When your recipe calls for a bit of heat, there’s nothing like a sprinkling of chili powder to spice things up. But what can you do when you discover you’re all out of this bright red seasoning? We’ve collected 5 Best Chili Powder Substitutes that you can use before you run to the store to restock.
While you may not be able to find a perfect match in terms of flavor, you can still create delicious and flavorful meals with makeshift chili powder.
Chili powder is a common ingredient in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine and can be used to season anything from chicken wings to stews.
If you like spicy food, it’s good to keep a bottle of chili powder around. The good news is that you can make your very own chili powder using a combination of spices you may already have. Whether you’re making tacos or chili con carne, we’ve got you covered!
What is Chili Powder?
As you may have already guessed, chili powder is made with chili peppers. You may be surprised to learn that this popular seasoning is actually a blend. Dried chilis are combined with other spices such as cumin, oregano and garlic. The result is a complex blend of flavors that instantly upgrades meat, stews and margaritas [you can link to spicy margarita recipe here].
Best Chili Powder Substitutes
1. Homemade Chili Powder
Combine paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and cayenne (see recipe below)
2. Cayenne, Paprika and Cumin
For each tablespoon of chili powder, combine 2 teaspoons paprika with ¼ teaspoon cayenne and ¾ teaspoon cumin
3. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Grind red pepper flakes in a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. You can also mix in cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and oregano following the recipe below.
4. Other Hot Pepper Powders
If you have other products such as ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder or others in place of chili powder.
5. Seasoning Mixes
Spicy taco seasoning or fajita seasoning mixes will sometimes work in a pinch. Taste first to decide before adding the full amount.
Other Chili Powder Replacements
- Ancho Chili Powder: Anchos are a reddish-brown chili pepper that is dried and ground into a fine powder. Ancho powder packs less heat than regular chili powder and has a slight sweetness to it.
- Chipotle Chili Powder: Chipotle powder is moderately spicy and makes a great substitute for chili powder. Chipotles are smoked, dried jalapeño peppers and the smokiness definitely comes out in your meals.
- Kashmiri Chili Powder: Kashmiri powder has a vibrant red color that makes it appear hotter than it really is. This seasoning is commonly used in Indian cuisine and isn’t spicy at all.
- Korean Chili Powder: Also known as gochugaru, this chili powder is one of the most important ingredients in Korean cooking. It has quite a mild taste with a hint of sweetness.
- Pasilla Chili Powder: Pasilla Negro chili peppers are dark in color and offer a fairly mild taste. If you like your meals with an earthy flavor, this is the spice to choose.
- Mexican Chili Powder: Tajin is a popular Mexican seasoning blend made with chili peppers and other spices. There’s a surprising tanginess to it, thanks to the inclusion of dehydrated limes.
Replacements to Avoid
- Curry Powder: Curry is a bright yellow powder made with turmeric and ginger. These distinctive flavors taste nothing like chili peppers.
- Black Pepper: Black pepper is made from dried, ground peppercorns and is one of the world’s most common spices. Its mild, woody flavor makes a poor substitute for chili powder.
- Hot Sauce: While some hot sauces include chili peppers, they also include vinegar. The flavor and consistency of hot sauce may not be what you’re looking for.
- Wasabi: Also known as Japanese horseradish, wasabi is the spicy green paste often served with sushi. Its unique, pungent taste isn’t similar to the flavor of chili powder.
Can You Substitute Paprika for Chili Powder?
Both paprika and chili powder are made from chili peppers. The difference is that chili powder incorporates other spices like garlic and cumin. Paprika is made with 100% ground chilis, so you’ll definitely notice a difference in taste. In a pinch, paprika can be used as a substitute, but you may want to throw in some other seasonings to make your dish more flavorful.
Can You Substitute Cayenne Pepper for Chili Powder?
Cayenne pepper can be an excellent substitute for chili powder, but you may need to add in some other seasonings. Since chili powder also includes garlic, salt and oregano, go ahead and toss those into the pot.
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Homemade Chili Powder Substitute
- In a small bowl, add the paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and cayenne.
- Whisk or mix until combined.
- Use as directed in your recipe. For storage, place in a mason jar or small airtight container and store in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months.