I personally taste-tested a variety of chipotle powder substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Smoked paprika mixed with cayenne pepper is a great substitute for chipotle powder. You can also use other forms of chipotle, like chipotle peppers in adobo sauce or chipotle-flavored hot sauce. In a pinch, chili powder can work to add the missing heat.
I made scrambled eggs to put different chipotle powder substitutes to a taste test.
Chipotle powder is made from dried and pulverized chipotle chilies, which are actually the dried form of jalapeno peppers. Unlike regular chili powder, chipotle has smoky undertones with hints of chocolate that add subtle sweetness and complexity to your dishes. It’s rated 2,500-8,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), which means it has a moderate heat level.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Smoked Paprika||Mix with cayenne pepper||8/10|
|Guajillo Chili Powder||Similar depth and complexity||9/10|
|Other Mexican Chili Powders||e.g ancho or pasilla powder||9/10|
|Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce||Tangier||8/10|
|Chipotle hot sauce||Lots to pick from||7/10|
|Homemade Chipotle Powder||Easy to make with whole chipotle peppers||10/10|
|Cayenne Powder||Spicier than chipotle powder||7/10|
|Chili Powder||Has a prominent savory flavor||7/10|
If you want a mild substitute for chipotle powder, smoked paprika is excellent. It has all of the smokey notes but without any of the spice.
Want some heat? You can mix the smoked paprika with some hot paprika, cayenne pepper, or even some of your favorite hot sauce. Aim for something without too much extra flavor of its own so you don’t lose the smokiness from the paprika.
Psst… don’t mistake regular paprika for smoked paprika, they have very different flavors with regular paprika being sweeter.
How to Substitute: Replace chipotle powder in a 1:1 ratio with smoked paprika.
Guajillo Chili Powder
Guajillo powder is made from dried mirasol chili peppers and has pretty strong fruity notes, which give it a sweetness that’s distinct from chipotle powder’s chocolate notes. It’s also not as smokey.
But I wanted to include it because I think it has a similar depth and complexity to chipotle powder and will make your dish just as delicious. I recommend giving it a taste first before adding it to your dish to gauge the difference and if you’d like it.
This chili powder is really easy to find in mainstream stores nowadays. Look for brands like Ole Rico or Amazing Chiles and Spices.
How to Substitute: Replace chipotle powder in a 1:1 ratio with guajillo chili powder.
Other Mexican Chili Powders
Guajillo and chipotle aren’t the only Mexican chili powders out there you can pick from.
One of the most common alternatives suggested for chipotle powder is ancho chili powder, which is made from dried poblano peppers. It’s a lot less spicy than chipotle but has a subtle smokiness, making it a good substitute for those with sensitive taste buds
Another example is pasilla powder, which is made from chilaca peppers. It delivers a rich, earthier flavor profile making it a really good swap for chipotle powder, but it’s not very easy to find.
How to Substitute: Replace chipotle powder in a 1:1 ratio with your choice of Mexican chili powders.
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
If you have a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce sitting in your cupboard, you can use these instead of the powder, as long as your dish can take a little extra liquid.
The adobo sauce is made from chili powder, vinegar, sugar, garlic, and herbs. Traditionally, ground ancho and guajillo chiles are used, which gives the sauce a hint of smokiness. And the vinegar gives it a nice tang.
I pureed the mixture before spooning it over my scrambled eggs and thought the tanginess from the vinegar gave the chipotle a brighter flavor than its powder counterpart.
How to Substitute: Replace chipotle powder with half the amount of pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
Chipotle Hot Sauce
Tabasco makes a mean chipotle-flavored hot sauce. If you’re a fan of Tabasco and haven’t tried it yet, go and buy it now! And Tabasco isn’t the only brand to hop on this trend. There are loads of different chipotle-based hot sauces to pick from.
This substitute option worked a treat for my scrambled eggs, and it will also work well in any saucy dish. You don’t need to add much because they can quickly get overwhelmingly spicy. But a few drops was enough to give my eggs a nice smokey flavor.
How to Substitute: Replace chipotle powder with a few drops of chipotle hot sauce and add more to taste.
Homemade Chipotle Powder
If you’re in a DIY mood, why not make your own chipotle powder from scratch? It’s really easy once you’ve got hold of some whole chipotle peppers. I found a pack from my local Walmart, but you can also check at your neighborhood bodega.
When you have the peppers, all you need to do is blitz them in a food processor or spice grinder until you have a fine powder, and voila – your very own homemade chipotle powder! Or if you want something with a little more flavor nuance, try this recipe from Chili Pepper Madness, which mixes in other spices like garlic powder, cumin, and oregano.
Keep both powders in an airtight jar in a dark cupboard to keep them fresh.
How to Substitute: Replace chipotle powder in a 1:1 ratio with the homemade version.
Another pantry staple you can use in place of chipotle powder is cayenne powder. Just a heads up, though – it’s much spicier than chipotle powder, with a rating of 30,000-50,000 Scoville units vs chipotle’s 2,500-8,000 Scoville units.
Cayenne pepper is a relatively straightforward spice, with not much flavor other than the heat. This is good in a way because it won’t change the overall flavor of your dish too much, but you won’t get any of the smokiness chipotle is known for.
You can mix the cayenne pepper with smoked paprika if you have any to fix this, or do what I did and add some smoked bacon. It wasn’t the world’s best substitute, but my eggs tasted great.
How to Substitute: Start with 1/4 the amount of cayenne pepper and add more to taste.
In a real pinch, you can swap chipotle powder with chili powder. It lacks the distinctive smoky kick of chipotle powder, but it preserves the essential spicy character. And just like with cayenne, you can add a pinch of smoked paprika to whatever you’re cooking to help with this.
The reason I consider chili powder a last resort is because it’s actually a blend of spices, with things like cumin, salt, and oregano added to the mix. This gives it its own distinct flavor that’s very different to chipotle powder and can alter the essence of your dish if you use too much.
One way round this is to mix the chili powder with a purer spice like red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper before using it.
How to Substitute: Replace chipotle powder with 1/4 the amount of chili powder and add more to taste.
Other Substitute Options
The list above features my top substitutes for chipotle powder, but here are a couple more options that are worth a shot:
- Aleppo Pepper Flakes: These aren’t your ordinary red pepper flakes. They have a mild, tangy, and slightly fruity flavor with a distinct smokiness that makes them a decent alternative for chipotle powder.
- Crushed red pepper flakes: If you’re just looking to replace the heat from chipotle powder, crushed red pepper flakes are a great option.
- Gochugaru: This Korean chili powder is spicy and it has sweet, fruity notes that will remind you of chipotle powder. If you can get sun-dried gochugaru, this will also have a touch of smokiness.
Substitutes To Avoid
Piri-piri powder was one of the suggestions I came across while researching, but I didn’t think it was a good replacement for chipotle powder. It had none of the characteristic smokiness of chipotle powder and instead had a prominent citrusy kick that I thought was too different.
Best Chipotle Powder Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 4 oz chipotle peppers, stemmed, seeded, and crushed
- Grind the peppers in in a spicer grinder or food prcessor until you have a fine powder. Transfer the crushed peppers in an airtight jar and store in a cool, dry place.