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17 November 2018

What is a good substitute for chili powder? If you’ve run out and need to swap in something else for your recipe, here is a list of ingredients that might help you.

Here is the scenario. It’s late and you’ve started your recipe. You’re part way through before you realize – “Oh no! I don’t have any chili powder!”

Problem is, you’re already in your pajamas and you can’t run to the store. Who is going to watch the kids? How can I leave this food half way cooked? Besides, I just don’t want to run to the store anyway!

Isn’t there something else I can use?


While these alternatives may not be ideal and may not give you the same intended flavor and heat of the recipe you’re using, here are some ideas that might help you in a pinch.

What is a Good Substitute for Chili Powder?

Cajun Seasonings

You won’t get the same flavors, but a good Cajun seasoning blend does incorporate chili pepper powder in the form of cayenne pepper and/or paprika. If you have some on hand, this could be a good choice for you.

Check out my Homemade Cajun Seasoning Recipe.

Creole Seasonings

Creole Seasonings are very much like Cajun seasonings, often incorporating the exact same ingredients in various ratios, so if you happen to have a blend on hand, give it a try. There are many good Cajun and Creole seasoning blends on the market, and several can be found in most grocery stores.

It’s a good idea to keep your favorite on hand.

Taco Seasoning

Taco seasonings also incorporate a lot of the same ingredients as your typical chili powder, though most do not include the darker Mexican chili peppers.

Still, taco seasonings offer up a big jolt of flavor, so will definitely work for certain recipes. It might taste like a “taco” version of the original recipe, but is that really a bad thing? I’m game!

Try my Homemade Taco Seasoning Blend Recipe.

Singular Chili Powders

You may not have these on hand, but I keep a number of chili powders that consist of only a single ground pepper for making my own spice and seasoning blends.

If you have something like ancho powder, guajillo powder, morita powder, or even chipotle powder, any of these can work to potentially save the day.

Dried Chili Peppers

I also always have a small cache of dried chili peppers on hand for making sauces, soups and certain Mexican, Tex-Mex and Southwestern U.S. dishes. I always have anchos, guajillos, pasillas and chiles de arbol, along with whatever else I’ve dehydrated from my own garden that year.

You can process these dried peppers in a food processor to make your own chili powder. Or use a mortar and pestle to make red pepper flakes or powder. That’s how to make some fresh spice. Just watch the heat level of the peppers you’re starting with.

Just like my Homemade Chili Powder Recipe, the recipe may be even better for it.

This is my recommended method, though it will require having them on hand.

Hot Sauce

If what you’re really looking for is some heat, try dashing in some of your favorite hot sauce. Any store bought brand will do to bring in some added zest and flavor.

There are a number of great artisan hot sauces on the market today as well. Many of them are made with traditional American chili powder ingredients (Mexican and New Mexican pod varieties). Those would work particularly well.

Final Recipe Considerations

Note that some recipes rely heavily on the flavor of a traditional American chili powder, such as certain chili recipes, so I don’t recommend continuing the recipe if you are out of chili powder.

However, if you’re working with a recipe that only asks for a teaspoon or so of chili powder, many of the above suggestions might help you.

Further References

Drop me a line if you have any questions! I’m happy to help! Which chili powder substitute did you choose? I’d love to hear!


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