Red pepper flakes are spices made of dried, crushed red chili peppers. This spice contains different types of peppers such as jalapenos, Anaheim, and serrano with a level of heat between 30,000-50,000 SHU.
To prepare red pepper flakes the peppers are dried and crushed into flakes and are mixed with the seeds to add more spiciness into the mixture.
The most used and with the highest percentage in this mixture are Cayenne peppers. However, there are also another 2-3 types of peppers that are used in smaller amounts.
Red pepper flakes are used in different dishes to bring out the flavor with balanced heat. You can use red pepper flakes in pizza sauce, spaghetti sauces, many soups, stews, salads, curries, vegetables, fried chicken, tacos, baked goods, and many other recipes.
If your recipe calls for red pepper flakes but you don’t have them at home, or you don’t like your dish to be very spicy you can use some of the substitutes mentioned in this article.
You can choose between Chile de Arbol powder, cayenne pepper powder, chili powder, chili sauce, gochugaru, chili paste, habanero powder, hot paprika powder, chipotle powder, and DIY red pepper flakes.
Let’s learn more about each substitute.
Substitutes for Red Pepper Flakes
Red pepper flakes are easy to make at home you will only need to ground some dry red chilies and you will have red pepper flakes at your taste.
But if you don’t want to bother you can always use some of these substitutes mentioned in this article because they are available in the stores.
1. Chile de Arbol powder
Chile de Arbol powder is made from chile de Arbol peppers.
They have bright red color and come in powder, dried, or fresh form. Chile de Arbol peppers are hotter than jalapeno peppers with a level of heat between 15,000-30,000 SHU.
It has a red color and a smoky, nutty flavor. It is a perfect substitute for red pepper flakes even if it is less hot. Instead, ¾ of a teaspoon of red pepper flakes use ½ teaspoon of chile de Arbol powder in stews, sauces, soups, rubs, and salsas.
2. Cayenne pepper powder
Cayenne pepper powder is one of the best substitutes for red pepper flakes because these peppers are one of the ingredients in red pepper flakes.
But because cayenne pepper powder is hotter than red pepper flakes and has a different texture you will have to use less to get a similar level of heat in your dish. It is best to use this powder as a substitute for red pepper flakes in sauces, soups, stews, and curries.
Substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes with ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder.
3. Chili powder
Chili powder is made of different types of dried chili peppers mixed with spices like onion powder, cumin, and garlic powder.
Depending on which type of chili pepper is used chili powder can have different levels of heat. If your chili powder is not as hot as red pepper flakes, you can use more to achieve the same level of heat in your dish as when you are using red pepper flakes.
Two teaspoons of chili powder make a perfect substitute for one teaspoon of red pepper flakes to give a beautiful spicy flavor to your dish.
4. Chili sauce
Chili sauce can be sweet or hot. It is usually made of chili peppers, sugar, vinegar, and salt. But some other ingredients like garlic, water, or tomatoes can be also added.
Sriracha or Tabasco sauce is one of the chili sauces you can use as a suitable substitute for red pepper flakes. You can add chili sauce to stews, sauces, grilled meats, and soups in smaller amounts. They all have different levels of heat and can make your dish hot if you add too much.
Gochugaru is a chili powder in Korean cuisine. It is made of dried Korean red chili peppers and has a sweet and spicy flavor with a smoky hint.
Gochugaru has a different texture and level of heat. You can use it in different sauces, dressings, stews, soups, and many other dishes as a substitute for red pepper flakes.
Depending on how hot is the sauce you can use it in a 1:1 ratio. Or smaller amounts if the powder is very hot.
6. Chili paste
Chili paste is usually made of chili peppers and has many purposes such as sauce base, flavoring agent, dipping sauce, and cooking ingredient.
There are different types of chili paste with different flavors including fermented, spiced, hot, fishy, or sweet. They are all used to make yummy dishes. As a substitute for red pepper flakes, you can use hot chili paste in sauces, soups, noodles, and other dishes.
Chili pastes have different spice levels. Therefore, you should use them in a smaller amount to make sure that your dish will get the right flavor without getting too hot.
7. Habanero powder
This powder is made of dried and ground habanero chili peppers. Habanero chilies have a fruity flavor and heat level between 100,000-350,000SHU.
It is hotter than red pepper flakes. Thus, you can use ½ teaspoon of habanero powder as a substitute for 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes in stews, sauces, soups, and curries.
8. Hot paprika powder
Paprika powder is made of dried red hot and sweet peppers. So, depending on the peppers used for its production it can be spicy, sweet, or smoked. The hot paprika powder as a substitute for red pepper flakes will give a nice, hot flavor to sauces, marinades, stews, curries, etc.
The hot paprika powder is less hot than red pepper flakes. So, you can use one tablespoon of hot paprika powder instead of one teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
9. Chipotle powder
Chipotle powder is made from dried jalapeno peppers. The peppers are crushed into a powder that has a mildly spicy and earthy flavor.
The chipotle powder has a heat level between 2,500-8,000SHU and works well in different dishes to give them a color and a nice slightly hot and smoky flavor.
If you want to use chipotle powder as a substitute for red pepper flakes you can add it to soups, curries, stews, dressings, and sauces. As a substitute for 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, you can use 2 teaspoons of chipotle powder in your dish.
10. DIY red pepper flakes
If you have cayenne, anaheim, and jalapeno peppers you can make red pepper flakes at home. Just dry the peppers in the oven or a dehydrator if you have it, and crush them into flakes. You will get red pepper flakes that you can store in an airtight container to preserve their flavor.
Milder Substitute for Red Pepper Flakes
Red pepper flakes are pretty hot!
Therefore, if you don’t like hot meals, you can use other less hot spices like chile de Arbol powder, chipotle powder, or milder types of chili sauce and chili powder.
You will get a mild spicy flavor and beautiful red color in your recipe without making it too hot.
Non-Spicy Substitute for Red Pepper Flakes
The best non-spicy substitute for red pepper flakes is sweet paprika because it will give a nice smoky-earthy flavor and color to your dish.
Sweet paprika is made of sweet peppers and makes a great seasoning for stews, rice, soups, and other dishes. You can also use red bell peppers as a substitute for red pepper flakes. Just dry the peppers in the oven or a dehydrator and ground them to get a nice red powder.
What can I use instead of red pepper flakes?
Instead of red pepper flakes, you can use cayenne pepper powder, chili sauce, chili powder, hot paprika powder, habanero powder, or chipotle powder.
Can I use paprika instead of red pepper flakes?
You can use paprika instead of red pepper flakes, but if you want to get a hot flavor similar to the flavor of the red pepper flakes you can use hot paprika.
Is cayenne pepper the same as red pepper flakes?
Cayenne pepper is not the same as red pepper flakes. But red pepper flakes have a high percent of cayenne pepper in their content.
Can I use chili powder instead of red pepper flakes?
You can use chili powder instead of red pepper flakes. Chili powder is less hot than red pepper flakes. Therefore, you will have to use more to get similar heat as with red pepper flakes.
Spice it Up!
Red pepper flakes are a must-have spice if you like your food spicy.
They will give a beautiful spicy flavor to your recipes. However, if you have run out of them you can use some of the substitutes mentioned in this article.
Maybe your dish will be more or less hot but either way, it will have some spicy notes.