If you love Mexican food, you definitely like using ancho chili in your dishes. They give food that sweeter and smoky flavor with less spiciness than other chili peppers.
However, what can you do if you can’t find these delicious chili peppers but still want to enjoy a similar flavor? We found alternatives for ancho chili peppers that you can use in any dish!
Great substitutes for ancho chili include chili flakes, chili powder, paprika, guajillo powder, chipotle powder, poblano peppers, jalapenos, cayenne peppers, pequin chili peppers, and serrano peppers.
Let’s learn more about each substitute.
Best Substitutes for Ancho Chili
The level of heat, as well as the spiciness of the following substitutes, will differ, compared to the ancho chili peppers. But you will discover that there are all great choices if you need to add some spice to your dish!
1. Chili flakes
Chili flakes make a great substitute for ancho chili. The best part? You can easily find them in all stores worldwide. They are also made of dried peppers just like ancho chili but they can be a bit spicier so make sure to add less of them.
Ultimately, how much of this substitute you add is going to be according to your taste and preferences. They also have different types of intensity in terms of heat, depending on the peppers they are made of.
Use them in your meal just how you would use ancho chili, with the only consideration that you should add less of them.
2. Chili powder
Chili powder is similar to chili flakes in terms of hotness and you can use it instead of ancho chili successfully as well. However, keep in mind that chili powder will dissolve in your food. And it will turn the color of the dish slightly red.
On the other hand, it is not going to have a smoky flavor unless you choose a brand that offers that. Overall, chili powder can be a good replacement for ancho chili and as long as you don’t add too much of it, your food will turn out delicious.
There are many types of paprika on the market. And if you choose a mild version you will get very close to the taste of ancho chili. You can use milk paprika instead of ancho chili in hot and cold recipes and you can maintain the same ratio.
Plus, paprika is also fairly easy to find so you shouldn’t have to worry about being able to get it from your local grocery store.
4. Guajillo peppers
Guajillo peppers are also dried peppers just like ancho chili and these two types of peppers are often used interchangeably.
The taste is fairly the same. And they add a similar level of hotness to your foods. You can use this replacement in the same ratio and you will not regret it.
Your dishes, from stews to soups and salads, will taste better with some guajillo peppers if you don’t have ancho chili peppers at hand. The only downside of this substitute is that it will be a bit difficult to find in stores and it is most commonly used in Mexico.
5. Chipotle powder
The chipotle powder will also give your food the smoked taste that it would get from ancho chili and a similar level of heat. However, note that this ingredient can be even hotter, depending on the peppers used to make the chipotle powder.
The version with a high heat level can get to 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units while ancho chili is about 1,000 to 1,500 SHU. It will help you to taste it before using it as this will give you a great idea about the amount you can use in your recipe.
6. Poblano peppers
Poblano peppers are the main ingredient of ancho chili and you can use them as a substitute for it in their fresh form. However, fresh poblano peppers are not as hot as ancho chili and they lack the smoky taste.
You will enjoy a pleasant flavor in your food and the perfect mix between spicy and sweet. Just chop the peppers in the dimensions you want and add them to your dish. You can use them as you would normally use ancho chili.
We recommend maintaining the same ratio as well, even if you might feel the need to add more poblano peppers since they have a milder taste.
Just like you can add fresh poblano peppers to your recipes, you can also add fresh jalapenos. However, these peppers are hotter and you will need to add only half of the quantity of ancho chili that your recipe calls for.
You can find fresh jalapenos fairly easily in most stores and markets and chop them in the size that you prefer to give your food the texture you want.
8. Cayenne pepper
Cayenne peppers make a great substitute for ancho chili if you can find them at your grocery store. You can find them fresh or dried as well as in the form of flakes and powder. And all these versions can be used instead of ancho chili.
The aspect to pay attention to when you use cayenne is the level of heat. It differs from one strain to another, and you can’t really know how hot they are until you taste them. So, always try them out and decide how much you add to your recipe after that.
9. Pequin chili pepper
Pequin chili peppers come with both the spice and smoked flavor of ancho chili, however, at different intensities. But they are not the easiest peppers to find in local supermarkets. And if you do find them, make sure to give them a try.
They are a great choice if you want to spice up your stews or soups as they provide a very intense aroma when they are exposed to heat. And they come in a size of only one inch long so chopping them to the dimensions you need will be very easy.
10. Serrano peppers
The last but not the least substitute for ancho chili are serrano peppers. They don’t seem to be as popular as ancho chili. However, they are extremely tasty in all kinds of spicy foods.
Keep in mind that they are hotter than ancho chili. Therefore, you will need to use half of the quantity unless you enjoy their intense heat. You can purchase serrano peppers fresh and chop them up or you can buy them in flakes or powder form.
Is Ancho Chili the Same as Chili Powder?
Even if ancho chili and chili powder can be used interchangeably, these spices are not the same. Ancho chili is made of poblano peppers, whereas chili powder is a combination of ground chiles, garlic, onion, and other spices according to the recipe.
So, the flavors will not be the same. And it is important to taste the chili powder beforehand to see how similar it is to ancho chili before you add it to your food.
Are Guajillo Chiles the Same as Ancho?
Guajillo peppers are often used instead of ancho chili and vice versa. While these two spices are extremely similar, you will notice that they offer a different taste.
Guajillo peppers are more fruity and less smoky than ancho chili. Some even notice a mild green tea flavor to them. On the other hand, ancho chili is a spice with a more earthly and darker flavor as well as a different type of sweetness.
What is Hotter: Guajillo or Ancho?
In terms of heat, you will see right away that guajillo peppers are hotter than ancho chili. While ancho chili comes with a level of heat of 1,000 to 1,500 SHU, guajillo peppers are at 2,000-5,000 SHU. But these two types of peppers are similar enough in other aspects so the difference of heat will not bother you in most dishes.
Ancho chili can add just the right level of spice and flavor to your food, especially if you are making a Mexican dish, but if you don’t have this spice you can always use one from our list.
Some of them have an even more intense flavor so you might even prefer to use them instead of the original ancho chili ingredient.