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The 5 Best Substitutes for Red Pepper Flakes

A sprinkle of some red pepper flakes on your food can instantly change and enhance the flavor.

If you love a little heat, then you need a jar or two in your pantry.

You can add the spice to any dish according to preference and requirements.

But sometimes, you may not have it when you need it desperately.

But the thing about spices is you can use a lot of other things instead.

So, there is no need to panic even when you don’t have any red pepper flakes.

Whenever you need the ingredient, you can choose the 5 best substitutes for red pepper flake which we will mention below.

What are Red Pepper Flakes?

what are red pepper flakes

When you crush dried red chili peppers, they become red pepper flakes.

You can get both readymade stuff and homemade variety.

You can even make some at home by crushing two or three types of dried peppers.

The most commonly used peppers for the spice are cayenne, jalapeno, Anaheim and serrano.

A jar of red pepper flakes can contain just one kind of pepper or several types.

So, some packs may be hotter than others.

Red pepper flake is a versatile spice so that you can add it to multiple dishes.

It can amp up the flavor in soups, stews, salads, stir-fries, roasts, pizzas, curries, tacos and baked items.

You can also add it to sauces, dry rubs, marinades and chutneys.

When you don’t have it, use one of the following alternatives below.

The 5 Best Substitutes For Red Pepper Flake

You can use various types of crushed and ground peppers when you don’t have the required spice.

Here’s a detailed comparison of the 5 best substitutes for red pepper flakes, along with their key characteristics and proper ratios:

SubstituteKey CharacteristicsProper Ratio
Cayenne Pepper PowderCayenne pepper powder is made from dried and ground cayenne peppers. It has a fiery heat and a pungent flavor similar to red pepper flakes.Use an equal amount of cayenne pepper powder as you would with red pepper flakes in recipes.
Chipotle PowderChipotle powder is made from smoked and dried jalapeño peppers. It has a smoky and spicy flavor that can add depth to dishes.Use an equal amount of chipotle powder as you would with red pepper flakes in recipes.
Chili PowderChili powder is a blend of various spices, including chili peppers, cumin, garlic powder, and more. It provides a balanced heat and flavor.Use an equal amount of chili powder as you would with red pepper flakes in recipes.
PaprikaPaprika is made from ground dried sweet or hot peppers. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and adds vibrant color to dishes.Use an equal amount of paprika as you would with red pepper flakes in recipes.
Homemade Red Pepper FlakesHomemade red pepper flakes can be made by drying and crushing red chili peppers. They have a similar heat and flavor to store-bought red pepper flakes.Use an equal amount of homemade red pepper flakes as you would with store-bought red pepper flakes in recipes.

Now, let’s discuss each substitute in more detail:

1 – Cayenne Pepper Powder

cayenne pepper powder

Cayenne pepper powder is one of the common ingredients in red pepper flakes.

So, it can be an ideal replacement in many dishes.

It’s hotter than regular pepper flakes, so use a little less when used as an alternative.

Cayenne pepper is popular in Mexican as well as Asian cuisine.

You can use it in sauces, dips, chutneys, marinades and dry rubs.

You can also put it in salads, roasts, stir-fries, soups and stews.

Baked products also taste great with it.

Besides being delicious and spicy, cayenne pepper is also good for health.

Its primary component, capsaicin, has medicinal properties which can alleviate many health issues.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flake = 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder.

2 – Chipotle Powder

chipotle powder

It’s another common ingredient in Mexican cuisine, made from red jalapeños, dried and ground.

Chipotle powder gives a smoky and hot flavor but is not hotter than red pepper flakes.

You can therefore put a little more when using as a replacement.

You can use chipotle powder in most dishes that demand red pepper flakes.

Sprinkle it on pizzaz, sandwiches, salads, soups and stews.

You can also put it in marinades, sauces, and dips.

It will taste delicious in baked products, stir-fries, and roasts too.

Chipotle powder gives both flavor and color to a dish.

So, you can have radiant-looking food that also tastes amazing.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flake = 2 teaspoons chipotle powder.

3 – Chili Powder

chili powder

If you would like an even more flavorful option, chili powder can also stand-in for red pepper flakes.

Made from a blend of different chili peppers and spices, it can enhance any dish.

You will find a mild or hot variety of chili powders depending on the type of pepper used.

It can be perfect in stews and soups, salads and stir-fries, roasts, marinades, pizzaz, sandwiches and sauces.

You can also add it to baked goods, dry-rubs, and put in chutneys and dressings.

When consumed in moderate quantities, chili powder boosts your metabolism, improves immunity and the digestive system.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes = 2 teaspoons chili powder.

4 – Paprika


Since you can find several varieties, paprika can also be a good substitute for red pepper flake.

The flavor ranges from sweet to hot in intensity and color from orange to dark red.

It’s a suitable option for any dish that asks for red pepper flakes.

Paprika is a common spice in Hungarian, Mexican and Spanish cuisines, but people in other regions also use it.

You can add it to various foods like salads, stews, soups and stir-fries.

You can also put it in dressings, sauces, dry rubs and much more.

Besides being delicious, paprika also offers health benefits and can lower the risk of heart ailments and cancer and boost immunity.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flake = 1 tablespoon paprika (add the same amount if it’s a hot variety).

5 – Homemade Red Pepper Flakes

diy red pepper flakes

If you have dry peppers like jalapenos, cayenne, Anaheim, serrano and habanero, you can also create a homemade version.

All you have to do is dry the peppers using an oven or a dehydrator and crush them in a mortar and pestle.

You will have some delicious-looking red pepper flakes.

The DIY pepper flakes will be hot or mild, depending on the peppers you use.

So, put less when using a spicier variety and more when using a milder one.

The homemade item will suit any dish that recommends red pepper flakes.

You can use it in marinades, dressings, sauces and dry rubs.

It will also taste delicious in soups, stews, stir-fries, pizzas and sandwiches.

What’s more, when you add homemade pepper flakes to your diet, you also improve your health.

Since peppers are high in beta carotene, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they prevent diseases, alleviate problems and improve bodily functions.

Suitable ratio.

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes = 1/2 teaspoon DIY pepper flakes (for hotter chilies. Add the same amount for mild).


With the variety of chili peppers being available everywhere, you will always have several alternatives for your dishes.

So even when red pepper flake is unavailable, you can still make a delicious dish.

Besides the five varieties, you can also use chili paste, habanero powder, gochugaru, chile de Arbol powder, and chili paste.

Add less for spicier versions and more for milder ones, or keep tasting till you arrive at the right flavor.

If you like some heat in your sweet dishes, you can also add it to your desserts and make them unique, flavorful and with a punch.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Red Pepper Flakes

Recipe by Andrew Gray Course: Substitutes


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  • Cayenne Pepper Powder

  • Chipotle Powder

  • Chili Powder

  • Paprika

  • Homemade Red Pepper Flakes


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

Recipe Video

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