substitute for chili powder

Cooks have to deal with being out of a necessary ingredient more often than not. Even if the ingredient is something as basic as chili powder, you might not find some in your kitchen storage while cooking dishes like chili con carne. 

But you don’t have to panic if chili powder is not available as chili powder substitutes are relatively easy to find. If you are into Tex-Mex or American cuisine, then it is highly likely that some of these alternatives are in your kitchen already. 

Here are some of the alternatives of chili powder you can look into!

1. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is very closely related to jalapenos and bell peppers. As the origin of cayenne pepper is Central and South America, you won’t find it challenging to get this in local markets if you are from this part of the world. 

It is a very popular spice used in so many different traditional and modern cooking styles. Its smokiness and heat turned it into a very good substitute to chili powder. 

The nutrition profile of cayenne pepper is very impressive. For ages, it has been used as a medicinal herb in many parts of the world. It contains fiber, protein, potassium, manganese, riboflavin, and five different types of vitamins. [1]

2. Chipotle Powder

Chipotle powder looks a lot like chili powder. Though many expect these two spices to be the two sides of the same coin, they have some significant differences. Chili powder is more of a seasoning blend while chipotle powder is an ingredient itself. 

But regardless of the differences, the chipotle powder can be used as an excellent alternative to chili powder. Manufactured chili powder is most often mixed with oregano, cumin powder, and garlic powder. While using chipotle powder, adding these spices will give you a pretty similar flavor. 

Overall heat and smokiness produced by chipotle powder are higher than chili powder. That’s why you should be careful while using chipotle powder as a chili powder substitute. [2]

3. Ancho Powder

Interestingly, most of the flavor you receive from chili powder is actually from ancho powder. If the flavor is what you are looking for instead of heat and smokiness, then ancho powder should be your first choice as a substitute.

Ancho powder is regularly used in many chili powder blends. Many chefs use this powder alongside traditional chili powder. 

As ancho powder is made from ground poblano peppers without additives, it is recommended to use half the amount of chili powder in different recipes while used as a substitute. 

Poblano peppers can generate quite some heat. So adding the same amount of ancho powder in place of chili powder can make your food extremely hot and spicy. Don’t forget to add other complementary spices as well. [3]

4. Harissa

It is a North African chili paste that works as a very effective chili powder substitute. Harissa is made from smoked chili peppers, garlic, and various other types of spices like coriander and cumin. 

Chili powder is used in dishes for the subtle heat and flavor. You can get the same from harissa as well. The best part is, you can even make harissa at home if you have dry chili, olive oil, garlic, cumin, aromatic spice, and coriander. 

Harissa is able to directly substitute chili powder in most of the dishes as its heat and smokiness level is quite similar to chili powder. 

5. Pasilla

If you are into traditional Mexican dishes and want a substitute for chili powder in this specific cuisine, pasilla would be a perfect choice. Pasilla is made of pasilla chilies that are used in mole sauces and many other popular Mexican recipes. 

Pasilla has an earthy flavor that pairs quite well with spices like cumin. Thus, it works great in most of the Mexican dishes that require chili powder as an ingredient. The taste of the dish can be slightly altered with this substitute, but it will remain delicious. 

The Bottom Line

These substitutes for chili powder are appropriate for different cuisines and dishes. Pick yours considering the kind of dish you are cooking. If you can’t find any of these in nearby stores, there is another way. 

You can attempt making your chili powder from scratch. As chili powder is a mixture of different spices and most of its components are very common, you can surely give it a shot. 

The main ingredients you’ll need for this are dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and last but not least, sweet paprika

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