5 Chili Powder Substitutes

Chili powder is a staple seasoning in the homes of many. This bright red powder adds spice and flavor to various dishes, especially Mexican and Asian-inspired cuisines. 

There are several spices that are fused together in order to create chili powder. These include cayenne pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and paprika.

5 Chili Powder Substitutes

This can also vary depending on the kind of chili powder you are using. 

While many simply cannot live without a full bottle of chili powder in their pantry, those who only sometimes brave it may find themselves without any when they need it for a particular recipe. 

For this reason, it is important to be aware of some wonderful chili powder substitutes you’re likely to have lying around without even knowing it! 

1. Cayenne Pepper 

As mentioned above, cayenne pepper is a key ingredient in chili powder itself, and it, therefore, works as a great substitute for it. 

However, cayenne is much spicer than chili powder, as chili powder contains other herbs and spices that mute the heat from the cayenne, so it is advised you only use ⅛ of a teaspoon of cayenne, for every 1 teaspoon of chili powder needed. 

While cayenne is responsible for the heat in chili powder, you will miss out some of the other wonderful flavors of chili powder, so be sure to use other flavors along with your cayenne, such as garlic powder, salt, or some lime juice (see also ‘7 Substitutes For Lime Juice‘). 

2. Cumin

Cumin is also another ingredient used in making chili powder, so it can work as a good substitute. 

While there is no spice to cumin, it carries a lot of flavors, so it will do well as a replacement for chili powder. 

As there is no heat, it is recommended you use up to twice the amount of cumin, for the amount of chili powder specified in your recipe.

If you pair it with some cayenne, then you’ll also achieve a good element of spice. 

3. Taco Seasoning 

If you can’t find any chili powder, you’re bound to find an old pack of taco seasoning buried under all your other spices. 

Most taco blends include a variety of spices, such as cumin, garlic, paprika, and ground chile peppers (see also ‘The 8 Best Substitutes For Ancho Chile Peppers’). By using taco seasoning, your food will take on some wonderful flavor, as well as a hint of spice. 

This is the perfect substitute if you’re making tacos, burritos, or nachos. If you’d like even more spice, then mixing it with some cayenne will go a long way. 

4. Paprika 

Paprika can be a substitute for chili powder, but it depends on the kind you use. 

Regular paprika, which is normally labeled as just ‘paprika’ doesn’t usually carry too much flavor and is mainly used for the red color. 

Hungarian paprika, normally on labels as ‘hot paprika’, is sweeter and carries a lot more spice. You’ll also find Spanish paprika, which can be found as ‘pimenton’.

This can be mildly spicy, but has a smokier taste to it. 

You can use the same amount of Paprika as you would use chili powder, but if you’re using hot paprika, it can be hotter than chili powder, so you should use half the amount of paprika for the chili powder that is advised. 

5. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes 

Crushed red pepper flakes are made with ground cayenne peppers (see also ‘6 Cayenne Pepper Substitutes You Should Try‘), which are what gives chili powder its spice.

However, in this mix, you’ll find yellow flecks and these are the seeds. These add a lot of heat to the spice, more so than chili powder. 

Therefore, if using crushed red pepper flakes (see also ‘The 5 Best Amazing Substitutes For Red Pepper Flakes‘) as a substitute, it is recommended you use half the amount of crushed red pepper flakes, for the amount of chili powder needed. 

If you can handle the spice, then you can add more as you taste. 

Final Thoughts 

There are several different spices that work as chili powder substitutes, and many of these are staple items you’re already likely to have in your pantry! 

So, next time you find yourself without any chili powder when needed, do not panic, as these substitutes will work perfectly. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Chili Powder Made Of?

Chili powder is made with ground dried chilies, as well as other spices such as oregano (see also ‘Oregano Substitutes‘), cumin, and paprika. 

Depending on the brand, different spices and flavors will be used in the mix. 

Is Chili Powder Healthy? 

Chili powder is actually good for the digestive system. It can increase gastric juices and can relieve any stomach issues such as gas and constipation. 

It can also be effective in removing bad bacteria from the stomach, intestine, and digestive tract.

The compound in red chili, capsaicin, is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties and can be effective at soothing pain. 

Chili can also help if you’re feeling congested, as it can help clear mucus from the nasal passage, helping you breathe easier. 

5 Chili Powder Substitutes

5 Chili Powder Substitutes

Recipe by Jenna

You’ll never have to worry about running out of chili powder again. Here are 5 wonderful substitutes you’ve already got lying around in your pantry!

Course: Substitutes
5 from 1 vote


  • Cayenne Pepper 

  • Cumin

  • Taco Seasoning 

  • Paprika 

  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes 


  • Decide on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy

Recipe Video

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