11 Best Substitutes for Red Pepper Flakes

If you’re the kind of person who always needs a spicy kick in your food, chances are you always have a jar of red pepper flakes stacked in your pantry at all times.

But if you ever run out of it, here are the 11 best substitutes for red pepper flakes you can try right now instead of running to the supermarket!  


11 Best Substitutes for Red Pepper Flakes

1. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper powder is an ideal substitute for red pepper flakes. This is mainly because cayenne pepper is one of the central components when making red pepper flakes. 

Cayenne pepper is perfect for when you want to emulate the same taste as red pepper flakes. However, remember that it is significantly spicier than red pepper flakes. If you don’t have a high tolerance for spice, I would recommend you use cayenne pepper in smaller amounts when compared to red pepper flakes.

It can help liven up stews or soups, but you can add it to any dish you need a bit of heat in. Since its texture is very different from red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper doesn’t work as well as a topping.  

How to Substitute:

Cayenne pepper can substitute red pepper flakes in a 1:2 ratio.

2. Dried Peppers

As mentioned above, red pepper flakes are just a combination of different peppers like cayenne to form a blend of spices. This applies to dried peppers too.

If you find you have a variety of peppers in your pantry, you can make a blend of dried peppers right in your kitchen! Remember that the heat of these peppers has to be comparable to cayenne pepper itself. 

You can use ground peppers, seeds, flakes, etc., add them to a food processor and grind them down to the desired texture. All you need to do is remove the stems or skin which might be present. If you’re in a pinch and need an alternative that can be made in your own house, this is what I would recommend.

How to Substitute:

1 teaspoon of dried peppers can substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

3. Chile de Arbol

With a flavor profile that ranges from smoky and nutty, to being almost the same as red pepper flakes, chile de arbol powder is certainly a viable substitute for red pepper flakes. 

Although it is a harder condiment to find, chile de arbol can be used for in more ways than one. It is frequently seen in Mexican and Latin American cuisines and can be used in seasonings, marinades, sauces, and soups. 

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Despite the similar flavor profile, chile de arbol is a milder spice than red pepper flakes. You can simply grind this spice yourself to keep as much as you need handy.

How to Substitute:

Chile de arbol can substitute red pepper flakes in a 2:3 ratio.

4. Chipotle Powder

Chipotle Powder - Substitutes For Chili Powder

A common condiment in Mexican cuisines, chipotle powder is made from dried jalapeno peppers which have been ground. The spice has an earthy flavor and lends a deep color to whichever dish it is added to.

Although it has a smoky flavor, chipotle powder is much milder than red pepper flakes. This means you’d require more chipotle powder than the specified amount of red pepper flakes when substituting. 

You can use chipotle powder on anything from sauces, dips, and marinades, to toppings for salads and soups. Additionally, the chipotle powder is a great ingredient to use as a dry rub for grilling or BBQ. 

How to Substitute:

2 teaspoons of chipotle powder can substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

5. Paprika 

Paprika - Substitutes For Chili Powder

Paprika comes in several varieties. But the one you should look out for when using it to substitute red pepper flakes is hot paprika powder.

Hot paprika isn’t as hot as red pepper flakes, but it does give a deep red color to your dishes. It provides a burst of flavor to anything you add it to. You can make any kind of soup or stew, or make specific regional dishes like goulash or paprikash with this spice. 

Paprika can also be used with marinades, curries, and dry rubs. Paprika is a common ingredient in several Hungarian, Spanish, and Mexican dishes. What separates paprika from other entries on the list is its numerous health benefits, one of which is aiding in cancer immunity. 

How to Substitute:

1 tablespoon of paprika can substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. 

6. Chili Powder

Made with a combination of several dried chilis and spices like cumin, onion powder, and garlic powder, chili powder is an extremely versatile condiment to have in your kitchen. 

Since chili powder is a combination of various peppers, it has a rich and deep flavor. However, this means the heat of chili powder is extremely variable. It can go from mild to spicy, but it is always milder or has just the same heat as red pepper flakes.  

