10 Best Thai Chili Substitutes

Thai Chili

There are many different types of chili peppers with different levels of heat.

They are used in various dishes to improve their flavor and give them a spicy kick. Depending on your heat tolerance you can choose your favorite chili pepper and use it in your dishes.

Thai chili also known as birds eye chili, bird’s chili, or Cili Padi is a type of chili pepper used in Southeast Asian cuisine to give a spicy flavor to many different dishes.

They are small peppers with red color when they ripen and green, yellow, or orange color when they are unripe. Thai chili peppers have intense heat from 50,000-100,000 SHU and fruity, peppery flavor.

They are used fresh or dried, in curries, salads, soups, sauces, stir-fries, and marinades, but they can also be pickled. If you are using Thai chilies to give spicy flavor to your dishes but you can’t find them in the store there are some other types of chilies you can use as its substitute.

Best Thai Chili Substitutes

When you are choosing a substitute for Thai chili you can use any type of chili pepper depending on your heat tolerance. You can use peppers less hot or hotter than Thai chilies to give a spicy note to your food and adjust the amount to get a similar heat like with Thai chili.

1. African bird’s eye chiles

African bird’s eye chiles also known as Piri-Piri or peri-peri are small about 1 inch long but hot peppers. Their heat ranges from 50,000 to 175,000 SHU and is used in many different dishes.

Peri-peri peppers have a spicy, smoky, slightly sweet flavor and they are added in sauces, marinades, dry rubs, and salsas.

Dry, powdered peri-peri peppers are used as a seasoning for stews, soups, rice, chicken, pork, beef, and fish. Use peri-peri as a substitute for Thai chili in a 1:1 ratio.

2. Chile de Arbol

Chile de Arbol

Chile de Arbol is Mexican chili pepper with heat that ranges from 15,000-30,000 SHU.

They have a red color, nutty, smoky flavor, and are used fresh, dried, or as a powder. Chile de Arbol is added to salsas, sauces, marinades, stews, soups, and many other dishes to give them a nice spicy, nutty flavor.

And because they are less spicy than Thai chilies you can use larger amounts of chile de Arbol as its substitute.

3. Jalapeno peppers

Jalapeño Pepper

Jalapeno peppers have a level of heat between 3,500-8,000 SHU. Because they are not as hot as Thai chili peppers you can use larger amounts to get a similar level of heat.

Jalapeno peppers are used while they are green, but they are also left to fully ripe and get a beautiful red color. Jalapeno peppers work great in many salsas, salads, stews sauces, soups, and many other dishes.

4. Habanero peppers

Habanero Pepper

Habanero peppers are very hot peppers with heat levels from 100,000-350,000 SHU. They have a hot, fruity, slightly sweet-smoky flavor and are usually used in sauces, marinades, salsas, dry rubs, and dressings.

Habanero peppers are hotter than Thai chilies so you should use them in smaller amounts as their substitute in your dishes. You will get a different but still spicy flavor not quite similar to the flavor of Thai chilies.

5. Cayenne peppers

Cayenne peppers

Cayenne peppers are hot peppers used fresh and dried in powder form in many savory dishes to give them a spicy flavor. Their level of heat is from 30,000-50,000 SHU and is usually used in stews, sauces, marinades, soups, stir-fries, and dressings.

Cayenne peppers have a similar flavor to Thai chilies but they are less spicy. Thus, you will have to adjust the amount according to your taste.

6. Serrano peppers

Serrano Peppers

Serrano peppers are another chili pepper popular in Mexican and Southeast Asian cuisines.

They have a bright, grassy flavor and are usually work well in various salsas, soups, sauces, and other dishes. With heat levels between 10,000-23,000 SHU, they are less hot than Thai chilies but are one of their better substitutes because they have a similar flavor.

You only have to adjust the number of serrano peppers in your dish to get the same spiciness as with Thai chilies.

7. Pequin chili peppers

Pequin chili peppers

Pequin chili peppers are very hot peppers with citrusy, nutty flavor and heat levels from 30,000-60,000 SHU. They are used in sauces, salsas, soups, marinades, dressings, and stews but they also can be pickled.

