Best Ancho Chili Substitutes That Are Worth A Shot

Ancho Chili Substitute

Ancho chili is very popular in Mexican cuisine. The chili is mild and adds a sweet and smoky flavor to the food that’s practically divine. It’s a pretty unique combination, so you have to think hard should you need ancho chili substitutes.

Apart from Mexican food, it is very popular with Southwestern US cuisine as well. This chili has quite an impressive fan following and its taste more than explains it all. 

So let’s see what the best options are to substitute the famous ancho chili.

Top Ancho Chili Substitutes That You Should Try

1. Chili Powder

The red hot chili powder is a good way to add heat and color to food. When added to food, the powder kind of dissolves into it, which basically means it won’t affect texture. However, it still brings all the heat and will affect the color of the recipe. 

At the very least, you should expect the chili powder to add a red tinge to the food. It can be quite helpful in adding an inviting red color to the recipe.

2. Gochugaru

The bright red Korean red chili gochugaru can be a suitable replacement for ancho chili. Gochugaru is often available as a chili powder or flakes and adds color and heat to a recipe. What really makes this a good substitute is the undertones of a sweet and smoky flavor, which is somewhat similar to ancho chili.

When using gochugaru, keep in mind that it’s a lot spicier than ancho chili. While the latter usually rates 1000-1500 on the Scoville scale, gochugaru can hit the 4000-8000 range. A good idea is to use just a small amount of gochugaru to preserve the flavor as well as color of the recipe.

3. Chipotle Powder

Chipotle powder is a good, easily available substitute that can work as a substitute for ancho chili. It’s a spicy and flavorful mix that gets quite some love in the culinary world. The powder is made from dried and smoked jalapenos. These help give a similar, smoky flavor to the chili.

Another thing to remember is that jalapenos are a lot more spicy and pack more heat. There’s a good chance the chipotle powder will be twice as hot (maybe more) compared to the chili. Start with small amounts and increase if necessary.

4. Guajillo Chile Pepper

As color and flavor go, Guajillo Chile pepper and ancho chili are quite compatible. In fact, both these chilies find extensive use in Mexican cuisine and are beloved for their flavor. Considering their similarities, it is possible to use guajillo chili pepper in place of ancho chili. 

It is important to keep the heat in check with this substitution as well. Guajillo peppers can hit 5000 SHU on the Scoville scale, which is significantly higher than ancho chili. When going with a substitution, use about a third of guajillo peppers compared to the suggested amount for ancho chili peppers. 

5. Mulato Pepper Powder

Much like ancho chile, mulato comes from drying poblano peppers but there is a difference. Mulato comes from a poblano pepper ripened to brown and then medium-dried. So, while there is an underlying similarity in flavor, mulato pepper and ancho pepper tend to be quite different.

Using mulato pepper powder as a substitute for ancho chili can provide a similar touch of flavor. Although mulato pepper powder is hotter and spicier, so use less of it to match a similar flavor and heat.

6. Poblano Pepper

There it is. Poblano pepper is the source of ancho chili. As a poblano pepper matures to a deep red color, it is plucked and dried, creating the ancho chili. Using a fresh poblano chili pepper as a substitute will do the job, although it won’t quite carry the same heat and flavor. 

And that’s usually okay, the delicate flavors of poblano won’t make it feel like the recipe misses ancho. Though you should keep in mind that there will be a difference in appearance and some change in flavor, especially the lack of the smoky taste.

7. Paprika

Paprika is another quick and easy alternative to ancho chili. It doesn’t have the same delicate flavors as ancho, but its ease of availability and a similar spiciness and heat make paprika a good option. 

Of course, for that to work, be sure to choose a mild paprika. Using a mild version works well for all kinds of recipes. Plus, it makes substitution easier as you can simply follow an equal 1:1 ratio.

8. Chili Flakes

Chili flakes are a good substitute. After all, if chili powder can do it, so can chili flakes! These too are an easily available option and practically available across the globe. As with several other alternatives, chili flakes are likely to be spicier and hotter than ancho chili peppers. Start with small quantities and adjust to match your taste.

