Thai Chili Pepper Substitute

While Thai chili peppers vary in heat, they’re considered one of the hotter chili peppers. In fact, there are approximately 79 varieties of this fiery little pepper. But if you’re on the hunt for a Thai chili pepper substitute, we’ve got several ideal alternatives you can use.

Thai chili peppers are hot, small peppers cultivated in Thailand. The peppers are used extensively in Thai and other Asian cuisines. In fact, they are an essential ingredient in Thai curries and Thai chili pepper sauce.

Read on to discover the absolute best Thai chili pepper alternatives you can use to elevate your culinary creation.

What are Thai Chili Peppers?

Widely cultivated in Thailand since the 19th century, Thai chili peppers are the fruit produced by the Thai pepper plant. These tiny peppers are red when ripe, but are also often sold and used when green, yellow, or orange. 

There is a wide variety of Thai chili pepper. Some are considered mild, and others extremely hot. That said, they’re rated in the 50,000 to 100,000 SHU category on the Scoville scale. That means they’re hotter than serrano, tabasco, and cayenne peppers. 

Fresh and dried Thai chili peppers are typically used in stir-fries, curries, soups, or as garnish. Ground Thai chili pepper is a crucial ingredient when making Thai curry paste.

Substitutes for Thai Chili Peppers

Several substitutes will do the job if you’re out of Thai chili peppers and in a pinch. With these substitutions, you can create a dish that is just as flavorful and satisfying as the original. Here are some of the best Thai chili pepper alternatives you can try.

1. Cayenne Peppers

Named after the city of Cayenne in French Guiana, cayenne peppers are an excellent substitute for Thai chili peppers. They have a similar flavor and texture and can be used in many of the same dishes. 

However, cayenne peppers are not as spicy. But this makes them a good choice for those who enjoy the flavor of chili peppers without the heat. They’re also a bit sweeter than Thai chili peppers, which can add an interesting depth of flavor to dishes. 

2. Serrano Peppers

Serrano peppers are a great alternative if you can’t find Thai chili peppers at your local grocery store. Traditionally grown in the Mexican highlands, serrano peppers are one cornerstones of Mexican cuisine. 

These two chili peppers have a similar shape. But serrano peppers are a bright green color, while Thai chili peppers can be red, orange, or green. 

Serrano peppers are far less spicy than Thai chili peppers, and they’re typically used in dishes such as curries or stir-fries. But they’re also often an essential raw component in salsa.

3. Jalapeño Peppers

Native to Mexico, jalapeño peppers are incredibly popular the world over. And they are often used as a less spicy replacement for Thai chili peppers. The flavor of jalapeño peppers is similar to that of Thai chili peppers, but the heat level is much lower. 

The texture of jalapeño peppers is similar to that of Thai chili peppers, although the skin is slightly thicker. This makes jalapeño peppers great for stuffing. But they can be used as a replacement in any recipe where less heat is desired.

4. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Crushed red pepper flakes are made from red chili peppers that have been dried and crushed. And the flakes can range in color from light brown to deep red. What’s great is that they can be found in the spice section of most supermarkets, typically sold in jars or packets. 

This handy condiment delivers a strong, pungent flavor similar to that of Thai chili peppers. However, they’re not as spicy and are somewhat bitter to the taste with a crunchy texture. Therefore, they can add flavor and texture to dishes without adding too much heat when used as a substitute.

5. Habanero Peppers


Habanero peppers are often touted as a viable substitute for Thai chili peppers if it’s fiery heat you’re after. They’re not as sweet as Thai chili peppers, but they’ll add fruity and smokey undertones to your dish. But be prepared for a searing level of heat.

When it comes to texture, habanero peppers have thicker walls and are fleshier. This means they can be stuffed with cheese or other fillings. But any dish that benefits from a quick blast of heat would be a good candidate.


It doesn’t matter whether you can’t find Thai chili peppers or simply want to tone down the heat of your dish. Numerous alternatives will deliver a similar flavor profile, with or without the heat. The options listed above make it easy to recreate your favorite dishes with the ideal Thai chili pepper substitute on hand.