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Urfa pepper (Recipe: squash, sweet potato and carrot soup) {vegan, gluten-free}

Squash, sweet potato and carrot soup

One of my favorite indulgences, especially after a busy holiday season of cooking and entertaining, is a spice rack makeover.

New spices! Fresh spices! Out with the old, in with ... well, with whatever I want.

While culling through the pantry last week, making a list of things to replenish (black peppercorns, sea salt, cumin seed, smoked paprika), and tossing out a few herbs and spices past their prime, I unearthed a container of urfa pepper buried at the back of the spice rack.

Gosh. How did that happen? I love urfa pepper, yet I'd forgotten all about it because it wasn't at the front of the shelf.

(Does that happen to you? Of course it does.)

Urfa pepper -- also known as urfa biber -- is a limited-production smoky hot pepper from Turkey. Cultivated in the town of Şanliurfa, near the Syrian border, the peppers are picked, dried in the sun by day, then wrapped and sweated at night for more than a week. This sweating process gives the pepper a rich, earthy taste and aroma, and a flavor that hints of raisins. Then the whole pepper, including the seeds, is ground.


The purplish color, texture and flavor of the final dried and crushed pepper depends on the ripeness of the pepper when picked, the length of drying time, the amount of grinding and the quantity of oil and salt added to the finished product. (The best pepper has little or no oil and salt added.)

Urfa peppers have a moderate heat level that develops slowly. If you don't have urfa pepper, you can substitute Aleppo pepper or smoked sweet or hot paprika.

The moral of this story is: check the back of the pantry shelves. You'll probably find some good stuff hiding there.


Squash, sweet potato and carrot soup

Sometimes, when you toss a few orange things into a red soup pot, magic happens. This is one of those times. Serves 4.


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 orange-flesh yam or sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 carrot, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 tsp ground cumin
4 cups chicken broth or water
Juice of half a lemon
1 Tbsp honey or agave nectar
1 large pinch of urfa pepper
1 large pinch of kosher salt
Fresh black pepper, to taste


Place oil, squash, yam or sweet potato, carrot and onion into a 4-quart or larger soup pot. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the cumin, and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth or water. Bring to a boil; then reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 20 minutes or until the squash and sweet potato are soft when pierced with a knife.

Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a blender or food processor. Puree the vegetables, then return them to the liquid in the pot. Add lemon juice, honey, urfa pepper and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Taste, and balance seasoning as needed with more lemon, more honey, more salt and black pepper. Serve hot.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Muhammara (pomegranate and walnut paste)
Roasted vegetables with yogurt and fresh tomato sauce
Shrimp with romesco sauce

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Knew I shouldn't follow this one! Between you and Kalyn I got hooked on Aleppo. No doubt this will be another ...
and that soup ... well that looks about perfect for when I find this urfa pepper!

I love learning about new ingredients, especially an herb or spice that can change the qualities of a dish. Thanks for posting!

Never heard of it, but I will now be on the lookout for some!

I'm still behind getting aleppo peppers in my pantry. Should I just skip right over to ufra? I could use a little depth in my spicy cooking.

Mmmmm.... sounds and looks super!

Magic, indeed! I'm addicted to orange soups! And, now I need to find Urfa pepper!

Lydia I am positive this will be my new favorite soup after tasting it. Thanks for a fabulous recipe!

As I was reading your description Aleppo pepper came to mind. Then I saw where you suggested Aleppo as a substitute. I'll have to see if I can find some urfa since I have fallen madly in love with Aleppo.

looks delicious...

Lydia, those peppers look heavenly. Will have to get some of it. It's a coincidence that I posted a butternut squash soup recipe as well just last night, but with different ingredients of course :-). I assume you will only get these peppers at specialty middle eatern stores?

Urfa sounds amazing - I must find some. I love slow-developing, rich flavor, and I'm intrigued by the brownies! Of course, you make everything sound amazing, Lydia. You're the Oprah of the food blog world - when you recommend something, we all rush out and buy it!

Urfa pepper, that's a new one.

I'm not a little scared about what might be lurking at the back of my pantry, it's been a long time since any human ever went there.

Thanks so much for this post I was feeling a bit down in the dumps and nothing gets me going like an adventure looking for a spice.

This looks and sounds like a gorgeous soup! I have major spice organization issues.

I've not heard of urfa but I'm intrigued. I'll have to seek it out. The soup looks scrumptious.

Wow! Never heard of it! Thank you.

So beautiful, I will make it this weekend, thanks Lydia : )


ps the name of the pepper sound like a burp

I bet it was great tasting!

Hey there, your blog is stunning! I love the vibrant colours of the soup. Think I may just make some so that I can have it at work tomorrow. The work day will be alot easier knowing I've got a good lunch!

That soup looks so delicious and healthy too.

That is one fine looking bowl of soup. I love making soups like that. Now I've got to find urfa pepper to add to my spice shelves. Thanks so much for the post!

MyKitchen, you can use that Aleppo in this soup, but it's fun to have both and do a taste test. (And of course I don't feel badly about getting you hooked on pepper!)

Dawn, this pepper does have that ability to change a dish completely. It's remarkable.

Pam (and everyone): Here's an online source for urfa pepper if you can't find it at your local spice shop.

Julia, you know me. I'll say you should have both, or at least try both!

Deena, Maria, Celia, Rocquie, Janet, OneShot,Daryl: this is a truly delicious soup. I know you'll love it.

TW, maybe time for a shopping expedition?

Janel, if you love Aleppo, you'll love urfa. Maybe even more than Aleppo....

Sri, Christine: my local middle eastern market doesn't carry urfa pepper, but I can buy it at a wonderful cheese/gourmet shop, www.formaggiokitchen.com, or zingermans.com.

Judy, you're so kind. I love the thought that so many readers will try new ingredients after they read about them here.

Neil, urfa pepper wasn't the only thing I found lurking in the back of the pantry. It was a little bit scary.

Kim, you have access to such wonderful shops. Have fun on the hunt!

Cookbook Apprentice, I'm not super-organized on my spice rack, either.

Kelley, a burp? How funny! Of course now I'll remember that whenever I say urfa!

Vicky, color is important. This is one really bright orange soup.

I've never heard of urfa pepper until right now. A pepper from Turkey? I'm so ready to find some!

I love the sound of that soup - it's right up my alley. And soup is what I've been eating these days. Thanks for adding to my color palate.

I have never heard of them, they sound wonderful!

This looks absolutely incredible. I'd never heard of urfa pepper before but even with substitutions, this still sounds like a fantastic cold weather meal. Thanks!

Wow, this combination looks amazing! I have never used urfa pepper before and I will now try to find it!

This is 100% new to me---I've never even heard of Urfa Pepper before! Thanks to you, I do have Aleppo Pepper in my pantry now, but it's obvious I have a new quest ahead of me (or is it just a convenient excuse to do some new spice shopping). Either way, your description of Urfa Pepper's qualities makes it pretty darn irresistible.

I learned something new today about the ingredients and he spices. Thanks for sharing.

Toni, Natashya, Erin, Radhika, Sandie: This is a pepper to fall in love with, and you will, I'm sure of it. The color of the soup reminds me of the Southwest.

If I can't see it I don't even know I own it!!!

This is the second time I am making this soup. Delicious! Everyone who tasted it the first time around LOVED it. I add a bit of ginger, garlic and tumeric as well, and then some chopped kale at the very end. Thank you!

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