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5 Condiments That Make the Best Substitute for Cayenne Pepper

substitute for cayenne pepper

Without the pungent aroma of cayenne pepper, all your dishes would likely have a bland taste. It’s no wonder, then, that this condiment is a necessary part of many Mexican-style recipes. If you too like your food hot and spicy, there’s a chance you can’t do without this powder.

But even though you might be happy with the piquancy of your dishes, your old recipes could probably use some spicing up. As you’ll see, certain condiments make the perfect substitute for cayenne pepper. To learn which spices can help you achieve the same effect, stick around.

1. Paprika


If you like to believe that the color of your food adds to its taste, paprika is the right condiment for you. This bright red spice all over your kitchen counter might look like a crime scene. Its color is so vibrant that many people opt for it instead of an Easter egg dye. You can also use paprika to color fabric or season your simple dishes.

Its distinctive shade comes from Capsicum annum, a family of red peppers. It includes red, chili, and bell peppers that are first dried and then ground into a powder. The origin of paprika can be traced back to Southern Mexico, Central America, and the Antilles. From there, Christopher Columbus transported it to Europe.

Today, paprika is considered a Hungarian spice. In this country, it is part of many national dishes, such as chicken paprikash or goulash. But thanks to its high levels of vitamin C, people have also recognized that this spice has many health benefits. Also, because of its painkilling effects, you can find paprika in many different medications.

If you opt for this condiment instead of cayenne pepper, remember to increase the dosage. Because paprika is much milder than cayenne, you should use twice as much powder as you would generally put in:

1 tbsp of cayenne pepper = 2 tbsp of paprika.

2. Chile Powder

Chile Powder

If you’re thinking about chili powder, note that there is a tiny difference between the two. Chile, on the one hand, makes an excellent replacement for cayenne pepper. That’s because the two seem to be closely related. By chile powder, we mean different kinds of chile peppers dried and ground into this powdery mass.

So, you can have jalapeño, ancho, or cayenne chiles. Chile powders made from ancho peppers are usually mild and somewhat fruity. There is also a smoky note to their flavor, which you may mistake for grilling. Similarly, a chipotle powder that comes from jalapeños has the same smoky taste, although a bit hotter.

But what these chile powders have in common is that they contain few to no additives. On the other hand, chili powder includes more diverse ingredients. There, you can find oregano, cumin, garlic/onion powder, and even paprika. Overall, chili powder also seems to be a good substitute for cayenne pepper if you’re ready for a bit richer taste.

If not, the remaining two types of chile powder would make an excellent choice. In terms of the dosages, you can stick to the same amount of powder. Thanks to their similar aromas, you might not even notice the difference.

1 tbsp of cayenne pepper = 1 tbsp of chile powder.

3. Red Chili Flakes

Red Chili Flakes

You might have guessed it — this condiment is also made of peppers. However, its manufacturing process is somewhat different from other pepper powders. As you may notice, red chili flakes even have a more distinctive look. Unlike paprika, cayenne, and chile, this spice appears heterogeneous.

So, the red chili flake powder comes from the same pepper family (Capsicum annum). But its heterogeneity lies in the fact that you don’t obtain this spice using only one type of pepper. Instead, manufacturers have to crush bell, jalapeño, Fresno, and other peppers and mix them together. In most cases, cayenne peppers themselves are the most abundant ingredient of this spice.

You might have also noticed that this condiment features light-colored seeds. That’s because these seeds add to the taste and heat of red chili flakes. In many other cases, seeds get discarded in chile flake powders. As a result, these spices don’t have such a strong kick — plus, their color ends up monotonous.

When it comes to measuring the perfect amount of red chili flakes, you might need twice as much powder. Even though the seeds add to this condiment’s overall heat, the peppers used can be milder than cayenne. Still, try seasoning your favorite pasta dish with red pepper flakes for one of the most memorable spicy experiences.

1 tbsp of cayenne pepper = 1 ½ tbsp of red chili flakes.

4. Gochugaru


The term gochugaru refers to the famous condiment in Korean cuisine. Its literal translation would be “chili pepper powder.” This spice also goes by the names of Korean chili flakes or Korean hot pepper flakes. It is a necessary ingredient in many Korean dishes like stews, soups, and the widely-popular kimchi.

When it comes to its texture, it’s somewhat similar to the previous condiments we’ve covered. This spice is a red powdery mass that looks a lot like paprika and red chili flakes. You get it from coarsely ground Korean red peppers. The peppers are first dried in the sun, deseeded, and then crushed to form flakes.

Many people also make their own gochugaru powders at home. Depending on the manufacturing process, your condiment can turn out either mild or hot. But it will likely still have its peculiar fruity and spicy note regardless of how you make it.

Overall, its heat is very similar to that of cayenne pepper. Because of that, gochugaru makes the perfect alternative for the said condiment. And there’s no need to calculate the right amount of this spice for your dishes. It is simple:

1 tbsp of cayenne pepper = 1 tbsp of gochugaru.

5. Hot Sauce

Hot Sauce

Last but not least, you don’t need to replace cayenne with dry spices only. Another way to go about it is to use liquid condiments like hot sauces. This type of seasoning would work best on pasta or other dishes that don’t require dry ingredients. With that in mind, there are many types of hot sauces you can use as a substitute for cayenne pepper.

One of them, Tabasco sauce, will likely prove an excellent replacement. This liquid condiment comes from tabasco peppers whose heat is similar to that of cayenne peppers. However, you might need to be prepared for a more tangy flavor if you opt for this sauce.

Another hot sauce you can use instead of cayenne pepper is Frank’s RedHot. Because this sauce contains aged cayenne red peppers, you’ll get a similar taste. And there won’t be any vinegar flavor that you get from Tabasco. Still, note that Frank’s RedHot is much milder than its alternatives.

On average, you could do with only a couple of drops of hot sauce. But depending on your taste, these liquid condiments can prove to be a good substitute for cayenne pepper.

1 tsp of cayenne pepper = 15‒16 drops of hot sauce.