What’s A Good Substitute For Cayenne Pepper?

Don’t panic if you’re looking for a good substitute for cayenne pepper!

There are still plenty of flavorful alternatives that can bring interesting new tastes to any dish. From smoky paprika to tangy Tabasco sauce, find out which cayenne pepper substitute is right for your dish.

Keep reading to get ready for some seriously delicious taste sensations!

image of Cayenne Pepper

What is Cayenne Pepper?

Hot, very hot! Cayenne is a type of pepper, primarily red and skinny. It spread to other parts of the world from French Guiana in the 15th and 16th centuries. It is used as both medicine and culinary seasoning across several cultures.

Native Americas have used cayenne as food and to treat ailments for 9000 years. Think about it; you boost your immune system whenever you add a pinch to your favorite recipe.

Typically, it comes in fine powder form. Yet, you can find it fresh, dried, or infused into extra virgin olive oil. Whichever way you prefer, you can be sure to get your heat rush and please your body’s health.

According to the Scoville scale, cayenne rates between 30 000 and 50 000 units. A jalapeno pepper comes between 2500 – 8000 units to give you perspective. Clearly, cayenne is not for the faint “heated.”

How To Use

Cayenne pepper is a go-to ingredient in several hearty dishes. As we learn about this spice, we understand that it is more than just an ingredient and culinary condiment.

On the culinary side, cayenne pepper is known for its kick of heat rather than its distinct flavor. However, this does not imply it carries no flavor at all. 

There is a slightly fruity, meets sweet taste, making a tasty surprise heat pop for several desserts. For chocolate lovers, a sprinkle of cayenne on your favorite dark chocolate mousse or cake is heavenly.  

From the savory point of view, a dash added to your favorite meals during or after cooking delights your tastebuds. We love that cayenne complements anything from roast vegetables and garden fresh salads to meat, fish, and poultry. 

And it doesn’t stop there; cayenne pepper has a rich history of medicinal use too. So, when you use it in your food, you get your hotfix and support your body’s well being. It’s a win-win!

Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper

We suggest adding cayenne to your recipes and condiments to boost your health. The active ingredient in cayenne and other peppers is capsaicin.  

The higher the capsaicin content, the hotter they are and the higher their nutritional value. By the way, cayenne pepper has added vitamins and minerals not present in other peppers due to its impressive heat.

One tablespoon (5grams) of cayenne pepper contains

  • Fat 1g
  • Calories 17g
  • Carbs 3g
  • Fibre 1.4g
  • Protein 0.6g

Vitamin and mineral content:  % based on daily RDI (recommended daily intake)

  • Vitamin A:  44% 
  • Vitamin C:  7% 
  • Vitamin E:  8% 
  • Vitamin B6:  6%
  • Vitamin K:  5%
  • Manganese:  5%
  • Potassium: 3%
  • Riboflavin:  3%

Certainly, cayenne comes out on top for heat and nutrition alongside its pleasant taste. However, we understand there are times when a substitute is necessary.  

So, let’s explore our recommended cayenne pepper alternatives.  

A List Of Good Cayenne Pepper Substitutes

image of Tabasco Sauce/Hot Sauce

1. Tabasco Sauce/Hot Sauce

Undoubtedly, you have a hot sauce of sorts in your kitchen pantry. Cayenne is a primary ingredient in Tabasco sauce and most hot sauces, making it the most accessible best cayenne pepper alternative.  

For recipes requiring a heat-based puree, this is ideal. We suggest approximately four drops of hot sauce to a pea-size pinch or ⅛ teaspoon of cayenne.

If you stumble upon fresh tabasco peppers, grab a few! These peppers are similar in heat and flavor associated with cayenne.  

2. Chili Flakes/Powder

An excellent quick fix is chili flakes or chili powder. The main ingredient in these products is red peppers with added assorted peppers, including cayenne. 

