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17 Fantastic Ways to Substitute for Red Pepper Flakes

Here are 17 easy ways to substitute for red pepper flakes when you’re in a pinch or can’t take the heat, plus how to make your own!

These are the best ways to substitute for red pepper flakes if you run out or can’t tolerate the spice level.

You’ll find replacements with similar heat, no heat, and even a recipe to make your own.

Use these easy replacements to flavor your favorite dishes when you’re in a pinch!

Red Pepper Flakes 101

Large rustic wooden spoon filled with red pepper flakes over a wooden table.

How They’re Made

Red pepper flakes are made from a variety of crushed and dried peppers that are ground until flakey and fine.

Commercial preparations often use a combination of cayenne pepper, serrano pepper, and Anaheim peppers.

Spice Level

Red chili peppers give off a fair amount of heat. So most blends range between 30,000-35,000 Scoville heat units.

How To Use Them

Red pepper flakes are a versatile ingredient and are enjoyed all around the world.

You can use them to make a dry rub with garlic powder and herbs. Or you can sprinkle them on pizza, use it to flavor a sauce, or add some spice to your favorite soup recipe.

But, if you don’t have any on hand, or don’t love spicy foods, you can try one of the easy red pepper flakes substitutes below!

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Easy Substitutes for Red Pepper Flakes

1. Cayenne Pepper Powder

Various red peppers on wooden table next to bowl and spoon filled with cayenne powder.

Ground cayenne pepper powder is one of the best alternatives because the pepper is an ingredient in red pepper flake blends.

It’s spicy, readily available in stores, and you can use it anywhere you would red pepper flakes.

However, it has a more concentrated flavor because it’s ground into a powder. So you’ll need less of it to replace red pepper flakes.

Substitute 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder.

2. Black Pepper

Large wooden spoon filled with black peppercorns next to pile of black pepper.

Here’s a great red pepper flake substitute for those who don’t like a lot of heat. Black pepper is very mild in comparison, but it does provide a little kick.

It’s also a different type of pepper. Black pepper comes from peppercorns, not chilis or pepper plants. And their spice comes from a chemical compound called piperine instead of capsaicin.

Use black pepper to taste, depending on your desired spice level. But, keep in mind that too much black pepper can make your recipe taste bitter!

In moderation, it’s a great seasoning to enhance the flavors in any dish.

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3. Habanero Pepper Powder

Two habanero peppers on either side of a small glass dish filled with pepper powder.

Habaneros are one of the spiciest peppers in the world. The Scoville heat rating for these tiny peppers is between 150,000 – 300,000!

If you’re a spice lover, this is a great red pepper flake substitute. But, you’ll need a lot less to give your recipe the same amount of heat.

Start with at least 1/2 the amount the recipe calls for or even less!

Use Habanero pepper powder anywhere you would red pepper flakes.

4. Serrano Pepper Powder

Large pile of red and green serrano peppers on a wooden table.

This ingredient is harder to find in a regular grocery store. But, you can order it online or you might get lucky in a specialty food store.

Like cayenne, serrano peppers are one of the main ingredients in many red pepper flake blends. So, if you can get your hands on it, it’s a great substitute.

You can use serrano pepper powder in salsas, meat marinades, pasta dishes like Pad Thai, and more.

Serrano pepper powder is less spicy than red pepper flakes but more concentrated. So you can use it as a 1-to-1 substitute.

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5. Aleppo Pepper

Small metal bowl filled with aleppo pepper flakes on a rustic wooden table.

Aleppo peppers have a fruity flavor and a mild spice level (only 10,000 one the Scoville scale). So, if you prefer less spice in your recipes, this is a great substitute to try.

You can find Aleppo pepper powder online or in specialty food stores.

And you can use it anywhere you would red pepper flakes to add flavor and a little kick of heat.

Use as a 1-to-1 substitute.

6. Red Thai Peppers

Large white bowl filled with red Thai chili peppers on a dark gray background.

Here’s a great substitute for spice lovers! Red Thai chilis are quite spicy, ranging between 50,000-100,000 Scoville heat units.

You can use fresh Thai chilis for stir fry recipes, soups, sauces, and marinades. You can also dry them and grind them into flakes.

The chilis are also available in powdered form in specialty stores and online.

Substitute 1/4 teaspoon Thai chili powder for 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes. And 1/2 teaspoon Thai chili flakes for 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

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7. Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

Clay pot filled with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce on a colorful Mexican cloth.

Did you know chipotle peppers are actually just smoked and dried red jalapeno peppers? You can find dried chipotle peppers in stores, and you can also find chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.

This preparation is great for Mexican recipes like enchiladas and tacos, sauces, salsas, and marinades.

Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce have a moderately hot spice level and a rich umami flavor. So they’re a great red pepper flake substitute if you prefer less heat.

Use them to taste in your favorite recipes.

8. Chipotle Powder

Large metal bowl with handle piled high with brownish-orange chipotle powder on gray background.

You can also use chipotle powder as a substitute. It has a smoky flavor great for grilling and BBQ recipes. And it’s readily available in stores.

Substitute 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes with 2 teaspoons of chipotle powder.

