I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of Kashmiri chili 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 swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The ground version is an obvious substitute for whole Kashmiri chilis. But if you’re after something you already have to hand, try a blend of paprika and cayenne or chili powder. Mexican chilis like ancho and guajillo are also effective substitutes due to their mild heat and fruity flavor.
I made small batches of butter chicken (yuuuuuum) to put different Kashmiri chili substitutes to the test.
Kashmiri chilis are a staple ingredient in Indian cuisine and are normally sold dried. They’re primarily used to add a vibrant red color to dishes, but they also boast a mild heat with a subtly fruity, tangy flavor.
They’re typically used in curries and marinades, and you’ll find them everything from rogan josh to tandoori chicken. I was looking for a substitute that would provide my dish with a similarly rich color and mild spice.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How To Substitute For 1 Kashmiri chili||Verdict|
|Kashmiri chili powder||1/2 tsp||10/10|
|Paprika + cayenne||3/4 tsp of paprika 1/4 tsp cayenne||9/10|
|Chili powder||1/4 tsp||8/10|
|Deggi mirch powder||1/2 tsp||9/10|
|Byadagi chilis||1/2 whole Byadagi chili||8/10|
|Ancho chiles||1 whole ancho chili||7/10|
|Guajillo chilies||1 whole guajillo||7/10|
Kashmiri chili powder (and vice versa)
This substitute may seem obvious, but I included it just in case you hadn’t thought of it.
The powder is made of finely ground Kashmiri chilis, so it shares the exact same flavor profile, and it’s often easier to find than whole chilies!
Remember, though, the powder is concentrated and potent, so a little goes a long way.
In my experience, ½ tsp of Kashmiri chili powder is the perfect swap for a single dried chili.
How to substitute: Replace 1 whole dried Kashmiri chili with ½ tsp Kashmiri chili powder
Paprika + cayenne
A mix of paprika and cayenne peppers is great substitute for Kashmiri chilies.
If you’re into cooking (which I’m going to guess you are if you’re reading this article), you likely already have these spices in your kitchen. And if not, you can easily pick them up from any grocery store.
The paprika lends a vibrant red tint to your dish, and has a nice full-bodied flavor. While a small pinch of cayenne introduces just the right amount of heat, mirroring the gentle warmth of the Kashmiri spice.
I usually start with ¾ tsp of paprika + ¼ tsp of cayenne, but you can adjust this to your preferences. If you really hate spice, skip the cayenne altogether.
How to substitute: Replace 1 Kashmiri chili with 3/4 tsp of paprika + 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper.
Chili powder is another easy and convenient substitute for Kashmiri chili
Chili powder is typically a blend of ground dried chilies and other spices like garlic powder, paprika, and cumin, which results in a more savory flavor.
It’s hotter than Kashmiri chili, but no worries – it won’t set your tongue on fire. And it’ll bring a rich, red color to your dishes.
You can also try adding a pinch of sugar to tone down the chili powder’s spice, or mix some cream into your curry.
How to substitute: Replace 1 Kashmiri chili with ¼ tsp chili powder.
Deggi mirch powder
Deggi mirch powder is a classic Indian spice blend that combines red capsicums and Kashmiri red chilies, making it a near-perfect match in color and flavor.
The bell peppers make deggi mirch powder a bit sweeter than regular Kashmiri chili, but the difference is subtle and most people won’t notice it.
Seek out this gem in your local Asian store or in the international aisle of your local Walmart.
Psst… the reason this substitute isn’t higher up is because if you can find deggi mirch powder, you can probably also find Kashmiri chilies.
How to substitute: Replace 1 whole Kashmiri chili with ½ tsp deggi mirch powder.
If you’re a fan of extra heat, I recommend Byadagi chilies.
These chilies will bring the same bright red color to your dish as Kashmiri chilies. However, they’re much spicier, with a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating of 50,000 – 100,000 (similar to a Thai birds eye chili).
They’re definitely not for the faint of heart! After tasting the butter chicken made with these chilis, one of my taste testers had to ask me for a glass of milk. But if you can get past all the heat, the peppers have the same fruity, earthy base as Kashmiri chilis.
These chilis often come whole but are a tad smaller than Kashmiri chili. If you want a powder, they’re very easy to grind up.
How to substitute: Replace 1 whole Kashmiri chili with ½ a whole Byadagi chili.
Looking to match Kashmiri chilis’ milder heat?Try dried ancho chilis.
These Mexican chilies are actually dried poblano peppers, and they have the same SHU rating as Kashmiri chilis (1,000-2,000).
Ancho chilis have a slightly sweet taste with chocolate notes, which is different to the Kashmiri chilies’ fruity flavor, but not in a bad way. I loved them in my butter chicken.
You can find them in their whole form or as a powder.
How to substitute: Replace Kashmiri chili in a 1:1 ratio with Ancho chilis.
Guajillo chilies are another Mexican chili that can stand in for Kashmiri chili in a pinch.
They’re a tad hotter with a SHU rating of 2,500-5,000, but they won’t set your taste buds ablaze like Byadagi chilis.
They’re more fruity than ancho chilis, and have a smoke undertone, which added a nice depth and complexity to my butter chicken.
How to substitute: Replace Kashmiri chili in a 1:1 ratio with Guajillo chilis.
Other substitutes to consider
The suggestions above are my top Kashmiri chili substitutes. But the list doesn’t end there. Here are more alternatives worth a shot, especially if you have them on hand.
- Other dried Mexican chiles – besides Guajillo and Ancho, you can also use other Mexican dried chilies like New California, Chipotle, and New Mexico. They’re similar in terms of heat, but each brings a unique smoky or fruity flavor. Feel free to experiment until you find your perfect match.
- Hungarian peppers – these work if you want Kashmiri chilis’ mild heat. They’re sold fresh, so chop them up and add them as you saute the aromatics for your dish. Consider combining them with annatto seeds (more below) if you also want that deep red color.
- Annatto seeds – the perfect option if you only want the vibrant red color of Kashmiri chilis and not the flavor; annatto seeds have no noticeable flavor Simply soak a teaspoon of seeds in a tablespoon of neutral oil to extract the natural color.
- Gochugaru – this may have Korean origins, but it works as a substitute for Kashmiri chilis in a pinch. It’s slightly hotter than Kashmiri chilis, but not too much. It also has similar fruity, tangy notes and will bring a bright red color to your dish.
Substitutes to avoid
I came across lots of different suggestions for Kashmiri chili substitutes while researching, but not all of them are good suggestions!
Hot sauce and chili oil were mentioned a few times, but I don’t think these are good options at all. They will only add spice (which kashrimi chili doesn’t have a lot of), no depth of flavor. They’re also more like garnishes rather than ingredients you’d use in a curry.
Beetroot was also one of the suggestions that’ll give your dish a red color, but beetroot has a very strong earthy flavor that will clash with a lot of Indian flavors.
Best Kashmiri Chili Substitutes + 3 To Avoid
- ½ tsp kashmiri chili powder
- 1 tbsp paprika + cayenne
- ¼ tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp deggi mirch powder
- ½ whole byadagi chilis
- ½ whole ground ancho or equal amount of ground ancho chiles
- ½ whole guajillo or equal amount of ground guajillo chiles
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen Kashmiri substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.