Recipes that call for chili powder will not work without it. It’s an integral ingredient that adds a spicy kick to the dishes you add it in and is widely used in traditional Latin American and Asian cuisine. Chilli powder does not come from a single dried herb. It typically contains a blend of spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, and onion powder, and there’s a couple of varieties.
If you ever need to use a substitute for chili powder in your recipe, follow this guide to make sure you pick the correct one.
#1. Homemade Chili Powder
No surprise here; the best substitute for chili powder is simply making your own at home. It will give you an identical flavor to store-bought chili powder so you can substitute them evenly.
To make chili powder at home, you will need to grind and mix the following ingredients:
- 2 Tbsp. Paprika
- ½ Tbsp. Cumin
- ½ Tbsp. Garlic Powder
- 1 Tsp. Onion Powder
- 1 Tsp. Oregano
- ¾ Tbsp. Cayenne
Make sure you blend the ingredients thoroughly until you start to see a deep red hue. If your recipe calls for a specific kind of chili powder that’s heavy in any given ingredient, you can simply increase the quantity of that ingredient as per the above recipe.
1 Tsp. Chili Powder = 1 Tsp. Homemade Chili Powder.
#2. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper is one of the principal ingredients in chili powder. It’s responsible for adding most of the heat and savoriness, so it makes sense to approach cayenne as a substitute. However, keep in mind that cayenne pepper is an incredibly hot ingredient, so it’s rarely consumed without mixing it with some other herbs first.
The presence of other ingredients in chili powder has a muting effect on the fiery heat of cayenne pepper and makes the spice more palatable.
Nonetheless, you can still use pure cayenne pepper as a substitute for chili powder. Just make sure you use it in moderation, so you don’t burn your tongue.
Start with the amount shown below and only add more if you can handle the taste.
1 Tsp. Chili Powder = ⅛ Tsp. Cayenne Pepper.
#3. Ground Cumin
Cumin is a spice that’s derived from the seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant and is also one of the key ingredients in chili powder. It has a slightly warm, sweet flavor with a nutty element that balances out some of the hotter ingredients in chili powder. Cumin will give your dish a naturally spicy taste and rich earthiness, making it a good substitute for chili powder.
Cumin is inextricably linked to several Mexican, Latin, and Southeast Asian cuisines. It has a very balanced flavor that gives richness to dishes without overwhelming their overall taste. But because it’s mild, you will need to add more if you’re using it as a substitute for chili.
1 Tsp. Chili Powder = 2 Tsp. Ground Cumin.
#4. Hot Sauce
If you’re preparing a soup, sauce, or some type of gravy, hot sauce will save you a trip to the supermarket. There are quite a few varieties to choose from like Tobasco and Sriracha, but they give the same overall effect as chili powder.
The only difference is that hot sauces may contain some other ingredients you may not want in your dishes like vinegar or sugar. But if your recipe calls for some sweetness or acidity anyway, you can avoid having to add a lot of other ingredients by using hot sauce.
Substitution can be tricky though. Most hot sauces are milder than chili powder, so you should start by substituting them evenly, then add some more hot sauce if it’s needed to increase the spice.
1 Tsp. Chili Powder = 1 Tsp. Hot Sauce.
#5. Chili Flakes
Chili flakes are an excellent substitute for chili powder because they carry an almost identical flavor and give medium heat to a dish. Plus, it’s also something you’re likely to have at home in your pantry, which will save you a trip to the store. You can sprinkle chili flakes over your food or grind them into powder and add them when cooking. It works both ways.
Chili flakes make the ideal substitute for chili powder in recipes such as soups, pasta, and meat. It lacks the exoticness of chili powder, so it may not make the best substitute for Mexican dishes.
Both chili and chili flakes more or less have the same heat, so you can substitute them evenly.
1 Tsp. Chili Powder = 1 Tsp. Chili Flakes.
#6. Dried Chili Peppers
Chili peppers are the berry fruit of the chili plant and are used to add a dry, pungent heat to dishes. The hottest parts of the pepper are the pith and ribs. So, if your recipe requires intense heat, remember to use those parts instead of the seeds.
Dried chilis can be red in color or darker and differ in heat based on their variety. For example, pequin peppers are very spicy and can render dishes unpalatable, whereas green chilis are mild enough to be consumed raw.
The substitution ratio you need to use will depend on the variety, but assuming you’re using medium-heat peppers, you can substitute them evenly.
1 Tsp. Chili Powder = 1 Tsp. Crushed Chili Pepper Seeds/Stems/Piths.
Paprika is also one of the base ingredients of chili powder and is made from dried ground chili peppers. Paprika can range in flavor from mild and sweet to very hot and exhibit a pungent, smoky flavor. It’s an excellent substitute for chili powder because it gives the same color and flavor to dishes.
However, there are many different kinds of paprika. Regular paprika is likely to have little flavor and is usually only added to give color. Hungarian paprika, on the other hand, makes dishes even spicier than chili powder.
So, the only problem with using paprika as a substitute is that the ratio depends on the kind of paprika you use. Taste the paprika and compare it to chili powder before adding it.
1 Tsp. Chili Powder = 2 Tsp. Regular Paprika.
1 Tsp. Chili Powder = ½ Tsp. Hot Paprika.