You can use pequin chili peppers as a substitute for Thai chilies in your dishes and adjust the heat to your taste.

8. Tabasco peppers


Tabasco peppers are a type of chili peppers with distinctive smoky flavor and heat levels between 30,000-50,000 SHU. They are used in the production of the famous Tabasco sauce.

However, they are also used as fresh, dried, and in powder in many different dishes like sauces, stews, soups, salsas, or to make chili powder.

You can either use green and yellow-orange not fully ripen tabasco peppers. Or fully ripen tabasco peppers with bright red color which are juicier, sweeter, and have better flavor.

9. Fresno chili peppers

Fresno chili peppers are popular chili with a fruity, smoky, slightly sweet flavor often confused with jalapeno peppers.

They are hotter than jalapeno with heat levels that range from 2,500-10,000SHU. Fresno chili peppers are a good substitute for Thai chilies if you like your food a bit, but not too much spicy. Green Fresno chili peppers work well in soups, sauces, stews, casseroles, dips, and chutneys.

While red Fresno chili peppers are hotter and often used in marinades, sauces, salsas, and ceviches or as a topping for hot dogs, burgers, tacos, and sausages.

You can use them instead of Thai chilies in different dishes. However, you will have to adjust the amount of Fresno chili peppers to get a spiciness according to your taste.

10. Indian finger hot peppers

Indian finger hot peppers, also known as jwala peppers, are a type of thin, curved chili peppers with red color when they are fully ripened. They are used fresh and dried in many different recipes like salads, sauces, salsas, dips, and curries.

Indian finger hot peppers heat levels range from 20,000-30,000SHU. Even if they are less hot than Thai chilies they can be used as a substitute if you adjust their amount according to your taste. You will get a nice spicy, fruity flavor which is characteristic of this type of pepper.

Related Questions

How much cayenne equals Thai chili?

Cayenne peppers are also one of the peppers you can use as a substitute for Thai chilies. They are not as hot as Thai chilies but they have a similar flavor. Therefore, cayenne peppers are one of the better substitutes for Thai chili.

You can use 1 teaspoon of cayenne peppers as a substitute for ½ teaspoon of Thai chili in your recipes.

What flavor is Thai chili?

Thai chiles are small peppers that have a strong spicy and slightly fruity flavor.

They have thin, tough skin and are used raw or dried in many different cuisines including Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Malaysian.

They make a good choice when you want to add a spicy flavor to curries, soups, salads, sauces, marinades, stir-fries, and many other dishes.

Is chile de Arbol the same as Thai Chili?

Chile de Arbol is not the same as Thai chili.

They are one of the most used chiles in Mexican cuisine added to many different dishes to give them a spicy, nutty, and smoky flavor. You can use chile de Arbol in different sauces, marinades, salsas, soups, stews, and other dishes.

Chile de Arbol is less hot than Thai chili with levels of heat between 15,000-30,000 SHU.

What chilies are used in Thai cooking?

Many types of chilies with different heat levels take part in Thai cooking. And because chilies are one of the key ingredients in Thai cooking, it is difficult and almost impossible to prepare a Thai dish without chilies.

You can use them fresh, dried, pickled, and fried in curries, soups, dips, salads, and other dishes. Some of the most used chilies in Thai cooking include bird’s eye chili, serrano chili, Karen chili, sweet pepper and spur chili.

Other spices such as black pepper, garlic, and ginger are also used together with chili peppers to make a perfectly balanced spicy flavor.


Thai chili is one of the most used peppers in many different Asian cuisines.

If they are your favorite chili peppers but you don’t have them on hand you can use some of the chili peppers mentioned in this article. No matter which one you pick, it will give a spicy flavor to your favorite dish.

Some are less, while others are spicier than Thai chili. However, you can always adjust the amount according to your taste and give a spicy kick to your dish.

Are Thai chilies your favorite type of chili peppers and which chilies you are using as a substitute for Thai chilies in your dishes? Let us know in the comments below and share your experience!

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