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Chili Powder Substitute: Top 10 Picks

Below you’ll find a list where you can choose the best chili powder substitute that will fit your needs. This will help when you suddenly run out of this flavorful spice.

Chili powder is a mixed spice that can liven up any dish. It’s fantastic in chili, stew, and spice rubs. Check our list below, which includes homemade chili seasoning mix as well.

tabletop with three different spice blends with label "chili powder"

What is chili powder?

The history of chili powder is convoluted. Though, it is agreed upon that someone in Texas created this spice blend years ago.

Chili powders combine different spices to create a bright color in dishes and provide heat. They give an earthy and somewhat peppery taste to dishes.

You will notice that chili spice blends sold at the stores differ in color from bright red to brown. Dark chili powder offers a slightly smokey flavor.

Multiple chilis are used to create a chili powder mix. The most commonly used ones are dried ancho chili peppers. New Mexico chilies and chipotle chili peppers usually make it into the mix.

Best Chili Powder Substitutes

Here is a list of the best 10 substitutes for chili powder.

1. Homemade Chili Seasoning

Making your own chili powder blend has its own benefits. It will be fresh without unnecessary additives.

You can make the flavor exactly how you like it by adjusting the ingredients based on your taste buds. Make it spicy or mild. Use your preferred paprika, and add salt if you want. This substitute for chili powder is more budget-friendly as well.

You’ll need powdered paprika, oregano spice, cumin, powdered onion, granulated garlic, and cayenne pepper powder. Mix all spices in the bowl and store them in the airtight glass container in a dark place.

Try this homemade chili powder recipe if you are feeling adventurous and craving the extra flavor boost. It is made from scratch using different varieties of dried chili peppers.

2. Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes can easily be used as a chili powder alternative. They add heat to any dish you include them in.

Plus, they’re also readily available in grocery stores. You’ll most likely have a few packets from a previous pizza run that you can use.

For red peppers to be easily incorporated into dishes, you must grind the flakes until they turn into powder. A spice grinder or mortar and pestle will help you do the job.

Crushed red pepper flakes are a great choice for your dish to be spicy. It does lack the other flavoring, so it will not provide the earthiness or peppery taste to your recipes.

Red pepper flakes can be used for cooked meals (soups and sauces) and as a garnish. Be prepared to bite into certain spicier spots than others when using it this way.

Cooking Tips:

Start with ¼ tablespoon of red pepper flakes for every tablespoon of chili powder in the recipe. Red pepper flakes will add much more heat. Slowly add in more pepper flakes if you want a spicier dish.

3. Cayenne Powder

Do you want extra heat and a similar red color? If so, cayenne powder is the perfect chili powder substitute for you. 

Cayenne powder works well in chili and spicy red sauces. It is often used in Mexican dishes. If you’re looking for a swap for a Tex-Mex or a Mexican recipe, the cayenne powder should work well.

It does add spiciness to dishes. However, it lacks the other flavors that cumin, oregano, garlic, paprika, and onion powder provide. This is because the cayenne powder is only made of hot red peppers ground into a powder.

Cayenne powder is much hotter than chili powder since it is more concentrated. You’ll need to use a much smaller amount in your recipes than chili powder.

Cooking Tips:

Use 1/8 tablespoon of cayenne powder for every tablespoon of chili powder you’ll need. Increase as needed in each recipe.

4. Paprika

Unlike cayenne powder and red pepper flakes that boast heat, paprika provides a more complex flavor to dishes. This is why it works well as a chili powder replacement.

There are multiple varieties of paprika, including sweet, hot, and smoked. This allows you to select an option that works best for your dish.

If you have to choose between the different paprikas, opt for smoked paprika. Depending on the chili pepper used, it will provide a nice flavor, similar red color, and potentially some heat.

Use smoked paprika when looking for more than heat in a dish. It will provide a smoky and robust flavor to recipes.

You can use it in chilis, soups, rubs, marinades, and rice recipes. Add some cayenne pepper if you want a spicier dish.

Cooking Tips:

Use ½ tablespoon of smoked paprika for each tablespoon of chili powder.

5. Ancho Chile Powder

Ancho powder is created from the ground-up ancho chili peppers. It’s another spice that can be used as a replacement for chili powder. This powder adds spice to dishes and a sweet and earthy flavor.

You may recognize ancho peppers by another name – poblano peppers. Ancho peppers are poblano peppers that have turned red after ripening. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A.

Use ancho powder when you’re looking for a similar flavor in dishes. You can substitute ancho powder in Mexican dishes like rice, stews, and meat marinades.

Cooking Tips:

As it is spicier, use ½ tablespoon of ancho chili powder for every tablespoon of chili powder.

6. Hot Sauce

Can’t find any of the above substitutes for chili powder in your pantry? You can use hot sauce to add heat, salt, and some flavor to your meals. The flavor it adds will depend on the hot sauce used.

For example, if you opt for Tabasco, expect your recipe to have a vinegary flavor. Valentina works for adding heat and not much flavor to dishes.

If you have sriracha on hand, this will be your best bet flavorwise. It not only adds heat but also provides some sweetness.

The hot sauce works best for sauces and soups. It will also do the trick if your tacos lack flavor, but you don’t have chili powder.

