Ancho chile peppers are wonderful. They have a delightfully smoky and fruity flavor that adds depth to all different types of dishes. And, as a bonus, they add a gentle warmth that even the most spice-phobic people will love!
However, ancho chile peppers can be tricky to find. Whilst they are usually available in large supermarkets or online, they aren’t necessarily the most accessible ingredient.
But, don’t fret – there are a number of great substitutes for ancho chile peppers.
Below, we’ve listed our favorites so that you don’t have to miss out on your favorite dishes again! Most of them are accessible, delicious, and easy to incorporate into your recipes. Check them out!
1. Jalapeno Peppers
We had to kick this list off with the humble jalapeno pepper. Now, there are some notable differences between jalapeno peppers and ancho chile peppers that you need to be aware of before substituting.
First of all, jalapeno peppers are fresh peppers, whilst ancho chile peppers are dried. Additionally, jalapeno peppers are also hotter than ancho chile peppers.
As such, you only need around half of the quantity to get the same flavor and spice.
The best thing about using jalapeno peppers as a substitute for ancho chile peppers is that they are very accessible and versatile.
You should be able to find jalapenos in your local store, and you can use the leftovers in a huge range of different dishes!
2. Pequin Chili Pepper
Next up, we’ve got the Pequin chile pepper. Like jalapenos, there are some differences that we need to discuss. Additionally, they aren’t the easiest to find unless you have access to a large and varied store.
However, they really are a great substitute for ancho chile peppers.
If you really want to mimic the smoky flavor provided by the ancho chile, these peppers are a great option.
They have a warm, smoky flavor, but do vary quite significantly in terms of heat, so be sure to taste them before you cook with them.
Like jalapenos (see also ‘What If I Don’t Like Jalapenos? – 5 Great Jalapeno Alternatives‘), Pequin chile peppers are fresh peppers.
As such, you might want to alter the recipe to include fewer chili peppers, or just taste as you cook. We love adding these peppers to stews and soups because of their incredible aroma!
3. Serrano Peppers
Serrano peppers are nowhere near as popular as the ancho chile. However, we absolutely love them, and they definitely make for a great substitute.
In fact, if you wish that your ancho chiles packed a bit more heat, we highly recommend swapping them for serrano peppers.
It is important to emphasize that serrano peppers are significantly hotter than ancho chile peppers. As such, unless you love your food to be super spicy, we recommend using half of the quantity stated in the recipe (at least).
A great thing about serrano peppers is that they come in many different forms. You can purchase fresh, or in flake or powder form.
This makes them far more accessible as your local supermarket is bound to have at least one version on offer!
4. Chili Flakes
If you’ve already started cooking, and all of a sudden realize that you don’t have any ancho chile peppers – don’t fret! There are a few great substitutes for ancho chile peppers that you likely already have in your pantry, such as chili flakes!
In fact, chili flakes make for an excellent substitute for ancho chile peppers. Unlike many other substitutes on this list, they are made from dried peppers, so have a very similar flavor!
And, they are incredibly accessible.
5. Cayenne Peppers
Cayenne peppers also deserve a coveted spot on this list.
However, we want to note that, like ancho chile peppers, they can be tricky to find in local stores. So, if accessibility is your problem, you might want to skip to the next option on this list.
But, if you just fancy changing your recipe up a bit, cayenne peppers are a great option. You just need to be cautious when it comes to their heat, as one cayenne pepper can be much hotter than another.
6. Chili Powder
Chili powder is, in our opinion, the unsung hero of the substitution game. It is very versatile and easy to incorporate into dishes, and it’s likely that you already have some form of chili powder in your kitchen!
If you want to mimic the smoky flavor of ancho chili peppers, you should purchase a brand of chili powder that states that it has a smoky flavor. Also, if you’re not a huge fan of spice, proceed with caution!
7. Guajillo Peppers
Don’t worry – we can’t really pronounce these peppers either. However, they do make an excellent substitute for ancho chile peppers. In fact, the two are often used interchangeably because they are remarkably similar.
They are both dried, have similar flavors, and have the same level of spiciness. As such, you can use them in the same ratio. However, guajillo peppers can also be hard to find in small stores.
8. Poblano Peppers
Finally, we had to mention poblano peppers. Now, the pepper aficionados amongst you are likely thinking… ‘aren’t poblano peppers and ancho chile peppers the same thing?’. Well, yes, they are!
Poblano peppers are the fresh version of ancho chile peppers. As such, they might be easier to find in some stores.
However, they aren’t quite as smoky as the dried version, and they can be more spicy, so make sure you alter the recipe accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do Ancho Chiles Taste Like?
Ancho chiles have a particularly smoky flavor, especially when they are dried. Their spiciness can vary significantly, but generally speaking, they tend to have a mild or medium level of heat.
They also have a slightly fruity flavor, which makes them a popular addition to marinades and chili pastes. This makes ancho chiles very well suited to Mexican dishes, so be sure to add them to your next homemade chili!
Are Poblano And Ancho Peppers The Same?
Interestingly, poblano and ancho peppers are the same pepper, but in different forms. Poblano peppers, or Capsicum annum, is a mild chili pepper from Mexico.
When the poblano pepper is dried, it becomes the ancho chili pepper.
As we discussed above, if you’re struggling to get your hands on the dried ancho chili pepper, the fresh poblano pepper is an excellent substitute.
However, it will likely lack the smoky flavor, so be sure to include some extra smoky seasonings in the dish.
Are Ancho Chiles Bitter?
Generally speaking, good ancho chiles shouldn’t be bitter. However, ancho chiles that are past their prime can lack the delicious smoky and sweet flavor, and instead tend to be very bitter.
At this stage, they also don’t reconstitute very well.
To avoid ruining your dish with bitter ancho chiles, you should make sure that you’re using good-quality peppers. If you notice that they look too dry, dusty, particularly hard, or even brittle, we recommend throwing them away.
The ancho chile pepper is a wonderful ingredient. However, it can be tricky to find in supermarkets. We hope that this article has helped you to adapt your recipes so that you don’t have to miss out on your favorite dishes!