Cooking is an art form. It’s a marriage between salt, fat, sweetness, and heat. A typical way of adding heat to our food is through the humble chili. Chili peppers come in various shapes, sizes, tastes, heat levels, and even sweet levels.
There are many types of chilis, but they all add their own type of spice and uniqueness to any dish depending on which type it is. From the moreish jalapeno to the California Reaper, the different taste sensations feel limitless.
What do you do, however, when your favorite chili is nowhere to be found? Let’s have a look at 9 different substitutes for chili that you can incorporate into your cooking and probably already have to lurk in your spice cupboard.
What popular substitutes can I use for red chili pepper? Serrano peppers, cayenne peppers, cumin seeds, Pequin chili pepper, or Tien Tsin chili peppers work very well as substitutes for red chili pepper.
Finding a replacement for your favorite food can feel like the end of the world. But we’ve got you covered! If you’ve got a recipe that calls for a hot, smoky flavor, but all you have is milder peppers on hand—don’t worry! There are plenty of alternatives out there to get the same effect.
If you are new to using chilis in cooking and are looking for a sweet and spicy chili pepper flavor without any heat, try using fresh poblano or New Mexican green varieties; both add some spice while still having those sweet notes.
Or, if your dish needs more sweetness than spiciness, use Anaheims, which will be slightly less potent in terms of how much capsaicin they contain (a compound found in chilies). If this isn’t enough kick for everyone, then go with canned chipotle peppers instead, as these pack a sizable punch and bring a certain smokiness.
Below is our list to help find an appropriate chili substitute. You should know that knowing how much heat, sweetness, and smokiness you want in your dish will affect what type of chili pepper works best with different recipes, so make sure to keep in mind these qualities when selecting one below!
What Are Red Chilli Peppers?
The red chili pepper comes from capsicum plants. They provide us with carbs, and they also offer a small amount of protein and fiber, but we don’t eat them in large enough quantities to make them an important part of our diet.
You can use chili peppers to spice up dishes like fajitas or pasta sauce. You can even add some heat to your seafood dish by adding chilies to dishes like paella or spicy seafood pasta.
Not only do these fruits help give flavor, but they also add depth and complexity to the flavor profile of the dish. The fiery flavor is just one way these hot peppers add zesty sweetness and a unique smokiness too.
1) Serrano Pepper
Fiery, green serrano peppers are harvested while still young and provide a spicy substitute for red chilies. They have a mildly hotter flavor than the more popular jalapenos or other chili varieties. Make sure not to overdo it with these spicier peppers because their heat level varies wildly from pepper to pepper!
OliveNation Smoked Serrano Powder is an ideal brand to use as their chili powders range from 8’000 to 42’000 on the Scoville Heat Scale, packing in a lot of heat into just a little powder, making it very affordable and long-lasting.
2) Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds are a great substitute for red chili pepper because they have a similar flavor and can be used in the same way. You need to know that cumin has earthier undertones than chili, so you may want to use more of it if your dish is on the mild side or add some additional ingredients to add richness.
If you are looking for high-quality, certified USDA organic cumin seeds, look no further than Jiva USDA Organic Cumin Seeds. The seeds are of the highest quality, the bag they come from is perfect for long-term storage, and if you decide to purchase through this link, Jiva will donate a complete meal for a child in need with every purchase.
3) Chipotle peppers
Chipotle peppers are a fantastic option for people who want to enjoy their favorite Mexican dishes but don’t have any red chili pepper varieties in the house. They provide an enjoyable, spicy taste that can be used with black beans or refried beans and paired perfectly well with rice.
If you’re looking to spice up your dish, then these spicy little morsels will do the trick! These peppers tend to be spicier than red chili peppers, so use sparingly.
Chipotle peppers are also typically used in Mexican dishes and are infamous for adding earthy richness to Adobo Sauce.
For authentic cooking, I recommend you use dried Chipotle Morita Chile Peppers, and these have been grown and cultivated in Mexico to give you that authentic flavor.
4) Cayenne Peppers
Cayenne pepper is a unique type of chili that can range from mild to hot and is chili with an iconic shape with one pointed end. It depends on what type and conditions of its growth to determine how spicy they are.
These peppers are typically found in spice sections of grocery stores, usually dried or ground up into powder form for easy use later. This makes them a good substitute for recipes calling for red chilis both ground up and whole.
