6 Red Chili Pepper Substitutes (ADJUST HEAT AND FLAVOUR)

image of Red Chili Pepper

While we love our sweets, we can’t help but want a bit of kick to our savory dishes.

It’s what has us grabbing the cold drinks and sweet desserts in the first place!

So, if you’re like us and want to add heat to your dishes, then you most likely have red pepper in your kitchen, waiting to spice your life up. But let us give you this situation:

What if you ran out of red chili peppers and couldn’t go out to the store to get some?

Are there any alternatives you can use? What is the same as red chili pepper?

Heck yes, there are!

We’ll be showing you the only red chili pepper substitute list you need, so read on!

Before anything else, what are chili peppers in the first place?

What Are Red Chili Peppers?

If you have ever eaten something that had you feel like a dragon breathing fire, then that dish most likely had some chili peppers in it.

There are many types of chili peppers, with the red ones being commonly used in restaurants and found in grocery stores.

The red pepper comes from the Capsicum pepper plant, which contains carbs with traces of fiber and protein.

They have traces of vitamins and minerals too, but only small amounts per serving (unless you can eat a whole bag of them!).

These chili peppers are known to give any dish a unique and spicy flavor with just a hint of smokiness, sourness, and even sweetness, surprisingly! (*)

We love adding it to pasta, salsa, stew, seafood, and even more. Whether it’s Mexican cuisine, or Chinese dishes, there’s always so much to do with chili sauces and fresh peppers.

It also comes in other forms, such as dried red chilli pepper, red pepper flakes, and the like.

But, Why Will We Need To Replace?

Besides not having it available in the kitchen or supermarket, there are other reasons why you may need to replace red chilli peppers in your dishes.

  • It might be a taste difference issue. They might be too hot for you, your family, or any visitors, or they may not be hot enough!
  • You or someone in the family may be allergic to hot chili pepper.
  • You want to try something new with different spices and peppers to see how your meal will turn out.

The 6 Best Substitutes for Red Chili Peppers

For those who have none of it in the kitchen and need a quick fix, try any of these red chili peppers substitutes:

1. Serrano Pepper

Serrano peppers are almost identical to red chili, having a similar flavor but twice as hotter!  If you love spicy food and want one of the hottest chilies, then serrano peppers are the perfect alternative, though you may want to start with a small amount first.

Just like chili peppers, this pepper variety is harvested while still green. You can easily find them in supermarkets as they are quite popular, especially in the United States.

While not as popular as jalapenos or red chilli peppers, they are accessible and offer more heat with the same flavors.

2. Jalapeno Pepper

Jalapeno peppers have a heat level that ranges from medium hot to extremely hot. You probably know these peppers too, being a very common and popular ingredient in many dishes worldwide, particularly in Mexican cuisine.

These peppers are usually smooth and dark green in color, though you can find red versions as well. Not only do they add heat, but they have nutrients and health benefits to reap, too!

3. Pequin Chili Pepper

Pequin chili peppers aren’t the most popular and famous compared to the other red pepper substitutes on here. It has a unique shape, being short, squat, and rectangular!

But this funny-shaped chili has a signature taste that’s smoked over wood, which contributes to its flavor.

We commonly use this as a spice, and you can expect a lot of heat with this pepper, having spice levels close to the cayenne pepper.

You can opt to get the fresh version of this pepper, with the green ones suited best for salsas and similar dishes.

When they are ripe, they start getting hotter, so people dry or smoke them, even grounding them into flakes or powder form.

Unfortunately, these aren’t very easy-to-find peppers, with limited cultivation originating in Mexico. But hey, if you have no red pepper but find Pequin chili peppers around, get some to try them out!

4. Tien Tsin Chili Pepper

This kind of pepper originates from Northern China, named after the province they grow in. These peppers take on a bright red color with an extremely high spice level.

Also known as Chinese red peppers, the Tien Thin chili is used in various Chinese dishes such as Kung Pao chicken and Szechuan.

While these chilis are yummy, they are a bit hotter than other chili peppers so don’t add too much of it just yet!

5. Cayenne Pepper

You’re probably familiar with cayenne peppers, which are shaped like fingers with curved, pointy ends. These peppers are red and especially hot, making them an excellent substitute for red chilli peppers.

Cayenne peppers give you a wide range of spicy notes. Some may only be mildly hot, while others can have you reach for pitchers of milk!

Typically, heat levels depend on the pepper’s growing conditions and variety. There are numerous types of cayenne peppers out there too, such as the golden cayenne and Carolina cayenne peppers.

We like how these peppers are fun to cook with, coming in fresh or dry versions. Similar to the serrano peppers and jalapenos, these peppers are relatively accessible and can be found in supermarkets.

If you get the mildly spicy pepper, then you may want to add more of it to your dish. If you get a very spicy variety, start with small amounts first.

Alternatively, you can use Cayenne chili pepper powder instead of its fresh version, which you can find in supermarkets, too.

6. Paprika

Paprika can add a sweet and smoky flavor to your dishes, though it has no heat. You’ll have to adjust accordingly!

However, if you are substituting chili peppers because you dislike spicy food, then we highly recommend using paprika.

Besides paprika, you can use the dried form of spices, such as crushed pepper flakes and black pepper. Paprika and black pepper won’t add much spice, but it gives your dish more flavor and a kick without having to feel like you’re on fire.

You can also use hot sauce or chili paste if you’re in a pinch, such as Tabasco, Sriracha, Gochujang, Sambal Oelek, or Harissa. All these spices have a unique taste and use, depending on the cuisine.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is, even more, to learn about chili peppers! Check out these frequently asked questions from our readers:

What does red chilli pepper contain?

One teaspoon of crushed red chili flakes has:

  • 5.7 calories
  • 1 gram of carbs
  • 0.3 grams of fat
  • 0.5 grams of fiber
  • 0.5 milligrams of sodium

Besides that, it has antioxidants and beta-carotene, which may help strengthen our immune systems, lower blood sugar levels, and even improve our metabolism!

What is the difference between the different kinds of peppers?

Since there are so many different pepper varieties, you may be wondering about how they stand out from one another, particularly red chilli pepper, cayenne pepper, and paprika.

While all of these ingredients have a similar texture and appearance, they have unique flavor profiles, spice levels, and uses.

  • Cayenne pepper is a very spicy chili variety rating on the higher end of the Scoville scale, which is what measures heat levels of peppers.
  • Paprika is a result of grinding various peppers, having flavors that range from sweet to fiery hot.
  • Red chili isn’t as hot as red chili powder.

How about black pepper? Black pepper is totally unrelated to peppers and other spices, coming from fruits of flowering vines instead of the pepper family.

Can I omit chili peppers in my recipes?

Yes, you can completely remove chili peppers from your recipe. However, do note that it may alter your dish’s flavor a bit, not just by the spice levels, but any hint of sour, sweet, and smoky notes.

If you’re hesitant to cook with peppers because of their spiciness, then take things slow. Add a quarter or half the amount of peppers the recipe asks for, or use non-spicy alternatives like paprika.

Wrapping It Up

Chili peppers make food more exciting, using it in meals like pasta, salsa, fajitas, marinades, and more recipes!

If you don’t have any red chilies around, not to worry, you can always use other pepper or spice varieties depending on your taste.

We hope our list helped you find the perfect one! Go ahead and try any of these alternatives for your recipes and let us know what you think.

Enjoy cooking!

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