9. Chili Paste

Large square white bowl filled with dark red chili paste on white table.

There are a wide variety of chili pastes available to choose from, with varying spice levels. You can find fermented chili pastes, sweet, fishy, and spiced.

Survey the ingredient list to determine the best option for a particular dish.

And use to taste depending on the dish and desired spice level.

Chili pastes are a great base for sauces, marinades, soups, and noodle dishes.

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10. Chili Powder

White ribbed bowl with orange colored chili powder next to dried chilis.

Chili powder is a popular ingredient in Tex Mex recipes. And it has a mild to moderate spice level. It’s used in chili, beans, and casseroles, and it’s a great ingredient for dry rubs.

If you like less spice and Tex Mex flavor, you can use 2 teaspoons of chili powder to substitute for 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

11. Chile de Arbol Powder

Two wooden spoons with chile de arbol powder and dried chilis.

This substitute has a smoky, nutty flavor. And the same spice level as cayenne. You can use it for sauces, soups, marinades, and dry rubs.

Substitute ¾ of a teaspoon of red pepper flakes for ½ teaspoon of chile de Arbol powder.

12. Hot Paprika Powder

Whole and sliced red peppers and white bowl with blue rim filled with paprika powder.

Hot paprika is made from dried and ground red chilis. And it’s similar to cayenne pepper, though less spicy.

Paprika is a popular ingredient in stews like goulash and paprikash. But, you can also use it for dry rubs and marinades, too.

Substitute 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes for 1 tablespoon paprika.

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13. Sweet Paprika Powder

Small wooden bowl piled high with red bell peppers on a wooden table.

If you don’t like the level of heat in red pepper flakes, you can try sweet paprika instead. You can purchase sweet paprika at the grocery store. Or you can use your oven or dehydrator to make your own.

Sweet paprika is typically made from dehydrated red bell peppers or another sweet pepper variety.

It doesn’t have heat but does provide a sweet, earthy flavor that can enhance a sauce, soup, or dry rub recipe.

Substitute 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes with 1 tablespoon sweet paprika.

14. Hot Sauce

Small white bowl filled with hot sauce next to a red pepper and bottle.

If you’re in a pinch, you can use hot sauce to substitute for red pepper flakes. Any brand like Frank’s hot sauce will do.

Use a few drops of hot sauce to taste in sauces, soups, and marinades.

15. Chili Sauce

Close up overhead view of a clear glass jar filled with red chili sauce.

If you don’t have any peppers or powders on hand, you can use chili sauce instead. Chili sauce can be sweet or hot, smooth or chunky. And depending on the type of sauce, there may be other ingredients like tomatoes and garlic.

Two popular chili sauces are Sriracha and Tabasco, for example. You can use this substitute for sauces, marinades, stir fry recipes, soups, and more.

Use to taste, depending on the brand of chili sauce and your desired heat level.

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16. Gochugaru

Small wooden bowl piled high with Gochugaru Korean red pepper flakes next to spoon.

Korean red pepper flakes or Gochugaru is a great red pepper flake substitute if you prefer a medium heat level. You can find it in most grocery stores and Asian markets.

You can use this ingredient anywhere you would red pepper flakes at a 2:1 ratio (Gochugaru to red pepper flakes).

How to Make Your Own

Homemade red pepper flakes on a white plate next to red peppers.

It’s easier than you might think to make red pepper flakes at home. If you happen to have some dried chilis or peppers on hand, you can make red pepper flakes in a food processor or blender.

You can also dry fresh peppers in the oven or dehydrator before grinding.

Here’s a simple red pepper flake recipe to try.


Use what you have on hand. Popular options are cayenne pepper, jalapeno pepper, serrano pepper, and Anaheim pepper.


Preheat oven to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash and dry your peppers, then cut off the stems.

Add the peppers to a baking sheet with foil in a single layer and place them in the oven.

Bake for 3 hours and then rotate and shake each pan.

Bake for one more hour and then check for doneness. Dried peppers will crumble to the touch. Remove peppers that are completely dried and continue cooking any remaining peppers until done (up to 6 hours).

Once dried, remove the peppers to cool completely. Then, grind in a food processor until the desired texture.

Store in an airtight container.

NOTE: Be sure to wear gloves to protect your skin and eyes.


Are red pepper flakes the same thing as chili flakes?

Red pepper flakes and chili flakes are very similar but have one key difference.

Red chili flakes are made from one type of pepper (usually cayenne pepper). And red pepper flakes are made from a blend of peppers and chilis (usually cayenne, serrano, jalapeno, or Anaheim).

How much red pepper flakes equals one pepper?

One small chili pepper (about the size of a Thai chili) is equal to about 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

Yummy Recipes to Try

Here are some easy and delicious recipes to try out your favorite way to substitute for red pepper flakes above!

Healthy Turkey Lasagna Soup

Bowls of lasagna soup on countertop with slices of bread and kitchen towel nearby.

Creamy Gnocchi With Tomatoes and Spinach

Large black skillet full of gnocchi, tomatoes, and spinach next to bowl of parmesan cheese.

The Easiest One Pan Balsamic Chicken And Veggies

Large white platter of balsamic chicken skillet with green beans and tomatoes.