Ground cayenne pepper is a smart ingredient to buy. McCormick Ground Cayenne Red Pepper is my recommendation as they start with whole, ripe peppers, which are then dried and milled under strict conditions, making this a high-quality and enduring purchase for your pantry.
5) Pequin (PIQUIN) Chili Peppers
The Pequin Chili Pepper is an interesting chili because it has a rectangular shape and is shorter than other peppers. They are usually about an inch long and are fire-engine red in color.
The most important thing to know about these chilies is that their cultivation is limited due to environmental conditions. The fact that there’s so little of this pepper makes it hard for people who love spicy food to find them!
When farmers harvest Pequin peppers, they are smoked over a wood fire that provides its signature taste and unique flavor profile. These chilis are good substitutes for any recipe which calls for a smoky, fruity flavor, such as Southern BBQ-style foods. Boiling sauces and salsas.
These peppers should be used in moderation as a small amount will add a good amount of heat to even a large portion of food.
Another way of storing your chili is in a light pickling, such as the San Pedro Chile Piquin chilis. These give you the versatility of whole chilis with the long shelf life of dried chilis—the perfect blend of both worlds.
6) Jalapeño Peppers
The ever-popular Jalapeño pepper is undoubtedly one of the most well-known chili peppers throughout the world. These chilis vary in color from dark green to red and range from medium hot to very spicy. Jalapenos can be found in many Mexican dishes and featuring in many other dishes across the world.
They have a uniquely flavorful taste that so many people love. These chilies are also known for their health benefits and add nutritional value to any meal with plenty of vitamins such as vitamin C and E.
There is no need to think twice about substituting them into any dish that calls for whole red chili peppers because they are just as delicious, though do add with caution as they can be incredibly spicy.
If you want a slightly milder jalapeño for your sumptuous meal, then I highly recommend Jeff’s Naturals Sliced Tamed Jalapeño Peppers. Another high-quality brand with a focus on offering the best products to you.
7) Tien Tsin Peppers
Tien Tsin peppers are perfect for those looking to add a little spice and flavor without the intense heat of some other fiery chilis. This is a chili pepper from the northern part of China, and they’re also known as Chinese Red Peppers. They are ideal to be substituted into dishes like Szechuan or Kung Pao Chicken.
These Chinese Red Peppers have low yields, meaning they’re a little harder to find than other varieties. They pack less heat than your favorite jalapeno but still retain that fire you crave when eating out at a spicy restaurant with friends on Friday night! Just remember to use less when substituting for these peppers if you don’t want your dish too spicy.
What better way to add the best authenticity to your dish than using genuinely authentic ingredients? This Sichuan Chinese Chili Powder is imported from Sichuan, China, and is perfect for making chili oil or used as a powder directly to your dish while cooking.
Paprika is a wonderful substitute for red chili peppers and has an exciting flavor profile that will work well in most recipes. Paprika is a colorful spice derived from ground peppers. It has many health benefits and carries Vitamin A, capsaicin, and carotenoid antioxidants.
Paprika ranges from sweet and mild to hot and fiery depending on the peppers ground up to make it. When experimenting with a new variant of paprika, do so sparingly whilst you adapt to the flavors. Paprika is wonderful to add to meat dishes and makes pork taste delicious and fresh vegetables on the side. A great brand to use if you want premium paprika powder McCormick Culinary Paprika is pure paprika and nothing else. Perfect.
9) Dried Poblano (ANCHO) Peppers
When substituting dried red chili peppers, there is one more that I would recommend, and that is the poblano pepper. They are usually low in the heat with a sweet flavor; because they have such little heat, they’re perfect to subtly spice up meats or soups so your meal won’t be too hot and can cater to a broader range of palates!
Poblano peppers are wonderful to cook with because they have a deep, rich flavor and stand up well in cooking. They’re also perfect for stuffing or making sauces out of.
Dried poblano peppers are the perfect substitute for any recipe that calls for dried chili peppers and can be used in like-for-like quantities.
Once again, it pays to be as authentic as you can with recreating cuisine when using ingredients. I would highly recommend purchasing Natural and Premium Poblano or ANCHO Dried Mexican Peppers to get the best from your dish when using Mexican Poblano peppers.
We have come to the end of our list of substitutes for chili that you can use in your cooking. You might be surprised at how many different substitute options are out there and probably already in your spice cupboard!
If not, try experimenting with some new flavors to see what’s most exciting to you today. Which one is the best? Let us know below!