Cayenne peppers

6 Best Substitutes for Cayenne Pepper You Should Know

Let’s say you’re getting ready to cook, and then all of sudden you realize you’re out of cayenne pepper, so what can you use instead? Or perhaps, cayenne pepper is too spicy?

Maybe you are trying to find the best cayenne pepper substitute for weight loss? No matter the reason, it is always helpful to know what you can replace cayenne pepper with. 

First, let’s get to the basics. What is cayenne pepper good for? 

This is a spice that comes from a pepper closely related to bell peppers and jalapeños. For centuries cayenne pepper has been part of many cuisines, including Southwestern, Mexican, Cajun, and Creole. Once grounded though, this pepper is also found in Korean foods and other Asian dishes. 

In terms of spice and hotness, cayenne pepper is considered a medium pepper on the common Scoville Scale, with a score of 30,000-50,000 SHU. 

This can be a lot of spice, so if you’d rather change it for something less hot, you can try some cayenne replacements that will be milder, and give you a more subtle flavor. Or on the other hand, if you are addicted to spicy foods, then you want to try some of the options below. 

Here’s a complete list of cayenne pepper alternatives: 

#1. Red chili flakes

If you like pizza, then surely, you know about red pepper flakes. However, these flakes come dried and crushed, but not ground, so if you need a specific texture, you may want to try something else. 

They are still spicy, but not overly so, and they can be a good kick for your meal. They are most commonly found in Italian foods and sometimes in creamy hot sauce. 

#2. Jalapeño powder

This is probably a pepper you’ve come around to, especially if you like Mexican food. But did you know that jalapeno peppers also come in powder form? 

This is a low-heat substitute, but be careful, as the taste is very different from cayenne pepper powder. Unlike the actual pepper, the powder isn’t as hot because the seeds have been removed and it can be used in any type of meal, though Hispanic foods are more common. 

#3. Spanish paprika

Although it is not as hot as cayenne pepper, you can try adding more hot paprika to your meals for a similar flavor and appearance. Spanish paprika comes from pimenton, so it can vary in spice, and range from mild to hot. 

At the same time, pimenton is also smoky, which you should take into account before adding it to your dish or diet. Spanish paprika tends to be used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods, such as hummus, babaganoush, or paella. 

Related: Replacement for paprika

#4. Thai peppers

In some cases, you’ll find Thai peppers in the international aisle of your supermarket, and you can have them dried or fresh. 

Keep in mind however that the dry form of these peppers is very hot, so it is best to try adding only a bit first before you go too overboard. 

If you don’t like spicy foods, then this is not for you as these peppers tend to range between 50,000 and 100,000 SHU. Most dishes that have Thai peppers are from South East Asian, such as pad thai or curry. 

#5. Chili powder

This is a favorite when it comes to replacing cayenne pepper because it is made from a mix of dried and ground chili peppers. 

The common chili powder out there though comes from darker red peppers for the most part, so it will have a smoky flavor to it. 

This is a very versatile flavor and can be used in a wide range of dishes, so even if you do have cayenne pepper at home, you may want to have it in your pantry anyway. Chili powder can be part of almost any cuisine and dish! 

Related: What can I use in place of chili powder?

#6. Gochugaru

Don’t worry if you have never heard this name, as most people haven’t, but once you try it, you’ll never forget it. 

This is a popular blend of red pepper flakes that are often found in Korean food. Because it comes from red pepper, it also has a smoky quality to it, but it also adds some heat to your meal for a well-balanced touch. 

Keep in mind that all these alternatives have different flavors and some have different textures, so if you are wondering what to use, you may want to try them first.

Fresh Pepper vs. Cayenne Pepper

Now you are probably wondering too if you can use fresh peppers, and the answer is yes, but how much ground cayenne peppers equals one pepper? 

If you are going fresh, about 1 oz of fresh pepper is the rough equivalent to 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper. Fresh or dry, coarse or ground, cayenne pepper substitutes make a good addition to your grocery list, so make sure you try them all.


Is cayenne pepper and paprika the same?

You probably already know the answer after reading this post, but the truth is that cayenne pepper and paprika are not the same. Paprika comes from pimenton, which gives it a smoky and bright red color. Cayenne pepper is a chili powder that is usually spicier and it tends to be orange-red in color.

Can you substitute black pepper for cayenne pepper?

The simple answer is no. Black pepper is completely different from cayenne pepper as it comes from small drupe and it also doesn’t have the heat that cayenne brings because it doesn’t have capsaicin.

What are the most common uses for cayenne pepper?

Cayenne pepper has been used in cooking for centuries, but it also has many health benefits. In terms of flavor, it adds a spicy kick to your meals. As for what it can do for your wellness, some of its active compounds can boost your metabolism, reduce hunger, lower blood pressure, and aid in digestion.


There is no need to wonder what spice to substitute for cayenne pepper anymore, and now you have no excuse not to try all these choices. There is always an option out there for us spice lovers and for those who like the flavor but not heat. 

Make sure you keep these peppers and spices handy for when you are feeling adventurous when you are ready to try new recipes, or simply so you never have to wonder about these questions again! Who knew? Now you’re a pepper expert!

See more: Difference between cayenne and paprika

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