a popular use of red pepper flakes. Try them in soups, marinades, vegetable side dishes, and other savory recipes.

Slow Cooker Sausage and Barley Gumbo (Serves 4)

Print recipe388.91 KB

12-ounces sweet or mild fresh pork sausage
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
3 medium stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8-ounces no-salt-added tomato sauce
8-ounces fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup uncooked pearl barley
1 tsp dried oregano or Italian spice
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1. In a skillet, crumble and cook sausage until brown. Drain fat.
2. Add cooked sausage and remaining ingredients to a 3- or 4-quart slow cooker. Stir to combine. If mixture looks dry, add 1/4 cup of water or broth.
3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Nutrition Information per serving: 320 calories, 20 total fat, (14g unsaturated fat), 740mg sodium, 20g carbohydrates, 4g dietary fiber, 17g protein

Recipe adapted from: Diabetes Self Management



Healthy Eats and Repeat
How much difference is there between canned and frozen foods? How should you cook venison? When is the best time to buy avocados? Get answers to these questions as well as other tips, tutorials and recipes for common kitchen foods and items with University of Illinois Extension Nutrition & Wellness Educator Caitlin Mellendorf’s blog Healthy Eats and Repeat. Build your best life. Trust Extension to help.

Caitlin Mellendorf is an Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon and Piatt Counties in Central Illinois. She is a Registered Dietitian and her work focuses on helping community members gain the knowledge, skills and tools to live healthier, more nutritious lifestyles. This includes providing programs and answering questions about heart health, diabetes, food safety, food preservation, grocery shopping and cooking. You can reach Caitlin by email at or call 217.877.6042. Check out her nutrition blog Healthy Eats and Repeats for seasonal recipes and of an exploration of common kitchen foods.