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Best Bird’s Eye Chili Substitute (7 Direct Swaps)

Bird’s eye chili is a small but mighty chili that packs a serious punch in many Thai dishes, including curries, stir-fries, and delicious Asian sauces. Though, as with many other ingredients, it too suffers from the same problems: availability in your area or a taste you might not overly be enthusiastic with.

If you’re looking for an alternative to bird’s eye chili, it’s important to consider the heat level, flavor profile, and ingredients. This may seem like a lot to consider but worry not, as my list breaks them all down into digestible sections for you, so let’s jump in and explore some substitutes for bird’s eye chili!

What is Bird’s Eye Chili?

Bird’s eye chili, also known as Thai chili or chili padi, is a small and fiery chili pepper that’s commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine. It’s a key ingredient in Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese dishes, and is known for its intense heat and fruity flavor. It’s a small and thin typically about 1 to 2 inches in length and 1/4 to 1/2 inch in width with colors ranging from green to red, depending on its maturity.

This pepper is a member of the Capsicum annuum family, which includes other hot peppers such as jalapeños and cayenne peppers. Bird’s eye chili also has a Scoville rating of 50,000 to 100,000, making it one of the hottest chili peppers in the world.

Where to buy Bird’s Eye Chili

If you’re looking to cook with Bird’s Eye Chili, the first step is probably to find it. While it may not be as commonly found in grocery stores as other chili varieties, it is still relatively easy to find. Here are some places you can look:

Asian Grocery Stores: Bird’s Eye Chili is a staple in many Southeast Asian cuisines, so you’re likely to find it at Asian grocery stores. Look for it in the fresh produce section or in the dried spice section.

Online Retailers: If you can’t find Bird’s Eye Chili in your local grocery store, you can always buy it online. There are many online retailers that specialize in Asian ingredients, and they often carry Bird’s Eye Chili in both fresh and dried forms.

Farmers’ Markets: Depending on where you live, you may be able to find Bird’s Eye Chili at your local farmers’ market. Look for vendors who specialize in growing exotic peppers or who sell produce from Southeast Asia.

Best Substitutes for Bird’s Eye Chili

Serrano Pepper

1 teaspoon of chopped bird’s eye chili = 1 teaspoon of chopped serrano pepper

Serrano pepper is a great alternative to bird’s eye chili if you need a substitute that’s relatively easy to find. This chili pepper is commonly used in Mexican cuisine and is recognized for its fruity and vibrant flavor, combined with a moderate to high level of spiciness.

It’s also a great choice for adding a bit of heat and flavor to a dish as a garnish and is best used in salsas, sauces, marinades, soups, and more. This type of pepper has a slightly milder heat than some other chili peppers, so to achieve the same level of spiciness, you may need to use more peppers than other chilies.

Cayenne Pepper

1 teaspoon of chopped bird’s eye chili = ½ to 1 teaspoon of chopped cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper is another great substitute for bird’s eye chili available in tons of grocery stores with a similar heat level to bird’s eye chili. It has a moderate to high level of spiciness and can be used in various dishes, including curries, stir-fries, and sauces.

This pepper does have a slightly smoky and earthy taste that might work great in some dishes but not so much in others. So, make sure to taste the dish as you add it and adjust the seasoning to your liking for the best flavor.

Habanero Pepper

1 teaspoon of chopped bird’s eye chili = 1 teaspoon of chopped habanero pepper

Habanero pepper is a fiery alternative with a very high spiciness level that can be used in dishes like soups, stews, and curries and used in marinades, salsas, hot sauces, and spicy condiments. This pepper has a unique flavor profile consisting of a fruity and floral taste, which can complement some dishes but not so much in others. With this said, you should use it in small amounts and taste the dish as you go to avoid overpowering the other flavors.

