Sometimes a recipe will call for chili powder or paprika and perhaps your spice rack isn’t full, so it would be good to know how to replace one for the other. But also what is in each one may determine if you just replace them altogether with the fresh ingredients.
There is more than one type of paprika, using hot chilis or sweet plus you can make it smoky as well. Chili powder will vary but uses chili’s, cumin and garlic powder. Again you can find variation in terms of heat developed. Cayenne pepper is a hot and fiery pepper used in some of these mixes.
Let’s look more closely at the ingredients and a few recipes to make our own as well as the origins of these mixes.
Cayenne Pepper Vs Chili Powder
Let’s look at the differences between these two as I have to admit for a long time I just though chili powder was finely ground chili flakes.
Cayenne pepper is high on the Scoville scale, used to measure heat and fieriness in peppers. Chili powder is made up of dried and ground peppers. Often this mix contains cayenne peppers in the mix. Both spices are vibrant red in color and add a lot more than just flavor to a dish.
Further down we will be going through cayenne pepper in a little bit more detail, but let’s look first at chili powder and a few recipes!
What Is Chili Powder
Chili powder is sometimes called red chili powder or even just red pepper. However it is more than just pepper!
Chili powder offers a little more than just dried chilis that have been ground to a powder. It contains paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, onion powder, dried oregano and ground cumin. Choosing to add smoked or sweet paprika rather than just hot paprika can make all the difference.
So the question of whether cayenne pepper makes a good replacement for chili powder is interesting and you can see that you would replace elements of chili powder by using cayenne. However it would be lacking the cumin that gives depth of flavor as well as the herbs and allium flavors.
We use a recipe for our own chili powder that we have found from this fab site, honestly it does pay to make your own mixes!
Replacements For Chili Powder
I have tried to order these options from the very best replacement to ones that work well, but really only when you are needing a little something. Not exactly a like for like replacement as chili powder is a recipe in it’s own right, but ones that work to give color and warmth as well as spice to a dish.
1. Cayenne Pepper As a Substitute For Chili Powder
If you are using cayenne pepper as a direct replacement for chili powder be aware it should not be a like for like replacement. Cayenne pepper is an ingredient in chili powder but alone it is very hot.. A ratio of 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to replace 1 tablespoon of chili powder in a recipe works well.
2. Paprika, Cumin & Chili Flakes
IF you are using a sweet paprika then this mix works very well to replace chili powder, it is almost like for like. You have the heat from the paprika and chili flakes as well as the depth of flavor that cumin offers.
3. Fresh Chilies, Garlic & Oregano
This is to do with flavor replacements and chili powder does contain ground garlic as well as chilies and oregano, so using fresh ingredients works well. Go for a larger quantity of the fresh to a dried chili powder. This is because the drying process removes moisture but keeps all of the flavor.
4. Hot Sauce
A hot sauce can be a great replacement for chili powder, but go sparingly as it is mainly cayenne and other hot peppers. 1 teaspoon of chili powder will need about 1/4 teaspoon of hot sauce.
5. Cajun Seasoning
Cajun seasoning does include some of the ingredients that are also in chili powder. It has herbs as well as garlic and will make a great replacement for chili powder if needed. Go for a like for like ratio. 1 teaspoon chili powder = 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning.
6. Ancho Powder
Ancho powder has sweet and fiery notes so works well to replace chili powder. It is made from poblano chilies and is not a blend that includes herbs or garlic. 1 teaspoon of chili powder = 1/2 teaspoon of ancho powder. Make sure to then think about garlic and onion in your alternative to chili powder.
7. Chorizo, Fresh Chilies & Green Onion
Chorizo contains an element of paprika and will work well with fresh chilies and green onions to replace chili powder. Feel free to also add some fresh or dried oregano to really give it that authentic chili powder flavor.
8. Chipotle Seasoning
Chipotle seasoning is another seasoning that is easy to create at home from scratch, but if you are looking for a simple and like for like replacement for chili powder it works well.
9. Fajita Seasoning
Fajita seasoning also contains some of the ingredients found in chili powder. Use it in a like for like replacement and you will get a similar flavor, although not with the intensity that you may be looking for.
Paprika Vs Chili Powder
Before I really got into my growing and cooking I didn’t realize that both paprika and chili powder were spice blends, not just powdered versions of single spices.
Both paprika and chili powder are blends of various peppers with paprika ranging from sweet to fiery hot. Paprika includes bell peppers with chili peppers. Chili powder is a mix of paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, onion powder, dried oregano and ground cumin.
Used in similar dishes and with chili powder including paprika can one be used to replace the other? Well if you are looking to replace a hot paprika then chili powder is a great option. If, however you have a sweet paprika then you will find chili powder is possibly too spicy.
What Is Paprika
Paprika can be sweet, hot or smoked. By using bell peppers you create sweetness, cayenne peppers for heat and then you can use each of these in smoked form. Making your own paprika offers a real chance to enhance your cooking.
Paprika Vs Cayenne Pepper
These two ground spices are essential in many cultures and we do not take either for granted, so let’s look a bit more at how we can use them.
Cayenne pepper ranges between 30,000 – 50,000 on the Scoville heat scale. Which means it is fiery and hot. Paprika is a ground spice mix which can include quantities of cayenne pepper, the more added the hotter the paprika. Sweet peppers can be added to make a lighter paprika.
We make our own paprika with smoked pepper and this works very in paprika to offer a deeper flavor.
What Is Cayenne Pepper
You can grow cayenne pepper in your own garden and seeds are available in most garden centers or check availability here. They are long, thin and vibrant red in color. Ripe peppers will need to be dried and ground. While drying and handling your cayenne peppers you should use gloves on your hands!
Due to the origins of the cayenne pepper ( French Guiana) you can see how the flavors would influence a wide range of cuisine. From Cajun and Creole food to Thai and Korean, cayenne pepper has had a role to play.
Chili powder contains both paprika and cayenne pepper. Paprika can include cayenne if it is fiery. So we can see a certain area of overlap for using one as an alternative for the other. Caution should be taken when it comes to using cayenne, due to the heat of the Scoville scale!
However we have also a few more substitutes up our sleeve and thought can now be taken for how to use our spices.
What Next & Further Reading
I hope to have taken some of the mystery out of the different spice mixes and how similar paprika and chili powder are. In some ways it really does open up the chance for you to make your own blends that contain the right amount of heat for your family.
- What Is Cajun Seasoning & Suitable Substitutes
- Piri Piri Or Peri Peri Substitutes & Alternatives
- Best Replacements For Fajita Seasoning
- Chinese 5 Spice Substitutes & Replacements