Chili Powder Substitutes: 7 Easy Ways to Create Excellent

I have a sweet tooth for everything spicy or should I say I have a “spicy tooth”? Oh, that’s silly! But actually, I really enjoy the warmth (or sweat) of eating something with chili powder.

From barbecue to sauces, a sprinkle or a bottle, chili powder is my “exciting” agent. It does bring so much brightness to the dish, right?

What is Chili Powder

Chili powder is a usual kitchen spice that comes from grinding smoked or dried one or more kinds of peppers. Then it’s blended with other spices like oregano to achieve even deeper flavors.

With so much flavors enhancements the chili powder can bring to your dishes, it really is a must-have in every kitchen. You can even make tons and tons of recipes with chili powder.

So it’s no wonder you may ran out of this ruby seasoning. Don’t fret ‘cause I got you covered with today’s list of chili powder substitutes!

Today, we’ll be having a trip to the chili world to find ways on how to make chili powder substitutes. This is so fun to try because they are very easy to do and so exciting as to how spicy your options can be.

Before we start, I know that you’re probably worrying about the “behind” problems of eating too much spicy food. Well, this study by National Center for Biotechnology Information debunks the old tale that eating spicy foods leads to or worsens hemorrhoids but it actually does not and can not.

Eating chili peppers may even bring you longevity. The family of bell peppers is rich in Vitamin C and can lower the risk of death, according to the research study by the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

Substitute for chili powder

  1. Fresh Chili

Fresh Chili as alternative for Chili PowderLet’s start the list with something fresh–fresh chili peppers! All those processed chili condiments come from fresh pepper fruit that is either smoked, dried and then canned, bottled, or even hanged (for good luck).

There are more than a hundred of chili pepper varieties and Guinness even has the world record for the spiciest of them all.

Fresh chili pepper is a great chili powder substitute because you can enjoy the actual bite of fiery goodness and by removing the seeds, you can lessen the spicy action you want.

You should use fresh peppers as a chili powder substitute in recipes that use chili powder as a garnish, like in salads. You can also use fresh peppers as your star ingredient in recipes like chili con carne and bell pepper ones.

Plus, you can enjoy more colors in your cuisines because chili peppers are not just red and green anymore–there are yellows, purples, and even brown and white!

Here, Pepperhead will help you get started with chili farming and preserve them however you want to.

  1. Chili Paste

Now that we know the kinds of fresh peppers, it’s time to head to another easy way to replace the chili powder–chili paste!

Chili Paste as substitute for Chili powderMany countries have their own spicy paste to call and it’s available anywhere nowadays, so you don’t need to worry about where to buy one.

Chili paste is a great chili powder substitute because you don’t need to wait for the powder to dissolve or worry about its gritty texture. Just use a scoop and you can easily enjoy your spicy meals.

Making your own paste is so easy! Start with a primer, puree a bunch of dried chilies and there you have it! This 20-minute recipe for red chili paste is a good guide on how to make one.

You can just alter the kind of dried peppers, the kind of oil you’ll cook it with, and if you prefer with or without seeds will give you a wider range of spiciness and flavor. Start using your chili paste with these recipes.

  1. Chili Flakes

From the name itself, chili flakes are the almost-there version of chili powder. Except that the blend of chili flakes are all dried chilis and chili powder is a blend of other spices.

Chili flakes are also interchangeably called as “red pepper flakes” or “crushed peppers”. The seeds are very obvious with the flakes than with the powder.

Chili Flakes as alternative for Chili PowderIt might not be a 1 to 1 ratio of chili flakes-chili powder substitution because you might prefer being hotter or smokier, but 1:1 can be as close as you can be an alteration.

You might probably think chili powder recipes are limited to savory and garnish. Well, how about a Nigella Lawson-inspired chocolate chili cake that uses chili flakes instead of powder? To get you started, buy some here.

  1. Whole Peppercorns

Tired of grinding and pounding? Let’s try whole peppercorns!

Peppercorns are berries or seeds that have been dried up. They are usually used as a condiment or seasoning.

Whole Peppercorns as alternative for Chili PowderRising from a wide variety of colors and tastes is Penja pepper. Hailed as Michelin-star grade in taste and is even protected by the EU.

Penja pepper grows in the Penja Valley of Cameroon, West Africa. The rich volcanic soil in the valley gives its exotic pure taste, compared with the usual varieties that have a “commercialized” taste.