Scotch Bonnet (Bonney Pepper)

1 teaspoon of chopped bird’s eye chili = ½ teaspoon of chopped scotch bonnet

The scotch bonnet pepper is just perfect for those who want a bit milder taste but still bursting with flavor. This chili, also known as the bonney pepper, is a Caribbean cuisine delicacy with a fruity, slightly sweet taste that complements spicy dishes perfectly.

This pepper has a heat level similar to bird’s eye chili, measuring 100,000 to 350,000 on the Scoville scale. It has a rounder shape and a more pronounced tip and can be found in various colors, such as green, yellow, and red. You can easily substitute them in your recipes, though the heat level may vary depending on the specific peppers you use, so it’s best to adjust the amount according to your taste.

Chile De Arbol

1 teaspoon of chopped bird’s eye chili = 1 teaspoon of chopped chile de arbol

The name “arbol” means “tree” in Spanish, as these chilies are named after their long, woody-like stems. They are a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine and are known for their bright red color and intense heat. Chile De Arbol is hotter than jalapenos but milder than bird’s eye chili, so they’re a superb option for those who want to add some heat to their dishes without overwhelming their taste buds.

As with most substitutes, the heat level may differ based on the specific type of chilies utilized. It’s advisable to use them in moderation, as a little goes a long way in adding a significant amount of heat to your dish.

Jalapeno Pepper

1 teaspoon of chopped bird’s eye chili = 1-2 teaspoons of chopped jalapeno pepper

Jalapenos are one of the better-known types of chili pepper that originated in Mexico and are commonly used in their cuisine. They are milder than bird’s eye chili and readily available in most grocery stores, making them a less spicy and convenient ingredient to have.

The level of heat in jalapenos can differ depending on their specific variety. While some jalapenos can be relatively mild, others can be quite fiery. To ensure that the dish has the desired level of spiciness, it’s recommended to taste the jalapeno beforehand. This will help you gauge the heat level and adjust the quantity accordingly.

Fresno Chili Peppers

1 teaspoon of chopped bird’s eye chili = 2-3 teaspoons of chopped fresno chili peppers

These chili peppers are typically grown in California and are perfect for adding a subtle touch of heat to your dishes without throwing everything off balance. They have a bright red color and a slightly sweet flavor with a medium level of heat that’s less intense than that of bird’s eye chili.

Fresno chili peppers are also not as spicy as some other options, so you might need to add a little more of them to make your dish spicy enough. But don’t worry, Fresno chili peppers can still add some great flavor and heat to your food, so they’re worth trying out in your recipes.


What does bird’s eye chili taste like?

Bird’s Eye chili is known for its intense heat and fruity, slightly sweet flavor. It has a unique taste that is often described as both spicy and tangy. Bird’s Eye chili is commonly used in Thai, Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asian cuisines to add heat and flavor to dishes such as curries, soups, stir-fries, and sauces.

What is the Scoville heat unit range for Red Bird’s Eye Chili?

The Scoville heat unit (SHU) range for Red Bird’s Eye Chili is between 50,000 and 100,000. This makes it a very spicy chili pepper that is not recommended for those who are sensitive to heat. Red Bird’s Eye Chili is one of the hottest chili peppers in the world, and it is important to use it in moderation to avoid overpowering the dish.

Are Thai chilis a suitable replacement for Bird’s Eye Chili?

Thai chilis are a suitable replacement for Bird’s Eye Chili. They are similar in size, shape, and heat level, and they also have a fruity flavor that’s quite similar to Bird’s Eye chili. Thai chilis are normally used in Thai cuisine and can be found in most Asian grocery stores. However, it’s important to note that Thai chilis may be slightly hotter than Bird’s Eye chili, so it’s recommended to use them in moderation.

What other names are Bird’s Eye Chilies known by?

Bird’s Eye Chilies are known by several other names, including Thai Chili, Piri Piri, African Bird’s Eye Chili, and Siling Labuyo. These names may vary depending on the region and the language used. However, they all refer to the same type of chili pepper that is small, red, and very spicy.

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