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Substitute for Red Pepper Flakes

Substitute for Red Pepper Flakes

Whether you’re preparing a hot dish or need a flaming topping for your recipe, red pepper flakes tend to come in handy. This spice is popular among Mexican and Italian cuisines and is loved for its flexibility and versatility. So, having the closest substitutes can be a huge time saver if you ever run out of it.

Substitute for Red Pepper Flakes

What is Red Pepper Flakes?

As the name implies, red pepper flakes are derived from red peppers. The peppers are usually dried, then crushed such that you get a mix of ground pepper, flakes, and seeds. The seeds combine with the flakes give the mix additional hotness that many recipes can use to build spiciness. And red pepper flakes are generally made from peppers belonging to the Capsicum annum family, including bell peppers and jalapeños. But the most prominent type used in the red pepper flakes mix is cayenne pepper.

Because of this, you can attempt to make your batch of red pepper flakes at home. All you need is a bunch of dried red peppers composed mostly of cayenne, with the addition of other red peppers like jalapeños, Chile de Arbol, Thai red chili, bell peppers, and any other types you prefer. Remove the stems and grind in a coffee grinder or food processor took the flaky texture is achieved.

Red Pepper Flakes in Recipes

Quite many uses are available for red pepper flakes. It’s a popular addition to savory recipes for meat, fish, and vegetables. Its unique and balanced heat brings out the flavor in many dishes. And it blends well with dough as well, making it great for adding that extra hint of spiciness to baked goods.

Red pepper flakes are also a popular condiment for boiled, fried, and marinated recipes. It can be used in between the cooking process or as a final addition to heat up a recipe. Red pepper flakes also compliment the appearance of many dishes, as the seeds and flaked pepper pieces bring an extra splash of color to foods.

In summary, you can apply red pepper flakes in many dishes and recipes, including;

  • Fried chicken
  • Pasta
  • Beef recipes
  • Sauces
  • Fish recipes
  • Stews
  • Broths
  • Soups
  • Vegetable recipes
  • Salads
  • Baked goods
  • Pizzas
  • Sandwiches and burgers
  • Tacos
  • Tortillas
  • Curries
  • Noodles
  • Seafood dishes
  • Chili

Red Pepper Flakes Substitutes

If you ever find yourself out of red pepper flakes while cooking, don’t fret. Since it’s made from familiar and popular peppers, you’re certain to find good substitutes lying around your pantry. Note, though, that each substitute differs in heat level from red pepper flakes, so you should put this in mind when applying them to different dishes. Regardless, each one is capable of enhancing the flavor and heat of your favorite recipes in place of red pepper flakes.

Cayenne Pepper Powder

McCormick Ground Cayenne Red Pepper

Since red pepper flakes contain a large amount of cayenne pepper in their mix, it stands to reason that you can substitute it with cayenne pepper powder. Cayenne pepper is a good alternative to red pepper flakes in stews, soups, and curries and can also work in pasta dishes. Note, though, that cayenne is hotter, so you don’t substitute in equal amounts. Rather, use about 1/2 to 3/4 of it to replace red pepper flakes in your recipe.

Chili Powder

McCormick Culinary Dark Chili Powder,

Hardly would you come across a kitchen without an extra jar of chili powder sitting on the counter, so it comes quite in handy if you’re ever out of red pepper flakes. Chili powder is already a versatile condiment for numerous dishes, so it’s easily a great substitute for red pepper flakes. The latter is hotter, though, so you may want to double the amount of chili powder you use to replace it.

Chile de Arbol Pepper

Whole Chile De Arbol, 3 Ounce

If you happen to have Chile de Arbol powder in your kitchen, you can substitute it for red pepper flakes in meat and fish recipes. If it’s the dried pepper itself you’ve got, simply grind it in a food processor to the same texture level as the red pepper flakes. Chile de Arbol powder is almost as hot as cayenne, so 1/2 teaspoon of it is enough to substitute for red pepper flakes.

And if you do grind it yourself, you also get the complimentary effects of seeds and pepper flakes that most powdered peppers won’t give your recipe. Plus, the powdered form is great for dry rubs and in pizza toppings.

Habanero Powder

Habanero Powder

Habanero is already a popular addition to the red pepper flakes mix, so its heat level and flavor make it a good substitute. It’s much hotter than red pepper flakes, so you only need to use less of it. 1/2 teaspoon of habanero powder is a good substitute for red pepper flakes in meatballs, curries, soups, and stew. And it also works great in BBQ sauces since it jazzes up the flavor of meats and fishes.

Hot Sauce

Limited Edition Hot Sauce

In the absence of powdered or dried red pepper, a good bottle of hot sauce can easily substitute for red pepper flakes. This option works best for wet recipes like sauces, soups, stews, and broths and may even be a good option for sandwiches and burgers. A simple dash of Tabasco hot sauce can do the trick, or Sriracha hot sauce if you have a bottle lying around. The latter is a good option since it’s made mainly from chili peppers. Sriracha sauce can also work in grilled meats, fish, and spring rolls.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I use paprika instead of red pepper flakes?

Yes, you can. Paprika is quite similar to the type of peppers used in red pepper flakes. However, paprika is not as hot, so you may need more of it in your recipe. The best way to substitute paprika for red pepper flakes is to add 1 teaspoon and then follow up to taste. Or you can opt for hot paprika powder for a more intense heat level. Paprika works for lots of dishes, including soups, stews, sauces, pasta, meat, and fish recipes.

Are red pepper flakes the same as chili flakes?

No, they’re not. Red pepper flakes are made from a combination of different red peppers, including habanero pepper and jalapeños. But chili flakes are made purely from chili pepper.

Do crushed red pepper flakes go bad?

Not really. Though red pepper flakes will not spoil, they tend to lose flavor over a long period since they’re made from dried peppers. The pepper’s hotness comes from the volatile oils in them, and the compounds break down over time.


With any of these substitutes, you never have to feel like you’re in a tight corner when you’re out of red pepper flakes. Also, remember that each of these substitutes differs in heat and offers a unique flavor, so take the time to experiment with them so you can find the best ways to use them in your dishes.