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Best Chili Flakes Substitute (8 Alternatives)

When it comes to adding flavor and heat to my meals, chili flakes are always within hand reach when I’m cooking. They add a delicious flavor and a hint of heat to my dishes, like pasta, pizza, sauces, and curries. However, there are times when I run out of chili flakes or want to try something different. 

Fortunately, there are many chili flakes substitutes out there that can still provide the same level of heat and flavor to my dishes, and in this article, I’ll be sharing my top eight chili flakes substitutes with you.

These alternatives include paprika chipotle powder and chile de arbol, but if you’re looking for spicier options, there are always cayenne peppers, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. 

No matter your preference, there’s a chili flakes alternative out there that can add the perfect amount of heat and flavor to your meals. But before we get into some alternatives for chili flakes, let’s know what it is first.

What Are Chili Flakes?

Chili flakes are small pieces of dried chili peppers commonly used in cuisines worldwide, such as Mexican, Italian, and Thai. They are quite concentrated regarding heat and flavor, so a little will always go a long way. 

Apart from adding heat, chili flakes also have a unique flavor that can vary depending on the type of chili pepper used. Some chili flakes have a smoky or earthy flavor, while others are more fruity or floral.

You can also easily adjust the level of spiciness in any dish by adding more or less chili flakes. However, they’re not as potent as chili powder, which is made by grinding dried chili peppers into a fine powder.

When is it Used in Cooking?

Chili flakes are mainly used in Italian, Mexican, and Asian dishes. In Italian cuisine, chili flakes are commonly added to pasta dishes, pizzas, and various Asian sauces to provide a mild to moderate heat and depth of flavor. 

Mexican cuisine uses chili flakes in dishes such as tacos, burritos, and salsas to add a spicy kick that complements the other flavors in the food. In Asian cuisine, chili flakes are used in stir-fries, noodle dishes, and curries to add a layer of heat and complexity to the dish.

Best Chili Flakes Substitute

Cayenne Pepper

1 teaspoon of chili flakes = 1/2 teaspoon of chopped cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper can be another excellent alternative for chili flakes when you want a slightly sweet and spicy flavor. Both spices have a similar level of spiciness, but cayenne pepper has a more complex flavor profile that tops its rival. 

Sprinkling cayenne pepper on top of your food can give it a spicy kick that will awaken your taste buds and add depth to the flavor. It also packs some health benefits, such as boosting metabolism and aiding digestion, which makes it a healthy alternative to chili flakes.

Chili Powder

1 teaspoon of chili flakes = 1 teaspoon of chili powder

Chili powder can be a great substitute for chili flakes when you need to add a little heat and spice to your dish. While chili flakes are made from crushed, dried chili peppers, chili powder is a blend of spices that typically includes chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and oregano. This means that chili powder can bring a more delicious and unique flavor profile to your dish than chili flakes alone. 

Chili Paste

1 teaspoon of chili flakes = 3 teaspoons of chili paste 

Chili paste is a versatile paste form that can be perfect for adding a richer and smoother texture to your dish. One way to incorporate chili paste is by adding a dollop on top of your food. This method can be especially effective for dishes like pizza, roasted vegetables, or grilled meats. The combination of spices and other flavorings in this spicy paste can also add a nice, flavorful touch to your dish.  

Sriracha/Hot Sauce

1 teaspoon of chili flakes = 1 teaspoon of sriracha or hot sauce

Sriracha and hot sauce are a great, cost-friendly way to add spice to your dishes, from eggs and sandwiches to stir-fries and soups. One benefit of using them is that they’re a liquid seasoning, making them easy to drizzle over your food. But keep in mind that many brands of hot sauce and sriracha offer different levels of heat, so you can choose one that suits your taste preferences.

Chipotle Powder

1 teaspoon of chili flakes = 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder

Chipotle powder is a delicious and flavorful spice that can add a delicious smoky and spicy flavor to your dish. Made from smoked and dried jalapeño peppers, chipotle powder can add a unique smokey and spicy flavor to your food. This powder can also range in spiciness but generally offers a moderate to hot kick, making it a favorite among spice enthusiasts.

It’s a key ingredient in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine, frequently used in salsas, marinades, rubs, and delicious sauces. Its smoky profile pairs beautifully with meats, beans, and vegetables, elevating the overall taste profile with a distinctive, bold character. Chipotle powder can also be picked up at most grocery stores and is perfect for sprinkling on top of dishes like chili, tacos, or roasted vegetables. 


1/4 teaspoon of chili flakes = 1 teaspoon of paprika

Paprika is a vibrant spice derived from dried and ground peppers. Varieties like sweet, smoked, and hot offer diverse flavors and colors, from red to orange. Often used as a garnish or flavor enhancer, paprika is a key ingredient in dishes like goulash and chorizo. One way to use paprika as a topping is by sprinkling it over dishes like roasted potatoes, grilled meats, or deviled eggs.

Chile De Arbol

1 teaspoon of chili flakes = 1/2 teaspoon of chopped chile de arbol

Chile de arbol is a tasty and versatile dried chili pepper that can be used as a topping for a more spicy touch to your dish. These peppers are perfect for sprinkling on top of dishes like pizza, roasted vegetables, and soups. They can also be used as a finishing touch for dishes like ceviche or grilled meats, where their bright red color and medium to high level of spiciness can add depth and complexity to the dish.

Dried Peppers

1 teaspoon of chili flakes = 1/2 teaspoon of chopped dried peppers

Dried peppers are a fantastic substitute for chili flakes if you’re after a similar flavor and spicy. Depending on the type of dried pepper you choose, you can add anything from a mild to an extremely hot flavor. Some popular types of dried peppers include ancho, guajillo, and pasilla. 

These peppers can be used as a topping for dishes like enchiladas, tamales, and chiles rellenos, where they can add a smoky and spicy flavor. Dried peppers can also be used to make a variety of salsas, like salsa roja or salsa verde, which can be used as a topping for tacos, tostadas, or grilled meats.

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