6 Best Cayenne Pepper Substitutes

So you are cooking Alton Brown Meatloaf. you turn around to get cayenne peppers from the pantry but find the bottle empty. Your natural reaction would be shock and despair. 

But there is no need to panic, as we have got you covered! Looking for a quick answer?

The best Cayenne Pepper Substitutes are paprika, red chili powder, red chili flakes, Thai peppers and jalapeno powder.

This post brings you the best substitutes for Cayenne Pepper, including chili powders and hot sauces. 

But first, let us briefly overview Cayenne pepper so we can substitute it in recipes without compromising the flavor. 

Cayenne Pepper – Origin, Taste, and Uses

Cayenne peppers originated from the city of Cayenne, located in French Guiana. Cayenne peppers are typically dried spices manufactured by drying and grounding the peppers. 

With the Scoville Heat Units from 30,000 - 50,000 SHU, cayenne pepper is primarily used to produce heat in recipes. It is a staple element in most hot and spicy cuisines. 

If you are a fan of spice, your soups, sauces, pizzas, steaks, and stews can’t go without a spoon or two of cayenne pepper. Even people keep it on the table in a shaker. 

You can buy it from your local grocer in the form of sharp red pepper powder or chili flakes. A little cayenne pepper goes a long way.  

Best Substitutes for Cayenne Pepper

1. Paprika 

Hot paprika is the best bet if you need a Cayenne pepper substitute in powder form. Although paprika is less fiery than cayenne, it has almost the same color.

Sweet paprika is made from dried, sweeter red chilies like bell pepper and has a fruity flavor. If heat isn't as important, this milder paprika can replace cayenne powder.

On the other hand, hot paprika has a higher level of heat. The heat intensity of cayenne pepper is better matched by hot paprika. Still, when substituting paprika for cayenne pepper, double the amount. 

2. Red Chili Powder 

While chili powder is not as fiery as cayenne pepper, it is a suitable replacement. The powder is created by grinding dried chili peppers.

Chili peppers come from different varieties of peppers with different flavors and levels of spice. Also, in addition to peppers, brands sometimes add herbs to increase the taste of chili powder or smoke them before grinding them. 

Adding flavored or smoked chili powder instead of cayenne pepper will alter the recipe completely. It is better to read the label and ingredients attentively or do a taste test before replacing cayenne with chili powder. 

If you're going to use chili powder for cayenne pepper, use the exact measurement as if you were using cayenne pepper.

3. Red Chili Flakes 

Another Cayenne substitute that is easily accessible at local stores is red chili flakes. Chili flakes are a variety of red chili peppers that have been dried and crushed rather than powdered. 

Red chili flakes, like paprika, aren’t as hot as cayenne peppers, nor do they have the tendency to add the same bright red color to the dish. 

Thus, there is a texture, taste, and color variation. However, this will not be an issue in recipes where you use cayenne as a sprinkler rather than to cook the dish.

You can also use red pepper flakes if you don't want your food to be that spicy.

You can increase the quantity to 1:2 while substituting red chili flakes for Cayenne pepper to boost the spiciness. Red chili flakes are perfect to be sprinkled on pizzas in place of cayenne pepper.  

4. Jalapeno Powder

Another hot option for cayenne pepper is jalapeno powder. People like jalapeno powder because it has a distinctive flavor and heat and adds an intriguing aspect to almost any cuisine.

The heat of this spice is derived from the seeds and membranes that remain after the fruits have ripened. The other components are then dried using hot air or heat until a dark red powder resembling cayenne pepper is formed.

As the two spices have almost similar levels of spiciness, Jalapeno powder is frequently used to replace cayenne in most recipes. 

However, take note that jalapeno powder is hotter than cayenne pepper; therefore, it’s better to add a less quantity and adjust according to taste. 

5. Serrano Pepper

Suppose you're out of cayenne pepper but have a serrano pepper at home. Then no need to knock on your neighbor’s door for a spoon of cayenne. 

Serrano peppers are similar to cayenne peppers in that they are both hot chili peppers typically used in Mexican cuisine. 

The main difference is that serrano peppers are slightly hotter than cayenne peppers. 

So, if you're looking for a substitute that will give your dish the same level of heat, use serrano pepper but in a less quantity than the cayenne pepper called for in the recipe, as it is more potent.

6. Thai Peppers

If you are feeling adventurous, try using Thai peppers instead of cayenne pepper in your recipes. 

The Scoville heat index of Thai peppers ranges from 50,000 to 100,000, which is twice that of cayenne pepper, but the flavor is mouth-watering. 

Thai peppers are an excellent option if you want to serve your dinner guests a dish that will make their eyes water but their taste buds happy.

If you do not already have Thai peppers at home, you'll probably have to look for them at international grocery stores.

Best Substitutes for Cayenne Pepper – Hot Sauces 

Cayenne pepper mainly adds heat; it doesn't add much flavor to a recipe. So, part of the heat that cayenne brings can be replaced by hot sauce. 

Most hot sauces have a flavor of their own. They will alter the recipe altogether. Therefore, avoiding flavored or smoked sauces like Frank’s RedHot sauce is better.  

However, Louisiana’s variety of hot sauces is the best cayenne replacement. 

Tabasco Sauce

Tabasco peppers, which have a similar level of spiciness as cayenne, are used to make hot tabasco sauce. Although this sauce taste too much vinegary, it's easily accessible. 

You can use store-bought sauce or even make tabasco in the Instant Pot.

Crystal Hot Sauce

Red cayenne peppers that have matured are used to make this crystal hot sauce. This sauce has medium heat and a strong flavor. It can be a good cayenne substitute, for sure. 

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