Substitute for Red Chili Pepper

Red Chili Peppers originate from Central and South America, where they have been cultivated for centuries. And they add a fair amount of heat to the dishes they’re used in. However, if these peppers are in short supply, you should read on to find an alternative.

What are Red Chili Peppers?

Red chili peppers are a member of the nightshade family of vegetables and are native to the Americas. They were first domesticated in Mexico and remain a staple in Latin American cuisine. 

This chili pepper is commonly used in spicy dishes. And it can range in heat from mild to extremely hot. In fact, they typically have a Scoville rating of 2,500 to 8,000 SHU.

They are used both fresh and dried in dishes such as enchiladas, tacos, and mole sauce. Red chili peppers can also be pickled and are often used to make hot sauce or chili jam.

Red Chili Peppers contain a compound known as capsaicin, responsible for their spicy flavor. But capsaicin also has various health benefits, including boosting metabolism, relieving pain, and more.

Substitutes for Red Chili Peppers

If you’ve cooked with red chili peppers, you know they can pack a punch. But what if you don’t want your meal that spicy or can’t find any at your local store? Luckily, you can use a few different ingredients as a substitute for red chili peppers.

1. Serrano Peppers

The Serrano pepper is named after the mountain ridges (Sierra) in Mexico, where they are grown. They’re usually green when harvested but can also be red, orange, or yellow.  

Serrano peppers can be used as a substitute for red chili peppers in many dishes. They have a similar flavor and texture. The heat level of Serrano peppers can vary depending on the variety. However, Serrano peppers are typically quite hot, with a Scoville scale rating of 10,000-25,000 SHU.

When substituting Serrano peppers for red chili peppers, you should taste the dish when adding peppers to regulate the heat. Dishes suited to Serrano peppers include salsa, guacamole, and bean chili.

2. Red Chili Flakes

Red chili flakes are made from dried, de-seeded red chili peppers. While red chili peppers are fresh peppers that can vary in spiciness. That said, red chili flakes are an excellent option because they have a similar flavor. 

The primary difference between red chili flakes and red chili peppers is that the flakes are less spicy. Therefore, using red chili flakes as a substitute in dishes where you want the flavor of chili peppers without the heat is ideal. Some examples include pizzas or pasta. 

3. Cayenne Peppers

Native to South America, the Cayenne Pepper has a similar flavor to red chili peppers, but they are typically hotter. 

As such, when substituting cayenne peppers for red chili peppers, it is essential to start with a small amount. Then increase the amount of cayenne pepper used gradually until the desired spice level is achieved. 

Some typical dishes that use cayenne peppers include buffalo chicken wings, hot sauce, and salsa. You’ll also find that cayenne peppers are generally easier to find in grocery stores. 

4. Jalapeño Peppers

Named after the city of Jalapa in Mexico, jalapeño peppers are an ideal substitute for red chili peppers. However, jalapeño peppers are not as spicy, so they may not be suitable for dishes that are intended to be hot. Dishes such as enchiladas, tacos, pizzas, pasta, and stews are good choices. 

Jalapeño peppers are also low in sodium, cholesterol, fat, and calories. Which makes them a relatively healthy option. And they’re more widely available than red chili peppers, as they’re produced in most countries. 

5. Dried Poblano Peppers

These dark Mexican peppers are produced when poblano peppers are left on the vine to ripen. They’re then harvested and dried to produce a deep red, sometimes burgundy-colored chili pepper.

Dried poblano peppers are milder in flavor than red chili peppers and have a leathery outer texture. This popular pepper is also less spicy than red chili peppers.

The best dishes for dried poblano peppers are those that don’t rely heavily on the spice of the pepper for flavor. 


When in a pinch, there are a few suitable red chili pepper alternatives you can use. And with our recommendations, you’ll find a suitable substitute for red chili pepper no matter the dish.