I've gathered a few options for an easy chili powder substitute so if you just opened the cabinet and realized you're out, you're in luck! Some common spices, or mixtures of common spices, can substitute chili powder if you're in a pinch and you might not notice a difference!
There are many recipes that would be lacking without the distinct flavor of chili powder!
When you hear chili powder you probably think of the scent of a delicious pot of chili cooking on the stove. While chili powder is the key ingredient in the perfect pot of chili, it is also an important seasoning in many other dishes.
What happens when you run out of chili powder or don't have any on hand? Seasoning is what makes a dish; therefore, you can’t just skip the powder! That means you need to find a substitute.
- What Is Chili Powder Made From?
- How to Choose the Best Substitute for Chili Powder
- Easy Substitutions for Chili Powder
- 1. Ancho Powder
- 2. Paprika
- 3. Cayenne Pepper
- 4. Red Pepper Flakes
- 5. Cumin
- 6. Garlic Powder
- 7. Onion Powder
- 8. Oregano
- 9. Hot Sauce
- 10. Chili Sauce
- 11. Black Pepper
- 12. Homemade Chili Powder
- 📋 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
Don't worry, there are plenty of substitutes that you can use. This blog post will tell you about some of the best substitutes for chili powder. Keep reading to learn more!
Before diving into substitutes it helps to know what you are substituting for.
Not surprisingly, chili powder is made from chilis. However, it is more than just chilis and not all chili powders are the same.
What Is Chili Powder Made From?
Chili powder is made from ground peppers that are combined with several other seasonings. The most common type of pepper used in chili powder is the poblano pepper.
Poblano peppers are milder compared to other types of peppers, like jalapenos. Poblanos are also referred to as ancho chilis. Therefore, once the peppers are dried and ground into a powder, it is commonly called ancho powder.
Ancho powder is the base for chili powder or chili powder blends. In addition to the ancho powder, the most common spices added are cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt. These are all common spices used in Latin American dishes.
This combination of ancho powder and other spices is commonly sold as chili powder. You can find it sold in single packets, such as McCormick’s chili powder seasoning that is ready to add, and you may also see it sold in a bottle on the spice aisle.
Typically, the chili powder sold in the bottle is only ancho powder that has not been mixed with any of the other spices!
Therefore, it is important to determine what type of chili powder your recipe calls for. Usually, if it calls for a small quantity like a teaspoon, then you can use just the ancho chili powder.
However, larger quantities that are the base for something like enchilada sauce will want the chili powder blend.
Most likely, if you have found your way to this blog then you have a recipe that calls for all the seasonings of a chili powder! The combination will give your dish those different layers of flavor and a little bit of heat.
If you found yourself in the middle of a recipe without a packet to grab from the pantry or your store was out of your favorite chili powder mix, not to worry!
I am going to show you some ways to not only substitute for chili powder but also how to make your own. Just to warn you though, making your own is so easy you may never buy the pre-made stuff again!
How to Choose the Best Substitute for Chili Powder
Choosing the best substitute for chili powder really depends on the dish you are preparing. It may also depend on your taste preferences and even allergies.
If you are making a pot of chili where you want all the different flavor combinations that make chili, well, chili, then you most likely want to make your own chili powder blend.
However, if the purpose of the chili powder is as a secondary spice or addition to a dish, such as to add flavor to a steak, you may choose to use one or more of the spices common in chili powder.
Easy Substitutions for Chili Powder
When you need to add a little bit of spice or flavor to a dish and you run out of chili powder, the easiest substitution is one of the single ingredients used in a chili powder blend.
In addition, there are several unexpected single seasonings that are great substitutes as well!
1. Ancho Powder
If a recipe calls for a chili powder blend you can use the ancho chili powder by itself. However, ancho powder is more potent than a chili powder blend because it is not mixed with the other spices.
Therefore, start with half of what the recipe calls for and add more if needed.
Paprika is similar in color to chili powder as it is also made from ground chilis, making it a great substitute.
The main difference is that paprika is much milder than chili powder. However, it does have a similar smoky flavor (especially if you use smoky paprika). If you want a substitute that will provide the smoky elements of chili powder, without a lot of heat, paprika is a great choice.
Paprika can be used on its own in a 1:1 ratio for chili powder.
If you want to further replicate the taste of chili powder, try paprika with added garlic, onion powder, and cumin. Start with ½ teaspoon each per 1 teaspoon you use of Paprika.
3. Cayenne Pepper
On the opposite side of the spectrum from paprika, cayenne pepper will give you a lot of heat! A dried and ground pepper, cayenne pepper is a good substitute if you want to intensify the spiciness of a dish.
However, its heat profile is higher than poblano peppers, therefore, be mindful of starting in small quantities.
Start with a ¼ of the requested amount of chili powder and then add more as needed.
