7 Flavorous Ancho Chili Powder Substitutes

Have you ever tried Ancho Powder to season foods? If not, then you most definitely should. It is a rich spice made from ground dried chiles or Poblanos. Ancho Powder tastes earthy with an undertone of pepper.

The Poblanos from which it is derived have a spicy flavor with medium heat and some fruitiness. Poblanos are heart-shaped and range from dark red to almost black.

Ancho Powder is most commonly used in Mexican cuisines and dishes. Unfortunately, despite its delectable taste, it’s not commonly found. This was what happened to me; on my return from my vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, my eyes could not forget the sight of the beautiful coast and my tongue, the flavor of María Jiménez’s Enchiladas. 

Therefore, I decided to cook it at home and reminisce about my time there. But at the supermarket, after making several rounds of the spice aisle, I conceded defeat. There was no Ancho powder to be found.

But would it be me if I let this stop me? Once I was back, I took my notepad and a pen and wrote all the spices that could substitute Ancho Powder. 

I tested all those spices in the subsequent months, and I’ve picked my top seven to share with you.

But before we begin, let’s do a cursory survey of what makes Ancho Powder so unique. 

Ancho Powder Substitutes

What is Ancho Powder?

As mentioned earlier, Ancho Powder is a spice obtained by grounding dried Poblanos or Ancho Chile peppers. Ancho chili is a dark smokey chili. It has a sweet raisin-like taste and is a staple ingredient in most Mexican dishes.


Ancho Chili Powder Uses

Ancho chili powder has a list of uses. Some of the most common ones are:

  • It is used as a thickener in soups
  • It is used to spice up tamales
  • It is used as salt and pepper to touch up food


Ancho Chile Powder Recipe

The most famous recipes that call for Ancho chile powder are:

  • BBQ Ribs
  • Ancho Citrus Baked Salmon
  • Romesco Sauce
  • Easy Chilli Soup
  • Spicy and Sweet Potato Soup


Is Ancho Powder Spicy?

Ancho Powder has medium heat, i.e., It has a mildly spicy flavor. According to the Scoville Scale (a scale to measure spice, yes you read that right), Ancho powder is at least 2-8 times less spicy than Jalapeno. It falls around 1000-1500 points.


Is there a difference between Ancho Chile Powder and Chili Pepper?

Yes, Ancho chile powder and red chili powder are not the same. The former is just a powder of dried anchos. Meanwhile, the latter consists of various spices such as Thyme, Oregano, Garlic, and more.


What’s a good substitute for Ancho Chilli Powder?

Now back to our original topic; what can replace Ancho chili powder? There is a variety of powder and assortments you can use to substitute Ancho powder. Remember, Ancho powder is not very spicy, so don’t go overboard with spicy powders even if you have an idea of your own.

1. Chilli Powder and Ground Red Pepper

The first and most accessible substitute for Ancho chile powder can be a mixture of regular chili powder and a small addition of ground red pepper. Red pepper is very spicy, so make sure you add a little of it. 

If you require one teaspoon of Ancho powder in measuring units, substitute it with one teaspoon of regular chili powder and ¼ or ⅛ teaspoon of ground red pepper.

Ancho Powder Substitutes - Chilli Powder and Ground Red Pepper


2. Pasilla Pepper Powder

This powder is one of the holy trinity of spices used in Mole sauces and other Mexican stews and soups. They are widely used in Mexican dishes and have 1000 to 8000 units on the Scoville Heat Scale.

Pasilla pepper powder is also known as the Pasilla Negro Chile Powder. It has a rich taste ranging from very hot to woodsy and mild.

This spice is made by trimming and grinding the long and dark (almost black) pasilla chiles—the color changes to red or dark brownish when ground.

It is perhaps the best sub for Ancho powder. They are deceptively similar in tastes and looks, so you’ll often find Pasillas mislabelled as Anchos at stores.

Although Pasillas are slightly hotter and have an earthier flavor, you’ll find this spice goes best in recipes that call for some meat, whether it is chicken or beef. Pasilla peppers have a mild heat, with 1000 to 2500 SHU.

Chilli Powder and Ground Red Pepper - Pasilla Pepper Powder


3. New Mexico Chile Powder

Unlike the standard Chilli Powder, New Mexico Chile Powder is made of purely ground red chiles. Like Ancho powder in its earthy and fruity taste, New Mexico chili powder also has low heat levels, precisely 1400 SHU (Scoville heat units). This quality makes it a suitable replacement for Ancho powder.

