8 Spicy Substitutes to Use in Place of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper has a great flavor profile. Easily to find in powdered form, cayenne pepper is a great way to add just enough heat to any dish. Ground cayenne pepper comes from, you guessed it, fresh cayenne peppers which is a type of chili pepper. Cayenne peppers are long, thin peppers with a red color similar to a cherry. With the scientific name Capsicum annum, they're in the nightshade family and are distantly related to potatoes, eggplants and tomatoes. Although they originally came from South America, this tasty and versatile pepper is popular throughout the world.

Along with being beloved in a wide variety of cuisines, cayenne peppers have some impressive health benefits. Known to lower blood pressure, help digestion, as well as many other benefits, cayenne pepper is great to incorporate in any diet. They're also a great source of vitamins and nutrients, like vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin K. Although the powdered form has less benefits than fresh peppers, either is a great way to boost the immune system and provide your body with nutrients. However, sometimes we run out of even the most popular ingredients, which is why it's good to know how to substitute for cayenne pepper.

This spicy seasoning packs the heal level and is rated at 30,000-50,000 Scoville Heat Units on the Scoville Scale. For perspective, a jalapeño pepper is only 5,000 SHO, so be careful! If you're looking for a convenient way to increase the spiciness in a dish or spice rub, make sure you have cayenne pepper on hand. Cayenne pepper is a tasty addition to a wide variety of dishes. It goes great in stir fries or soups, and is especially popular on top of pizza. However, you can use it in essentially any dish that would be improved with some extra spice.

However, there are times when the jar of cayenne pepper runs out or it just isn't in the spice rack. When this happens, don't make a run for the grocery store! There are plenty of good substitutes that won't sacrifice flavor or heat. Although none of these options are the exact same spice level or flavor as cayenne pepper, they'll all do the trick to add a kick to your dish when you've run out of cayenne pepper. Since some of these are spicier than others, make sure to add gradually and taste as you go to ensure that your dish is the right level of spice for you.

Check out some of our favorite cayenne pepper substitutes below.

1. Red Pepper Flakes

A common spice, you probably have a jar of red pepper flakes sitting on your spice rack right now. Swapping in red chili flakes will usually work as a cayenne pepper substitute, just keep in mind that they have a different texture. Still, in a pinch, red pepper flakes work just fine when you need to add heat to a dish.

2. Paprika

Paprika has a smoky flavor, comes in a powdered form and is easy to find at the grocery store. You might see a few common varieties: basic paprika, Hungarian, and Spanish paprika. These varieties have different heat levels that run from mild to hot.

When you only want little heat, go for basic paprika. If you only have regular paprika on hand, but still want some spice, just double the amount of paprika. Hungarian paprika has a deep red color, tends to be a bit sweeter, but will still bring the heat. Spanish paprika is made with smoked peppers, giving you a mix of heat and smoke.

3. Chili Powder

Red chili spice in glass bowl with herbs on dark table

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Chili powder is made from a variety of chili peppers that are dried and ground. It might not be as hot, but will still work as a good substitute.

4. Hot Sauce

hot sauce on table

Your favorite hot sauce or Tabasco sauce work nicely as a replacement for cayenne pepper. Add in a few dashes and you might not even realize you're missing out on cayenne powder.

5. Thai Peppers

Thai food ingredients, Spices and herbs for cooking

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You might be able to find fresh Thai peppers at the store, but if you can't, most carry dried Thai peppers. I'll warn you though, they're hot! Ranging from 50,000-100,000 Scoville Heat Units, if you don't mind the spiciness, Thai peppers will work for you.

6. Gochugaru

Popular in Korean cooking, gochugaru is a blend of red pepper flakes and has a vibrant red color. It has a somewhat smoky flavor, but will still give you the heat you want. Gochugaru is commonly used when making kimchi and other dipping sauces, but is also suitable as a cayenne pepper substitute.

7. Serrano Peppers

Raw Green Organic Serrano Peppers

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Serrano peppers are a type of hot pepper and happen to be just as spicy as ground cayenne pepper, so if you don't mind using fresh peppers in your dish, try out serranos.

8. Jalapeño Peppers

jalapeno pepper

Jalapeño peppers might not be as hot as serrano peppers, but using jalapeño peppers in place of cayenne pepper will still give you the heat you need to get the job done.

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READ MORE: 5 Chili Powder Substitutes that Bring All the Flavor and Kick You Need