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Chili powder is a popular addition to any Tex Mex dish and can be used in seasonings, pizzas, sandwiches, salads, dry rubs, and so on. 

How to Substitute:

Chili powder can substitute red pepper flakes in a 2:1 ratio. 

7. Gochugaru 

Used widely in Korean and Asian cuisines, gochugaru is Korean red pepper flakes, made by sun drying and grinding these peppers.

Gochugaru has a sweet as well as spicy flavor profile, while also being slightly smoky. It is present in several Korean dishes like kimchi and soups. Found in most Asian grocery stores, gochugaru also works as an alternative to cayenne pepper.

The heat is similar to that of red pepper flakes, so it is highly unlikely that you would have to adjust its use when using gochugaru as a substitute. 

How to Substitute:

1 teaspoon of gochugaru can substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. 

8. Habanero Powder

Considered to be one of the spiciest peppers in the world, the habanero pepper can make for an excellent substitute for red pepper flakes.

If you feel like you always needed even more heat to your dish than what you got from red pepper flakes, habanero powder can certainly make up for that. Habanero powder has a fruity, even citrusy, flavor profile. You can easily use it for your next chili, chicken, stew, sauce, stew, etc. 

However, apart from the texture, you have to consider the extreme heat of this spice. You’d need significantly less habanero powder to make your dish super spicy.

How to Substitute:

Habanero powder can substitute red pepper flakes in a 2:1 ratio. 

9. Chili Paste

Much like chili powder, chili paste is incredibly versatile as it comes in several distinct varieties! The flavor profile can either be the standard sweet or spicy, or it can be something more unique like fermented, fishy, and so on.

Chili paste has significantly more different uses than red pepper flakes. Apart from being used in dips and marinades, you can also use chili paste as a sauce base or binding agent. 

If you’re buying your chili paste from the store, make sure you read the list of ingredients carefully. Different mixtures and flavors will change the overall flavor of the dish you’re making. 

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How to Substitute:

1 teaspoon of chili paste can substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Adjust according to chili paste and preference. 

10. Homemade Red Pepper Flakes

If you can’t seem to find any of the other entries in your pantry, or maybe they won’t be compatible with your recipe, then you can opt to make your very own red pepper flakes!

Making red pepper flakes in your kitchen is much easier than you think. With a few peppers like serrano, jalapenos, anaheim, and cayenne, you can dry them and crush them in order to make flakes. You can oven-dry the peppers, or use a dehydrator. For crushing, you can use a mortar and pestle or food processor.

You can adjust the heat and taste of your homemade red pepper flakes with the choice of pepper. Just like the store-bought variant, homemade red pepper flakes are a suitable addition to sauces, marinades, dips, stews, etc.

How to Substitute:

1 teaspoon of homemade red pepper flakes can substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

11. Hot Sauce

If you’re really in a pinch, and cannot find anything close to this list of substitutions at all, then hot sauce can certainly work as a last resort. 

Hot sauce lacks the flavor profile of red pepper flakes. The “hot” in “hot sauce” is the only similarity between the two! Hot sauce can be tangy or even a little sour, which is not present in red pepper flakes. Additionally, it is not suitable for dry rubs. It can be used only in sauces, stews, soups, and other wet dishes.

With that said, if you really need to add some heat to your dish, a few drops of hot sauce will definitely suffice. You can also find several varieties of hot sauce like Cajun, Sriracha, or green chilies. 

How to Substitute:

3/4 teaspoon of hot sauce can substitute 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.


Red pepper flakes are a popular choice as add-ons and condiments, both in the kitchen as well as in restaurants. It has a characteristic heat and can prove to be incredibly versatile.

But if you’re ever caught without red pepper flakes in your pantry and want to emulate the same flavor in a pinch, you can now choose from the 11 substitutes for red pepper flakes to achieve that! 

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