Find The Right Chili Powder Substitute

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How To Impress Your Dinner Guests – Find The Right Chili Powder Substitute

Everyone has been there at some point or another – a recipe implies using an ingredient that you literally can’t find in your kitchen. You can barely remember the last time you used it, yet you know it’s one of those things that just can’t miss. Somehow, it does. You know it finished, but you kept forgetting to put it on the shopping list.

Chili Powder Substitute Options

Now, you’re in the difficulty of trying to find an alternative. This situation is quite common with chili powder. You don’t feel like driving to the nearest grocery store and waiting in queues just for a small plastic jar of chili powder, especially if you’ve already started cooking.

Don’t even think about dropping it. Yes, your dish will taste good even without chili. But then, you do want that dash of spiciness your recipe requires. Luckily, you can easily find a chili powder substitute, as long as you pick the right one based on the recipe you cook. So, what’s a good alternative to chili? Here are a few solutions that you probably have in the cupboard already.

1. Paprika

Apart from salt and pepper, paprika is probably the most popular spice in one’s kitchen. It’s available in pretty much every kitchen. What people don’t know is the fact that paprika is actually based on chili pepper. That’s what the base stands on.

Related: Paprika vs. Smoked Paprika

In terms of spiciness, you’ll have to research yourself. Paprika can be mild if based on pimento pepper, but it can also be hot and spicy if based on cayenne pepper. Furthermore, different manufacturers use different proportions.

The other ingredients in paprika are worth some consideration too. Chances are paprika is mixed with other spices. Fail to double check them and your dish might have a completely unexpected taste.

2. Crushed red pepper flakes

Crushed red pepper flakes may not be as common as paprika in one’s kitchen, but they’re definitely a good solution if you run out of chili powder. If you’re the type who enjoys experimenting and cooking for others, you probably have an old dusty bottle of red pepper flakes in some cabinet. Excellent!

You can use flakes as they are, but the result will be much better if you take your time and crush them further. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes though. Get a pestle and mortar, grind the flakes until they look like powder and there you go! It sounds daunting, but they’re dry and easy to crumble, so this whole operation will barely take a minute.

Generally speaking, crushed red pepper flakes are hotter than chili powder. If you’re not sure, taste them first. Also, don’t exaggerate and keep the ratio under the recommendations in the recipe. Just add more later if the dish is not spicy enough.

3. Old Bay Seasoning

Old Bay seasoning is based on paprika, so it makes a good chili powder substitute under particular circumstances. The distinct aroma of Old Bay is the main drawback in this substitution, so you’ll be a little limited. Unfortunately, old bay seasoning is not the best option for many recipes, yet it can work for some of them.

So, what do you need the chili powder from? If you’re only trying to spice up some seafood, then old bay seasoning is ideal. If you want to use it in your vegetable stew or chicken, forget about it.

4. Hot pepper powders

Although a hot pepper powder can become a reliable chili powder substitute, this rule doesn’t apply to all of them. Chipotle powder and cayenne powder are the most popular choices.

Just like red pepper flakes, they will be spicier than chili powder, so use less than what the recipe asks for. Keep the proportions safe and your guests won’t even guess that you used something else instead of chili powder.

See also: Pepperoncini vs. Banana Pepper

5. Hot sauce

Finally, if your dish implies mixing chili powder into a liquid (like a sauce or a paste), you can rely on hot sauce. A dash should be enough, depending on how many people you cook for. Sriracha sauce and Tabasco sauce are your best bets.


In conclusion, it’s up to you to decide which chili powder substitute you should use. Consider your recipe, as well as the available spices around your kitchen.