12 Substitutes for Red Chili Pepper for Heat and Flavor


A fantastic way to add some zing and a kick to your recipe is by adding heat.

The most common form of doing this is by incorporating red chili peppers in your recipes.

However, spicy red chili peppers may not always be available to you nearby

. Fear not, there are several available substitutes to red chili peppers that can be added to your recipes for an added spicy twist.

12 Substitutes for Red Chili Pepper 

The best substitutes for Red Chili Pepper are – Cayenne Powder, Serrano Peppers, Red Chili Flakes, Jalapeno Peppers, Paprika Powder, Dry Poblano, Black Pepper, Chilli Sauce, Sriracha Sauce, Harissa Paste, Gochujang Paste, and Piri Piri Sauce. They are discussed in detail here –

Cayenne Powder

Cayenne is a common spice you can easily find in your local grocers or at supermarkets. You can use cayenne pepper flakes or powder as a perfectly valid substitute in the absence of red chili peppers.

Cayenne is also great as a substitute because it looks very similar to red chili pepper.

This finger-shaped pepper can provide both color and heat that red chilies can.

When purchasing, be sure to check the degree of heat your pepper may provide; there are different varieties; the Carolina cayenne pepper is different from the golden cayenne pepper variety.


One of the best alternatives, both color, and flavor-wise is the cayenne pepper; replace fresh or dry versions of it in your recipes to emulate the presence of red chili peppers.

Serrano Peppers

Serrano is a hot pepper that originated from the beautiful fertile fields of Puebla and Hidalgo in Mexico. The pepper is green and a lot hotter than red chilies. So use it carefully.

Serrano peppers are best used as a fresh replacement as dry varieties(in powder or flakes) can be hard to reach in mainstream markets and grocers.

They tend to be most useful when roasted and in sauces.


Serrano peppers are a great fresh alternative for red chilies. They should be used carefully since they are arguably hotter, preferably roasted or blended into sauces.

Red Chili Flakes

Red chili flakes are a perfect replacement for fresh red chili in many recipes, especially when used as a flavoring agent.

It is made of dried red chili pepper, making it one of the most accul=rate emulators of fresh red peppers.

Though very hot, red chili flakes are not as bright red and may not work as well as an additive for color.

It may also be great if you are looking to add a smoky undertone to the dishes.


Red chili flakes are easy to access and affordable for fresh red chili peppers since they are essentially the same ingredient in a dry flaked form.

Jalapeno Peppers

Jalapenos are a common green pepper that can be easily found in supermarkets and fresh greengrocers. These peppers, originating from Mexico, are milder than the red chili peppers.

Therefore, you can increase the quantity of jalapeno in your recipe to make it as hot as red peppers.

Jalapenos are great for promoting weight loss in your body by increasing your metabolism.

Jalapenos may not be a good dry substitute since flakes, or powdered jalapeno can be hard to come across. Jalapenos are also missing the distinct red color of red chili peppers.


A good substitute for red chili peppers is the humble green jalapeno pepper. While it is a good fresh substitute, dry versions are hard to come across. It will also fail to provide a bright red color.

Paprika Powder

Another easy access replacement for red chili peppers is paprika powder. Paprika works especially well in marinades, spice pastes, and mixes.

Paprika is a great dry substitute for red chili pepper; it can be accurately hot and provide an equivalent red color.

Paprika has an array of health benefits as well. It is a great source of antioxidants that control free radicals and help evade chronic illness.


Paprika is a good substitute for red chili peppers. This is a dry powder that can give you a very similar spice level and red color.

Dry Poblano

Dry poblano, also known as Ancho chili, is a great replacement for the red chili pepper. It has a distinct wide shape and dark color. It also has a milder heat level.

The pepper is a good dry substitute that has a smoky taste.

It may not be very hot or provide the same color but has a very distinct chocolatey flavor that enhances the spicy profile of any dish.


The dry poblano, also known as the Acho chili, is a common Mexican dry chili with a dark color and a smoky flavor that works well as a dry substitute for red chili peppers.

Black Pepper

Black pepper is a very common kitchen ingredient that you may find in your pantry already. It has a much more intense spicy heat that would hit the back of your tongue or throat before torching your language.

Black pepper is also a powerhouse of nutrients, a great ingredient to fight off inflammation, and also good for blood sugar control.

Black pepper is more intense in comparison and should be used carefully.

