cayenne pepper substitute

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Are you looking for some good cayenne pepper substitute options? How about 13 great ways to substitute for cayenne pepper in a pinch? Well, you can find all these right here!

 cayenne pepper substitute

What is cayenne pepper?

Cayenne pepper is a type of spice scientifically known as Capsicum annuum. It is a moderately hot chili pepper from the Solanaceae family, native to French Guiana and is popularly used in Mexican cooking.

Cayenne pepper has about 30,000 Scoville heat units and adds a hot, spicy kick to any dish it is used in. It also helps to brighten up the dish due to its orangey-red color. If you’re making a recipe that calls for cayenne pepper and you have none on hand, your best bet is to use a suitable substitute.

But, if you don’t know the right substitute ratios, you can get it all wrong and make a dish that is fiery hot and inedible. This post outlines all the ground cayenne pepper substitutes plus substitution ratios for each, so you can get on with your recipe.

Best cayenne pepper substitutes

When it comes to replacing cayenne pepper, there are many ingredients that you can use that are easy to find. Many of them may even be in your cabinet right now! The most popular cayenne pepper substitutes are:

  • Red chili flakes
  • Hot paprika
  • Gochugaru
  • Kashmiri chilli powder
  • Fresh cayenne peppers
  • Serrano peppers 
  • Tabasco peppers
  • Thai peppers
  • Hot sauce
  • Tabasco sauce 

Keep reading below to find the substitute ratios for each of these cayenne pepper substitutes.

Best substitutes for ground cayenne pepper

Red pepper flakes

red chili flakes

This ingredient is one of the closest cayenne pepper alternatives. Red pepper flakes also called red chili flakes or crushed red peppers are made from a mix of crushed red chile peppers including cayenne pepper, jalapeños, serrano peppers and some other red peppers from the capsicum annum family.

Cayenne peppers are the most popular type of peppers used to make this spice.

Therefore, this makes red pepper flakes a great substitute for cayenne peppers in most recipes as it has a similar heat level. Between 15,000-30,000 Scoville heat units.

Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper = 1 ½ teaspoons red chili flakes.

And, if you want this in the powder form, simply use a coffee grinder to pulverize the flakes and make it into a powder. Use this powder to replace ground cayenne pepper on a 1:1 ratio.

Hot paprika

hot paprika

Hot paprika is a type of paprika made using spicier peppers. While it is called hot paprika, it only has about 500 -1500 Scoville heat units.

It is unlike regular paprika that is made with sweet peppers and has a very mild flavor with no heat.

Hot paprika is not as hot as cayenne pepper, but, in a pinch, it can work to add a mild peppery flavor to a dish, as well as that beautiful bright red-orange hue similar to cayenne.

Use hot paprika in most recipes you would use cayenne like soups, stews, as garnish for eggs, tacos and other recipes, but, do not expect that same fiery cayenne heat.

Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper = 2 teaspoons hot paprika.

Gochugaru (or Korean Red Chili)


Another good replacement for ground cayenne pepper is gochugaru. Gochugaru is a powdered spice made of sun dried red chili peppers, that are coarsely ground to form a coarse powder.

Gochugaru has a flavor that is a combination between spicy, sweet and lightly smoky. This means that this spice is not a perfect substitute for ground cayenne pepper, but, in a pinch, it can be used in certain recipes that call for cayenne pepper. You can get this spice at a competitive price here

Substitution ratio: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper = 1 teaspoon gochugaru.

Kashmiri chilli powder

Kashmiri chilli powder

Another good substitute for cayenne pepper powder is Kashmiri chilli powder. This is a mildly hot spice made from a blend of red peppers. It adds that beautiful color to a dish but not so much the heat. You can get this spice here.

Best fresh cayenne pepper substitutes

Now, if you’re looking for fresh cayenne peppers substitutes, these are your best options:

Fresh cayenne peppers

fresh cayenne peppers

Fresh cayenne peppers have a similar flavor to ground cayenne which makes them a good alternative, especially in dishes where the texture of the fresh peppers won’t be a problem.

Substitution ratio: 1 tablespoon cayenne powder = 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cayenne peppers

Serrano peppers

serrano peppers

Fresh Serrano peppers are another replacement for cayenne pepper. They are half as spicy as cayenne so use more Serrano peppers to replace cayenne in a dish.

Substitution ratio: 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper powder = 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Serrano peppers

Tabasco Hot Peppers

Tabasco Hot Pepper

Tabasco peppers are a type of chili pepper from Mexico that are at 30,000-50,000 Scoville heat units.  These peppers can be used to replace cayenne pepper in a pinch as they have a similar flavor.

Thai peppers

thai peppers

Thai peppers are another way to replace cayenne pepper in a dish. Thai peppers are more than twice as hot as cayenne, at 50,000 – 100,000 Scoville heat units.

Nonetheless, if you have Thai peppers on hand and a dish that won’t be affected by fresh peppers, like soups or stews, use Thai peppers in its place.

Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper = 2 teaspoons chopped Thai peppers

Best cayenne pepper substitutes in sauce form

Hot sauce

hot sauce

Hot sauces made with a base of cayenne pepper are another way to replace cayenne pepper powder in certain recipes. Note, hot sauce cannot properly replace ground cayenne in every recipe, but it does a great job at adding that cayenne pepper heat to savory recipes like soups, broths, sauces, stews and more. 

Use hot sauces like Frank’s Red Hot Sauce in place of cayenne pepper as it is made with cayenne peppers and some other ingredients. 

Substitution ratio: 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder =  12 drops of cayenne pepper based hot sauce

These are the best cayenne pepper replacement options. They can be used in a pinch so you don’t have to run to the grocery store. And, at least 3 of these are in most people’s kitchen right now!

More spice substitutes

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