July 11, 2020

If you’re a fan of Tex-Mex food, then you must love chili powder! 

After all, chili powder is what gives a lot of Tex-Mex dishes their signature blend of flavors. You can use it to make chili, stews, soups, enchiladas, grilled meat, and even tacos.

Given that chili powder is such an essential element in many recipes, what are you supposed to do when you’re in the middle of making a hearty batch of chili and you run out chili powder? 

What other seasonings or blends of spices can you use in its place? As it turns out, you can use quite a few ingredients like chili powder substitutes.  

Read on to find out the ingredients that you can use as a substitute for chili powder!

Chili Powder Flavor 

Chili powder has a mild to moderately spicy flavor, depending on the quantity of cayenne pepper used in the powder. The flavor profile of chili powder is widely known as Tex-Mex owing to the savory and aromatic nature of the blend of spices used to create chili powder. 

It has a tinge of saltiness to it as well and has hints of garlic, oregano, cumin, and cayenne pepper in its flavor. 

Chili Powder Substitutes 

Here are some ingredients that you can use instead of chili powder:


Paprika has a chili pepper base, which makes it a good chili powder substitute. It can range from mildly spicy, with a pimento pepper base, to quite spicy, with a cayenne pepper base. 

So, make sure to check which pepper is used to make the paprika powder and then add it to your dish accordingly. Since there are other spices mixed in with paprika, it will slightly alter the taste of your dish. 

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Crushed red pepper flakes are another incredible substitute for chili powder. Just make sure to use a mortar and pestle to crush the flakes further into a powder. 

Also, make sure to adjust the ratio of the powder in the dish. It is spicier in taste, so you can reduce its quantity. 

Chipotle Powder

Chipotle powder is made from ground chipotle peppers, and it has a rich smokiness that will add a burst of flavor to your dish.

Since the chipotle powder is hotter than chili powder, use less of it in your dishes.

Old Bay Seasoning

You can use this seasoning instead of chili powder in specific cases. Old Bay seasoning has quite a distinct flavor, which is used to bring out the flavor in a crab or lobster dish.

So, if you’re cooking a seafood dish, then you can surely use Old Bay seasoning in place of chili powder

Hot Sauce

If you’re making a stew, soup, sauce, or any other dish with a liquid base, then you can easily use hot sauce as a substitute for chili powder. 

Just add a dash or two of hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Tabasco sauce, to your dish to add a spicy element to it.

Ancho powder

Ancho powder is an essential part of the chili powder blend and can act as the perfect chili powder substitute. It’s made of ground poblano peppers and has no additives. It has a mild spiciness and slightly fruity and smoky notes. It will add that signature chili powder taste to your dish. 

When using ancho powder as a chili powder replacement, add half of the recommended amount mentioned in the recipe.

Taco Seasoning

The best thing about using taco seasoning in place of chili powder is that it is made of a lot of the same ingredients that you’d find in chili powder, except for the darker Mexican chili peppers. 

This is why taco seasoning adds quite a similar blend of flavors to your dish as chili powder.

Tips and Tricks

When you have to cook a dish that requires large amounts of chili powder, then it’s best to use seasonings that match its flavor profile, such as taco seasoning or ancho powder. However, when you need to use chili powder in a seafood dish and are out of it, then it’s best to stick with Old Bay seasoning. For dishes that have a liquid base, you can add hot sauce instead of chili powder. 

The Bottom Line

I hope you enjoyed reading this guide on the best ingredients that you can use as a chili powder substitute. Make sure to follow the tips and tricks that I’ve mentioned and use the right proportions for the seasonings and spices so that your dish ends up with the perfect chili powder-like flavor.

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About the author

Meet Go-Go-Gadget Renee'. Her passion for #kitchen gadgets is matched only by her love for tech. A real #foodie, she's all heart for red wine and delicious meals. #CookingChewTribe

Renee' Groskreutz

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