Ancho chili powder is a ground chili pepper used in cooking and baking.
It’s made from dried poblano peppers (a mild chili pepper) and comes in finely ground form.
It can be either mild or spicy depending on the region and comes in both sweet and hot varieties.
Ancho chili powder is used in various cuisines, including Mexican, Spanish, French, and even Indian cooking.
It’s most commonly found in red chili sauces for chicken and pork but can also be mixed into meatloaf, marinades, and even barbecue sauce.
Ancho chili pepper has a slightly fruity, smoky flavor that carries a very mild heat.
However, if you cannot find ancho chili powder, or do not have it on hand, don’t worry.
There are several easy substitutes you can use in place of ancho chili powder.
In this article, we discuss a few of the common substitutes for ancho chili powder and discuss their uses.
What is Ancho Chili Powder?
First used by the Aztecs, ancho chili powder is a type of chili made from ground dried poblano peppers.
Despite the simple list of ingredients, ancho chili powder offers a complex flavor that can enhance soups and sauces or as a stand-alone seasoning.
The main ingredient in ancho chili powder is dried poblano chili peppers, named after the city of Puebla.
The poblanos used in ancho chili powder are dark red and have a mild spiciness comparable to bell pepper.
In contrast to other chilies, ancho chili powder is fairly mild, with a heat level of around 1,000-1,500 Scoville units.
When cooking with ancho chili powder, it is important to remember that the flavor of this type of chili powder is different from a fresh poblano or a dried chipotle pepper.
The spiciness of the ancho chili powder should enhance other flavors in the dish but not overpower them.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Ancho Chili Powder
If you are looking for an alternative to ancho chili powder, you can try here are five substitutes.
1 – Chipotle Peppers
Like ancho chili, chipotle peppers are made from dried jalapeno peppers.
This means that chipotle peppers offer a similar heat level as the ancho chili powder.
The main difference between the two is that chipotles have a smokier flavor.
The closest substitute to ancho chili powder would be chipotle peppers.
They are made from jalapenos, so they have a similar heat level to ancho chili powder.
One of the most popular ways to use these peppers is smoking them over mesquite or oak wood.
The flavor will vary based on the type of wood used for this process.
While you can find chipotle peppers dried, you can also find them pickled or canned in adobo sauce.
This means that chipotles are available to use as a substitute even if you don’t have access to an oven.
2 – Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Next on the list is crushed red pepper flakes. To make crushed red pepper flakes, you will need to use dried chilies that have been crushed into smaller pieces.
Crushed red pepper flakes are made from chili peppers that have been dried and then ground.
Because they are not as finely ground as ancho chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes offer a spicier heat level than the ancho chili powder.
Crushed red pepper flakes are best used when you want the chili flavor to be more prominent in a dish.
If you are cooking for children, it may be better to use ancho chili powder or another substitute so that there is not as much heat.
3 – Guajillo Chile Powder
Guajillo chilies are similar to ancho chilies in that they are a dried poblano pepper.
The guajillo chili has a spicier flavor than the ancho variety, but it also has a milder heat level.
The best substitute for ancho chili powder would be guajillo chili powder.
Both ancho and guajillo chilies are dried poblanos, with a similar flavor profile.
One of the main differences between ancho chili powder and guajillo chili powder is that the red color in this type of chili powder comes from the pepper itself instead of added coloring.
This means your dish will have a more natural red color than using ancho chili powder.
As with ancho chili, when cooking with guajillo chili powder, you may want to use less of this seasoning since it has a stronger spiciness.
4 – Paprika
Paprika is not made from dried peppers, but it does offer a similar flavor for dishes.
Sometimes paprika can be used as a spice on its own or in combination with other spices to add some extra color to your dish.
Using paprika as a substitute for ancho chili powder is one option, but note that the flavor and spiciness will differ depending on what type you use and how it is prepared.
Paprika is made from dried peppers and ground into a powder form, so the heat level is slightly less than crushed red pepper flakes.
The spiciness of paprika can also vary depending on how it is mixed with other spices.
5 – Pasilla Chile Powder
Last on the list is pasilla chili powder.
This type of chili powder has a similar flavor to ancho chili, but the heat level will be different depending on how much you use in your dish.
Pasillas are dried chilies that are commonly used in Mexican cuisine.
They have a mild spiciness compared to chipotle or crushed red pepper flakes, but this can be increased if you use more powder.
So, pasilla chili powder is good if you want your dish to have a slightly spicier flavor than ancho chili powder.
You may also find that the taste of the actual pepper is more pronounced in dishes that use pasilla chili powder, so this can be another option if you prefer chilies over spices like paprika.
Ancho chili powder is a common ingredient used in Latin American cuisine.
It can be combined with other spices to add some heat and flavor to dishes, but there are plenty of substitutes available as well.
Depending on what you are making, if you do not have access to ancho chili powder, you can substitute it for crushed red pepper flakes, guajillo chili powder, paprika, or pasilla chili powder.
This way, your dish will still have the signature tastes of Latin American cuisine.
As with any ingredient substitution, the results will vary slightly depending on your use.
This is why it’s important to be flexible when cooking and understand that while substitutions can work, they may not make the dish exactly how it was created.