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Substitutes for Chili Powder – What can I use instead?

Substitutes for Chili Powder – What can I use instead?

There’s nothing more annoying than realizing that you’re short on chili powder half way through cooking a really nice spicy dish. But thankfully there may well already be a few things hanging around your kitchen that will make for a great substitute and really tie the dish together. Who knows? The substitute could even end up being far superior to the original issue. Stranger things have happened in any given kitchen!

What some people may not know is that chili powder isn’t consistent of only chilies. It is actually a blend of a few different spices alongside dried chili. So, it is possible to fake it and adjust until you can successfully replicate the kick that you’re going for in your Indian, Mexican, or Thai recipe.

In a lot of cases, the best steps toward fooling your own palette and those of your guests will involve unleashing your creative side. All of our personal favorite substitutes for chili powder are relatively easily put together blends of herbs and spices. Each of these can be tailored slightly and adjusted to fit the unique flair of the dish that you are cooking.

The best substitutes for chili powder

While it is definitely true to say that the flavor of chili powder offers its own unique set of qualities, achieving a similar flavor profile is by no means out of reach with ingredients you may already have in your own kitchen.

When selecting the replacement you think you most like the sound of, it is important to first consider the effect that that replacement will have on the overall recipe. Some replacements will work better for certain dishes than others. Too much cayenne kick might sit well with some dishes, but it might overpower some more subtle flavors in others.

A few substitutes will be more geared toward Mexican dishes than they are to Indian or otherwise. Of course, minor adjustments can be made to any of the mixes here to enhance those flavor profiles. So, without any further ado, here are the top 3 best substitutes for chili powder

1. Hot Sauce

Okay, we will admit that this substitute does sound a little crude, but sometimes it’s nice to keep things simple. And, let’s not forget that sometimes the simplest solution can also be the best. This particular substitute works incredibly well with more Mexican oriented dishes, adding the kick that the dish would otherwise be sorely lacking.

Naturally, this claim does come with a caveat. All hot sauces are not made equally. Some offer only the kick element and are essentially the liquid equivalent of dousing your recipe in cayenne pepper. On the other hand, other hot sauces will have incredibly balanced flavors behind the initial whack of spice. Some will even have undertones of things like mango to round them out. Such sauces can make a great stand-in, even for an Indian dish.

So, if you are looking to fulfill the heat requirements of your chosen recipe, check to see if the hot sauce in your fridge or pantry will fit the requirements. Try to avoid the exotic and fruity blends for Mexican dishes, or maybe take the risk if you are feeling particularly inventive and are well accustomed to the flavor that your favorite hot sauce can bring.

Every hot sauce has its strengths and weaknesses, and every single one has the potential to be a game-changer when it comes to substituting for chili powder. Naturally, it is also more than likely that your hot sauce will share some common traits with the chili powder you are attempting to substitute for.

One last tip: always add the hot sauce in bit by bit and taste afterward. Some hot sauces are so powerful that even a drop too much can make your dish unbearably hot. We’ve made this mistake so that you don’t have to!

2. Homemade Chili Powder Mix

Believe it or not, it is actually pretty easy to manufacture your own unique chili powder blend from scratch! In fact, for some of us, these become a signature to our own particular brand of cooking. We end up creating a flavor that is specific to us which others struggle to replicate. Refine yours to perfection and you will soon have people asking you for your recipe. Whether you give it to them or not is up to you!

So, to get you started on your way, I am going to post a basic and well-regarded spice blend that can easily be adjusted according to your own unique preferences. That is the great thing about making your own – you get to express your individuality through your food!

So, to get the party started here is the basic recipe that will set you on the right path:

·         2 tablespoons of paprika

·         ½ tablespoon of garlic powder

·         ½ tablespoon of cumin

·         1 teaspoon of oregano

·         1 teaspoon of onion powder

·         1 teaspoon of cayenne

·         A dash of salt and pepper

This recipe will bring all of the flavors that your chili powder would have – while giving you the pride of having created something for yourself. We absolutely recommend playing around with it until you find the perfect chili powder blend for you. For example, if you want to adjust it towards more Indian tastes, mix in some coriander and turmeric.

3. Simple paprika and cayenne mix

If you don’t have all of the ingredients to make the mix above, all is not lost. When you think about it, the main flavor that we notice when we use chili powder is the heat itself. It isn’t really that refined and complex a flavor.

So, in a sense, this substitute has exactly what it takes to fill the gaps in the overall flavor of the recipe. It’s got the pure, unadulterated raw kick of the cayenne, rounded off by the somewhat smooth paprika. In fact, this might work so well that it could fool quite a few people in a blind taste test! However, it is important to get your ratios right to avoid blowing the heads off your guests.

We would recommend mixing it up like this: 2 teaspoons of paprika to every ¼ teaspoon of cayenne. Naturally, adding things like salt, pepper, cumin, cardamom, etc. to taste is by no means a bad idea. It really depends on what you have in your vicinity and what you intend to make with it.

How to substitute chili powder with other spices?

There is no great science to substituting for chili powder when it comes to putting in the right amount of your substitute. The two spice mixes we have given you will work in exactly the same amounts as the chili powder would. No need for any mathematical equations or second-guessing. It isn’t as easy to say how much to use of the hot sauce replacement though. Because every hot sauce is different, the best advice we can give is to add a small bit at a time and taste as you go.

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