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Don’t have red pepper flakes, or realized you’re all out while you’re cooking? Here are the best red pepper flakes substitute options to use in recipes.
Making a recipe and don’t have red pepper flakes? There are over 9 easy ways to swap out this spice.
What are red pepper flakes?
Red pepper flakes also called crushed red peppers, crushed red pepper flakes, chili flakes or red chili flakes are a spice made from a blend of peppers from the capsicum annum family.
The blend of peppers includes cayenne peppers, Serano peppers, jalapeño peppers, bell peppers, Fresno, and Anaheim peppers, but the mix often includes more cayenne peppers.
Crushed red peppers are used in just about any dish, but it is very popular in Italian cuisine. This spice has a flavor that is spicy with some lingering heat and a pungent aroma.
Substitute for chili flakes
If you’re making a dish that calls for crushed red peppers, but you have none on hand, chances are you’re looking for a quick substitute that is comparable in flavor and aroma.
When looking for this substitute, it is important to note that crushed red peppers range from 15,000 to 45,000 on the Scoville heat units, so the best substitutes are the spices that are of a similar heat range and pungent aroma.
The best options I’ve found for red pepper flakes substitutes include:
- Dried cayenne peppers
- Dried chipotle peppers
- Chile de Arbol dried Peppers
- Crushed Aleppo peppers
- Sichuan Chili Flakes
- Ground cayenne pepper
- Chili powder
- Ground habanero pepper
- Chile de Árbol powder
- Hot paprika
- Homemade red pepper flakes (made with any red pepper you have on hand)
- Hot Sauce
Some of these will work for occasions when you’re making a dish and notice last minute that you have no red pepper flakes. Some of them are for when you’re walking through the grocery store and can’t find any red peppers, these you can grab as a quick replacement.
Let’s discuss all these substitutes for red pepper flakes in more detail below.
Red pepper flakes substitute options
Dried cayenne peppers
The best substitute for red pepper flakes is dried and crushed ripe cayenne peppers. As mentioned above cayenne peppers make up the largest share of a store-bought jar of red chili flakes.
Therefore, if you happen to be one of the lucky kitchen gardeners who have a cayenne pepper plant, pick a few, dry them in your oven, then crush them with your hands, coffee grinder, or BlendJet until flakes are formed.
No, you have homemade crushed pepper flakes with an equal amount of heat, flavor, and pungency to store-bought pepper flakes.
Use the homemade cayenne pepper flakes to replace red pepper flakes on a 1:1 ratio.
Dried chipotle peppers
These aren’t an ingredient many people are likely to have around their home, but, on the off chance you do, you can give these a quick pulse in a food processor or coffee grinder and make your own homemade red pepper flakes with dried chipotle peppers.
Chile de Arbol Dried Peppers
Dried Chile de Arbol peppers are another easy substitute for crushed red peppers. Use a coffee grinder to turn these dried chiles into flakes and substitute them for red pepper flakes on a 1:2 ratio.
These dried peppers can work as a good sub for crushed red peppers for two reasons. One, they are a close cousin to cayenne. And two, they are also spicy, smoky, and nutty in flavor and moderately pungent.
Dried Chile de àrbol peppers are only half as spicy as crushed red peppers, registering 15,000–30,000 Scoville heat units, so, use double the amount of Dried Chile de àrbol to substitute for red pepper flakes.
Crushed Aleppo peppers
Another great sweet substitute for crushed red peppers are crushed Aleppo peppers.
Aleppo peppers are moderately spicy (with only 10,000 Scoville heat units), with a nice earthy, semi-sweet and fruity flavor with cumin undertones.
Most crushed Aleppo peppers contain some salt and oil so their texture is slightly different than red chili flakes, so keep this in mind when using in a dish and adjust your salt accordingly.
This spice can add some heat, flavor, and color to recipes like pizza, salads, pasta, meats, and even sauces in place of crushed red pepper flakes.