Sometimes the heat from cayenne kicks in after the initial taste, so take a minute before adding more.
Cayenne plays well with garlic and onion powder and can even be combined with paprika to create a spicy substitute.
4. Red Pepper Flakes
Commonly seen in little round shakers on the tables in pizza parlors, red pepper flakes can be used as more than a pizza topping.
A dash of these fiery flakes can add the heat and flavor you need in a dish when you don’t have ground chilis. If you don’t want the flakes to be visible, crush them up or grind them in a blender before using them.
You can substitute red pepper flakes in a 1:1 ratio for the chili powder.
Cumin is the seasoning that smells like all your favorite Mexican dishes. Next to ancho powder, it is one of the most popular seasonings in Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes.
With such a distinct flavor, even without the chili powder, cumin will still give you a hint of the authentic flavor you are looking for.
If using cumin on its own, you can use a 2:1 ratio of cumin in place of chili powder.
However, if you want to combine cumin with other seasonings like garlic and onion powder then use a 1:1 ratio of cumin to chili powder and then add in an additional ½ measurement of each additional spice.
6. Garlic Powder
Garlic powder is a common ingredient in chili powder seasoning. While using it alone will not provide the spice and heat of chili powder, it is still a wonderful option for seasoning on meats or added into soups or sauces.
Garlic powder can be quite potent and without the balance of other flavors you don’t want to overdo it.
Therefore, begin with a ½ serving of garlic powder in relationship to what the recipe calls for in chili powder. You can always add more if needed!
7. Onion Powder
Like garlic powder, onion powder is used in chili powder mixes. Using it alone will also not provide the spice and chili flavor.
While garlic powder is often used on its own, onion powder tends to do better when combined with other flavors.
Even if you don’t have chili powder to mix it with, a combination of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, or cayenne can offer a similar flavor experience.
Start with a ¼ serving of onion powder and then add more as needed.
You may associate oregano more with Italian cooking, but it is also a popular spice in Mexican and Latin American dishes.
Many chili powder recipes include oregano. Just like the many other seasonings included in chili powder mix, oregano can also be used on its own.
However, like garlic and onion powders it will not have the heat and spice of chili powder.
Oregano is best used as an addition to soups and sauces. It is suggested to start with ½ the ratio of oregano to chili powder that the recipe calls for.
Adding in additional spices such as garlic powder and paprika will help elevate the flavor profile to be more like chili powder.
9. Hot Sauce
Hot sauce is a condiment you may already have in your fridge that you can use in a pinch if you run out of chili powder. However, hot sauces have a distinctly different flavor profile due to the acidic taste that comes from combining chilis with vinegar.
So, while it will add the spice and heat you are looking for, it will not have the smokiness.
A few dashes of hot sauce to a sauce or soup can add the kick you need.
Start with a ¼ of what the recipe calls for in chili powder and take it slow. Remember, it will add heat but can also change the flavor profile.
10. Chili Sauce
Chili sauce is made from mixing chili peppers with salt and vinegar. It often includes sugar, too. These ingredients are cooked together into a thick sauce or paste.
The heat and taste of chili sauce can vary depending on the types of peppers used and how much sugar is added. Therefore, I suggest tasting the chili sauce alone before adding it to your recipe to make sure it is a flavor profile you enjoy.
If you use chili sauce, follow the same slow progression suggested for the hot sauce above.
11. Black Pepper
Regular black pepper that you probably have on your kitchen counter is one of the most underused seasonings, in my opinion.
Often left on the counter or table it doesn’t get added as a prominent seasoning in many dishes. However, it can help elevate the spice of a dish.
While black pepper will not replace the distinct and complex flavor profile of chili powder if it is all you have at home it can help to add a delightful kick of flavor to seasoning meat and sauces.
Combining it with garlic powder and any other seasonings mentioned above can help create a tasty seasoning in a pinch.
12. Homemade Chili Powder
If you were reading through the list of substitutions and noticed you have all those spices in your cupboard, then you can make your own chili powder blend for the best substitute!
Mix the following together and store in an airtight container. Then use in an equal 1:1 ratio in any recipe that calls for chili powder!
- ¼ cup paprika (if you have ancho chili powder you can use that instead)
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (only use ¼ teaspoon if you replace paprika with ancho powder)
There you have it, your own DIY chili powder blend!
I hope within this article you have found the perfect chili powder substitute that suits your needs!
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Chili Powder Substitute: Homemade Chili Powder (+11 More Great Ideas!)
- Gather ingredients.¼ cup paprika, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 2 teaspoon dried oregano, 2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Mix ingredients.
- Store in an airtight container.
Angela is an at home chef that developed a passion for all things cooking and baking at a young age in her Grandma's kitchen. After many years in the food service industry, she now enjoys sharing all of her family favorite recipes and creating tasty dinner and amazing dessert recipes here at Bake It With Love!