8 Best Cayenne Pepper Substitutes

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Cayenne Pepper Substitutes



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So many recipes require cayenne pepper’s moderately hot and spicy flavor. Some might find it too spicy; some might find it addictive, and some might find it too bland. But imagine if you are nowhere to find cayenne pepper; what could be the possible substitutes?

There are plenty cayenne pepper substitutes, such as chipotle peppers, black pepper, red pepper powder, tabasco, hot paprika, Thai pepper, gochugaru, and serrano peppers.

You can use these peppers are a substitute for cayenne pepper when you don’t have it at home, and they will still deliver almost the same hot and spicy flavor that cayanne pepper boasts of.

Now, let’s learn more about these alternatives and why they can be used to replace cayenne pepper and make your dishes even more delicious – without compromising it.

What Is Cayenne Pepper?

Cayenne Pepper is a hot-fleshed chili used extensively in Indian, Portuguese, French, and Mexican cooking, with about 30,000 to 500,000 Scoville Heat Units.

It is also used in herbal remedies. It tastes somewhat sweet with a mild heat.

Cayenne peppers turn from green to fiery red as they ripen until they become crimson red and turn yellowish-orange when fully ripe. These pods are small rounded, heart-shaped, and around 5 cm long with a tapered end.

Best Cayenne Pepper Substitutes

1. Black Pepper

You are making a recipe, and all your ingredients are ready to go, but you cannot find cayenne pepper anywhere. Well, stop looking around and start throwing black pepper into the mix. You will not miss any flavor.

Yes, black pepper comes from a completely different family of hot spices, yet you can use it in place of cayenne in any recipe, from adding flavor to spicing up meats, salad dressings, fish, vegetables, soups, pasta, stir-fries, and more.

Black pepper remains one of the most common spices in every amateur or professional kitchen.

Moreover, the heat level is between 30,000 and 50,000 Scoville, similar to the cayenne pepper.

2. Chipotle Powder

Chipotle is a fantastic spice to add to your food. You can use it in dips, sandwiches, and soups.

There are times when you may not have cayenne pepper on hand. The chipotle powder will save you from the substitute dilemma.

Chipotle replicates the hot, smoky, and earthy taste of cayenne pepper powder in your recipes.

However, cayenne is hotter, with a Scoville scale of over 30,000 to 50,000 SHU. Meanwhile, chipotle pepper maxes out with about 2,500 and 8,000 Scoville heat units.

For chili heads, this might be discouraging. However, if you want something hot but not as fiery as cayenne pepper, chipotle powder is a go-to option.

3. Red Pepper Powder

Yes, you can use red pepper powder when you do not have cayenne pepper.

It plays a significant role in Mexican cooking and adds a robust spicy flavor to meat marinades, sauces, and traditional dishes like fajitas, enchiladas, and tacos.

Red pepper powder can be made from the same plant as cayenne pepper and is roughly equivalent in heat level, though it has a slightly different flavor profile.

Hence, this option will affect the overall flavor of your dish but provide you with the same heat profile as cayenne pepper.

4. Chile Powder

While both chile powder and cayenne pepper are used in Tex-Mex and Mexican cooking, chile powder is a blend of different spices, while cayenne pepper is one spice alone.

Using chile powder instead of cayenne pepper might not be an even substitute.

On the bright side, chile powder is still a fantastic option because it mimics the cayenne heat while adding unique flavors to your recipes.

Secondly, Chile powder is easier to find in grocery stores (even in the US) than cayenne pepper is, so it is an easy swap to make.

5. Tabasco Pepper

Tabasco peppers are another great substitute for cayenne peppers. Since they have since flavor and heat levels.

That is not only because Tabasco pepper has the same capsaicin level as cayenne pepper — up to 50,000 Scoville units (SHU), but also has an almost similar taste.

It is a versatile pepper long and narrow but slightly smaller than the cayenne, with a noticeable sweet and spicy flavor.

In some ways, it has traces of Raspberry Chipotle flavor, but you can use it for anything salads, main dishes, starters, and desserts.

6. Gochugaru

Cayenne pepper and Gochugaru are similar in that they both pack a (similar) punch. But where one is hot, the other is smoky. Where one is sweet, the other is just plain HOT.

This Korean red pepper flake (Gochugaru) is a spicy chili powder that is better than cayenne pepper in many ways. However, we are not here to bash cayenne.

In terms of flavors, Gochugaru has smoky, sweet undertones that cayenne pepper does not have.

It is less spicy and more complex in flavor than cayenne pepper.

In addition, it is saltier, so you can get the same kick with less of it, which means fewer side effects from consuming too much salt.

Therefore, I would urge you to use this pepper.

7. Thai Pepper

Thai Pepper is the most versatile, affordable, and easy-to-find ingredient you can use in place of cayenne pepper.

First, Thai pepper is closer to cayenne in its appearance and taste. For instance, both peppers are skinny and long (although cayenne is thinner).

In addition, like cayenne, Thai pepper has a heat that comes on slowly and then lingers.

But with a more complex flavor profile than cayenne pepper: they are just as spicy, but they taste a little sour and sweet.

On top of that, Thai pepper is also easier to find at most grocery stores than cayenne.

8. Serrano Peppers

Serrano peppers are a type of chili pepper that originates in the mountains of Puebla, Mexico. They are often used in Mexican cuisine, and they are usually eaten raw or pickled.

Yes, you can use Serrano Peppers in place of cayenne pepper. If you are looking for an alternative that is less spicy and less likely to cause indigestion, Serrano Peppers are a great option.

Cayenne pepper has a Scoville heat unit rating of about 30,000 to 50,000, whereas the Serrano pepper has a rating of 8,000 to 22,000.

That makes the Serrano about half as hot as cayenne pepper (though it still packs quite a punch).

You can also use Serrano peppers to make your homemade version of cayenne pepper—grind up some dried Serranos, and voila!

You will have created the custom blend that you can use in place of store-bought cayenne pepper.

Does Chili Pepper And Cayenne Pepper Have Any Difference?

Yes, there are many differences chili pepper and cayenne pepper. However, they are not as far apart as you might think. Chili peppers and cayenne peppers come from the same plant family (Capsicum annuum).

They are both hot peppers. But cayenne pepper is much spicier than chili pepper. The main difference is the shape: chili peppers are generally long and thin, while cayenne peppers are curved and resemble the form of a tongue.

Is Cayenne Pepper And Paprika The Same?

Absolutely not! Paprika and cayenne pepper come from different peppers, are used differently in dishes, and have different nutritional values. Both cayenne pepper and paprika are made from dried and ground peppers.

Cayenne peppers are thin and red, while paprika peppers are more round. Although cayenne pepper has more fire than paprika, they can be found in various heat levels. However, neither of these peppers are among the top world’s hottest peppers.


So, those are the common cayenne pepper substitutes you should know about.

Many people use Ginger to make their food spicy, but chances are it will not provide the same intense and hot flavor as cayenne pepper.

I would only recommend using Ginger as a substitute if you are very sensitive to the heat and do not like your food hot.


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