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Substitutes For Chili Powder

Mexico is home to some of the hottest peppers globally, and if you are into spicy food, you may probably be familiar with chili powder. It is used in many cuisines and traditional Latin American dishes like tacos and enchiladas.

What makes chili powder so unique is its spices; it usually consists of spices like garlic powder and cumin, together with chili peppers, which help give it a spicy flavor.

Have you ever been in a situation where you need to use chili powder but can’t find any? This can be frustrating, I know, but do you know that some common household ingredients can fill in the void left by chili powder?

In this article, we will cover everything chili powder, from what it is to how it is used in recipes to how you can substitute them if you don’t have it on hand.

Substitutes For Chili Powder

Chili Powder Nutrition Facts

Substitutes For Chili Powder

What is Chili Powder?

Chili powder is different from many other seasonings because it has its distinctive flavor profile thanks to different aromatic spices; these spices include dried chili peppers, cayenne peppers, garlic powder, ground cumin, oregano, paprika, and onion powder.

This spice blend is popularly used in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines, but you can also find it in Bengali, American, and many other cuisines.

The spices in a chili powder mix can vary between brands, so many people opt for a homemade option, one in which they control just how much of each ingredient is added to the mix.

Uses of Chili Powder in Recipes

Chili powder is popularly used in recipes like enchiladas, tacos, beans, and stews, and it brings a red hue to whatever it is incorporated into; it also adds that much-needed spiciness to stew and sauces and contributes to the overall savory flavor of dishes, if you are also familiar with chili, you would know that chili powder is the main ingredient in that perfect pot of chili. You could also use chili powder on its own to coat meats, fish, or veggies; you can also throw it into other marinade recipes.

Another iconic dish that calls for chili powder is the chili con carne. The best thing about using chili powder in your recipe is that it requires no extra preparation process; you throw in a tablespoon or more directly into your food.

Below are some examples of recipes lacking the unique flavor of chili powder.

  • Roast Chicken Tortilla Wraps
  • Spicy Sweet Potatoes Croquettes
  • Hot and Spicy Vegetarian Lasagne
  • Tuna and Chickpea Burgers
  • Ethnic Grilled Aubergines
  • Quick and Easy Spaghetti Vongole
  • Deep-Fried Duck Slices with a Crisp Salad
  • Super Easy and Tasty Oyako Don
  • Nori Seaweed Black Risotto
  • Minced Prawn and Tofu Deep Fried Dumplings
  • Gyoza Dumpling Tom Yum Style
  • Deep-Fried Celeriac Chips
  • Smoked Mackerel Rice Ball (Onigiri)
  • Steamed Chicken Wings with Yuzu
  • Classic Daikon (Mooli) and Wakame Seaweed

Substitutes for Chili Powder

Chili powder is one of those ingredients we always have; we can even say it is a kitchen staple. Because it is always available to us, we don’t pay close attention to it unless we need it in our recipe.

Catastrophe may arise when you’re in the middle of a recipe that calls for chili powder, but you reach for your kitchen cabinet handle only to discover that you are all out of this seasoning; well, there are some viable alternatives you should try out.

Paprika, Cumin, and Cayenne 

Paprika, Cumin, and Cayenne

If you don’t have chili powder but have all of these ingredients, you can still enjoy a flavor that comes close to the unique flavor of chili powder.

Mix two teaspoons paprika, 1/4 teaspoons ground cayenne peppers, and one teaspoon cumin to prepare your homemade chili powder. To regulate the heat in your spice blend, you could use fewer cayenne peppers.

Use this seasoning mix to substitute chili powder in your recipes.

Chili Flakes

Chili Flakes

Chili flakes are similar to red peppers flakes, so make sure it says “chili flakes” on that container before pulling it out of your cabinet. Chili flakes would work well in place of chili powder, the flavor may be different, but you would still get that spicy kick in your dish. You can use chili flakes in their flaky form or ground them to a finer consistency.

One thing to note is that chili flakes may be slightly hotter than chili powder, so it is not advisable to use it as a direct chili powder substitute; instead, you should use it in smaller batches and gradually add more until it is just right.

Hot Sauce

Hot Sauce

If your recipe is liquid-based, the hot sauce may be the right option. As for flavor, it is pretty similar to chili powder, and it will also add that. Spicy kick you want in your dish. Some of the hot sauces I would recommend are Sriracha and Tabasco.

But one important thing to know is that hot sauces usually contain vinegar and sugar, which will bring an acidic and sweet taste to your dish. Use the hot sauce in moderation if your recipe already contains some sweetener.

Other Seasoning Mixes

Seasoning Mixes

Other seasoning mixes like taco seasoning, Cajun, and Creole seasoning can all be good substitutes for chili powder when you’re all out of it.

One common thing between these seasoning mixes is that they are pepper-based, just like chili powder, but they all have their respective flavors.

To get the best result, you should add these seasoning mixes gradually until you achieve an acceptable flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I substitute paprika for chili powder?

Yes, they do have the same red color that would contribute to the aesthetics of your dish, but if you only use paprika to replace chili pepper in your dish, it may not have that spicy kick, so it is best to add some other spice to up the heat.

How can I make chili powder less spicy?

To reduce the spiciness of chili powder, you should add a little sweetener like honey or sugar. Keep adding the sweetener in little quantities until the spicy kick has been tamed.

What is the shelf life of chili powder?

Unopened chili powder can last as long as three to four years on shelves. Make sure it is tightly covered.


The only time you would want a bland dish is when the doctor recommends it; apart from that, we all like savory dishes with a bit of kick, and chili powder will do just that without overpowering the dish if you don’t have chili powder on hand, you could use any of these substitutes.