We all love our spicy food, and with so many different peppers, it’s fun experimenting with varying heat levels and flavors. One of the popular peppers we love is the Calabrian chili, which has grown in popularity worldwide.
We can’t blame so many people loving the chili as it’s versatile and packs a ton of heat without it being too overwhelming.
Because of the Calabrian chili’s popularity, it can be difficult finding it in grocery stores, or you have no time to get it when you’re already in the middle of a recipe.
Not to worry, as you can always go for a Calabrian chili substitute.
We’ve got a comprehensive list waiting for you, so keep reading!
What’s Calabrian Chili?
Before we delve into what Calabrian Chili substitute for using, let’s first tackle what it is.
This is one of the more popular chili pepper variants available, originating from Calabria, Italy. As such, it’s very popular in Italian cuisine, where you can find it in many of its dishes. This pepper boasts rich red color and fruity flavor, making it highly versatile with its adequate heat for those who love spicy food. (*)
Fun fact: Calabrian chili is sometimes referred to as the pepperoncino, measuring about 25,000-40,000 SHU. It’s so popular in its native region that it has its own annual festival!
Calabrian peppers have a rusty appearance, growing on vines.
They would hang on the vines until growing and maturing, being aged for as long as possible.
The aging process will give these peppers a fruity, tangy flavor, along with more intense spice.
There are various reasons why you may need a substitute for Calabrian chili, may it be from its non-availability or taste preference, since the Calabrian peper may be too spicy. Whatever the case may be, you can use any of these peppers and ingredients as a Calabrian chili replacement:
The 7 Best Substitutes For Calabrian Chili You Can Try
1. Chili Flakes
One of the most popular alternatives for pepper variants is red chili flakes and crushed red pepper.
It’s a well-known Calabrian chili substitute because of how similar its flavor is to Calabrian chili!
Chili flakes are essentially dried and crushed chili you can easily find in your local grocery store.
Calabrian chilies are usually added to recipes to provide spiciness, juiciness, and saltiness to recipes. Because chili flakes are dried, they don’t have the juiciness you need, but the spicy and salty flavor is similar to Calabrian chili.
You can add an equal amount of chili flakes as you would with Calabrian chili, adjusting the amount according to your heat tolerance and desire.
You can also add chili flakes while you cook or after!
There are various chili flakes to choose from made of different peppers like ancho, Anaheim, pasilla, and jalapeno chilies. There are also other additives and spices, such as cumin, garlic, oregano, salt, sugar, and the like.
2. Anaheim Pepper
The Anaheim pepper originates from New Mexico and is very easy to find.
They are named such because they were brought to Anaheim, California, during the early 1900s, gaining popularity there.
Fun fact: Anaheim chili is also called the Hatch Chili Pepper or New Mexico Chili.
While this is a decent Calabrian replacement, Anaheim peppers aren’t too spicy.
They have a similar texture, but you’ll need more Anaheim peppers if you want the same spice level as Calabrian chili. While you can use Anaheim peppers when red, most people use this substitute when they are green.
3. Serrano Pepper
Another excellent Calabrian chili alternative is the Serrano pepper, which originates from Mexico.
We consider serrano pepper a medium-heat pepper like the Calabrian chili, so you can use equal amounts to get the desired heat level. Because of its appearance, you may mistake serrano pepper for the jalapeno, but they have a different shape!
Serrano peppers are readily available like jalapenos, though. Moreover, Serrano peppers have an earthy and spicy flavor tasting great when roasted.
Serrano peppers have a similar flavor to Calabrian chili, but they don’t dry as nicely. Because of that, this Calabrian chili substitute is best suited for salsas, garnishes, or relishes.
4. Habanero Pepper
The Habanero Pepper is a popular variant, and you’ve probably heard of it, too! Not only are habaneros readily available, but it’s also the spiciest pepper from the Chilean pepper family. It measures 100,000-350,000 SHUs!
These peppers are a bit spicier than Calabrian chili, but they make an excellent substitute if you use proper amounts. You may want to add less first, taste-testing, and add more as you please. Expect a bit of fruity, citrus flavor notes with a gentle floral aroma.
Fun fact: Habanero and Calabrian chili contain capsaicin, a chemical triggering the burning sensation in our mouths when consuming them. Talk about packing the heat! (*)
Habanero peppers are divided into various groups, such as the lightest white habanero, Fatali yellow chili, and the chocolate habanero, the hottest one!
We like habanero not just cause of its hotness but because it has a lot of vitamins and trace elements. That said, avoid eating too many spicy peppers like these as they can cause stomach issues.
5. Fresno Pepper
Like Serrano, Fresno peppers are also mistaken for jalapenos, but these are much hotter, with the red ones being hotter than the green. These are an excellent substitute for Calabrian chili because you get a similar fruity flavor.
We highly recommend using red Fresno peppers over the green ones for more spice and authentic flavor.
6. Poblano Pepper
This is another Mexican pepper with mild heat levels. The red version is hotter than the green one, though!
Poblano peppers are fleshy and versatile; both fresh and dried forms are readily available in stores. Since these peppers are less spicy than the Calabrian chili, you may need to add more to get the desired heat level.
Fun fact: When Poblano peppers are dried, they are called Ancho peppers!
7. Hot Sauce
We only recommend using hot sauce when in a pinch because they have a different consistency than Calabrian chili. This is a versatile and spicy ingredient you can easily find in grocery stores. There are many hot sauces to choose from made of different peppers and other ingredients to add flavor, sweetness, and smokiness.
You can easily find a hot sauce with a similar flavor and spice level as the Calabrian chili or experiment with other brands for that unique kick. If you need a replacement for fresh Calabrian chili, you can always opt for Calabrian chili paste for its flavor.
While it’s a different consistency, you most likely won’t have to worry about it altering your dish unless you are adding more than a spoonful.
You can make the sauce thicker with a bit of paprika or favored seasonings, though!
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Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to learn more about Calabrian chili, we answer insightful questions below!
Fun fact: If you get your hands on fresh Calabrian chili, you can either use them raw or dried. Let your chilis dry for a few days, hanging them on a clothespin.
Wrapping It Up
When you’re looking for a Calabrian chili substitute, we can’t say for sure what’s the best for you, as it depends on your recipe and personal taste. But when it comes to flavor, we believe that the closest alternative is chili flakes, as they have similar spice and versatility. Plus, they are readily available in stores!
Of course, you can use another Calabrian alternative, whether Anaheim peppers or the hot sauce you have in the kitchen.
Good luck, and hopefully, you achieve the kick you want in your recipe!