The flakes are dried and crushed, seeds and all. Using either of these, you can rely on an approximate 1:1 ratio, as the Scoville heat scale is an average of 35 000 units.  

Certainly, there are hotter chili flakes and powder out there. So before you begin your recipe, pop a little on the tip of your tongue and trust your tastebuds.  

Be aware of recipes that include cayenne pepper and chili flakes or powder. You want to make sure the flavor of your dish is manageable.  

We love chili flakes! They add a slight crunch and enhance the texture of a meal when used as a sprinkle.

  • Hot tip: sprinkle a few chili flakes into Hot Chocolate. A tasty warm treat while boosting your immune system simultaneously. 

3. Fresh Thai Peppers

These are readily available at most supermarkets and farmers’ markets. We usually opt for the red option and medium in size.  

The green Thai chilis are slightly hotter. Both varieties come in between 50 000 – 100 000 Scoville heat units. So these chilies give “hot” a whole new meaning.

We recommend using half the amount of fresh Thai chili to a fresh cayenne pepper alternation to keep that heat in check.

Oh, and you can also dry these hot little beauties and crush them into flakes. Remove the seeds if you use them fresh or dried to reduce the heat factor slightly.

4. Hot Paprika

Hot Paprika powder is a combination of dried red chili including cayenne. Indeed, an intriguing alternative, as the chili adds a backslash of sweetness to the mild fruity flavor of the cayenne. 

While hot paprika is a great alternative, the heat factor is mild compared to cayenne on its own. For this reason, double up when using in a recipe.  

  • Hot tip: mix in ¼ teaspoon of cayenne for every teaspoon of sweet paprika. The sweetness of paprika bounces off the slightly fruity flavor of cayenne. For the brave, mix in ½ teaspoon of cayenne for every teaspoon of sweet paprika.  

Learn more: Top Paprika Substitutes (#7 YOU MIGHT HAVE NOW)

5. Serrano or Jalapeno Peppers

Last but not least are serrano or jalapeno peppers. These peppers are readily available from supermarkets or farmers’ markets and are an excellent alternative for a mild spice kick.  

Jalapenos have a slightly smokey and earthly flavor. When finely diced or sliced, they enhance the heat alongside the taste of cooked or fresh meals. As with the Thai chilis, remove the seeds for a more subtle heat factor.  

These peppers pickle exceptionally well. So, have a jar or two in your fridge as a spicy condiment.  

Final Thought

Regardless of cayenne pepper’s origin, this spice has nudged its way into many home kitchens and cuisine worldwide. Not just for its superb hot bite. Also, for its health benefits.  

Cayenne pepper is delicious sprinkled on eggs and avocado. Furthermore, it can be used as a salt replacement. Of course, if you don’t mind the heat.  

We understand your pallet experiences heat differently. For this reason, not everyone will enjoy cayenne pepper’s heat. Yet, its popularity continues to grow around the globe.

We hope our list of good substitute for cayenne pepper have given you insight into what heat and flavors best suit your taste. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What spice is closest to cayenne pepper?

The closest spice is chili flakes or chili powder. This alternative offers a relatively similar heat factor to cayenne and boosts the flavor of your dish.

As this spice varies in heat units, we recommend you sample a touch on the tip of your tongue to get an idea of the heat level.

Can chili powder be used instead of cayenne pepper?

If you do not have cayenne pepper in your kitchen. Chili powder offers a fantastic hot kick, enhancing your meal’s flavor. 

While cayenne pepper has a distinct, reasonably stable heat factor, using chili powder can be slightly milder or more robust. For the hot connoisseur, add chili powder for a hot bite and added flavor. 

Can I use paprika instead of cayenne?

Paprika is an excellent alternative to cayenne. There are varieties of paprika, so be sure to get hot paprika.  

Hot paprika is a combination of dried red chilis and cayenne. The heat factor is milder than cayenne on its own. It is wise to double up when using it in a recipe.  

Up Next: Your Top Guide For All Food Ingredients Substitutions!

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