While it may not provide a similar spice profile or red color, it is a wonderful substitute considering its array of benefits.


The humble black pepper is a great substitute, but it must be used carefully due to its intensity. Moreover, it is very good for health.

Chilli Sauce

Your everyday red chili sauce might save your recipe; while it does contain other ingredients that can add flavor, of say, vinegar or salt, be sure to give this easy access alternative a try.

Try avoiding extremely salty and MSG-heavy chili sauces, and go for one with fewer preservatives and more natural ingredients.

Red chili sauce can provide both the flavor and color, whereas green chili sauce works well for taste but may not color your dish rich red.


Varieties of store-bought chili sauce can be used in your recipes to replace red chili peppers. But they often contain vinegar and salts, among other ingredients, and must be used with caution while seasoning.

Sriracha Sauce

Sriracha is a type of hot red chili sauce that is increasingly gaining popularity among chili enthusiasts.

Sriracha resembles hot sauce but is a little thicker and redder in color.

Much like regular chili sauce, sriracha contains many other ingredients; salt, sugar, garlic, and distilled vinegar. So season your recipes accordingly.

Sriracha can help provide both heat and color to your recipes.


Sriracha is a great substitute since it may provide both heat and color. It is pre-seasoned and hence must be used with caution.

Harissa Paste

Harissa is a great alternative; possessing both the amazing heat and beautiful red color of red chili peppers, this paste is a good choice to use in spice rubs, marinades, curries, and more.

It contains a lot of other ingredients, making it a more complex ingredient to use.

The spices include cumin, coriander, garlic, and herbs. Hence this complexly flavored paste works very well in Mediterranean and south-east Asian cuisines.

It can add smokiness and sweet heat to any dish.


Harissa paste is an excellent substitute to use instead of red chili peppers, particularly in spice-centric recipes, marinades, curries, and more. It is great to add heat as well as color.

Gochujang Paste

Gochujang is a common kitchen ingredient in Korean kitchen ingredients and is gaining increasing popularity in many home cook’s recipes.

Gochujang is made of fermented Gochu chili peppers that are combined with salt, rice, and soybeans.

This paste is very hot but has a very obvious sweet flavor too. This means you’ll have to season your recipes accordingly.

This paste can provide heat as well as a very bright red color to your dishes.


A Korean staple ingredient, Gochujang, can add both spice and color, in addition to an acidic and sweet flavor to your recipes.

Piri Piri Sauce

Piri Piri is made of African bird’s eye chilis and packs a very hot punch in them.

Considered to be one of the hottest chilies in everyday cooking, Piri Piri in the form of a bottled sauce, dry flakes, or even a spice mix can be a great alternative to using red chili peppers.

Piri Piri works very well in various recipes, from marinades, sauces, and dressings to even the occasional bloody mary.

Piri Piri can be found in many variants, sauces, and dry mixes, making it a versatile alternative.


Piri Piri is a good alternative found in multiple forms and works well in a list of recipes. It is both adequately hot as well as dark red.


Are red chili peppers hotter than green peppers?

Yes, technically. Red peppers contain more capsaicin and hence can be perceived as hotter. Green varieties have been known to taste fruity and sometimes even flowerier than red chilies.

Are fresher chilies hotter than dry chili peppers?

Yes. Fresh chilis have a lot more capsaicin in them and hence are hotter than dry versions of the same chili pepper, in flakes, or as a whole.

Is Cayenne the same as red chili peppers?

While some manufacturers list the two terms interchangeably, they are different. Cayenne peppers are a very specific finger-shaped hooked red chili that is very hot, whereas common red chili peppers are comparatively more mild peppers, often straight and smooth.

Bottom Line

There are several available alternatives to red chili peppers that can be found easily, in supermarkets, fresh greengrocers, online, or even in your pantries.

These may be in the form of flakes, powders, sauces, and pastes.

Substituting the real thing should not be a very big challenge since most alternatives listed work very well in most recipes in place of fresh red chili peppers.

Hopefully, you can make your favorite dishes with the spicy kick of any of these above options.

Show Some Love by Sharing!

About Karen Wilson

Karen is a foodie to the core. She loves any variety of food - spicy or junk! Her slender body and height are deceiving, as she enjoys eating hearty meals that would leave most people gasping for air. She has an appetite for life, and wants everyone around her to share in it too.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.