What are the Best Substitutes for Red Chili Pepper?

You have checked off almost all the components you have written on the grocery list you have prepared for a specific spicy dish you are planning to do.

As you look at the remaining ingredients you are yet to add to your grocery cart, you notice that the store you are on ran out of red chili peppers on their spices stall. And as your eyes instinctively revert their gaze on the list, you are holding. It turns out you need the peppers above for the dish.

So what do you do now?

Would you drop and return all the stuff you just added to your grocery cart and look for another store that has plenty of those spicy capsicum left on its stands?

Or would you finish off your shopping list by looking around for other ingredients that would be a good substitute for red chili pepper in the recipe you are craving to try?

Well, if you choose the second option of persevering to find a suitable substitute for those red chili peppers, this article might just be for you.

Just see to it that your local grocery offers a wide variety of this coveted yet underrated spice, and you are good to go!

Before You Begin Your Search

Here is some random scientific trivia that might aid you in your search for a red chili pepper substitute:

The supposed spiciness red chili peppers add to our food is not considered as a taste or flavor. We feel just a sensation—a pain signal—whenever the nerves on our taste buds detect touch and temperature sensations.

Red chili peppers contain the chemical compound called “capsaicin,” which mimics the presence of something hot on our tongue.

Hence, it is the capsaicin responsible for the supposed heat and pain we feel whenever we are eating dishes that have chili peppers as one of its ingredients.

So, there you go: hot & spicy is not a flavor but a sensation—a chemical reaction.

Finding Substitutes For Red Chili Pepper

So with that trivia out of the way, it is now time for you to look for a suitable alternative to red chili peppers—whether it is a red chili pepper substitute for cooking or a red chili pepper substitute for baking.

Serrano Pepper

The serrano pepper is a bit spicier compared to your usual red chili pepper. Despite its deceptively “mild” appearance due to its green color, it is even spicier than its more famous cousin, the jalapeno pepper.

Because of this, the serrano pepper can easily be an effective red chili pepper substitute in recipes for your red chili pepper dish.

Additionally, if you are making salsa, sauce, relish, or garnish, the serrano pepper is one of the highly recommended alternatives for your chili pepper.

Lastly, if you want your dish to be a little bit spicier without overloading it with a lot of peppers, then you could use the serrano pepper, for it can give you that needed delicious spicy kick with just a few of it.

Cayenne Pepper

Well known for its recognizable redness and that lanky, curved physique with a pointed end, the cayenne pepper can be as versatile as it can when it comes to posing as a red chili pepper alternative.

It is defined by its fiery, hot effect on the taste buds of its consumers. Because of this, it is best to use cayenne peppers in small amounts if you plan to substitute them for the milder red chili pepper.

To fully utilize the cayenne pepper, you can substitute it with your red chili pepper if the dish you are planning to do is particularly of Mexican origins, such as tacos, enchiladas, and fajitas. Additionally, because of its versatility, you could also use cayenne peppers in Indian and Thai dishes.

Of course, you have also heard of cayenne powder, right?

The possibilities are almost endless! Just make sure that you use it in small amounts as a substitute, for it can completely offset and dominate the dish.

Jwala Finger Pepper

If you are trying to make your version of a spicy Indian dish, particularly curry, then the jwala finger pepper can be a good substitute for your red chili pepper.

As the most popular pepper in the Indian subcontinent, the jwala finger is a constant fixture in all kinds of Indian spicy food, dried or fresh. This might be due to the mild heat it gives off when consumed.

Regardless of its notable spiciness, the jwala finger has fruity tasting notes, almost similar to that of an apple’s, all the while maintaining a nuanced flavor. Because of this, it can be an alternative when it comes to making creamy or fruity sauces.

You could also use the jwala finger as a substitute if the role of your red chili pepper in your dish is a flavor enhancer.

Tien Tsin Pepper

Also known as Chinese peppers, these red chili substitutes effectively deliver that scorching kick one usually gets when eating spicy oriental dishes like Kung Pao Chicken.

They get their reputation for being noticeably spicy because they are cooked with their seeds intact, primarily containing their heat. So if you want your dish to be extremely hot, then this pepper is a good substitute for your red chilis.

Chinese peppers are also used in making your typical Asian chili oil/sauce.

Pequin Pepper

If you aim for a smoky flavored dish, then the one-inched pequin pepper can be a considerable alternative.

This pepper is usually an additive to your beans, sauces, stews, and rice dishes because of its rich flavor, mainly when it is fresh.

However, these one-inched peppers are rarer compared to the other substitutes on this list.

Jalapeno Pepper

The jalapeno pepper is probably the most popular red chili substitute on this list.

Its heat level ranges from medium hot to very hot, depending on whether it is ripe or not. But usually, jalapenos are consumed in their unripe, green forms wherein consumers taste its signature grassy tasting notes.

Another factor contributing to the jalapeno’s popularity is its versatility due to its flavor and manageable heat—a bell pepper can even be substituted by it.

That is why jalapenos can be added to salads, salsas, sandwiches, and other vegetable dishes. Other dishes where you can surprisingly find a jalapeno also include pizza, pho, and banh mi. There are even chips and other potato snacks that are flavored after this pepper!

You could also use the jalapeno pepper as a red chili substitute if you are after a nutrient-rich meal, as jalapenos are packed with vitamins A and C, as well as folate, potassium, and the B vitamins.

Ready to Cook?

Now that you have learned about viable substitutes for red chili peppers, it’s time to widen up your options and explore the different flavors of each kind of these alternatives waiting for you on your next grocery haul.

If you’re feeling even adventurous, then you could visit PepperScale to know more about other pepper alternatives.

Happy cooking!