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. Although there are many spice blends, few have the exact balance and taste that chili powder brings. So what are the best substitutes?
What is Chili Powder?
Chili powder is a delicious spice blend with its own unique flavor profile, it typically includes a mixture of ground dried chili peppers, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, and onion powder. Although the spice is used in many cuisines these days, it's a staple of Tex-Mex, and was actually invented in Texas at the end of the 1800s.
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 other peppers are sometimes used as well, like jalapeños and pasilla.
Chipotle powder, on the other hand, is made with only one ingredient: smoked jalapeño peppers 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. If you're the type of person that keeps a well-stocked spice cabinet, then making your own chili powder is simple and easy.
To make your own homemade chili powder, 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 only makes 1/4 cup chili powder, so feel free to scale up as you see fit. It will last as long as any of your other spices as long as stored properly.
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.
The cayenne will add the peppery kick that chili powder is known for, while the paprika and cumin will round out the flavors of the seasoning mix and add depth.
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 mortar and pestle. Additionally, blade-style coffee grinders double as spice grinders, although the flavor can linger, so we recommend only using an older model.
Since there are no other spices included to balance out the heat, these will be spicier than a chili powder blend. Also 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 soup like chili, 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.
Although the spice level of hot sauces vary, it's safe to assume you should use less hot sauce than you would chili powder. Be mindful of this and always taste as you cook.
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.
Additionally, pre-mixed spice blends such as taco seasoning often come loaded with sodium that isn't in chili powder. If using one of these as an option, we recommend lowering the salt level in the dish.