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Delicious Shifts: 5 BEST Substitutes for Ancho Chili Powder

Finding the perfect substitute for ancho chili powder can feel like a mini quest. Seriously, it’s like trying to pick the next movie on movie night. You want something that hits just right.

We’ve all been there, standing in the kitchen, our recipe calling for that smoky, rich flavor of ancho chili powder, and boom—the jar is empty. “Great, now what?” we think. Well, the good news is there are some pretty awesome stand-ins that can save the day. No need to dash to the store or abandon ship on your dinner plans.

Each substitute we’ve found does more than just fill in; they bring their own unique vibe to the table. Think of it as inviting a new friend over and discovering they’re the life of the party.

We’re here to share our top finds—the ones that have turned our kitchen mishaps into flavor-packed wins.

It’s like having a secret ingredient up your sleeve, ready to impress. Trust us, by the end of this article, you’ll be itching to try these out.

What is Ancho Chili Powder?

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

When cooking with Mexican or Southwestern flavors, ancho chili powder often plays a crucial role in adding a smoky, slightly sweet, and earthy flavor to dishes.

However, if you’re unable to find ancho chili powder or prefer alternative options, there are several substitutes that can provide a similar taste.

SubstituteKey CharacteristicsProper Ratio
Chipotle PeppersSmoky, spicy flavor with a hint of sweetnessUse 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce per teaspoon of ancho powder
Crushed Red Pepper FlakesSpicy and fiery flavorUse 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes per 1 tablespoon of ancho chili powder
Guajillo Chile PowderSimilar flavor profile to ancho chilies, mild heat1:1 substitution
PaprikaMild, slightly sweet flavor with a smoky undertone1:1 substitution
Pasilla Chile PowderDeep, rich flavor with a medium level of heat1:1 substitution

Now let’s dive into each substitute in more detail:

1 – Chipotle Peppers

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.

Proper Ratio: Substitute 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for every teaspoon of ancho chili powder in your recipe. Adjust the quantity based on desired heat level.

2 – Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

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.

Proper Ratio: Use 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes for every 1 tablespoon of ancho chili powder in your recipe. Adjust the quantity based on desired spice level.

3 – Guajillo Chile Powder

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.

Proper Ratio: Substitute guajillo chile powder for ancho chili powder in a 1:1 ratio. For instance, if a recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of ancho chili powder, use 2 teaspoons of guajillo chile powder.

4 – Paprika

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.

Proper Ratio: Use paprika as a 1:1 replacement for ancho chili powder in your recipe. Adjust the quantity based on desired flavor intensity.

5 – Pasilla Chile Powder

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.

Proper Ratio: Substitute pasilla chile powder for ancho chili powder in a 1:1 ratio. If a recipe requires 3 tablespoons of ancho chili powder, use 3 tablespoons of pasilla chile powder.

Conclusion

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.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Ancho Chili Powder

Looking to swap out ancho chili powder? Discover our handpicked selection of the 5 best substitutes that match its rich, smoky flavor profile. Whether it's smoked paprika or chipotle powder, these alternatives will seamlessly step in to enhance your dishes without compromising on taste.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Substitutes
Servings 4 Servings

Ingredients
  

  • Chipotle Peppers
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Guajillo Chile Powder
  • Paprika
  • Pasilla Chile Powder

Instructions
 

  • Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
Keyword substitutes for ancho chili powder
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