Home Ingredients Herbs and Spices What’s A Good Substitute For Cayenne Pepper?

What’s A Good Substitute For Cayenne Pepper?

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A spoon of cayenne powder on a board

Cayenne pepper is a vibrant red powder that adds an earthy, spicy flavor to dishes. The powder is made from fresh cayenne peppers which are a medium-hot chili. On the Scoville Scale, they range from 30,000-50,000 Scoville heat units (SHU). As a comparison, the jalapeno chili is 2,500 – 8,000 SHU.

The powdered form of cayenne pepper is available in most stores, but the fresh chili is much harder to find. It is usually available in select stores during the chili picking season. Do you need a fresh or powdered cayenne pepper substitute? We have compiled options for both so keep reading.

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Substitutes for cayenne pepper

1. Hot paprika chili powder

Paprika powder on a white benchPaprika is a type of chili powder that is available in the spice section of most supermarkets. Paprika offers a mix of pungent, sweet and spicy flavors. When used in cooking its lively red color makes it a popular garnish for deviled eggs.

The biggest challenge with paprika is that its heat varies from mild through to medium. Common paprika, also known as sweet paprika, is very mild compared to cayenne. More will be required to get a similar level of heat in your food. Aim to use 1.5 – 2 times the amount of sweet paprika. For hot paprika, use the same ratios as the recipe as it is similar in heat to cayenne powder.

2. Tabasco sauce

A row of tobasco bottlesTabasco sauce is made from tabasco peppers which score 30,000-50,000 Scoville heat units. This is the same as cayenne. But, once the peppers get processed into a sauce, the heat is closer to 5000 SHU.

Tabasco sauce provides an earthy, spicy flavor. The sauce also includes vinegar and salt, so there is a heightened taste of salty acidity. If you decide to use tobacco sauce, then 3-5 drops should be enough for most dishes.

3. Red chili flakes

Chili flakes in a pile.Red chili flakes make a useful cayenne substitute with their pungent, spicy flavor and moderate heat. The ingredients used to make red chili flakes vary, depending on the brand. You may need to use extra chili flakes in the recipe if you have a milder product. As a general rule 1/8 tsp should be sufficient to add heat to a dish.

Have you decided to use red chili flakes as a cayenne pepper alternative? You’ll need to allow for the difference in texture. Cayenne is finely ground, making it an excellent option for garnishes, pies topppers, slices, and appetizers. Chili flakes won’t work for this purpose; they’re better used for adding flavor to meals

4. Gochugaru

A bowl of GochugaruGochugaru is revered in Korean cuisine. It’s made from coarsely ground red pepper flakes. As a cayenne pepper replacement, it is useful as its heat levels are similar. When used in cooking, the final dish will taste a little different if you use Gochugaru. This is because it has a smoky, sweet flavor profile – cayenne is relatively neutral in taste

If you decide to use Gochugaru, the biggest challenge will be finding it in stores. Your best option is to visit an Asian specialty grocer or, if time permits, you can pick some up online. Use similar ratios of Gochugaru as you would cayenne.

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5. Fresh chili peppers

Fresh chilis in a pileIf you need a substitute for fresh cayenne peppers, then you’ll need a pepper that’s similar in heat. Tabasco peppers are one option that will mimic cayenne nicely. They will increase the liquid in the dish as they’re very juicy. In most cases, this won’t be an issue. The biggest challenge will be finding them in stores.

A more common option is Thai pepper. It is a much hotter variety so reduce the quantity by about half unless you like intensely spicy food. If you struggle with hot food, then use jalapenos instead of cayenne. They’re available most of the year-round in supermarkets and are ideal for anyone that struggles with spicy food.

Frequently asked questions

What is cayenne pepper?

Cayenne pepper is a type of red pepper that is mild on the Scoville Scale - 30,000-50,000 SHU. In cooking, cayenne usually used in powder format. It brings vibrant red color to dishes and an earthy, spicy taste.

What is cayenne pepper good for?

Cayenne pepper is a spice that works well in foods like tacos, salsa, nachos, deviled eggs, and chicken. It is a popular spice in Southern, Mexican, Indian and Asian cuisines.

Is cayenne pepper hot?

Cayenne pepper is considered a medium chili on the Scoville Scale, at 30,000-50,000 SHU. As a comparison, the jalapeno chili is 2,500 – 8,000 SHU.

Final words

Are you looking for a substitute for cayenne pepper? Your best three options are hot paprika chili powder, tabasco sauce or red chili flakes. Do you prefer an alternative that isn’t as hot? Consider using fresh jalapenos as they aren’t as intense and you can buy them anywhere. Of course, for a milder dish, you could also halve the amount of cayenne powder that’s called for in the recipe.

Do you have a preferred cayenne pepper alternative? Let us know in the comments below.