Chili Powder Substitutes: 18 Alternatives That Suits Your Needs

The lack of chili powder in some recipes can deprive them of the distinct flavor they need to satisfy your cravings. This is why you need to have substitutes for chili powder around you. 

Keep reading to find 18 different chili powder substitutes that you can use when you run out of chili powder and don’t have any available at hand.

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What Is Chili Powder?

Chili powder is a seasoning made from ground chili and is available in several varieties. Varieties of chili powder include Peri-peri chili and chipotle chili powder. 

Traditional chili powder is made from red chilies and other spices like cumin, onion powder, powder, salt, and cayenne pepper. You can get chili powder at a grocery store or you can also make it home with the right ingredients.

What Is the Purpose of Chili Powder in a Meal?

The primary purpose of chili powder in your meal is the spicy, hot flavor and taste it gives your recipe. This is the reason why specific dishes require the use of chili powder to give them a blissful flavor profile. 

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Chili Powder Substitutes

1. Chili Flakes

A great alternative for Chili powder is chili flakes. This is a good substitute if you are looking to enjoy the same level of spiciness with chili powder. Just like the powdered form, chili flakes are also available in different varieties. Be sure to check the label to confirm the type of chili pepper used in making it. 

SEE: Interesting Ways to Use Chili Leftovers

2. Scotch Bonnet Flakes

This is another kind of chili that makes a great substitute for chili powder. It gives your dish a hot and fruity spice and is mostly suitable for Caribbean dishes. Use your scotch bonnet flakes as you would use your chili powder and enjoy your dish.

3. Chipotle Pepper Powder

For a more enhanced flavor and taste, use chipotle pepper powder in place of chili powder. This pepper powder will help to spice up your dish with a deep smoky flavor. With the same level of spice and hotness, this is the perfect chili powder substitute for you.

However, chipotle pepper has a distinctive smoky and sweet flavor that makes it different from the regular chili pepper. Start by adding a little to your dish and taste it before adding more. 

4. Cayenne Pepper

You can swap equal parts of cayenne pepper with chili powder in any recipe that needs some chili spice. Cayenne pepper is spicier than chili powder but it is considered mildly spicy. Therefore you can add it to your dish to enhance the taste and flavor. 

5. Ancho Chilies

Anchor chilies are a great chili powder substitute if you are on the lookout for moderate spice in your dish. It is made from poblano chilies. It gives your dish a rich Mexican flavor profile. You can use it to season your fish, meat, soup, and even cakes.

6. Spicy Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce is an excellent alternative to use in preparing your dishes. You can even make it yourself by mixing coriander, oregano, hot sauce, salt, and cumin. It will serve as a hot sauce in your meal, and the sourness of the tomatoes will give your dish a fantastic taste.

8. Hot Sauce

Hot sauce is a great substitute for chili powder when you use the liquid form. You can add it to your stew, soup, dressings, and even dessert. Most hot sauces give a chili pepper base, which will give you a similar taste to chili powder when you use it for your cooking.

9. Packet Seasoning

If you need an alternative for chili powder, you can use packet seasonings from meal kits. Using Cajun seasoning can give your meal the right kick. They are usually pepper-based but have several other spices in them.

10. Cumin

Cumin is often used in Mexican and Latin American dishes. It is also used by other cuisines due to its warm, rich flavor. It is one of the ingredients used in making chili powder. You can use it when you can’t find or don’t have chili powder on hand. 

Cumin isn’t spicy like chili powder but it has a distinct flavor that will enhance the flavor of your dish massively, especially when cooking meats. You can use two times as much cumin to replace chili powder in your food. 

11. Dried Chile Peppers

If you don’t have the powdered version of chili pepper, you can use dried chili pepper. You can use dried chili peppers like cascabel, Chiles de árbol, and others in your cooking recipe. These peppers are reddish and can be very spicy. 

