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12 Excellent Substitutes for Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper powder is a commonly used spice in every household, and the chances are that you may run out of cayenne powder while cooking some soup and stew in your kitchen.

In such a scenario, you can count on other alternatives to replace the cayenne pepper powder in your recipe. The aim is to have a similar taste and the level of spiciness that cayenne pepper offers.

Well, there is a variety of substitutes for cayenne pepper powder that you can use in cooking. Depending on the type of meal you are cooking, you can either use the dried cayenne pepper substitutes, the fresh alternatives or the hot sauce substitutes.

Cayenne Pepper – The King of Spices

cayenne pepper substitute

The reason why the cayenne pepper is known as the king of spices is its diverse use in cooking. Since it is a moderately hot Chilli pepper, people can use its powder in all sorts of meals and cuisines, especially in spicy meals.

Cayenne peppers are recognized by their bright color with a tapered and curved tip. These peppers are dried and ground into a powder to use in cooking. Sometimes the powder is mixed with other pepper powders to change the hotness of the spice. The hotness of most variety of cayenne peppers is calculated to be 30,000 to 50 000 Scoville units.

SCOVILLE UNIT (Hotness of a Pepper)
Scoville is a heat unit, which is used to measure the hotness of a pepper or a spice by counting the number of times capsaicin requires to be diluted by sugar-water (capsaicin is the element which gives the peppers their hot and spicy taste). The number of Scoville Units in pepper or hot sauce shows the amount of capsaicin present in it. The higher the Scoville value, the hotter the pepper or spice is.

Uses of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is a hot spice, and only a dash of it is enough to season a single serving. This pepper powder has a variety of uses in cooking, such as:

  • Soups and Stews

Adding a dash of cayenne pepper to a stew and soup can infuse good taste and mild tanginess.

  • Tacos

The hotness of cayenne pepper is perfect to spice the taco meat and fillings. Cayenne pepper usually goes well in Mexican food.

  • Bloody Mary’s

It’s a popular drink that can take its tangy taste from a dash of cayenne pepper powder added to it.

  • Chili Con Carne

Whether it’s a meaty Chilli or a meatless bean Chilli, you can always add some cayenne pepper powder to have a tangy flavor.

  • Egg Meals

You can always sprinkle a pinch of cayenne pepper powder on top of egg salads, baked or cooked eggs and quiches etc., to give them some flavor.

  • Making Hummus

Adding cayenne pepper powder to hummus is fairly popular, and it is good to season all types of hummus.

  • Seasoning

Likewise, you can add cayenne pepper to spice up meaty treats and vegetable stir-fries.

  • Marinades and Sauces

You can always use cayenne peppers to marinades, sauces and salad dressings.

Perhaps, cayenne pepper powder is a spice that you can cook in a meal or drizzle directly over the meals to serve and enjoy its good taste.

The 12 Best Substitutes for Cayenne Pepper in Cooking

If you suddenly run out of cayenne pepper and can’t get it right away, then there are plenty of cayenne pepper substitutes that you can use in cooking without compromising the flavor of your recipe. Since there can be lots of alternatives to cayenne pepper, here we have categorized them according to the form, so you can use each substitute according to the requirement of your recipe.

cayenne pepper substitute

Dried Cayenne Pepper Substitutes

Mostly, it is the cayenne pepper powder that we use in our recipes, so having considering the following dried cayenne pepper alternatives will help you big time:

1. Paprika Powder

Paprika powder is a dried ground of the Hungarian paprika, which is a pepper plant. The paprika powder comes in several varieties, and they all vary in their hotness. Sweet paprika is the mildest, and the hot or Spanish paprika is the hottest, which is produced by grinding Chilli peppers and bell peppers.

cayenne pepper substitute - Paprika Powder

What is the difference between cayenne pepper and paprika powder?

Ground paprika can substitute cayenne pepper, but you will have to keep the difference of their hotness in mind. Cayenne is spicier than paprika powder, so you will need to replace a dash of cayenne powder with at least double the amount of paprika powder to get the same level of hotness. The paprika powder has 250-1000 Scoville units of hotness which is far less than the 30-50,000 units of cayenne pepper.

2. Chile Powder

Chile or Chilli powder is another great option to replace the cayenne powder. Chile powder has an additional smoky flavor, so you can use it to season steaks and other meaty treats.

cayenne pepper substitute - Chile Powder

Cayenne vs Chili Powder – What Is The Difference?

Cayenne pepper powder is almost eight times hotter than Chilli powder. And that’s the difference you must keep in mind before using the Chilli powder as a replacement.

3.  Gochugaru

Gochugaru is commonly used in Korean cuisine, and it is prepared using a mix of dried and ground red peppers and red pepper flakes. This substitute for cayenne pepper has a smoky and earthy taste with a coarse texture. Since gochugaru has the same level of hotness as that of cayenne pepper, it can replace it in an equal amount.

cayenne pepper substitute - Gochugaru

4. Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are prepared by crushing dried Fresno or Anaheim peppers, and both of them are considered as mildly hot pepper as compared to cayenne pepper which is medium hot.

cayenne pepper substitute

Cayenne Pepper Vs Red Pepper Flakes:

Besides the difference between hotness, the texture is also different, so you can replace cayenne pepper with red pepper flakes for toppings and recipes like pizza. You can replace cayenne pepper with red pepper flakes by using 1.5 times the amount.

