chili powder substitute

Top 7 Chili Powder Substitutes For All Your Cooking Needs

Chili powder is one of those spices that I keep close all the time. I use it in my chili con carne, tacos, and even in beef stews. However, it is a spice that some people don’t love, as it can be spicy.

On the other hand, chili powder can be hard to find at times, but what can you do if you are about to start cooking? Don’t worry, there are still plenty of spices you can use in its place and get similar flavors. 

What Is Chili Powder?

Chili powder is simply a combination of many spices and dried herbs. Most of the mixes you can buy include paprika, cumin, oregano, garlic, onion, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and chili pepper. It is these three peppers that give chili powder the heat that you are used to.

Because it is spicy, but not overly so, chili powder is a common ingredient in many dishes.

You have probably used this in cooking Mexican, Korean, Indian, and Spanish recipes. However, because it is technically only a mix of other spices, you can replace it without much trouble depending on what flavors you want in your meal.

What Can I Replace Chili Powder With?

If you want to make your favorite meals but can’t find any chili powder, these are the best substitutes to use:

Best For Chili, Enchilada Sauce, and Making Ancho Chili Powder

#1. Paprika

You probably already have some paprika in your pantry, as it is a very common spice. The color is also red, but the flavor is smokier and only a bit spicy.

Paprika is used in a variety of dishes but can be used in a 1:1 ratio for making chili, enchilada sauce, or in replacing chili powder if you want to make ancho.

While many grocery stores sell paprika, you can find more variety in specialty stores, farmer’s markets, and organic supermarkets. Be careful that you only buy paprika, as some brands can mix in other spices.

See More: Best Paprika Substitutes

#2. Cumin

This herb has a strong aroma and a peppery, lemon flavor. You can add it to chili con carne, enchilada sauce, as a replacement in ancho chili powder, and any meat dish. Cumin is a traditional Indian and Middle Eastern spice, so you may already have some too.

Use cumin in the same amount as you would chili powder, but consider that you may need to add a bit of spice to it by mixing other flavors. Finding cumin shouldn’t be too hard, but you can try your local grocery store.

While cumin seeds have a good flavor, they are much warmer and have an earthy taste to them.

See More: Best Cumin Alternatives

#3. Oregano

This spice and herb is a great addition to any dish, but the leaves taste completely different.

For replacing chili powder, use the dry herb or powder form for better results. You can add the same amount as you would chili powder, but you can add a bit of pepper or paprika for more spice.

You probably already have oregano at home, otherwise, try your local store for the powder or dry form. In making chili, enchilada sauce, or ancho, go for the powder, but the dry herb works if you don’t have another option.

Best For Cooking Korean Food, Kimchi, or Taco Seasoning

#4. Red Pepper Flakes

These flakes are mighty and spicy, and often used in Italian foods. This is technically only crushed red pepper that has been dried into a smaller form.

You can use a teaspoon of red pepper flakes for every half teaspoon of chili powder, but consider that the spice level may be stronger, so you could start with less.

For better flavor, you can grind up the red pepper flakes, but then, you should use the same amount as you would chili powder. Try this substitute in making kimchi, any other Korean dish, or even in making taco seasoning.

#5. Hot Sauce or Sriracha

While the flavor is much more potent and it is liquid, hot sauce or sriracha do add the spice that you would need.

You can use any brand of hot sauce you like for making tacos, but use sriracha with Korean dishes. You should use about ½ teaspoon at most, as these two are powerful and spicier than any other options.

Buying hot sauce or sriracha shouldn’t be a problem, as most grocery stores have both or at least one of them. You can try adding it towards the end of the cooking process for better aroma and flavor.

See More: Hot Sauce Shelf Life

#6. Old Bay Seasoning

While this choice may seem odd, old bay seasoning is full of flavor, and it already contains chili powder and paprika in it. You can use almost the same amount as you would chili powder, but try the food as you go, as this flavor is more smoky and salty.

You can find old bay seasoning almost everywhere, but you can try your local grocery store. Add this option if you don’t have anything else when making taco seasoning, cooking fish tacos, or making Korean dishes that contain vegetables or fish.

#7. Ancho Chilies

Ancho chilies are not very common, but if you are lucky to find them, you may as well use them. These chilies are mild in flavor and somewhat sweet but can be used to replace chili powder in making taco seasoning or kimchi.

These chilies can be used whole by roasting them first until the skin is crispy and dark, but you can also use the powder form, which may be easier to find at times.

Try finding these chilies at your local farmer’s market or organic grocery store. You can also dry them in the oven, and then grind them to get a powder form for future uses.

If you use the whole form, add a bit of ancho chili as you cook, but in powder form, you can replace chili powder in a 1:1 ratio.


Is paprika a good substitute for chili powder?

Yes, paprika is a good replacement for chili powder, but you do have to take into account that this spice is sweeter, smokier, and less spicy. You can add a few red pepper flakes to the mix if you are looking for more heat.

Can I substitute chipotle powder for chili powder?

While chili powder is less hot and sweeter, you can use chipotle powder instead. However, keep in mind that the flavor is much spicier and smokier. This choice is best reserved for Mexican dishes and meat flavors.

Which is hotter, cayenne or chili powder?

Cayenne pepper is eight times hotter than chili powder, so if your recipe calls for the latter, use only about ⅓ or less. Always try the flavor first, as you may overpower other flavors if you use cayenne pepper.


Chili powder is a very common ingredient in many cuisines, so you probably have it in your pantry. If you can’t find it or don’t want to go to the store, use any of these 7 choices for all of your cooking needs. Remember to always try these spices and ingredients first! 

chili powder alternative

*Photo by dndavis/depositphotos

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