Red Chili Pepper Substitutes

Red chili peppers are used in a variety of recipes. But what if you are out? Or do you want the flavor without the heat? We’ve got nine surprising red chili pepper substitutes that will elevate your cooking game. From milder flavors to spicier kicks, we’ve got something for everyone. So, let’s explore these unique alternatives and find your new go-to chili pepper substitute.

two red chili peppers sit on a white surface

Whether making stews or sauces, your recipe may call for red chili peppers. If you’re out or looking for something different, you need to know your options. Let’s discuss some of the best red chili pepper substitutes.

Looking down on a bunch of red chili peppers.

What is Red Chili Pepper?

Red chili pepper has a beautiful combination of spicy, smoky, and sweet flavors. It’s a red, slender pepper that adds heat and color to any dish.

It can be used in stir-fries, sauces, soups, stews, curries, tacos, and more. When added to a dish, red chili pepper will give it an intense kick of heat, as well as a rich depth of flavor that will make your taste buds sing. Its versatility and robust flavor make it a great addition to your culinary repertoire.

You can use fresh or dried chili peppers in your cooking, so we’ll begin with a discussion about dried chili peppers.

5 Dried Red Chili Pepper Substitutes

There’s no need to limit yourself to red chili pepper when cooking up a spicy storm in the kitchen. With alternatives like paprika, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and even sriracha, you have plenty of options to explore.

Paprika powder is in a big scoop and scattered out in front of it.

1. Paprika

Paprika is a popular spice that can be used as a dried red chili pepper substitute. Its mild and sweet flavor adds a unique taste to dishes, making it a great ingredient in European and Mediterranean cuisine.

Whether you are cooking minestrone soup, stews, or plant-based dishes, paprika can add color and flavor to your meals. For those who want to avoid the spiciness of red chili pepper, paprika can undoubtedly satisfy your taste buds. 

2. Cayenne Pepper

Next on our list of surprising red chili pepper substitutes is Cayenne Pepper. It’s a hot spice commonly used in Southwestern and Mexican cuisine. Cayenne pepper is made from dried and ground red chili peppers, and it’s the perfect substitute for those who love the heat that red chili pepper provides. 

Cayenne pepper has a pungent flavor that can add depth and complexity to any dish. It’s perfect for spicing vegan chili, jackfruit nachos, and sauces.

When using cayenne pepper as a substitute, remember that a little goes a long way. It’s a potent spice that can quickly overpower other flavors in a dish.

If you’re a fan of spicy food, give cayenne pepper a try as a substitute for red chili pepper. Its heat level is similar, with a slightly different flavor profile.

Red pepper flakes are in a bowl in front of a bowl of cheese shreds.

3. Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes add an extra kick of flavor and heat to an otherwise mild dish. They can easily be stirred into sweet potato chili or sprinkled over your next vegan chili dog.

With just a pinch, you can bring a robust, spicy flavor to any recipe without overwhelming the other ingredients.

Red pepper flakes are also a great way to mix and match flavors in dishes that traditionally call for specific seasonings. You can combine different spices and herbs like oregano, garlic, paprika, and thyme with red pepper flakes to create something entirely new and unique.

Peppercorns are in a bowl and a large scoop has freshly ground black pepper and some of it is scattered in front of the scoop.

4. Freshly-Ground Black Pepper

Freshly-ground black pepper is a great way to add a subtle yet robust flavor to various dishes.

Its flavor is much stronger and fresher than store-bought pepper, which can make a significant difference in the taste. For most dishes, you can use a pepper mill or grinder to crush peppercorns directly into your food.

If you don’t have one of these tools, you can take whole or crushed peppercorns and place them in a bag. Use a mallet or something heavy like a can to gently tap them and break the peppercorns.

Freshly-ground black pepper will bring out the best in any dish.

5. Sriracha Sauce

Sriracha sauce is a condiment that has gained immense popularity in recent years, and it’s not hard to see why. Made from chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt, sriracha sauce has a tangy and slightly sweet flavor that packs a punch of heat. Its versatility makes it an excellent substitute for red chili pepper in many dishes.

Sriracha is perfect for families where some like it spicy and others do not. Because you can cook the meal as is and serve it with a bottle of sriracha. Those desiring a spicy kick can add as much or as little of the sauce as they want!

You can use sriracha to add a spicy kick to soups, stews, marinades, and even cocktails like this hibiscus margarita.

When using sriracha sauce as a substitute, start with a small amount and adjust according to your taste. The heat level can vary depending on the brand, so it’s best to be cautious. A little goes a long way, and you don’t want to overpower the other flavors in the dish.

Now that you have a new go-to spicy ingredient in your pantry let’s move on to the next surprising substitute: jalapeno peppers.

5 Fresh Red Pepper Substitutes

Let’s say you’re making a batch of chimichurri sauce, and the recipe calls for fresh red peppers, but you can’t find them in the store. It happens! Whatever recipe you’re working from, these fresh red pepper substitutes can help.

Looking down on a bunch of green jalapeños.