Substitute ratio: 3 teaspoons of crushed Aleppo peppers for 1 teaspoon of crushed red peppers.
Sichuan chili flakes
Sichuan chili flakes can also be used to replace red pepper flakes. Sichuan chile peppers are a spice commonly used in China to make recipes like kimchi, and chili oil. It is also great for making stir-fries, pizzas, tacos, spice rubs, barbecues, marinades, curries, casseroles, and more.
Sichuan chile peppers make beautifully red flakes that are moderately spicy at 50,000-75,000 Scoville heat units.
Substitute ratio: Use 1/2 teaspoon of Sichuan chili flakes to replace 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
Ground cayenne pepper
This is a spice that most people keep in their spice cabinet. It is a great alternative for pepper flakes as it’s made with cayenne pepper which is the highest content pepper in crushed pepper flakes.
Cayenne pepper is more spicy, pungent, and compact than pepper flakes as it is a powder. Therefore, use half the amount of cayenne pepper powder to replace the number of red pepper flakes a recipe calls for.
Another spice that you are likely to have in your kitchen that can be used as a substitute for crushed pepper flakes is chili powder.
Chili powder is made with a mix of one or more types of peppers including cayenne, paprika peppers, Aleppo, ancho, or jalapeños combined with spices like cumin, onion powder and garlic powder, oregano, and salt.
Its flavor can be mild to moderately spicy depending on how much cayenne pepper was used to make it.
Use double the amount of chili powder to replace the amount of crushed red pepper a recipe calls for to get a similar flavor.
So, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of crushed red peppers, use 2 teaspoons of chili powder in its place.
Ground habanero pepper
Ground habanero powder is made from drying and grinding pure Habanero peppers. This process produces a powder that has a flavor that is fruity, sweet and very hot.
With a heat level between 100,000-350,000 Scoville heat units, this spice is a lot hotter than red pepper flakes so use in moderation when adding it to your curries, stews, salsas, pizzas or dry rubs.
Substitute ratio: If a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of red chili flakes, start by using 1/4 tablespoon of habanero powder, then add more as needed.
Chile de Árbol powder
Like the dried Chile de Árbol peppers mentioned above, chili de arbol powder is also another good substitute for crushed red peppers.
It is less spicy, so if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of crushed red peppers, use 2 tablespoons of Chile de Árbol powder as a replacement.
If you have this spice in your cabinet it can also work as an alternative for red chili flakes. It is not very hot at only 590 Scoville units, but in a pinch, you can use it to at least add a small amount of heat and a nice bright color to a dish.
Substitute ratio: 1 tablespoon of hot paprika = 1 teaspoon of crushed red peppers.
Not as spicy or pungent as red pepper flakes. This spice is smoky, but can work as a very last resort. Use double the amount to replace pepper flakes.
Use chipotle powder as a substitute for pepper flakes in recipes like grilling rubs, sauces, and meats where the smokiness will only add to the dish.
Red pepper flakes with other varieties of red pepper
I’ve made these with red bell peppers, Thai peppers, and Serrano peppers before. Like the first 3 substitutes listed above, grab your red peppers, and dry them in an oven that is cracked slightly open at 150F for 1-2 hours. Once dried, use a coffee grinder, or your hands to crush those into homemade pepper flakes.
Use a 1:1 ratio.
Hot sauce (like franks red hot)
Made with ingredients like aged cayenne red peppers, vinegar, water, salt, natural flavor, and garlic powder, Franks cayenne pepper hot sauce is another okay substitute for chili flakes. It will work better in wet recipes.
Add a few drops of hot sauce to a wet dish that calls for red pepper flakes like soups, sauces, and stews.
FAQs about red pepper flakes
Can I use paprika instead of red pepper flakes
Paprika has a different flavor and texture from red pepper flakes, but, in a pinch, it is a good substitute for red pepper flakes in a pinch.
How many red pepper flakes equals one red pepper?
Once red pepper (or cayenne pepper) weighs approximately 1.8 grams. This makes roughly 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.