7 Best Cayenne Pepper Substitutes [Easy Cooking Alternatives]

The best cayenne pepper substitutes to replicate its unique flavor. Easy spice alternatives from smoked paprika to red chili flakes.

closeup of ground cayenne pepper powder on white cooking surface

The cayenne pepper is a hot chili pepper that belongs to the capsicum family, and is often prized for its deep color and heat. With a Scoville level of 50,000 SHU, it certainly packs a punch.

With that much heat, it can be a real challenge finding an alternative to cayenne pepper that boasts the same smoky flavor and heat. Luckily, we’re here to help.

These seven best cayenne pepper substitutes will save the day, whether you want to replicate the pepper’s flavor, spice, or aroma. Let’s get into it!

Red Chili Flakes

Red chili flakes are made of crushed chili flakes. The hotness of red pepper flakes will depend mainly on the type of flakes used. It adds color and flavor to savory dishes. To use it as a substitute, you can use a ratio of 1 to 1. However, you can taste the dish to make sure that the heat is enough and not overwhelming. 

Chili Powder

chili powder

Chilli powder can either be bought or crushed at home. You would simply need to dry the chilies and then crush them until they are powder, with the skin and seeds included. You can use this to add color, flavor, and bite to a dish. This is what makes it a good substitute for cayenne pepper.

Also, it has a similar flavor to cayenne pepper. However, the downside is that chili powder isn’t as hot as cayenne pepper, so you may need to add more flakes than cayenne pepper. About twice the amount should do.

Korean Gochugaru

Gochugaru

This is a spice that is made of Korean chili peppers. It is a mixture of coarsely ground chili peppers. They are sun-dried first, and this means the ground has a long shelf life. The flavor of gochugaru is spicy and slightly smoky. This may change the recipe a bit. As such, think about whether this has room in your recipe. 

It makes a good substitute because it is close to cayenne pepper in color and spiciness. It brings the heat. The downside is that it is not readily available, so you may find it better just to end up using cayenne pepper anyway. Because it is very close in flavor to cayenne pepper, it can be used with a 1 to 1 ratio, in place of cayenne pepper, in its powder form. 

Hot Sauce

Hot sauce can be used as a cooking ingredient and also as a sauce. While the premise is the same, the detail about each bottle depends on who has made it. For instance, hot tabasco sauce is made of tabasco peppers, amongst other ingredients. The levels of hotness vary.  The best hot sauce substitutions are ones that are not vinegar-based. 

The main difference is that cayenne pepper comes in powder form while the hot sauce is liquid. The difference in consistency means that you will need to consider this, which could be a disadvantage. When using this substitute, use half or equal amounts of sauce to cayenne pepper. In most cases, you can add a few dashes to your recipe. 

Paprika

smoked paprika

Smoked paprika is a good substitute for cayenne pepper because it is just as red and will add that color to the dish. It is a type of ground pepper as well. It is made up of dried bell peppers. It also makes a good substitute because it is in ground form. This means you will not need to worry about differences in the textures. In fact, the two ingredients are so similar that cayenne is one of our recommendations when we need a quick paprika substitute.

Instead of being hot and spicy like cayenne pepper, it is sweet with a hint of spice. Because of this, you may need to adjust the amount that you use according to taste. With both in powder form, you can substitute using a ratio of 1 to 1.

Fresh Hot Peppers

You can also use fresh hot peppers in place of dried cayenne pepper. While the textures are different, you will still get the heat and spiciness. There are different types of fresh peppers that you can use in place of dried cayenne pepper, with a lot of them having a similar amount of heat. 

The textures will be different, however, and the heat level may also differ depending on the peppers used. Habanero peppers, for instance, are scorching. Fresh peppers work in place of dried cayenne pepper if you will be cooking them into a dish. 

The plus you get when you use fresh peppers is that they have more flavor than dried cayenne pepper. You will need to use ½ a tablespoon of freshly diced peppers instead of every ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Yes, you will need more fresh peppers, but you are getting more flavor and spice in the dish.

Jalapeno Pepper Powder

Jalapeno peppers are chili powder, and they have about the same spiciness and heat level as cayenne pepper. The amount that you use will depend on whether they are fresh or dried and ground. Since they have similar heat levels, you can use similar amounts of powder. So one teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper can be replaced by one teaspoon of jalapeno pepper powder.