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Substitute for Ancho Chili Powder

If you’re a lover of spicy foods, then you’ve probably made use of ancho chili powder. This hot pepper powder is a regular ingredient in Mexican cuisine and pops up in various recipes. But what happens if you don’t have any around at a time of need? Well, the good news is, it has lots of great substitutes!

What is Ancho Chili Powder?

Before diving into what to replace ancho chili powder with, let’s talk about what it is. Ancho chili powder is derived from dried and grounded poblano peppers. The dark-colored powder compliments many dishes with its mild heat and smoky, fruity flavor. And it contributes a certain sweetness that’s unique and renowned in Mexican cuisine.

Poblano peppers are commonly grown in Mexico, so foods made from the region are heavy with their spicy taste. And when used to make ancho chili powder, such flavor becomes widely available for many other types of recipes. Though native to Mexican cuisine, ancho chili powder can also be used in many other spicy recipes worldwide. However, it remains one of the most authentic ingredients for preparing Mexican dishes.

Chili Powder Nutrition Facts

Chili Powder Nutrition Facts

Ancho Chili Powder in Recipes

Ancho chili powder is a common addition to almost every Mexican recipe. Its mild heat allows it to blend well with the flavor of dishes. It also lets it mix easily with the taste of other spices and retain its presence simultaneously. Plus, the fruity taste of the poblano peppers compliment the dish’s overall taste and gives it a unique presence.

Many other spicy recipes also benefit from using ancho chili pepper. Because it’s not very hot, it can be added to numerous dishes that need a little pop in taste and feel. And if the dish is a spicy one, the better! Ancho chili powder is great as a flavoring and in dry rubs. It also works for boiled, fried, baked, roasted, and even steamed recipes. Some of these include;

  • Enchilada
  • Oven-baked fajitas
  • Sauces
  • Tacos
  • Mole
  • Pizzas
  • Baked potatoes
  • Quesadillas
  • Cakes
  • Pork recipes
  • Truffles
  • Chili
  • Pasta
  • Soups
  • Pepitas
  • Brownies
  • Sandwiches and Burgers
  • Salsa
  • Desserts
  • Stews
  • Salads
  • Beef recipes
  • Popcorn

Anchor Chili Powder Substitutes

Perhaps you’re making a Mexican dish and wish to give it that authentic taste. Or you need something with the perfect mildness in taste, and anchor chili powder came to mind. Or maybe your recipe calls for it. For whatever reason, you may want to panic if you find out you’re either all out or you never had a jar of it to begin with. If rushing to the grocery store to get one isn’t an option for you, then simply substitute with any of these spices you may already have sitting around. Some have a similar taste and heat level, while others may offer either taste or heat to the recipe.

New Mexico Chili Powder

Spice Appeal New Mexican Chili Ground


New Mexico chili powder is your best bet when looking for a substitute for ancho chili powder. Not only is it close to it in taste, but it also bears a similar level of heat as anchor chill powder. New Mexico chili powder is usually made from either Anaheim, Californian or Mexican chilies, depending on the brand. It can be substituted for ancho chili powder in equal amounts in every recipe and will give you almost the same earthiness and fruity flavor as ancho chili powder will.

Pasilla Powder

Spice Appeal Pasilla Chile Ground


If you happen to have a jar of pasilla powder sitting in your kitchen, then you’ve found another ideal substitute for ancho chili powder. Pasilla powder is made from dried and crushed chilaca peppers, and the dark color is the main contributor to the name of this powdered spice. Like poblanos, chilaca peppers are also mildly hot, so pasilla powder can pass as an easy substitute in any recipe. And you can substitute equal amounts of pasilla powder for ancho chili powder in recipes that call for it and still get that unique Mexican effect since pasilla powder is also a popular spice from the region.

Guajillo Pepper Powder

Mexican Chiles 3 Pack Guajillo


Guajillo powder is also a great alternative to ancho chili powder, especially if you’re looking for that special and exotic Mexicana feel in the recipe. Like ancho chili powder, guajillo powder is just as popular and is a familiar flavor in Mexican recipes and dishes. Guajillo powder is made from dried and crushed guajillo peppers and is slightly hotter. But it’s a great equal quantity substitute for ancho chili powder, especially in recipes that thrive on more spiciness. Plus, guajillo pepper is sweeter than ancho, so you can expect a more delicious flavor to blend with heat, especially in tomato-based recipes and sauces.

Chipotle Powder

McCormick Gourmet Chipotle Chile Pepper


Chipotle powder is already a popular contender in the spice market and is known by chefs and food enthusiasts worldwide. And like ancho, it originates from Mexico, so it’s a common flavor in the region’s cuisine. Chipotle powder is made from smoke-dried and crushed jalapeños, so you must take note of the smoky taste, as it may surface in some recipes. For dishes that don’t need it, use chipotle powder made from Morita jalapeños. Those made from Meco jalapeños are best for dishes that benefit from extra smokiness in the ingredients. Also, the chipotle powder is hotter, so a base measurement to start from is to substitute half the requirement for anchor chili powder and then adjust to taste.

Chile de Arbol Powder

Classic Provisions Spices De Arbol Chili Powder


Another trendy spice synonymous with Mexican cuisine, Chile de Arbol, makes a decent substitute for ancho chili powder. Like ancho, it offers a hint of smokiness, making it perfect for recipes that require both that and extra hotness. But Chile de Arbol is much hotter than ancho chili powder, so unless you’re looking for extra spiciness or heat, the best way to substitute is to apply half the requirement first. Afterward, you can increase the addition of pinches till you reach your desired taste.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the difference between ancho chili powder and regular chili powder?

Regular chili powder comprises ground chili pepper, like paprika and/or cayenne, and other ground spices, like onion and garlic. But anchor chili powder is made specifically from smoke-dried and crushed poblano peppers. Also, ancho chili powder is hotter than regular chili powder.

Are poblano and ancho peppers the same?

Ancho peppers or ancho chile peppers are simply poblano peppers that have been smoke-dried. The dried poblano chiles are then renamed ancho chile, from the Spanish word meaning ‘wide.’ When grounded, the dark, spicy powder is called anchor chile powder.

Can I substitute Mulato pepper powder for ancho chili powder?

Yes, you can, in some cases. Mulato pepper is one of the most popular Mexican spices available, and when made into powdered form, carries the same smoky properties as the rest. But Mulato pepper powder isn’t as hot as ancho chili powder, so you may need more than the recipe calls for the latter.


With any of these great substitutes, you can always find a replacement for ancho chili powder in recipes that call for it. The key to creating great dishes is observation, so take the time to practice more with these options in place of ancho chili powder. And if you perfect how to substitute these options for ancho chili powder, you may just be on your way to inventing better methods of preparing your favorite Mexican dishes.