These beady jewels release their kick when you bite them and so it’s a really exciting chili powder substitute to try.

Depending on the dish and the kind of peppercorn, use equal amounts appropriately to your taste.

  1. Hot Sauces

And now there’s an even easier way to have a chili powder substitute–hot sauce! You can substitute a splash or a spoon of hot sauce to equal amounts of chili powder requirement in your cuisine–still, depending on the hot sauce and your preference of spiciness.

Whether green or red, dried or fresh, hot sauce is cooking peppers with other fruits or vegetables, seasonings and vinegar (as a preservative). Some hot sauces are used right away after cooking and some require the long aging process to give it depth of flavor.

Hot Sauces as alternative for chili powderAll hot sauces differ in taste, flavor, aroma, texture and aging process. Having the right understanding is your best guide in choosing which is best for what recipe.

Danielle St. Pierre of BEST gives you 2017’s best hot sauces brands. And try these recipes to match these best hot sauces in town.

  1. Ground/Powdered Spices

Paprika is the ultimate chili powder substitute because it’s of the same smokiness you’re looking for in a chili powder; not so spicy, though. Also, paprika has a fiery red color that brightens the appearance of your dishes.

You can get ten paprika substitutes here-

You probably had a grocery dilemma with chile and chili powders, right? They’re almost the same, except that chile powder is more “pure” than the chili blend.

Chili powder blend’s usual ingredients are ground chiles (seeds and all)cumingarlic powderoregano powderonion powder, and saltHabanero or cayenne is the usual (and much hotter) varieties of chile powder.

Ground Spices as substitute for Chili powderYou can use a 1 to 1 ratio but you are also free to tweak the portions if you deem saltier or less salty flavor of your chili powder.

By blending other ground or powdered spices, you can create your self-made chili spice. So get a spice grinder and powder away from your own chili powder blend!

Just remember, chili powder can last 2-3 years on your shelves so make sure your chili powder substitute would be stored well and used well, too.

  1. Old Bay Seasoning

Crab lovers would tell you more about Old Bay seasoning and it’s actually a wild card to our chili powder substitutes because it does have the smokiness of paprika yet is not too hot to replace chili powder. Still, its flavor-enhancing element qualifies it in our list.

Old Bay Seasoning as alternative for Chili powderOld Bay has its own famous flavor, so try to keep it with original recipes when you have to use it as a chili powder substitute.


Chili powder is a wonderful spice that all kitchens should always have. And for cooking emergencies, these chili powder substitutes can make your way through.

You should always be mindful of the level of spicinesssaltinesssmokiness and color of the choice of pepper you’ll going to use. Adjust it to your preference because it may not always be the same equal amounts when you use these chili powder substitutions.

So enjoy your fiery flavors with our chili powder substitutes and reinvent your traditional dishes to bring new flare. And remember to adjust accordingly to your palate or it’ll blow your heads off.

Tell me about your chili powder substitutes in the comments section below and keep on watching for new tips and tricks in the kitchen. See you again!


Question: What can I use if I don’t have chili powder?

Answer: A common substitute for chili powder is a blend of ground cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper. You can adjust the ratios to suit your taste and heat preference.

Question: Is paprika a good substitute for chili powder?

Answer: Yes, paprika can be used as a substitute for chili powder, especially for adding color and a mild pepper flavor without the heat. However, it lacks the complexity of chili powder.

Question: Can I use cayenne pepper instead of chili powder?

Answer: Cayenne pepper is a good substitute if you’re looking for heat, but it’s much spicier than chili powder. Use it in smaller quantities and consider blending it with other spices like cumin or garlic powder.

Question: Is taco seasoning a viable alternative to chili powder?

Answer: Yes, taco seasoning can be used as it often contains chili powder along with other spices. However, it may alter the flavor profile slightly due to additional ingredients like onion powder or oregano.

Question: Can I make my own chili powder blend?

Answer: Absolutely! You can make a homemade chili powder by mixing ground chili peppers with spices like garlic powder, oregano, and cumin. This allows you to customize the flavor and heat level.

Question: Is chipotle powder a suitable replacement for chili powder?

Answer: Chipotle powder, made from smoked jalapeños, is a great substitute. It provides a smoky flavor and a different kind of heat compared to regular chili powder.

What if I want a non-spicy alternative to chili powder?

Answer: For a no-heat version, mix sweet paprika with a pinch of cumin and garlic powder. This blend mimics the flavor of chili powder without the spiciness.

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