chili powder substitutes

Don’t Sweat It! 7 Tasty Chili Powder Substitutes You Likely Already Have

Oh no! You’re whipping up your famous chili recipe only to discover you’re completely out of chili powder. What are you going to do now? Not to worry – with a few simple ingredients you likely already have on hand, you can easily recreate the flavor of chili powder in no time.

Here are some of the best chili powder substitutes based on expert recommendations:

  • Homemade chili powder mix: You can make your own by combining paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and cayenne pepper. The ratio is usually:
    • 2 tablespoons paprika
    • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
    • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    To make 1/4 cup chili powder.
  • Paprika, cumin, and cayenne: Use a mix of paprika, cumin, and cayenne in a 2:1:1 ratio.
  • Ancho powder: Made from ground ancho chili peppers.
  • Chipotle chili powder: Made from smoked/dried jalapeños.
  • Taco seasoning: Contains chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika.
  • Crushed red pepper flakes: Add heat to dishes.

The flavor and heat of these substitutes may differ from true chili powder. You may need to tweak amounts for your taste.

Continue reading for more details on how to use these handy chili powder substitutes to effortlessly spice up your next Mexican meal!

Why Use Chili Powder?

chili powder substitutes

Chili powder is a versatile blend of spices that adds a distinct punch of flavor. It typically contains a mix of chile peppers, cumin, garlic, and other spices. Here’s what each ingredient brings to the party:

  • Chile peppers (like ancho, chipotle, and arbol) – These provide the signature heat, as well as a range of flavors from smoky to fruity.
  • Cumin – Earthy, nutty, slightly bitter flavor.
  • Oregano – Fresh, herbaceous notes.
  • Garlic and onion powders – Savory, aromatic flavors.
  • Other spices (like cinnamon, cloves, or coriander) – Subtle background flavors.

When these ingredients are blended, the result is a warm, complex flavor that lends a distinctive Southwestern or Tex-Mex flair. Chili powder works well in everything from tacos, enchiladas, and chili to marinades, rubs, dips, and more.

7 Easy Chili Powder Substitutes to Try

Don’t let a lack of chili powder derail your dinner plans. With a mix of spices you likely have on hand, you can easily replicate the flavor. Here are 7 substitutes to try:

1. Homemade Chili Powder

Recreate the flavor blend yourself with:

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1⁄2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)

Mix together and use a 1:1 ratio in place of store-bought chili powder. Adjust the cayenne to your desired level of heat.

2. Ancho Chile Powder

Made from dried, ground ancho peppers, this mild chili powder has a sweet, fruity flavor similar to chili powder. Use a 1:1 ratio.

3. Chipotle Chile Powder

For a spicier, smokier option, use chipotle powder. It’s made from smoked jalapeños. Use about 3/4 as much as regular chili powder.

4. Paprika + Other Spices

Paprika mixed with cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and a pinch of cayenne closely mimics chili powder. Use a 2:1:1 ratio of paprika, cumin, and cayenne.

5. Taco Seasoning

Premade taco seasoning contains the core chili powder ingredients – chile powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder. Use an equal amount in place of chili powder.

6. Red Pepper Flakes

For adding heat only, crushed red pepper flakes are a quick substitute. Use about 1/4 to 1/2 of the amount of chili powder called for.

7. Harissa or Other Chili Pastes

Spicy harissa or other chili pastes like sambal oelek also add instant heat and chili flavor. Use about 1 teaspoon per tablespoon of chili powder.

Tips for Using Chili Powder Substitutes

  • Start with less spice than a recipe calls for. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away once it’s in!
  • Look for chili powders marked as “mild” if you want less heat.
  • Cook the spices briefly to mellow their potency and develop their flavors.
  • Add spices like cumin, oregano, and garlic powder individually rather than pre-mixed for maximum flavor impact.
  • Whenever possible, opt for freshly ground spices over pre-ground for the most flavor.
  • Store leftover homemade chili powder blends in an airtight container away from light.
  • Adjust any substitutions to suit your personal taste preferences.

Sample Substitution Ratios

Here are some examples of how much you can substitute for 1 tablespoon of chili powder:

  • 1 tablespoon homemade chili powder blend
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
  • 2 tablespoons paprika + 1 teaspoon cumin + 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon harissa paste

Trust your tastebuds and adjust spice levels until you get the perfect heat and flavor combo.

Spice Up Your Meals Without Chili Powder

A lack of chili powder doesn’t have to disrupt the flavor of your favorite recipes. With a mix of spices you likely have in your pantry, you can easily replicate the warm, complex taste. Ancho, chipotle or paprika blended with cumin, oregano and garlic will give you an instant flavor boost.

Next time chili powder runs out, don’t sweat it. Turn to one of these substitutions and spice up your meal hassle-free!

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Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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