chili powder substitute

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Making a recipe that calls for chili powder but you’ve just run out? If you are and you’re looking for a substitute for chili powder, then I’ve listed 8 alternatives to chili powder that will work well in just about any recipe that calls for chili powder.

chili powder substitute

What is chili powder?

Chili powder, also called chili powder blend or chili seasoning mix is a blend of one or more varieties of red chili peppers – such as cayenne peppers, paprika peppers, Aleppo peppers, ancho peppers, or jalapeños – combined with spices like cumin, onion, and garlic powder, oregano and salt.

Chili powder is a mild to moderately spicy powder depending on how much cayenne pepper is used in the mixture and it adds a rich flavor in many dishes.

Uses of chili powder

Perfect for adding a rich smoky balanced flavor and color to Indian and Mexican recipes like chili, baked beans, beans, burgers, dips, tacos, guacamole, chicken, pork or beef, sauces and more. But, if you’re making one of these recipes and have none, you can get the best alternatives here.

It is important to note that while you can find an ideal alternative for chili powder, no substitute is ever an exact match. However, each chili powder substitute listed below is worth trying out as a sub for chili powder in its absence.

Now for the best substitutes for chili powder listed below:

Chili powder substitutes

Cayenne pepper (and some other spices)

cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper is one of the types of red chili peppers used to make a chili powder blend.

Cayenne pepper is more than 5 times hotter than chili powder and its flavor is not very similar to chili powder.

So, when asked, 

can I substitute cayenne pepper for chili powder?
The answer is yes and no. Cayenne pepper can replace chili powder, but not on its own.

However, cayenne pepper with a mixture of some other spices can make a really good substitute for chili powder, but it won’t work as a replacement on its own. Here’s how to make it work:

Pair the cayenne pepper with some paprika, cumin, and oregano for the best results.

A good substitute ratio for chili powder and cayenne pepper is as follows:

  • For every 1 tbsp chili powder needed in a recipe, replace with 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp oregano.
  • A great way to substitute for 1 tsp chili powder is by making a mixture with a dash of cayenne pepper, a dash of paprika, ¼ tsp of cumin, ¼ tsp of garlic powder and ⅛ tsp of oregano.

This mixture will make a mild to moderately spicy blend with a flavor similar to that of chili powder and thus an excellent substitute for chili powder.


Chipotle Seasoning (or chipotle chili powder)

Chipotle powder is the powder that results from drying, smoking, and grinding ripe jalapeño chiles. Chipotle seasoning, on the other hand, is the seasoning mixture made by mixing together chipotle powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and sea salt. 

Thus, chipotle seasoning is a great replacement for chili powder as most of the ingredients used in each are quite similar. So, chipotle seasoning would work in recipes like salsas and stews, and soups to replace chili powder.

Substitute ratio is 1 tbsp chili powder to 1/2 tbsp chipotle chili powder. Expect a bit more spice from the chipotle seasoning and adjust accordingly based on your recipe.

You can also purchase chipotle seasoning in most grocery stores or even online.


Ancho Chile Powder (and other spices)

If you have some ancho powder also called ancho chile powder in your spice cabinet, go ahead and grab it to use as an okay replacement for chili powder. 

Ancho peppers are made from dried ground poblanos and are often one of the peppers used to make chili powder. Therefore, ancho powder is a good way to replace chili powder in a pinch.

Ancho powder is mildly spicy, like chili powder. It also has a nice smoky deep rich flavor that is similar to chili powder. Use ancho powder to season Mexican recipes, chicken, stews, vegetables, soups, and more.

For the perfect substitute for chili powder, use ½ tsp ancho powder together with 1 tsp cumin, ½ tsp oregano, ½ tsp paprika, and 1 tsp garlic powder to replace 1 tbsp of chili powder. 

And, if you’re looking for an ideal substitute for 1 tsp chili powder, mix together ⅛ tsp ancho powder, ¼ tsp cumin, ⅛ tsp oregano, ⅛ tsp paprika, and ¼ tsp garlic powder.

Taco seasoning 

taco seasoning

Taco seasoning is another good alternative for chili powder in recipes like burgers, seasoning meats, seasoning vegetables, and more.

Because taco seasoning is made with ingredients like chili powder, onion and garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and salt, it is good to add to recipes like chili, stews, and soups when you’re out of chilli powder as a wonderful chili powder substitute.

Taco seasoning can have a similar flavor to chili powder as taco seasoning is made with a high concentration of chili powder.

When using taco seasoning as a sub for chili powder, substitute on a 1:1 ratio in most recipes. That is, if you’re looking for a substitute for 1 tbsp chili powder, you will need 1 tbsp of taco seasoning.

Fajita seasoning

fajita seasoning

Fajita seasoning is made from cumin, chili powder, salt, paprika,  onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Like taco seasoning, it can be used to substitute for chili powder in soups, stews, marinades, and sauces. For a good substitute for 1 tbsp chili powder, use 1 tbsp of fajita seasoning.

More thoughts on the best chili powder substitute options

Because most of those substitutes listed above are peppers or powders that you can find in a chili powder mix, they are easy to substitute for chili powder. Most work great on their own, but, they work really well as a substitute. For example, the cayenne pepper mix above demonstrates how you can make an excellent substitution for chili powder, especially if you take the extra step and add in some cumin, oregano, paprika or garlic powder.

But, the best substitute for chili powder in any recipe still remains your very own homemade chili powder from scratch. So, I’ll share how to make an easy DIY chili powder recipe below.

How to make a homemade chili powder substitute

The best substitute for chili powder is a homemade chili powder mix. To make it you’ll need ingredients such as:

Chili powder ingredients

  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix them all together in a bowl or small jar and use as desired. For example, you can use 1 teaspoon of this homemade chili powder to substitute for 1 tsp of chili powder in any recipe that calls for chili powder!

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