5 Chili Powder Substitutes that Bring All the Flavor and Kick You Need

You're in the middle of making a spicy stew, tacos, or enchiladas for a cozy night in. However, halfway through the recipe, you discover that you're out of a key ingredient- chili powder. You could throw in some other spice blend or hot sauce as a quick chili powder substitute, but there's just nothing quite like this flavorful seasoning.

What is Chili Powder?

Chili powder is a delicious spice blend with its own unique flavor profile, and it typically includes a mixture of ground dried chili peppers, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, and onion powder. It's popular in many cuisines, from Tex-Mex to Mexican to Bengali. One of the most iconic chili powder dishes is chili con carne.

A variety of different chili peppers can be used to make chili powder, most commonly red chili peppers like ancho chili peppers,  cayenne peppers, chipotle peppers, jalapeño peppers, and Piri Piri chili peppers. However, some other peppers can be used as well, like jalapeños and pasilla.

Chipotle powder, on the other hand, is made with only one ingredient- smoked jalapeño peppers which are crushed into powder form. Here are 5 great chili powder substitutes to bring all the kick and flavor you need!

1. Make Your Own

If your recipe calls for chili powder but you realize too late that you're out of this tasty spice mix, it's not too hard to make your own chili powder blend. After all, you don't always have time to head back to the grocery store, especially in the middle of a recipe.

To make your own homemade chili powder mix, simply combine 2 tablespoons paprika, ½ tablespoon cumin, ½ tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon oregano, and ¾ teaspoon cayenne powder. Mix the ingredients together, then transfer to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place. This chili powder recipe makes 1/4 cup chili powder, so you should have extra for the future!

2. Paprika, Cumin and Cayenne

If you don't have all of the ingredients listed above, you can still make your own chili powder substitute that comes close to the distinct flavor of chili powder. Combine 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon cumin, and a 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. This should be used for every 1 tablespoon chili powder that the recipe calls for. You can add more or less cayenne based on your spice preferences.

3. Chili Flakes

Ok, so you're not only out of chili powder, but your whole spice cabinet needs a re-up. If you can't make a spice blend to replace chili powder, you can still get some of the flavor and spice you need for the recipe with just chili flakes. You can either sprinkle the flakes right in, or grind them up with a pestle and mortar (or crush them between two spoons). These will be spicier than a chili powder blend, so add a little at a time rather than using the same amount that the recipe calls for. Chili flakes aren't the same thing as red pepper flakes, so look specifically for the ones that say "chili" to get that specific chili powder kick!

4. Hot Sauce

If you're making a liquid dish like chili or soup, you can use hot sauce like Tabasco or Sriracha instead of chili powder. These will likely add a similar flavor to the dish as chili powder would have. The one big difference is that they also usually have vinegar and sugar as well. This might add an acidic, sweet flavor to your dish that chili powder won't. If your recipe calls for sweetener, it's best to use a bit less if you're replacing chili powder with hot sauce.

5. Seasoning Mixes

Another good substitute for chili powder is seasoning mixes. Although substituting isn't an exact science, mixes like Creole seasoning, Cajun seasoning, and taco seasoning are all pepper based and full of delicious flavors. However, they won't be quite the same as chili powder, so you might want to add the mix a little at a time to make sure you like the flavor it's bringing to the dish.

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