Cooking Tips:

Use a few drops of hot sauce to replace one tablespoon of chili powder. If you want more flavor in your dish, add ¼ tablespoon of cumin to the hot sauce. This will create a more robust flavor.

7. Onion Powder

This condiment is made by drying or dehydrating onions first. These onions are then processed through a food processor to arrive at a powdered form.

Onion powder is another chili powder substitute you can try. It does not have the kind of heat that chili has. However, it can provide spicy flavors that can brighten up dishes. This is especially beneficial when feeding kids, as they usually dislike hot sauces and other spices that have heat.

Onion powder is one of the main ingredients of chili powder mixes. That said, combining it with other spices is the best way to use it.

Cooking Tips:

Mix onion powder with cayenne pepper powder and garlic powder for best results. Use 1/4 of the amount of chili powder your recipe calls for. Add more according to preference.

8. Garlic Powder

Like onion powder, garlic powder is a common ingredient in chili powder blends. This condiment is made by grinding dried or dehydrated garlic slices. It has a potent garlic flavor that might be overpowering when used in excess.

Garlic powder will also not give the heat and flavor of chilis. However, it will provide a subtle spicy kick that is perfect for seasoning meats. Use this as a chili powder substitute if you don’t have a high tolerance for heat.

Cooking Tip:

Use 1/2 of the amount of chili powder called for in your recipe. For a more intense taste, add more.

9. Chipotle Chili Powder

Chipotle powder is made by grinding chipotle peppers. These peppers are dried and smoked jalapenos. They pack more heat than ancho chili. For reference, ancho is rated at 1,000-1,500 SHU, while Chipotle is rated at 2,500-8,000 SHU.

That being said, you should use this chili powder substitute with caution. Or else, you’ll get an overly spicy dish that will render the other flavors unnoticeable.

Cooking Tip:

Substitute chili powder seasoning with the same amount of chipotle powder.

10. Taco Seasoning

Taco seasoning mixes usually contain chili powder. Because of this, you can expect a decent amount of heat from them. This makes them a good chili powder substitute.

However, taco seasoning’s flavor is dominated by its cumin content. If you use this when the recipe calls for chili powder instead, expect a slight change in taste. You’ll still have the heat, but you’ll have a strong cumin flavor. This may not go well with the other ingredients depending on what you’re cooking.

Cooking Tip:

Use the same amount of taco seasoning as the amount of chili powder your recipe calls for.

Visual Guide of Chili Powder Substitutes

Infographic showing six substitutes for chili powder with tips on how to use them.

How To Pick The Best Chili Powder Substitute

Picking among the chili powder substitute options above might be overwhelming. After all, we’ve given you lots of choices. There is no need to worry, though. We’ll also give you tips on how you can pick what will be best for you.

1. Watch out for the heat.

Each of these options has varying levels of heat. When choosing what to use in your recipe, consider how hot you want your dish to be.

For instance, select garlic powder or paprika if you want a subtle kick. If the heat does not bother you, use ancho powder or chipotle chili powder.

2. See if you have time for additional steps.

While most of the swaps mentioned are ready to use, some require additional steps. When picking the best alternative, decide if you can spare extra time to prepare.

For example, don’t go for red pepper flakes if you’re in a hurry. They require grinding, so you’ll need more time. Plus, you’ll also need equipment. On the other hand, if you have the time, go for homemade chili powder.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you substitute paprika for chili powder?

Yes, you can substitute paprika for chili powder. Use hot paprika if you want to replace the heat in a dish. Or, use smoked paprika to replicate the complex flavors of chili powder.

Can you use red pepper flakes instead of chili powder?

Yes, you can use red pepper flakes instead of chili powder. It will add heat to your dish, but you’ll miss other flavor notes.

What is chili powder made of?

The spice blend includes cumin, dried ancho chilies, oregano, garlic, and salt. You can make your own homemade version at home in just a few minutes.

What can I substitute for chili powder?

Your best option would be to make your own chili spice blend. The second best option is using ancho chili powder or smoked paprika. On the other hand, you should avoid using curry powder as a substitute. Curry powders have turmeric and other strong spices that will alter your dish too much.


If you’ve run out of chili powder for your recipe, the optimal substitute is homemade chili powder mix. Opt for ancho chili powder if you don’t have the necessary spices to create your chili powder mix. This chili powder substitute will provide a nice flavor and some spice to your dishes.

Check what your recipe needs before choosing a substitution to avoid creating a dish you don’t enjoy. For example, if you know your recipe does not have a lot of additional seasoning, avoid cayenne pepper. Don’t use hot sauce as well.

Next time you reach for the chili powder, try one of these options for a unique flavor in your dish.

Chili seasoning recipe

Chili Powder Substitute

Natalia-Flavorful Home
Best Chili Powder Substitute recipe to use when you suddenly run out of this flavorful spice. It's fantastic in chili, stew, and spice rubs.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course spice blend
Cuisine American


  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper


  • Combine all the spice in the small mixing bowl.
  • Mix, place in the air-tight container and store in a dark dry place, away from sun.


Note on the paprika, feel free to use smoked or sweet kind based on your preferences. 
The powdered onion can be replaced with powdered garlic. 
Adjust the spice level to your preferences, add more cayenne powder or skip it completety if desires. 


Calories: 34kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 8mgPotassium: 192mgFiber: 3gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 2446IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 69mgIron: 3mg
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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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