1. Jalapeno Peppers

Jalapeno peppers are probably the next best thing to red chili peppers when it comes to heat level and flavor. They are widely available in grocery stores and are a staple in Mexican cuisine.

Jalapenos are easy to use in recipes, as all you need to do is wear gloves to remove the seeds and chop them finely. Remember that jalapenos are milder than red chili peppers, so you may need to use more to achieve the desired heat level.

If you’re worried about overpowering your dish, start with a small amount, taste test, and add more if needed. With jalapeno peppers, you can add a touch of heat without going overboard.

2. Chipotle Peppers

If you’re a fan of smoky flavors in your dishes, you need to add chipotle peppers to your pantry. These peppers are a Mexican staple and have a unique taste perfect for adding depth to your recipes.

Chipotle peppers are made by smoking and drying ripe jalapeno peppers, giving them a distinct smoky flavor that sets them apart from other substitutes. 

When using chipotle peppers, keep in mind that they are often sold in adobo sauce, which can add additional flavors like garlic, salt, and vinegar. It’s perfect when you want to make a batch of Chipotle-inspired Sofritas!

You can use the peppers or add the sauce for an extra kick of flavor. If you’re unsure of how much to use it, start with a small amount and taste test as you go.

Looking down on red, yellow, and green banana peppers.

3. Banana Peppers

Banana peppers are a mild, crunchy variety of pepper that can be added to almost any dish to add flavor and texture. They can be eaten raw as a snack or cooked in various recipes.

The peppers have a smooth, somewhat sweet taste that pairs nicely with other vegetables or even added to sandwiches, salads, and stews. Not only are banana peppers low in calories and fat, but they also have a wealth of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium.

That means adding banana peppers to your diet is an easy way to reap the benefits of their nutritional value.

Looking down on a bunch of green poblano peppers.

4. Poblano Peppers

Poblano peppers are a great addition to any recipe. Not only do they have a deliciously smoky and slightly spicy flavor, but they are also surprisingly versatile.

Use them to flavor your next batch of plant-based enchiladas or stuffed peppers. Their thick skin makes them an ideal choice for roasting, while the slightly smaller Anaheim peppers make an excellent stuffing pepper when making jalapeno poppers.

Whatever savory recipe you’re making, adding poblano peppers can give it a delicious kick that will take it to the next level.

Three bell peppers sit on a white counter. One is red, the other is orange, the the other one is yellow.

5. Red Bell Peppers

Red bell peppers are an easy way to add flavor and color to your favorite dishes. Not only are they packed with nutritious vitamins and minerals, but they also have a unique sweet and slightly tangy taste.

You can use bell peppers as a fresh red chili pepper substitute in your favorite dishes, such as chimichurri sauce.

These peppers can be added to recipes like salads and tofu stir-fries, or they can be enjoyed raw as a snack along with some green hummus or guacamole. Red bell peppers can also be an eye-catching garnish on top of main dishes.

With a bit of creativity, these vibrant, versatile vegetables can help to give your meals an extra boost of flavor and nutrition.

Looking down on a bowl of red powder with the label above it reading Red Chili Powder. Next to it is a mound of red powder. The text above it reads, Chili Powder.

Are Chili Pepper and Chili Powder the Same Thing?

When cooking with chili peppers, it’s essential to understand the differences between chili pepper and chili powder. While the two may seem interchangeable, they have distinct differences that can impact the flavor of your dishes.

Chili peppers are a type of pepper that can range in heat from mild to extremely spicy. They are often used fresh or dried and can be found in various colors such as red, green, and yellow. Chili peppers are typically used in Mexican and Asian cuisine and are a popular ingredient in dishes such as chili, salsa, and curry.

On the other hand, chili powder is a spice blend that typically contains chili peppers and other spices such as cumin, oregano, and garlic. The spice blend can vary in heat level and flavor depending on the types of peppers and spices used.

Chili powder is often used in Tex-Mex cuisine and is a common ingredient in chili and enchilada casseroles.

While chili peppers and chili powder can add heat to your dishes, they have different flavor profiles. Chili peppers have a fresh, fruity flavor that can vary depending on the variety of pepper used. In contrast, chili powder has a more complex, smoky flavor due to adding other spices.

Are Red Chili Peppers Hotter Than Jalapenos?

Yes, red chili peppers are much hotter than jalapenos. That means if you’re substituting jalapenos for red chili peppers, you may need to add more to create the same spicy kick.

Recipes Perfect for Red Chili Peppers

Here are some recipes just perfect for red chili peppers or a chili pepper substitute:


In conclusion, while chili peppers and chili powder may seem similar, they have distinct differences that can impact the flavor of your dishes. Whether you’re cooking with fresh chili peppers or using a spice blend like chili powder, it’s essential to understand the nuances of each ingredient to achieve the perfect flavor in your dishes.,

So don’t be afraid to experiment and find your unique combinations. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life, and with these alternatives, you can add complexity and heat to your dishes without sacrificing taste. So, try out these substitutes, and remember to have fun and discover new flavors.

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