You can easily make New Mexico Chile powder at home by grinding red chilies to a fine powder. Put the powder in a dry plastic envelope. Store the spice in a cool, dry, and dark place. 

You may use this powder in dishes like sauces, ground beef fillings for Tacos and Enchiladas.

Ancho Powder Substitutes - New Mexico Chile Powder


4. Guajillo Chili Powder

If you can’t tolerate the mild flavor of Ancho Powder and wish for something sharper, Guajillo chili powder is the answer. It is a dried version of Marisol Pepper, a thin-skinned chile from Durango, Mexico.

It has a pleasantly sharp and slightly tangy taste. On a scale of 1-10, Guajillo chili powder is rated 3-4 in heat. It has 2500 to 5000 SHU.  

Unlike the earthier Ancho Powder, it has a pine and berry-like taste with notes of green tea. Guajillo Powder can substitute Ancho Chile Powder in recipes like Moles soup, stew, and chilies.

Ancho Powder Substitutes - Guajillo Chili Powder


5. Arbol Chili Ground

This type of chile powder is very hot and made by grinding whole dried Chile de Arbol pods. Chile de Arbol, literally tree chili, is also known as rat’s tail chile. It is very small but potent chili pepper.

Chile de Arbol starts out green but turns a flaming red as they mature. They are used to decorate wreaths, but their culinary uses involve flavoring vinegar, etc. It is traditionally used in Southwestern cuisines, but you may replace Ancho Chile powder in Mexican foods.

This spice has a unique kick to it and is very spicy. Be careful when using it to replace Ancho powder as it has 15,000 to 30,000 SHU. So a pinch of it would be enough for one teaspoon of Ancho powder.

You can use it in Mexican dishes such as salsa or chili. Like most chile peppers, it is a good source of dietary fibers. In addition, de Arbol is rich in Vitamin A and contains a medium amount of Vitamin C.

Store chile de Arbol in an airtight jar in a cupboard or pantry. To preserve the full potency of its flavor, you can put it in the freezer; this way, it’ll last up to a year. Usually, I’d recommend you use it within 3 to 6 months of opening.


6. Chipotle Powder

Our final Ancho chili powder substitute is Chipotle. Chipotle from the word chipotle means Smoked chili. This spice consists of one primary ingredient: Jalapeno, which tastes like Serrano pepper, only with less heat. On the Scoville scale, they have 8000 units.

Chipotle powder is made by drying and grinding the jalapenos. You can also smoke the jalapenos for a more earthy and smokier flavor. 

Chipotle powder is widely used in Mexican foods and has become something of a signature flavor. It is also quite famous among Southwestern recipes. You can use chipotle powder to replace Ancho powder in seafood varieties and tacos.

You can also make your Chipotle powder with cumin, garlic, smoked paprika, dried jalapenos or chipotle peppers, coriander, and sea salt. 

Chipotle powder is rich in riboflavin, vitamin A and B6, and minerals like Iron and Potassium.


7. Mulato Pepper Powder

Unlike Ancho Powder, Mulato pepper powder comes from mature Poblanos. Mulatos are flat, wrinkled, and almost black in appearance. They are the final unit in the Holy Trinity of Mexican spices; the other two are Pasilla and Ancho.

Mulato is commonly used in Mexican foods such as Salsas, marinades, and sauces. It has a deeper taste than Ancho. This savouriness is attributed to the Poblanos. In addition, Mulato peppers are easy to rehydrate. You only have to soak them in water for 10 to 30 minutes.

Ancho Powder Substitutes - Mulato Pepper Powder


Frequently Asked Questions

I came across some troubles and questions along the way, as no doubt, you have too. Some of the questions I was repeatedly asked have been answered below.

Can I substitute Paprika for Ancho Chile Powder?
Yes! The quickest option you have is to replace Ancho powder with mild paprika. Although, be warned that this might not go with every dish.
Are ancho chiles the same as California chiles?
No, they are not the same. Ancho chiles are made by drying, stemming, and seeding Fresh Poblanos. But California Chiles are made from pulverizing dried Anaheim chili.
Which dried chili is the mildest?
Bell peppers are the mildest chilies. They occupy the bottom of the Scoville scale.


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