11 Cayenne Pepper Substitute Options You Can Use In a Pinch

Looking for a cayenne pepper substitute? These 11 options have you covered. From ground powders to fresh peppers and even hot sauce, you’ll find the best substitute for cayenne pepper here.

cayenner pepper substitute options

Cayenne pepper is a popular seasoning that brightens up recipes with heat. The tricky part is knowing what to replace it with and how much of that cayenne pepper alternative to use so that you still end up with the right flavor and spice level.

Check out the quick list below, then continue reading for how to use each cayenne pepper substitute.

Best Substitutes for Cayenne Pepper

  1. Hot Paprika (Best Ground Cayenne Pepper Substitute)
  2. Chile Powder
  3. Gochugaru
  4. Red Pepper Flakes
  5. Tabasco Peppers (Best Fresh Cayenne Pepper Substitute)
  6. Serrano Peppers
  7. Jalapeno Peppers
  8. Thai Peppers
  9. Tabasco Sauce
  10. Crystal Hot Sauce
  11. Frank’s RedHot (Best Cayenne Pepper Sauce Substitute)

Notes On Cayenne Pepper Substitutions

Each substitute has a quantity recommendation for replacing cayenne. The sections below go into detail on dry, fresh and hot sauce choices so you know how much to use for each cayenne alternative.

what can I substitute for cayenne pepper chart

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Cayenne Pepper Powder Alternatives

You have several choices when it comes to replacing ground cayenne pepper. Here are some common options that are easier to find in stores.

1. Paprika

Hot paprika is an effective cayenne pepper substitute. You can use sweet paprika as well, but you’ll want to use the spicy version of paprika if you’re trying to get close to the cayenne pepper heat level.

So, is cayenne pepper and paprika the same? Although they do have a lot of similarities, the answer is no. The biggest difference is that paprika and cayenne come from their respective chilies, and paprika isn’t as spicy as cayenne. Even more, you can find different versions of paprika.

Sweet paprika, as an example, is a common version that is often labeled as just “paprika” in stores. This spice comes from dried sweeter red chilies, such as Bell pepper, which provide a fruity flavor and vibrant red color. This is a milder form of paprika that can replace cayenne powder if heat isn’t as important.

Hot paprika, on the other hand, offers more heat. This version of paprika is made up of a combination of dried red chilies including the cayenne pepper. Hot paprika is a better match to the cayenne pepper heat level.

When substituting paprika, use twice the amount that you would use for cayenne. A paprika substitute is milder, but an ideal choice if you want the closest color and flavor match to cayenne pepper powder. 

cayenne pepper powder alternatives paprika

2. Chile Powder

Chile powder is another versatile option for replacing cayenne pepper. This type of powder comes from different varieties of ground peppers. For example, you can choose something mild like chile Ancho or Pasilla pepper powder, or opt for a Chiles de Arbol powder that has a similar heat to cayenne.

(Note: Chile powder is sometimes labeled as “chili” powder. Check that your powder only includes peppers and no additional spices like garlic powder and oregano. These additives can alter the flavor.)

If you enjoy a smoky flavor, a chile powder substitute is a good replacement for cayenne pepper. You can use equal amounts of chile powder in place of cayenne pepper

cayenne pepper powder substitution chile powder
Chile Powder

3. Gochugaru

Found in Korean cuisine, gochugaru is comprised of a variety of dried red peppers that are ground into flakes rather than powder. This cayenne pepper substitute has an earthy, slightly smoky taste. If you don’t mind the coarse texture and the potential to add smokiness to your dish, you can replace cayenne pepper with equal measures of gochugaru substitute. 

cayenne pepper substitute gochugaru

TIP: To get closer to the texture of cayenne pepper, you can use a grinder like the magic bullet on Amazon to break down coarse spices like gochugaru and red chili flakes (below).

4. Red Pepper Flakes

Can you substitute red pepper flakes for cayenne pepper? Yes, use about 1 to 1.5 times the amount of flakes for cayenne pepper.

Cayenne Pepper vs Red Pepper Flakes

Cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes both offer heat to a dish. It helps to know the differences between the two when using chili flakes in place of cayenne.

For one thing, red pepper flakes are made up of various red chiles, such as the Fresno pepper and Anaheim, that have been dehydrated and crushed. Cayenne comes from the Cayenne pepper plant, which is generally thought of as a medium-hot chile pepper. Crushed red pepper flakes aren’t quite as hot.