5. Black Pepper

Black pepper does not belong to the other category of spices from this list, as it is prepared by grinding the black peppercorns. But the hotness of this spice can be used to give the food a spicy flavor. Remember that adding black pepper to a meal will not give it the red color you can get from cayenne peppers, it’s only the hotness that will work to replace the cayenne peppers.

cayenne pepper substitute - Black Pepper

6. Chipotle Pepper

If you are looking for a really hot flavored cayenne pepper substitute for cayenne pepper, then the dried and ground chipotle pepper is suitable. Due to its hot, smoky flavor, this pepper is widely used in Mexican cuisine.

cayenne pepper substitute - Chipotle Pepper

Chipotle is probably not a great substitute for cayenne pepper as it gives brownish-red color to the meals. But you can always replace the cayenne pepper with chipotle pepper in different BBQ recipes, in seasoning rubs, marinades and glazes.

Fresh Cayenne Pepper Alternatives

Cayenne pepper taste can also be replaced with fresh pepper alternatives. Here are some options that you can go for:

7. Tabasco Pepper

Heat wise, tabasco pepper is the closest match to cayenne peppers. It is particularly useful to make salads, snacks and starters etc. Dried tabasco pepper is used to make hot sauces.

cayenne pepper substitute - tabasco Pepper

8. Serrano Pepper

Serrano is a Mexican chili pepper. Its heat is 10,000 to 23,000 Scoville units which makes it hotter than jalapenos but less hot than the rest of the fresh cayenne peppers substitutes shared in this list. It is commonly used in making salsa and Pico de Gallo.

cayenne pepper substitute - Serrano Pepper

How to substitute cayenne pepper with Serrano?

This green colored pepper can replace cayenne pepper in sauces, dips, and stews. Chop the serrano pepper finely or blend it along with its seeds with other ingredients for good use. 

9. Jalapeno Pepper

Jalapenos are milder in hotness than cayenne pepper. They stand at 2500 to 8000 Scoville unit which means that cayenne pepper is 12 times hotter than the jalapeno peppers. So, use them according to their hotness in your meals.

cayenne pepper substitute - Jalapeno Pepper

10. Fresh Thai Pepper

Thai peppers are twice as hot as the cayenne pepper as they have 50,000 to 1 lac Scoville units of hotness. So, you will have to use Thai pepper in half the amount to replace a certain amount of cayenne pepper in a recipe.

cayenne pepper substitute - Fresh Thai Pepper

11. Fresh Habanero Pepper

Habanero pepper is the hottest of all; it stands at 100,000 and 350,000 Scoville units. So, it is 4-5 times hotter than the cayenne pepper powder. You can mix the habanero pepper with other ingredients in sauces to make it taste equal in hotness to cayenne pepper.

cayenne pepper substitute - Fresh Habanero Pepper

Hot Sauce Substitutes for Cayenne Pepper Powder

There are some sauces that can serve as the best replacement for cayenne pepper, and those include:

12. Tabasco Hot Sauce

As the name indicates, this sauce is made from tabasco pepper, so naturally, it is a good substitute for cayenne pepper. It has the same level of heat as cayenne pepper. It is easier to find in stores and has a vinegar infused taste.

cayenne pepper substitute - Tabasco Hot Sauce

13. Frank’s Red-hot Sauce

This red-hot sauce is prepared using a blend of aged cayenne peppers with other ingredients, so it is best to replace cayenne peppers in any recipe. Since sauce has a mix of ingredients, it has a less intense taste than the cayenne pepper.  So, eight drips of hot sauce can replace ½ tsp cayenne pepper.

cayenne pepper substitute - Frank’s Red-hot Sauce

Table: Substitutes for Cayenne Pepper and Their Hotness

The following table will help you understand the relative hotness of all the cayenne pepper substitutes

Paprika Powder 250-1000 Tabasco Pepper 30-50k Tabasco Sauce 50,000
Chile Powder 500-1500 Serrano Pepper 10-25K Frank’s Red-Hot Sauce 450
Gochugaru Powder 4000-8000 Jalapeno Peppers 2500-8000
Red Pepper Flakes 15-30k Thai Pepper 50K- 1 Lac
Black Pepper 100,000 Habanero Pepper 1 lac-350k
Chipotle Pepper 2500-8000

Spicy Facts about Cayenne Pepper

The word cayenne is derived from the “kyynha” of the old Tupi language, which means “capsicum.” The pepper may also be named after the Cayenne Town in French Guiana.

The cayenne pepper belongs to the capsicum annuum species of plant. There are several cultivars of this pepper like cayenne sweet, cow-horn, cayenne Indonesian etc., which vary in color from red to yellow and purple. However, red cayenne pepper with a pointed and curved tip is the most variety of all.

Homemade Cayenne Powder Recipe

It is interesting to note here that you can prepare your own cayenne powder at home. Sure, this is a lengthy and time taking process, but at the end of it, you will have a complete batch of cayenne pepper powder freshly made using organic ingredients.

To make 3 tablespoons of cayenne pepper powder, you will need 4 ounces of fresh cayenne pepper. Place these peppers in a dehydrator and dehydrate for 8 hours at 135 degrees F.

cayenne pepper substitute

Once dehydrated, you can either crush or grind the peppers to get a fine powder. Voila! Your very own cayenne pepper powder is ready to use. Always store this powder in a dry airtight container.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is cayenne pepper really hot?
Yes, it is ranked at the upper mid-level of hotness which is measured to be 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units. The cayenne pepper is 12 times hotter than the jalapenos and three times hotter than the serrano pepper.
Can I substitute chipotle pepper for cayenne pepper?
Chipotle pepper is prepared from dried jalapeno peppers once they are smoked and dried. And that gives them an earthy flavor which is only suitable for barbeque recipes. Chipotle peppers also have a brown color
Is curry powder and cayenne pepper powder the same?
No, cayenne pepper powder is a dried and ground cayenne pepper, whereas curry powder is a blended mix of spices like cardamom and turmeric with dried herbs.

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