10 Substitutes for Chili Powder to Spice Up Your Dish with a Hot Kick

Chili powder is made of ground-dried chilies. The store-bought one is sometimes a mixture of several varieties of chilies including anchos, cayenne, chipotle, jalapeno, etc., and spices such as cumin, garlic, oregano, and so on. 

Because of this, the taste and level of hotness vary from blend to blend. 

Chili powder is popular in Latin American cuisines. It is used in tacos and enchiladas. You can add it to chilis, soups, stews, meat, beans, marinades, casseroles, sauces, and barbeque. 

It’s quite easy to find this powder but in case you have run out of it or want to try a milder alternative then stay with us. 

Today we’ll discuss substitutes for chili powder that you can safely use in a number of recipes. 

The best alternatives to chili powder are red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, ancho chile pepper, chipotle pepper, cumin, black pepper, smoked paprika powder, chili sauce, and homemade chili powder. 

Best Substitutes to Chili Powder To Try

1. Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are the easiest substitute to use in place of chili powder. They can be used to substitute ancho chili powder too. 

They are the dried seeds of hot chili peppers and sometimes come in mixtures of several chilies like cayenne, jalapeno, and bell peppers. 

You can add them to pasta, soups, sauces, and pickles and use them as a topping. Red pepper flakes are quite hot and can provide almost the same level of spiciness to your dish as chili powder. 

2. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne is a hot chili pepper with bright red color. It’s one of the hottest ingredients in chili powder and it’s only a part of chili powder. 

So, be careful with the ratio and avoid the 1:1 ratio as using it alone will lead to a hotter result. Just a pinch is enough to get that spicy kick in the dish. 

You can add it to soups, stews, hummus, egg dishes, spicy meat marinades as well as Mexican chili sauces and dishes. 

3. Ancho Chile Powder

Ancho chile powder is the next important ingredient in chili powder. It’s made of roasted and dried ripe red poblano peppers and tastes sweet, fruity, and a little bit hot. 

You can use it as a milder alternative to chili powder if you don’t want to have too much hotness in your dish. 

If you have both cayenne and ancho chiles, you can mix them and the result will be richer in flavor and comparatively hotter. It goes well with pasta, roasted vegetables, soups, pizzas, chicken, and Many Mexican dishes. 

4. Chipotle Pepper

Chipotle peppers are ripe jalapeno peppers that are smoked and dried. Just like ancho and cayenne chilis, chipotle peppers are often included in mixtures of chili powder. 

So, you can use chipotle peppers instead of chili powder to spice up the dish and make it hot. 

Since chipotle is smoked for a long period of time it has a deep smoky flavor. They are about as hot as jalapenos. They can be another good substitute for ancho chili powder too. 

5. Cumin 

Cumin is a totally different spice but it’s again included in the mixture of chili powder to add an earthy, warm, and balanced flavor. It has a slightly sweet, nutty, and warm flavor and it’s often used with savory dishes. 

It works well, especially with chili flakes and chili powders, that’s why we offer it as another alternative to chili powder. 

If you have chili flakes in hand, you can mix them with cumin and the flavor will be similar to chili powder. You can use it in stews, soups, pickles, barbecue sauces, and rice dishes. 

6. Black Pepper

Compared to hot red peppers and chilies black pepper offers a milder level of hotness and it’s used in many daily dishes. It has a warm, woody, and spicy taste and works well with meats, vegetables, salads, sauces, pasta, and soups. 

Since it is black, it will change the color of our dish which should be noted before using it. However, it’s a good choice if you avoid too much spiciness. 

On the other hand, you can mix it with cumin, oregano, and other spices included in chili powder to get a rich and flavorful spice blend. 

7. Smoked Paprika Powder

As for smoked paprika powder, it is made of smoked paprika and dried over oak fires. Due to this, it has a strong smoky flavor. The taste is sweet and peppery and the color is bright red. 

However, the store-bought one can be hot, medium-hot, and mild and you need to read the label before buying it. 

Depending on your purpose of usage and preferences you can use the variety of smoked paprika powder that best goes with your dish. It goes well with soups, sauces, sausages, meats, rice, pasta, and potatoes. 

8. Chili Sauce

Chili sauce is a hot condiment made of chili peppers, vinegar, sugar, and salt all of which are mixed together and cooked on medium heat until the blend is thick. As a result, it has a complex taste of sweet and spicy flavors. 

You can add cumin, oregano, and any variety of crushed or ground chile you have in hand to this sauce and use it as a dipping for a number of finger dishes, dumplings, and Asian and Mexican dishes. 

9. Dried Chile Peppers

If you have dried chili peppers in your pantry, then you can crush them and use them in place of chili powder. 

Depending on the variety you have, the taste and level of spiciness can vary. Anyway, this is a good idea if you don’t want to leave the house for another substitute. 

Dried chili peppers come either in dark red or almost black colors. You can even add them whole in soups, stews, and other dishes where you want to skip those small powdery reflections.

This way, you’ll save time and effort spent on crushing or grinding. 

10. Homemade Chili Powder

Now let’s see how you can make your own chili powder and use it instead of the readymade options. Check if you have the below-mentioned ingredients and if yes, then there is no need to stick around other substitutes. 


1 teaspoon of chili peppers (cayenne pepper or optional)

2 teaspoons garlic powder

¾ teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

Mix all well in a bowl and put in an airtight container. Store it in a dark place. 

FAQs on Chili Powder

How spicy is chili powder?

It is described as mild to moderately spicy but it all depends on how much cayenne pepper is added to it. Other spices included in it make it richer and more balanced at the same time. 

Can I use hot sauces instead of chili powder? 

It depends on the dish. Sauces are liquid-based condiments and if you think they go with your dish, then why not? 

Hot sauces often contain chili powders, chili flakes, or other hot spices that give them that hot taste. Sauces like Tabasco, Harissa, Sriracha, and Chili sauce can be your best bet. 

How long can you keep chili powder?

A well-stored chili powder lasts up to 3 years holding its flavor, color, and hotness. However, the longer you keep spices the higher are chances they lose their strength and pungency.  

So, it’s better to have them in small quantities and refresh the spice rack of ground condiments after 6-12 months. 

Final Words

If you are a big fan of spicy seasonings, then chili powder may have its special place in your recipes. No worries if you have run out of it. Now you know the best substitutes for chili powder and you can use them to save your spicy dishes.