Another consideration is the texture difference between the two. Red chili flakes are just that — flakes — and cayenne pepper is powder. It makes a difference when deciding how to use them in a dish. Flakes are much better for topping foods, like pizza, while cayenne powder is incorporated into the whole dish to give it flavor and heat.

red chili flake
Red Chili Flakes

Fresh Cayenne Pepper Options

When you run out of fresh cayenne peppers, you can replace them with other types of chilies. Some of these alternatives are easier to find than others. The following chili pepper varieties have different heat levels, but they all make good cayenne replacements.

(As a reference, the cayenne pepper rates at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units [SHU].)

5. Tabasco Pepper

Tabasco is the closest match (heat-wise) to the cayenne pepper. It’s also similar in flavor.

6. Serrano Pepper

Use serrano chilies when you don’t want the same spicy heat as cayenne, but you prefer something hotter than a jalapeno.

7. Jalapeno Pepper

Jalapenos are milder than cayenne and rank between 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. For comparison, cayenne peppers are about 12 times hotter than jalapeno peppers. Jalapenos are usually the easiest to find in stores, or you can grow your own!

8. Thai Pepper

The Thai chili can be twice as hot as the cayenne pepper at 50,000 to 100,000 SHU. Like the cayenne pepper, the skin isn’t as fleshy and it’s one of the best red chili alternatives if you want the extra heat.

fresh cayenne pepper options tabasco peppers
Tabasco Peppers

When using these chilies as a whole cayenne pepper substitute, you may need to use more or less to get to the spicy level you want. If replacing cayenne pepper powder, for instance, you can start with 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh pepper for approximately 1 tablespoon of powder and taste test from there.

Finally, when using a fleshy fresh pepper like tabasco or jalapeno, be aware that the extra moisture content can change the flavor. (This doesn’t matter as much if you’re making salsa or something similar.)

green cayenne pepper substitute

The green cayenne is the immature version of the red cayenne pepper. You might use this chile because it’s milder than the red pepper with a grassy flavor. Jalapenos can replace green cayennes, although they are fleshier. Be sure to use more Jalapenos to bring up the spice level if needed.

green cayenne pepper substitute jalapenos

Cayenne Pepper Sauce Substitutes

A Louisiana-type hot sauce is another cayenne pepper alternative. Here are two sauce examples that work well as a substitute.

9. Tabasco Sauce

Tabasco hot sauce is made from tabasco peppers, which are a similar heat level to cayenne. You’ll get a more vinegar taste with this sauce, but it’s easier to find in stores.

10. Crystal Hot Sauce

This Louisiana classic sauce is made from aged red cayenne peppers. This sauce has a sharp taste with a medium heat.

11. Frank’s RedHot

The first ingredient listed in this sauce is “aged cayenne red peppers.” Although Frank’s RedHot sauce doesn’t contain the same heat, you’ll get more of the cayenne pepper taste and a less intense vinegar flavor.

You can generally replace cayenne pepper with a few drops of hot sauce. For instance, use roughly eight drops of sauce as a substitute for ½ tsp cayenne pepper. Continue to taste your dish and adjust this measurement to your liking.

tabasco sauce
Tabasco Sauce

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Common Cayenne Pepper Substitute FAQs

Is cayenne pepper spicy?

Cayenne peppers contain an upper mid-level heat that ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). For comparison, the cayenne is at least three times hotter than the serrano pepper and about 12 times as hot as a jalapeno.

Can you substitute chipotle pepper for cayenne pepper?

Chipotle powder is not the best substitution for cayenne pepper. Chipotle comes from jalapeno peppers that are smoked and dried. This gives it a more earthy flavor that’s commonly used in barbeque dishes. Chipotle is also more of a brown color as opposed to the red color of cayenne powder. All of these differences alter the flavor and appearance of the dish.

Is cayenne pepper the same as curry powder?

No. Cayenne pepper is made up the dried and ground cayenne chile, while curry powder is a blend of herbs and spices such as turmeric and cardamon.

Closing Notes

I hope this answers the question, What can I substitute for cayenne pepper in a recipe? It helps to have a heat level and flavor profile in mind so you pick the best cayenne pepper substitute for your recipe.

And, if you’re like me, you might not follow recipes to a T. 😉 Having lots of choices is always good. Buen provecho! (Enjoy your food.)

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Jenny is the creator of Grow Hot Peppers as well as the writer of the gardening guides and many recipes on this site. She’s been growing peppers and all kinds of veggies for over 10 years. When she’s not writing or gardening, she loves eating spicy foods, hiking and going to the ocean.