19 Good Substitutes for Cayenne Pepper

Are you a fan of spicy food? So you love the thrill of the heat and cayenne your go-to choice? Well, if for some reason you don’t have it around, how about you try a cayenne pepper substitute?

Originally from Cayenne, French Guiana (not to be confused with Guyana), cayenne pepper is made from tiny, red peppers that warm you up just right.

They have become popular in many cuisines and are especially famous in Cajun, Mexican, and Southwestern dishes. They won’t make your eyes water, in fact, they are quite mild, but they do pack a lot of flavor!

Cayenne is one of the best choices for a hot marinade, or for additional flavor in your hot bowl of soup! But there are many ways to get that zing, even without the zing! And before we jump right into it, maybe we should talk more about flavor!

Cayenne pepper flavor profile & uses in the kitchen

Cayenne peppers are hot and earthy. They also bring a little kick, something between a zing and a sort of freshness. They coat your taste buds and give a pleasant heat (they are rather mild, even the hottest versions) and they really complete your comfort foods.

Some people even add them to hot chocolate and coffee! But we’re not here to tell you what to eat. We’re here to tell you what to eat when your favorite ingredient is missing. What can you replace cayenne pepper with? Well, plenty!

Are you looking for a dry cayenne pepper substitute? Look no more!

These powdered substitutes will not alter the texture of your dish. You can count on them for a sprinkle of spiciness.

1. (Hot) Paprika

Hot Paprika

This is made from red peppers and odds are you have it in your cupboard all year long. There are many types of paprika but the hot one might be your best choice to get the heat of cayenne.

Go for it when you want a pungent kick, a little bit of earthy flavor, and a similar red hue in your dish.

2. Chili Powder

Chili powder

One of the best substitutes for cayenne pepper is chili powder. It will transform your dish and add plenty of flavor. In fact, let’s talk about the flavors since they might surprise you!

Chili powder contains cayenne, so there’s that! But it also mixes together cumin, paprika, and oregano, so expect a difference!

3. Red Chili Flakes

Red Chili flakes

Sprinkle some of these on top of your pizza, soup, fries, or pasta and you will forget all about cayenne. Red chili flakes do, however, have a different texture as they are coarse. If that bothers you, grind them into a powder.

4. Gochugaru


If you find it hard to pronounce, you can call it Korean chili powder! Gochugaru can be mild or hot, sometimes smoky, and is rather earthy when it comes to aroma.

This powder packs some heat and also a pungent flavor. It can easily replace cayenne.

5. Chipotle Powder

Chipotle powder

Looking for a sub for cayenne pepper? Chipotle can be a good choice. With a sharp, intense aroma and deep, smoky undertones, chipotle powder can be even hotter than cayenne. And it has a certain complexity you’ll like.

6. Jalapeño Powder

Jalapeño powder

Jalapeño powder is a fine cayenne pepper substitute. If you often cook Cajun or Mexican dishes, you probably have it around.

If you do, you can use it to replace cayenne since they are quite similar. Jalapeño powder is sweet and spicy, and very aromatic.

7. Guajillo Pepper

Guajillo pepper

Quite the staple in Mexican cuisine, guajillo peppers pack quite the kick! However, they can be milder than cayenne pepper. Other than that, their taste is similar.

8. Black Pepper

The perfect option! Mainly because everybody has it around, right? So, if your recipe calls for cayenne pepper and you don’t have any around, sprinkle in some black pepper and ta-da, it’s enough!

Sure, black pepper will bring an earthy, nutty aroma, and it won’t tingle your taste buds, compared to the fresh, zingy, fruity cayenne. But it can be rather sharp, in terms of flavor,

Check out these fresh alternatives for cayenne pepper!

Wondering how to substitute cayenne pepper with the fresh ingredients you have lying around? Here are some options that will make your mouth catch on fire!

9. Serranos


These peppers are known to pack quite the kick. They are hot, but not burning-your-insides hot. And they are quite aromatic.

10. Chile de Árbol

Chile de arbol

Tree chili, aka Chile de árbol, will make your tongue burn, even though they are quite petite. They have a mild aroma and yet a sort of acidity that makes their spiciness even more intense.

You’ll also sense some nutty aroma and a fruity, grassy note. So, they are a good option to replace cayenne and add some extra flavors, too.

11. Tabasco Peppers

Tabasco peppers

Yes, tabasco sauce is made from tabasco peppers. They are popular in Mexican cuisine, and there’d be no tacos or enchiladas without them! They are quite fleshy and spicy too. And they can easily replace cayenne’s hotness and aroma.

12. Fresh Jalapeños

Fresh jalapeños

What to use instead of cayenne pepper? If you have jalapeños around, they are a good option. While they are mild compared to cayenne, they will bring some smokiness and a fresh touch.

13. Ginger


We bet you’d never think of ginger as a sub for cayenne! And yet, ginger (both fresh and dried) is an ideal replacement.

Its pungent aroma, the warming, tingling sensation, and intense, sharp kick will replace cayenne’s spiciness. Not in the same way, but if there’s no other alternative…

14. Thai Peppers

Thai peppers

Are you looking for an extra hot cayenne pepper substitute? Thai peppers are loaded with heat. Don’t be fooled by their size, they are bad boys! While having a fruity, rather sweet hint, Thai peppers are quite hot.

15. Aji Amarillos

Aji Amarillos

Aka yellow peppers, aji amarillos are quite spicy, although their vibrant yellow tone might fool you into thinking they’re mild. If you’ve got them around, they can easily replace cayenne pepper.

16. Fresh Habanero Peppers

Fresh Habanero Peppers

Habanero is the baddest of them all! They are four to five times hotter than cayenne, but if, by chance, all you have is a habanero pepper, don’t hesitate to put some in! While protecting your eyes, that is!

How about a saucy replacement for cayenne pepper?

If you’re looking to amp up the heat of your dish, there are a number of saucy ways you can do it. A hot sauce is ideal for pizza, pasta, stews, soups, marinades, meats and fish, roasts, veggies, and yes, those fries! What do you say? Will you try a saucy cayenne substitute?

17. Tabasco Sauce

Tabasco sauce

Tabasco sauce is made from tabasco peppers, salt, and vinegar. One of the most popular and spicy sauces out there, it can easily be swapped for cayenne pepper.

18. Hot Sauce

Hot sauce

Any hot sauce will do! Hot sauce will bring your plate a dash of heat. Most of them will alter the flavor profile of your meal, depending on other ingredients it contains, such as vinegar, tomatoes, onions, garlic, other herbs, and spices. Make sure to adjust the amount depending on the dish you’re cooking.

19. Mustard


Not your classic sub, but a good alternative to cayenne pepper, though it should be your last resort. It’s even better if it’s Dijon or any type of mustard that includes horseradish, for an extra kick. However, be sure to expect a change in flavor.

So, there you have it: a full list. Do you have any other cayenne pepper substitute for us to add? Do share!

Chef’s Pencil Staff

Our editorial team is responsible for the research, creation, and publication of in-house studies, original reports and articles on food trends, industry news and guides.

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