10 Spicy Substitutes For Chili Powder (#5 Is the Best)

When I was growing up, my mom always had a jar of chili powder in the pantry. It was a key ingredient in all of her chili recipes, and she never made anything without it. So, when I moved out on my own and started cooking for myself, I made sure to buy a jar of chili powder too.

But then, one day, I ran out. And you know what? I didn’t have time to go to the store. So, I had to get creative and find a substitute for chili powder.

I tried a few different things before finally settling on one that worked well. This led to my effort in compiling this list of alternatives for chili powder that you can use in a pinch.

While some of these substitutes will give your food a different flavor, they will all provide the same chili powder-like heat that you’re looking for. So, if you’re ever in a bind and need to substitute for chili powder, try one of these options!

Substitutes For Chili Powder

  1. Cumin
  2. Garlic Powder
  3. Onion Powder
  4. Oregano
  5. Red Pepper Flakes
  6. Black Pepper
  7. Chili Sauce
  8. Smoked Paprika Powder
  9. Cayenne Powder
  10. Homemade Chili Powder


Cumin is a Middle Eastern spice that can be used as a chili powder substitute. When using cumin as a replacement, use a ratio of one teaspoon of cumin seeds for every one tablespoon of chili powder.

Cumin has a warm, earthy flavor and can be purchased pre-ground or in whole seed form. If using whole seeds, toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes before grinding. If you’re using cumin seeds instead of cumin powder, use one and a half teaspoons of cumin seeds for every tablespoon of chili powder.

If you’re cooking Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin, or Mexican food, and don’t have chili powder at hand, Cumin can be a great substitute.

Garlic Powder

According to many culinary experts, garlic powder is an excellent substitute for chili powder. In terms of flavor, the two spices are very similar, with garlic powder providing a slightly milder taste.

Garlic powder is an ingredient used to make chili powder. When substituting garlic powder for chili powder, the general rule is to use a 1:1/2 ratio. So, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of chili powder, you would use 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder instead.

It’s important to note that garlic powder is more concentrated than chili powder, so you may need to use a bit less of it to achieve the desired flavor. If you want to replicate the taste accurately, use a blend of oregano and garlic powder.

Garlic powder is the best substitute for chili powder in soups, stews, sauces, and marinades.

Onion Powder

One common chili powder substitute is onion powder. This powder is simply finely grounded dehydrated onions. Onion powder is a key ingredient in chili powder, which makes it an excellent substitute.

Onion powder has a more concentrated flavor, so keep that in mind when coming up with a ratio. It also has a sweet flavor, so combine it with cayenne, pepper, and garlic powder to create the same taste as chili powder.

It’s not an ideal substitute in all cases as it might add sweetness to the dish. However, it can work well in certain dishes, such as sweet and sour chicken.


Oregano is a great substitute for chili powder. Oregano is one of the most popular spices used in Latin American cuisine.

The best way to use oregano as a replacement for chili powder is to follow a 1-to-2 ratio. This means for every 2 teaspoons of chili powder, you would use 1 teaspoon of oregano leaves.

Oregano has a slightly different flavor than chili powder, it isn’t as spicy as chili powder. But it’ll still give your dish the spice and heat that you are looking for if you combine it with onion powder and chili powder.

It’s the perfect substitute for dishes like pasta sauce, vegetables, meats, and salads.

Red Pepper Flakes

Ground red pepper flakes can be used as a 1-to-1 replacement for chili powder in many recipes.

Red pepper flakes will also add a touch of heat to a dish, making it a good choice for those who like a little spice in their food. In addition, this substitution is perfect for dishes like spaghetti sauce, soups, sausages, pizza sauce, and pickling mixtures.

Black Pepper

If you find yourself out of chili powder and in need of substitution, black pepper is a great option. In most cases, you can simply use a 1:1 ratio of black pepper to chili powder, but for a more complex and accurate flavor, a blend of black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder will work the best.

This substitution will work best in dishes where the chili powder is used for flavor rather than color. However, black pepper does have some heat to it, so you may want to adjust the amount you use according to your personal preferences.

Chili Sauce

Chili sauce is made from tomatoes, vinegar, spices, and yes, chili peppers, which is why it has a similar flavor profile to chili powder. It is also a good substitute to add flavor and heat to dishes in the same way.

However, chili sauce is more liquid than chili powder. So it’s better to alter the moisture content in the recipe when using chili sauce.

Chili sauce is also milder than chili powder, so you may need to use more of it to achieve the desired level of heat. Combined with cumin and oregano, it makes an excellent substitution.

Smoked Paprika Powder

Smoked paprika powder is great for when you want the flavor of smoked chili without the heat. As smoked paprika powder already has a smoky flavor, it will not need any other smoked peppers to be added.

The difference between the two is that smoked paprika powder has a lower Scoville rating and is, therefore, less spicy. This makes it a good choice for those who want a smoky taste without the heat.

Cayenne Powder

Cayenne pepper is a chili pepper that is dried and ground into a powder. It is one of the most popular spices used in Mexican cuisine.

When looking for a substitute for chili powder, cayenne pepper is a good option. It has a similar flavor to chili powder and also adds heat to a dish. In addition, it has a hot, fiery flavor that compliments dishes like chicken, seafood, and rice.

Homemade Chili Powder

If you’re out of chili powder or can’t find any at the store, don’t worry! You can easily make your own at home with just a few simple ingredients.

All you need is:

  • 3 teaspoons of cumin
  • 3 teaspoons of onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 3 teaspoons smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of ground chili flakes
  • 3 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Chili peppers (optional)

Simply mix these spices in a bowl and voila, you’ve got homemade chili powder!

Not only is this homemade chili powder just as good as the store-bought kind, but it’s also much cheaper. So next time you’re in a pinch, give this homemade chili powder recipe a try. You’ll be glad you did!

Related Questions

What is the difference between chili powder and smoked paprika powder?

Chili powder and smoked paprika powder may look similar, but they have quite different flavor profiles. Chili powder is made from dried and ground chilies, while smoked paprika powder is made from dried and ground peppers that have been smoked over an open fire. As a result, chili powder has a spicy, fiery flavor, while smoked paprika powder has a more mellow, smoky taste.

What is in chili powder?

Chili powder is a spice blend that typically includes chili peppers, cumin, garlic, and salt. Some versions also contain oregano, paprika, onion powder, and pepper.

Are chili powder and ground red pepper the same?

Chili powder is a blend of different spices, including chili pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and oregano. Ground red pepper, on the other hand, is simply made from dried and ground chili peppers. As a result, chili powder has a more complex flavor and is milder than ground red pepper.

What pepper is closest to chili pepper?

Chili peppers are a type of pepper that is closely related to bell peppers, jalapeños, and paprika. All chili peppers are members of the Capsicum family, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants.

Jalapeños are also members of the Capsicum family. However, they typically aren’t as fiery as chili peppers. As a result, if you’re looking for a pepper that packs a real punch, you’ll want to choose a chili pepper over a jalapeño.


To sum it up, there are many substitutes for chili powder. From onion powder to smoked paprika powder, they’re all great substitutes for chili powder. However, homemade chili powder is the best substitute.