What are the Best Substitutes for Red Chili Peppers?

Red chili peppers are a must-have condiment for spicing up cuisine. These chilis add taste and flavor to an otherwise bland dish. 

Chilli peppers are one of the most important components to utilize while cooking for people who enjoy flavorful, spicy foods. They are also used for medicinal purposes (1).

Although there are wide varieties of chili peppers, the spicy red types are the most popular and easiest to buy at grocery shops.

Their main function is to add essence to food, whether heat, sourness, sweetness, or something else. You can feel fire erupting from your mouth after eating a small pepper; they are that hot.

Red chili peppers range in heat. If you don’t want your dish to be too spicy, you should avoid using too many of them. Or, you can use their substitutes to keep the spice in check while preserving their flavor.


Red Chili Pepper Substitutes

The following are the best red chili pepper substitutes easily available in the market:


Serrano Pepper

The pepper, harvested while still green, is a little hotter than red chili pepper. The heat level of this pepper belies its rather mild taste (2). The southwestern United States of America is a major consumer of these peppers.

Serrano pepper may not be as well-known as jalapenos or red chili peppers; however, it serves just as many purposes. Since different bell peppers will have varying degrees of heat, you’ll need to adapt the recipe accordingly.

Serrano peppers will give your dish that extra kick of heat you’ve been craving without increasing the number of other chili peppers you put in it, making them ideal for those who value speed in the kitchen and consistency in their diet.

They are easily available in the market.


Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is the well-known finger variety of chili pepper. It is named for its curved, pointed tip. Depending on the conditions, the type of pepper, and the heat level, the flavor can be mild to fiery (2).

You may find both fresh and dried versions of these peppers in supermarkets. The best part about this pepper is that the spice level can be turned up to a high, medium, or low level, according to your preference.

The situation and the type of crop dictate the degree of intensity. You can go to the supermarket and ask for either fresh or dried versions of this ingredient.

All of them are quite spicy.

However, you can get the mellowed version of this pepper, too. When dried, the fresh sweet peppers become the cayenne pepper sold in most grocery stores.


Banana Peppers

A pepper that tastes like bananas and peppers is a unique addition to your favorite dishes.

The banana pepper is milder and tangier in flavor than the red chili pepper (3). It can stand in for the latter in some recipes. It is an exceedingly mild ingredient in terms of spice.

If you’re looking for a red chili pepper substitute and have some banana peppers on hand, the ones that have started to darken in color are the best bet.

They’re hotter and have a flavor profile that’s not too dissimilar from the red chili pepper.


Pequin Peppers

This chili is almost 1 inch long and has a short, square shape. Due to low demand, these fiery chili peppers are more difficult to come by than others of the same type.

They have a distinct flavor, thanks to being smoked over wood. You might find their spherical shape intriguing.

Despite its diminutive size, the pequin pepper packs a serious heat punch (2). When fully mature, they become a brilliant shade of red and have a flavor profile that is smoky, nutty, and spicy.


Jalapeño Pepper

Jalapeno peppers are one of the most typical varieties of chili pepper. These chilies range in heat from medium to very intense and are smooth and dark green or red.

These peppers are a staple in traditional Mexican cooking and are loved worldwide. They are packed with nutrients and beneficial to health in many ways.

The jalapeño pepper is a favorite among many western cuisines, with its fleshy texture and moderate spiciness (about 2,500 to 9,000 Scoville heat units) (2).

The taste of these peppers falls between the serrano fire and banana pepper’s spiciness.

The jalapeño’s fleshy pepper has a slightly sweet flavor. It has much less spiciness than the red chili pepper, making it a great substitute for red chili peppers in meals like sauces, stuffed fillings, and other similar foods.

Some cultivars of jalapeno are allowed to ripen to a vivid red or orange color, making them a suitable visual substitute for red chili peppers, despite the jalapeno being considerably larger.


Beijing Red Chili Peppers

Beijing chili peppers, also known as Yidu chili, chili bikinis or chili pikinus, are tiny, fruity peppers that turn from green to fiery red as they develop (4).

It has the shape of chile and is roughly 1.5 inches in length. It has a square-like shape with thicker sides. It’s safe to say this chili pepper packs some heat.

Finding it is becoming increasingly difficult because they are so rarely seen. Therefore, the population of the breed has been artificially capped.

Their characteristic flavor comes from being aged and smoked over wood. Because of its unique blend of freshness and intensity, Beijing pepper is frequently used to create sweet sauces, hot sauces, and salsas.

A pot of soup or stew can benefit from adding just one or two of these little peppers, which, once smashed or sliced, will release their heat evenly throughout the dish.

This is the way to go if you’re looking for an exotic formula.


Manzano Peppers

The Manzano pepper looks like a strange offspring of an apple and a tomato. However, its high pungency—anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units—makes it a serious contender to the tabasco pepper (2).

This somewhat high heat level is roughly comparable to the red chili pepper. The Manzano pepper’s greater moisture content makes its heat more effusive, potentially even hotter than the red chili.

Manzano peppers are more lemony and sweeter than red chili peppers.

They are great for stuffing or adding to pasta sauces since their somewhat saccharine flavor profile goes well with other savory components.



Paprika is not a single but a class of spices made from several different kinds of spicy peppers. It is another great option when you don’t have red chili pepper or red chili pepper powder.

This is because most paprika sold in stores is made from red peppers. As a result, this pepper blend has a Scoville heat unit value similar to the red chili pepper.

Paprika is a fantastic substitute for the intense flavor of red chili pepper. Still, it can also duplicate the somewhat smoky undercurrent of flavor present in the flavor profile of other chili peppers.


Spicy Tien Tsin Pepper

This fiery chili pepper is native to the northern regions of China and is commonly seen in chicken and Kung Pao dishes (5). It is regarded as the Chinese chili pepper. However, the productivity of these plants in Chile is very poor.

Though having a small and noticeably quieter taste, the temperature of these peppers remains high.

Be careful not to replace it with too much of what you already have. It is known as the Chinese red pepper and can be typically found in dried form and is not widely available in the West.

It has the same form as a bird’s eye chili but is significantly smaller in volume, albeit rather hot than the Thai Jinda.

It’s at a very high-intensity level.

The range of possible temperatures is from one Scoville heat unit (SHU) to 75 000 SHU (5). Therefore, you can get by without putting too much of this pepper in your food.


Habanero Pepper

The Scoville heat unit (SHU) rating of a habanero pepper ranges between 100,000 and 350,000 (2). The heat level here can be 100 times higher than a jalapeño pepper.

When ripe, its color changes from green to orange or crimson.

A hot sauce made from habanero peppers has a distinctive, unparalleled taste. You won’t get the same level of heat from most other fresh spicy peppers.


Capsicum (Poblano) Pepper

Dried poblano peppers are another excellent option for red chili pepper substitutes.

They often have a mild level of heat and a sweet, smoky flavor. Meats and soups benefit greatly from their mild heat and can be made suitable for those who prefer a less spicy dinner.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you compare the heat of red and green chili peppers?

There’s a unique flavor to green peppers that add a surprise twist. However, they are less spicier than red chili pepper because red peppers contain more capsaicin than green peppers.


Do fresh chilies have more heat than dried ones?

Dried peppers pack a far bigger punch than their fresh counterparts because of the higher concentration of capsaicin they contain. Dried peppers are hotter than fresh ones, yet sometimes the fresh ones have a spicier flavor.