SEE: Never Substitute Garlic Powder For Garlic Salt [Here’s Why]

12. Harissa

If you have a jar of harissa in your kitchen, you can use it as a great alternative for chili powder. Harissa is a common chili paste used in North Africa and middle eastern dishes. It is made by blending red chilies, roasted red pepper, and oil with other varieties of spices. 

The dried form of harissa is made from a combination of fried red chiles, cumin, garlic, and other similar spices. It is not as spicy as most of the chili powder alternatives. Use equal amounts of dried harissa or harissa paste in place of chili powder. Your recipe and enjoy the spicy taste and flavor of your meal. 

13. Paprika

Red paprika can be used in place of chili powder in the preparation of a dish. There are several varieties of paprika so you need to know which one to use as a chili powder substitute. 

All paprikas are made from dried red pepper but the flavor and taste are different depending on the type of pepper used. You can use paprika in equal amounts to replace chili powder in your dish. 

14. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Here’s another alternative that works similarly to chili powder that you can easily find in pizza joints. This type of pepper is made from dried cayenne pepper—which is the same one that gives chili powder its spiciness and red color. 

Red pepper flakes combine both cayenne pepper and the seeds—giving it a double boost of hotness. You can use only half part of the red pepper to substitute chili powder in your meal. After tasting it, you can add more pepper flakes if you want.  

15. Garlic Powder

Garlic powder is another common ingredient in chili powder. This makes it a reasonable substitute for chili powder. It is a good seasoning ingredient for your meat and can be added to soups and sauces. However, it will not provide the spice and heat of chili powder. 

Because of its potent nature, avoid using too much of it. Try to balance the garlic powder with other flavors to give your recipe the right taste. 

16. Onion Powder

Similar to garlic powder, onion powder is also one of the ingredients of chili powder that can be used as its substitute. It will also not give you the spice and chili flavor. However, it is a good seasoning option to consider for your dishes. 

It works well with other flavors. Therefore, you can mix the onion powder with garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper to get a similar chili powder taste and flavor. 

17. Oregano

Some chili powder recipes include oregano, which is a popular ingredient in Italian, Mexican, and Latin American dishes. You can use oregano as a replacement for chili powder in your dish.

As with garlic and onion powder, oregano will not give the spice and heat of chili powder but is a great addition to soups and sauces. Mixing it with paprika and other spices will elevate the flavor profile of your dish.

SEE: Is Wasabi as Spicy as Chili Peppers?

18. Chili Sauce

Chili sauce combines chili peppers, salt, and vinegar and sometimes includes sugar too. You can cook these ingredients together to create a thick sauce or paste which you can use as a substitute for chili powder. 

The pepper you use in making the sauce will determine the taste, flavor, and hotness. Ensure that you taste the chili sauce alone before adding it to your recipe.

Why Does Chili Powder Need Substitutes? 

Every seasoning needs a substitute and it’s the same for chili powder. You may run out of chili powder while making a dish that requires it. Having substitutes around can prevent you from being stranded while making your favorite dish recipe. 

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Should you use curry powder as a chili powder substitute?

No, you shouldn’t. Curry powder contains lots of potent spices that can change the taste of any food you add it to. 

Can you use black pepper as a chili powder substitute?

Yes, you can. Regular black pepper is an uncommon substitute for chili powder. Using it in the preparation of your dish can help to elevate the flavor and taste of your recipe.

Even though it can not give you the distinct flavor of chili powder, black pepper can help to season your meat and sauces to give them a delightful taste and flavor. You can also combine it with other seasonings and spices.


There are several substitutes you can use instead of chili powder to season your favorite dish. These spices include cayenne pepper, dried red pepper flakes, chili sauce, scotch bonnet flakes, chipotle pepper powder, and so many others. 

Choose any substitute that suits your taste and never get stranded looking for options when you exhaust your chili powder. The right seasoning gives your dish a dash of delight, which is why you should always have a backup option for your spices. 

Thanks for reading.

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