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The 5 Best Substitutes for Ancho Chile Peppers

There are many varieties of chile peppers.

The most widely recognized types are cayenne, jalapeno, habañero, serrano, tabasco, and ancho pepper.

Each has its unique flavor, but these are all spicy peppers.

The ancho chile pepper is different from the rest of these spices because it has a slightly sweet fruitiness.

The flavor is not one-dimensional; the ancho ranges from light, barely detectable floral notes to dark chocolate and tobacco undertones.

The taste of the ancho chile pepper has been described as “a complex blend of raisins, prunes, dried apricots and other dried fruit” and can range in flavor from “sweet and mild to hot and bitter, depending on where it is grown and when picked”.

The ancho chile pepper is most often used in adobo sauce and red chili.

However, if you’re looking for a substitute to the ancho chile pepper, here are five other possible options:

What is Ancho Chile Pepper?

what is ancho chile pepper

First, let’s start by saying that ancho chile pepper is not actually a chili pepper but rather just dried poblano peppers.

The word ‘ancho’ means wide and flat in Spanish, which can be applied to the appearance of this type of chili pepper when it is whole and fully mature.

After the poblano is harvested while still green, it is dried through either smoking or sun-drying (opt for sun-dried if possible), giving the pepper its dark reddish-brown color.

Drying the poblano peppers in this way brings out their natural flavors and allows them to be stored longer than fresh poblanos.

However, avoid touching your face after cooking with ancho chiles because the capsaicin oil can cause intense burning.

You can use this type of chili pepper in various Mexican dishes, but it is most frequently used to make mole sauce.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Ancho Chile Pepper

If you want to try Ancho Chile Pepper, but you are either unable or unwilling to buy them online, here are some great substitutes for this type of pepper.

1 – Dried Poblano Peppers

dried poblano peppers

Many people like to make chili or enchiladas, but they either can’t find ancho chile pepper or don’t want to pay the price.

Luckily, there are other options.

Dried poblano peppers are inexpensive and go great in many dishes (especially Mexican-style food).

This pepper tastes sweet and has a mild flavor.

Many people say it is a bit smoky and earthy in taste.

Unfortunately, this pepper can be a little difficult to prepare because of its tough skin, but once it’s soft, the flavor shines through.

You should avoid buying grocery store poblanos unless they are fully dried, or you could end up with moldy peppers.

2 – Chipotle Peppers

chipotle peppers

What’s the difference between chipotle and ancho chile pepper, you ask? Not much.

Both types of chili peppers are made out of smoked jalapenos.

However, roast them in adobo sauce to make chipotles.

This will give it a distinctive taste.

Although ancho chile peppers are commonly used in mole sauce, chipotle peppers are more common in this dish.

There is also no need to remove the seeds because they will disappear when cooked.

However, you should always be very careful when handling these peppers because they can burn your eyes or skin.

3 – New Mexico Chili Peppers

new mexico chili peppers

New Mexico chili peppers may be brighter in color, but they are also much milder than ancho chile pepper.

These peppers typically turn a bright red when fully matured and dried out.

You can enjoy their fruity flavor in a wide range of dishes (especially Mexican).

Keep in mind, however, that these peppers are not very spicy.

These peppers’ flavor to your dishes is unlike any other.

It’s a little bit sweet and sour, but they still pack a powerful spicy punch.

You should be careful when handling this pepper because it can burn you.

4 – Dried Anaheim Chili Pepper

dried anaheim chili pepper

Dried Anaheim pepper is used quite frequently in many Mexican dishes by adding a little heat without burning your mouth.

If you are looking for a good chili pepper substitute for ancho chile, this may be the best choice.

This type of chili pepper has a mild flavor with very minimal heat.

It is sweet and has a slightly bitter aftertaste.

However, be careful not to eat too much of this pepper because you may get an upset stomach.

This chili pepper is best for slow-cooking beef, pork, or poultry dishes.

5 – Pasilla Peppers

pasilla peppers

Last but not least, we have pasilla peppers.

These peppers may be mild in heat, but they still pack a unique and authentic flavor.

You can use this pepper to make salsas or as a garnish.

You should be careful when handling these peppers because they can burn you.

In addition, it’s important to note that pasilla peppers are not always available fresh.

Most dried pasillas are aged for 90 days.

Pasilla peppers are dark in color and have an earthy flavor.

If you are looking for a milder pepper than the ancho chile but still packs a punch of flavor, then this may be your best choice.

Pasilla peppers are great when used to make mole sauce or salsa verde.

They are also very common in carne asada or carnitas.


Ancho Chile is used to making many Mexican dishes, but finding this pepper can be difficult and expensive.

Fortunately, several other types of peppers can be used in their place.

The best substitutes for Ancho Chile are poblano, chipotle, New Mexico chili pepper, dried Anaheim chili pepper, and pasilla.

Depending on your recipe, you may need to add a little bit more of the substitute peppers to get the same flavor.

However, be careful because some peppers can burn your skin or eyes.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Ancho Chile Peppers

The 5 Best Substitutes for Ancho Chile Peppers
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • Dried Poblano Peppers
  • Chipotle Peppers
  • New Mexico Chili Peppers
  • Dried Anaheim Chili Pepper
  • Pasilla Peppers


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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