9. Pasilla Chili Pepper

Pasilla chili pepper or even pasilla chili powder make for decent substitutes to ancho chili. This pepper comes from dried chilaca pepper, and much like the original, it’s mildly hot. Pasilla is a much loved pepper and a star of several recipes. Keep its distinct flavors in mind if you choose to use this as a substitute.

Since it offers up a mild heat, pasilla chili pepper can be substituted for ancho chili peppers in a 1:1 ratio. If you’re using a powder, start small because it can be difficult to make an exact approximation of quantity when comparing it with a whole pepper.

10. Jalapenos

Jalapenos are a good choice for a lot of things, including as a substitution for ancho chili. They won’t really mimic the flavor or taste, but their own flavor and style will make a good enough contribution. Using fresh jalapenos is a bit like using fresh poblano peppers, they work better as replacements to bring the heat and fresh flavor, rather than exact alternatives.

When using jalapenos, remember they are hotter and spicier than ancho chili. You’ll want to start with a small quantity to keep the flavor going.

11. Cayenne Pepper

These famous red hot peppers are quite commonly available and make acceptable substitutes for our requirement. Cayenne peppers are available in several forms, including fresh, dried, flakes, and powder. Any of these can work, just remember to adjust the amount you add to the recipe. The amount to use will generally depend on your preference and taste.

12. Harissa

Harissa is a spicy mix that originated in the Middle East and North Africa. This spicy paste is an excellent alternative to ancho chili and works fabulously with many recipes. Harrissa is a blend of several ingredients, including roasted red peppers, red peppers, garlic, cumin, and more. 

This mix is spicy and delicious, while also having taste undertones that can work well with most recipes. 

13. Serrano Pepper

If you’re in a pinch, serrano pepper will work as well as any other substitute on this list. These green peppers are spicier and pack more heat. They also lack the more nuanced flavors of ancho chili peppers, but serrano peppers can get the job done if you’re in a fix. Remember to adjust the quantity to account for the higher heat score of serrano pepper.

14. Pequin Chili Pepper

Though they can be tough to find, pequin chili peppers make excellent substitutes for ancho chili peppers. These small peppers have the spice and smoked flavors of ancho chili, though pequin chili pepper tends to be more on the intense side of things. Reduce the quantity a bit and the replacement should work like a charm!

FAQ On Anch Chili, Its Substitution And More

What Is A Good Substitute For Ancho Chili Powder?

Most substitutes for ancho chili pepper also work for ancho chili powder. Pasilla chile powder, paprika, and guajillo chile powder are excellent options, though several others are available as well. Ancho chili powder has the same mild heat and smoky flavor as the ancho pepper, so the substitutions and replacements for both these are usually a good fit.

Are Ancho And Poblano Peppers The Same?

Ancho and poblano pepper are quite similar to some degree. Poblano peppers that are ripened until red and then dried are better known as ancho peppers. While this could imply that both these peppers are essentially the same, they are fairly different in flavor and taste notes. Once dried, ancho peppers get a smoky flavor along with the fruity and sweet flavors of the poblano peppers.

Are Ancho Chilies Hot?

The Scoville Scale, which is the most common way of figuring the heat of peppers and spices, places ancho chilies in the range of 1000-1500 SHU. This categorization means that ancho chilies are mild on the hotness scale.

Interestingly, ancho chilies are the mildest of the three peppers famous in Mexican cuisine. Pasilla and Guajillo peppers are the other two peppers in this trio. Pasilla usually falls into the range of 1000 to 2500 SHU, while guajillo peppers are the hottest of the three and clock 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).

Getting Top Substitutes For Ancho Chilies

Ancho chili peppers are amongst the most famous ingredients in Mexican cuisine. So, finding a good ancho chili substitute requires a better look at your requirements. Several peppers can work as the replacement, so finding the right fit isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Our list here has some of the best options and also those that you can use as a quick fix to save a recipe.

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