Best Substitutes for Chili Powder

Best Substitutes for Chili Powder
Best Substitutes for Chili Powder

Always spelled as powdered chili or chili, chili powder is a dried, pulverized fruit of one or several more varieties of chili pepper, sometimes with other additional spices. It is a mixture or a combination of several spices and mixed in different ratios in order to attain the desired result. We have all had the trouble where a recipe needs a certain ingredient and there is none in the house. There are a lot of options for a good substitute for chili powder. Chili powder has a high concentration of capsaicin-a flavorful spice that does more than pack a punch. Chili powder helps with Osteoarthritis by acting as an anti-inflammatory agent, which helps decrease swelling of sore joints and increases blood flow. It also settles the stomach, fights fat, build immunity and helps with sexual arousal.

Chili Powder is a vibrant, rich color and sharp taste which actually adds a whole new dimension to the cooking experience.
 The common ingredients that go in to make chili powder are paprika, oregano, cumin, garlic, onion, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and chili pepper, which are always in their powdered form. Many times, certain situations require the use of alternative chili powder, and in most case finding the right substitute requires us to tamper with the chili powder main ingredients. Below are some of the substitutes for chili powder;


This herb leaves a very numbing taste which is slightly bitter and hot at the same time. Individuals throughout history have made good use of this herb in several recipes including Italian and French cuisine. Oregano is currently famous even in the United States is used to prepare pizzas.

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Your kitchen should not lack a bottle of red pepper flakes lying around since it is a good substitute for chili powder, especially when they are thoroughly crashed. You can use a mortar and pestle to grind the flakes into a powder form; however, the red pepper flakes powder could be slightly hotter than the common chili powder.


As Hungarian or smoked, Paprika is a very good substitute for chili powder. They are not particularly hot but they will give you something of a chili flavor without the heat. It is red in color and originates from South America. It is mostly used to add flavor to packed food, wafers and other different types of seasoning. Hungarians use Paprika as a cooking agent which can be hot and sweet or made smoky by smoking and then drying them.


This is another great herb that is rich in aroma, and lends a great flavor to foods, like stews, curry, and even tea. It can be combined with several ingredients and then used as an alternative for chili powder. Its origin is said to be in the Mediterranean.

Ancho Powder

Ancho powder is mainly used in many chili powder blends and it is responsible for most of the flavor that we often get from chili powder. It brings a moderate heat to dishes and it consists of ground poblano peppers with no addictives. Ancho chilies are sweet and mild with minimum heat. You can directly use them in cooking by soaking them or ground them to powder form. Furthermore, it is a very essential and important ingredient of Mexican cuisine.

Chipotle powder

This powder contains ground chipotle peppers with no other ingredients. The powder has a rich smokiness that adds a significant amount of flavor to the dish, even when used in very small quantities.
Since the chipotle powder is made from jalapeños that have been dried and smoked, it does have the potential to make the dishes hotter than they would be with most premixed chili powder blends.

Facts Summary Table

Substitute Flavor Profile Texture Best Used In Source
Oregano Earthy, slightly peppery Dry leaves Italian dishes, Mediterranean cuisine Herb from the oregano plant
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes Spicy, slightly smoky Flaky Pizza, pasta, marinades Dried red chili peppers
Paprika Sweet, mild, smoky Fine powder Seasoning, sauces, soups Dried and ground red bell peppers
Cumin Earthy, nutty, warm Ground seeds Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern cuisine Ground seeds of Cuminum cyminum plant
Ancho Powder Sweet, smoky, mild heat Ground dried ancho chili Chili, sauces, marinades Ground dried ancho chilies
Chipotle Powder Smoky, spicy, slightly sweet Ground dried smoked jalapeños Barbecue, Mexican dishes Ground dried smoked jalapeños


What is most similar to chili powder?

Ancho chili powder or chipotle powder are quite similar to standard chili powder in terms of flavor and heat.

Can you substitute red pepper for chili powder?

You can use red pepper flakes or ground red pepper as a substitute for chili powder, but keep in mind that chili powder usually contains other spices and seasonings, so the flavor might differ slightly.

What’s the difference between hot pepper and chili powder?

Hot pepper, like red pepper flakes or cayenne, is pure ground pepper, providing heat. Chili powder typically includes a blend of ground chilies along with other spices like cumin, garlic powder, and oregano, giving it a more complex flavor profile.

What is chili powder made up of?

Chili powder is usually a blend of ground dried chilies, along with other spices like cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and sometimes salt. The specific ingredients can vary depending on the brand and recipe.


Other alternatives include Harissa which is a chili paste from North Africa that can actually be an effective chili powder substitute. Harissa consists of smoked chili peppers along with garlic and other various spices such as coriander and cumin. It provides the chili flavor and subtle heat that we can actually get from other chili powder blends. On the other hand, if you want to stick with the traditional Mexican ingredients, then you should consider Pasilla powder as an alternative. Pasilla powder is made from pasilla chiles that are used in most Mexican cuisine.

Chili powder is a combination of spices and most of its components are readily available and widely used. This means that you can make your own chili powder from scratch which is the best option for a substitute. For instance, you can use a quarter (1/4) cup of sweet paprika combined with a tablespoon of onion powder, garlic powder, 2 teaspoons of cumin and dried oregano to the mixture. You just need to make sure that you place the combination of all these ingredients in a tightly sealed container and shake well to get your perfect mixture. You can play around with the proportions of individual spices to get your desired flavor.

Mei Lin Zhang

Written by Mei Lin Zhang

I love to writes about stories and cooking. I really enjoys creating new recipes and taking pictures of my food. When I am not writing, you can find me in the kitchen or snapping photos of my tasty creations.

Substitutes for Celery Salt

Substitutes for Celery Salt