Ancho chili powder is a popular spice used in Mexican cuisine to add a mild to moderate level of heat to dishes. It can be used to season meats and in dishes like stews, steaks, and the traditional Mexican sauce mole. However, at some point, you may be left scratching your head as to what to do if you run out of them or have a culinary spark for creation. There is no time like the present to consider stocking up on various alternatives to ancho chili powder.
When considering a substitute for ancho chili powder, you should always look toward the spice’s flavor and heat level. This specific spice has a smoky, slightly sweet taste with a moderate level of heat, so a suitable alternative should have similar characteristics to ensure that the dish maintains its intended flavor profile. With this said, let’s look at all the possible alternatives I’ve managed to use over the years.
Best Substitutes for Ancho Chili Powder
Guajillo Chili Powder
1 teaspoon of ancho chili powder = 1 teaspoon of guajillo powder
When it comes to finding a substitute for ancho chili powder, guajillo chili powder is a top-notch choice. This spice is made from dried guajillo chilies, which have a flavor profile similar to ancho chilies but with a slightly sweeter taste. It also packs a fruity and smoky flavor with a mild to medium heat level that can elevate any dish’s taste.
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 teaspoon of ancho chili powder = 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
Crushed red pepper flakes are a flavorful spice made from dried and crushed red chili peppers with a moderate to high level of heat. They can add a spicy kick to your dishes while also providing a slightly different flavor profile.
The flakes also have a slightly fruity and smoky taste that can complement many dishes, from pasta sauces to stir-fry dishes. Though they do have a higher heat level than ancho chili powder, so it’s important to adjust the amount used in your recipe to avoid making your dish too spicy.
1 teaspoon of ancho chili powder = 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
This spice is made from dried and ground peppers smoked over oak wood, giving it a distinct smoky taste. Its key selling point is its mild heat level. Unlike ancho chili powder, it’s not as spicy, making it a great option for those who want a less spicy dish.
Smoked paprika is also a common ingredient in Spanish cuisine and can be easily found in most grocery stores. Although it’s not as hot as its counterpart, you may need to add more if you want a spicier dish.
Red Chili Powder
1 teaspoon of ancho chili powder = 1 teaspoon of red chili powder and 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
Red chili powder is a common substitute for ancho chili powder made from dried and ground red peppers and has a similar smoky and slightly sweet flavor. This powder is generally hotter than ancho chili powder, so you may want to use less of it in your recipe to avoid making it too spicy.
Cayenne Pepper Powder
1 teaspoon of ancho chili powder = 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder
Cayenne pepper powder is made from dried and ground cayenne peppers, which are known for their spiciness. This spiciness has a Scoville rating of around 30,000 to 50,000, which is similar to its ancho counterpart. Although this pepper powder does have a slightly different taste than ancho chili powder. While the ancho has a sweet and smoky flavor, cayenne pepper powder has a more pungent and slightly bitter taste.
Pasilla Chile Powder
1 teaspoon of ancho chili powder = 1 teaspoon of pasilla chile powder
Pasilla chile powder is a unique spice made from dried pasilla chilies, which have a distinctive flavor profile that sets them apart from ancho chilies. This distinctive flavor is its touch of spiciness that it can add to your dishes without overwhelming them, so it’s the perfect combination for those who want a kick and rich, spicy taste. Thanks to its mild to medium heat level, it can also be mixed with other spices to create an even better-tasting experience.
Mulato Pepper Powder
1 teaspoon of ancho chili powder = 1 teaspoon of mulato pepper powder
Mulato pepper powder is an excellent alternative made from dried mulato peppers with an earthy and slightly sweet flavor different from ancho chili powder. Its deep brown color and slightly sweet undertones add layers of flavor to sauces, stews, and marinades. And with its mild to medium heat level, it’s just perfect for providing a subtle spiciness without overpowering the dish.
New Mexico Chile Powder
1 teaspoon of ancho chili powder = 1 teaspoon of New Mexico chile powder
New Mexico chili powder is made from dried New Mexico chilies, which also have a similar flavor profile but still differ in taste. This chili powder can add a subtle kick of spiciness to your dishes with a mild to medium heat level. Not to mention, the earthy and slightly sweet flavor of this chili powder can add complexity to its texture while keeping the other ingredients in balance, making it an excellent ingredient to keep in your pantry.
1 teaspoon of ancho chili powder = 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder
Chipotle powder is a tasty spice made from smoked and dried jalapeño peppers, which give it a smoky and slightly sweet taste that can enhance the flavor of your dishes. Using chipotle powder as a replacement has the advantage of having a similar heat level to ancho chili powder. This means it can add an equally spicy kick to your dishes without being too overwhelming.