Red Chili Syrup

go directly to the recipe

One of my sisters is in town on business. Happily, she was able to set aside business yesterday evening and came to our house to dine. Another sister and brother-in-law joined the party. We sat outside while T grilled minted meat patties on the barbecue. Then we came indoors to have the patties with perfect basmati rice with butter, dahl and steamed green and wax beans. This was followed by a brand new dessert idea (well, brand new, for us anyway).

click on image for more photos of red chili syrup
red chili syrup We first got the idea for making red chili syrup after watching an episode of Nigella Lawson’s “Forever Summer”. No recipe was given but it didn’t seem like it would be too difficult to duplicate. We have no idea if the following is even close to Nigella’s. But we don’t care because what we made is really good.

Red Chili syrup

  • 1 c water
  • 1½ c sugar
  • 6 or 7 red cayenne peppers


  1. Pour water into a small pot. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Bring to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile (heehee, my other sister hates it when there is a “meanwhile” in the recipe), wash chillies. Seed them and chop coarsely.
  3. When the sugar water has come to a boil, add the chillies and boil gently for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Pour the syrup into a clean glass jar. Let cool, cover and refrigerate

Serve overtop of vanilla icecream. Garnish with sprigs of mint if you have them.

click on image for more photos of red chili syrup
red chili syrup The syrup is beautiful, don’t you think? The cayenne peppers that we used were particularly hot – hotter than we expected. And the resulting syrup was unbelievably hot.

Consequently, when we served it, even though none of us are strangers to spicy food, we only put a little on each bowl of ice cream. And it was remarkable! The icecream completely dissipated the fire of the chillies. One sister at the table exclaimed that this was the first time she had actually able to taste the flavour of the chillies – and she has eaten plenty of spicy food.

And she was right. The slightly citrus flavour of the chillies sprang out. I also loved the chewy raisiny quality that the chillies took on.

Everyone raved. We fetched the syrup jar from the kitchen so people could add as much of the syrup as they wanted. This dessert is definitely a keeper. Thank you, Nigella!!

(Ha! We thought we had made too much syrup… but we’ll need to make more syrup for the next time!)

At first I thought maybe this was going to be my post for Barbara’s (Tigers and Strawberries) event, The Spice is Right #2 – Sweet Or Savory?. (The deadline for posts to be added to Barbara’s The Spice is Right #2 – Sweet Or Savory? roundup is 15 May, 2006 at midnight EDT.)

cayenne peppers While it’s unlikely that anyone would argue about the spiciness of fresh cayennes, they aren’t strictly spices, especially if the seeds have been removed.

edit @ 15:17 EDT: I was just looking at Barbara’s rules (scroll down the linked page to find them) and see that perhaps this post might have fit into the event after all:

[T]he definition of a spice that we will be using for the purpose of this event is as follows: “Any aromatic substance, fresh or dried, that is derived from the root, rhizome, bulb, bark, woody stem, flower, fruit or seed of a plant that is used to flavor foods.”

But my official Spice is Right II post is already half written… so stay tuned.


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  • Ivonne


    I saw that episode of “Forever Summer”, Elizabeth! Great idea to make the chili syrup … well done!

  • the “other” sister who wasn’t invited to dinner…

    …maybe because I’m thousands of kilometres away. I have to say that I stopped reading the recipe when it got to the word “meanwhile”. But then I kept on reading the blog itself and I badly want to have ice cream with red chili syrup but I don’t think I can. Here are the reasons: I can’t follow a recipe to save my life, I MUST change it and I can’t use a recipe that contains the words “meanwhile”. What to do, what to do!!

  • MrsBrown

    How come one of the bowls has a lot more ice cream AND a sprig of mint? Were the other bowls jealous?

  • ejm

    The other bowls got mint too. This was taken as the bowls were being prepared for serving and there was a good deal of “hurry up and snap the picture – the ice cream is melting!!” so it seemed wise to take one picture and put the camera away.

    As for the bowl with the extra icecream. Well, what can I say? SOMEONE really likes icecream. As it happens, two people wanted even less icecream than was served in the smallest amounts and the person who really likes icecream gallantly (cough) offered to eat the unwanted icecream….

    Ivonne, we’re really glad we tried this. While I’m not that wild about icecream (it’s so cold), even I loved this and would definitely serve it again. Do try it. It makes the icecream flavour really sparkle.

    edit: incidentally, the mint came from our garden!!

  • ejm

    Oh dear. How remiss of us not to invite all siblings, siblings-in-law, offspring, parents, cousins….. We really should have invited EVERYONE even though we knew they might not be able to attend.

    Surely you can manage to change the recipe just a little and still come up with something similar. For instance, I wanted to add a little cinnamon and clove as well – because I always add cinnamon and clove to cranberry sauce. But I was vetoed.

    But I don’t know what advice I can offer about the “meanwhile”. Can’t you just pretend you didn’t notice it?

  • Gabriella True

    Okay. when I first started reading I thought it sounded awful! But as you wrote on you really have sold me. I think I will try this one this summer.
    So you said the pepper were sort of raiseny – were they almost too hot to eat even with the ice cream?

    My Life As A Reluctant Housewife

  • ejm

    That was the really bizarre thing. The chili syrup did not seem really hot at all when it was on the icecream. It just seemed to make the ice cream sparkle.

    None of us (not even my husband, who can munch on Thai chilies) could stand the heat the chili syrup on its own. But all of us had to put more chili syrup on.

    I hope you do try this, Gabriella. It really is a remarkable and wonderful dessert.

  • Hannah

    Thanks so much! I have a tonne of chili sitting here and I love chili syrup but have been unable to find a good recipe anywhere (and if you saw what I come up with when I experiment! Eeek!)
    I promise to try this tomorrow!

    You’re most welcome Hannah. I’m really looking forward to hearing what you think! And I envy you that you have a ton of chillies. -Elizabeth