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Red Chili Flake Substitutes To Spice Up Your Recipes

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

Chili flakes are a condiment and spice that’s made from ground, dried chili peppers. These flakes are usually red and have a sharp, spicy flavor. 

Red Chili Flake Substitutes To Spice Up Your Recipes

Some chili flake products are sourced from other types of peppers, like jalapenos or Anaheim peppers. Red chili flakes, however, are solely sourced from red chili peppers.

Red chili flakes are often used to give dishes a little heat. They work well sprinkled over savory dishes, like soups and sauces. 

Popular examples include spaghetti sauce, Eastern stir-fries, and regular salads. Some even add red chili flakes to cooking oil, as this infuses the oil with their pleasant flavor and spice. 

Red chili flakes may be tasty, but they can be hard to find outside of specialty stores. 

If you’re out of red chili flakes, the best substitutes are cayenne pepper, chili powder, chili paste, sriracha, serrano pepper, chipotle powder, chile de arbol, and paprika. 

Some of these substitutes are easier to find than others, but they will give your recipes similar spicy notes as red chili flakes. 

Let’s give your recipes a little heat with these red chili flake substitutes! 

Red Chili Flakes Substitutes: Cooking Ratio And Nutritional Value

Cayenne Pepper (1 tsp)5.7 0.3 g1 g0.5 g0.2 g1:2
Chili Powder (1 tsp)7.6 0.4 g1.3 g0.9 g0.4 g1:1
Chili Paste (1 tsp)171 g2 g0 g9 g3:1
Sriracha/Hot Sauce (1 tsp)60.1 g1.2 g0.1 g0.1 g1:1
Serrano Pepper (one) 20 g0.4 g0.2 g0.1 g2 peppers: 1 tsp 
Chipotle Powder (1 tsp)7.6 0.4 g1.3 g0.9 g0.4 g2:1
Chile de Arbol (1 tsp)9.30 g1.5 g0.4 g0.4 g1:2
Paprika (1 tsp)60.27 g1.2 g0.8 g0.3 g12:1

What Do Red Chili Flakes Taste Like?

It’s important to note the difference between red chili flakes and red pepper flakes. Red pepper flakes are sourced from various types of peppers, but red chili flakes are created from only chili peppers. 

Red chili flakes are full of flavor and have savory, sharp, and slightly sweet notes. The chili flakes have a pleasant spice level, but they aren’t as spicy as red pepper flakes. 

This is because chili flakes are usually processed before they are bottled. This involves removing the peppers’ seeds before they are ground into flakes. As most of the heat comes from chili pepper seeds, the flakes don’t have an intense spice level. 

As a result, red chili flakes are a nice beginning point for those that want to improve their spice tolerance. 

Red chili flakes work well in many cuisines, thanks to their strong flavor and subtle fruity undertones. These spicy and earthy notes pair naturally with grilled meat and stews, as is the case with Turkish and Greek dishes.  

Red chili flakes also work well with seafood, especially when drizzled with lemon. The fruit’s acidity complements the spice coming from the flakes, without being overwhelming. 

When you add red chili flakes to a dish, the food takes on a nice amount of heat. It’s important to take care when adding the flakes, as they can build up in pockets, making some portions spicier than others. 

Red Chili Flakes Nutritional Value

A teaspoon of red chili flakes contains:

  • 5.7 calories
  • 0.3g fat 
  • 1g carbs 
  • 0.5g fiber 
  • 0.2g protein

Red Chili Flakes Substitutes

  1. Cayenne pepper
  2. Chili powder
  3. Chili paste
  4. Sriracha/hot sauce
  5. Serrano pepper
  6. Chipotle powder
  7. Chile de Arbol
  8. Paprika

Cayenne Pepper 

Cayenne peppers originate from South America. These are thin and wrinkly with a distinct red hue. 

The term ‘cayenne pepper’ generally refers to its ground form, which looks like a red powder. This spice is used to add heat to dishes around the world, particularly Creole, Korean, Thai, and Chinese dishes. 

Cayenne pepper is like red chili flakes as it’s not blended with other types of chilies. The spice level is around ten times higher than regular jalapenos, so you won’t need a lot to give your recipes some heat!

You’ll only need around half the amount of cayenne pepper that you would when using chili flakes. For instance, if your recipe called for a teaspoon of chili flakes, you’ll need half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. 

You can always give your dishes a little more spice later on, but it’s much harder to take the spice away! 

Chili Powder

Chili powder is a dried seasoning sourced from chili peppers. It’s available in different spice levels ranging from mild, hot, and extra hot. 

Chili powder has a dark red color and, depending on the product, has a Scoville rating between 500 and 1,500. 

A few chili powder brands add various spices to their product, like garlic powder, oregano, and cumin. In most cases, however, chili powder products contain pure, ground chili peppers. 

The powder works well as a chili flake substitute as they are sourced from similar kinds of chili peppers, giving each product a comparable spice level. 

We’d recommend using general hot chili powder in place of red chili flakes. The extra-hot version may be too hot, while the mild version may not have the spice you’re looking for. 

You can substitute chili powder in place of chili flakes in a 1:1 ratio. 

Chili Paste

Chili paste can work in place of red chili flakes, but different brands may vary depending on the chili used to create the product. 

If you’re using chili paste in place of red chili flakes, try to find products made with minced red chilies. These should have a similar flavor to the flakes as they’re made with the same kind of peppers. 

In most cases, you’ll need to use a 3:1 ratio to give your dishes a similar spice level. 

As chili paste is made from grinding whole chili peppers, it’s less spicy compared to red chili flakes. So, for every teaspoon of chili flakes needed in your recipe, use three teaspoons of chili paste. 

However, as various chili paste brands have different spice levels, we’d recommend gradually adding the paste and taste-testing as you go. This will prevent the dish from being too spicy or not spicy enough. 

Sriracha / Hot Sauce

Hot sauce can work well as a red chili flake substitute, but this depends on the type of hot sauce that you buy. Hot sauce comes in many different varieties, so the wrong choice could negatively affect the taste of your dishes. 

A good hot sauce example to use is sriracha. This is often used in East Asian dishes, thanks to its savory, sour, and mild sweet taste. 

Sriracha is made with garlic, vinegar, sugar, and most notably, red chilis. The red chilis give the sauce a similar taste to red chili flakes. The other ingredients give sriracha acidity and sweetness, but it does have a comparable spice level to the flakes. 

You can use sriracha in place of red chili flakes in a 1:1 ratio.  

Serrano Pepper

If you need a red chili flake substitute for fresh dishes, like salads or salsas, serrano peppers may be a good choice.

These peppers originate from the Mexican mountains and are roughly five times spicier than jalapenos. Serrano peppers have a refreshing, but strong spicy flavor. These are often used in Mexican dishes, though they are also popular in Thailand and Vietnam.

As serrano peppers are so spicy, you won’t need a lot to substitute for red chili flakes. 

One seeded, deveined, and chopped serrano pepper is enough for ½ a teaspoon of red chili flakes. 

Chipotle Powder

Chipotle powder is made by smoking and drying red jalapeno peppers, then grinding them into a powder. This powder is often used to add heat to Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, like tacos and chipotle chili. 

The smoking techniques give the powder an interesting smoky flavor that pairs well with the jalapeno’s spice level. It works well as a chili flake substitute as it’s not too spicy and has a comparable color. 

However, keep in mind that chipotle powder’s smoky flavor will affect your recipe. Its charred notes may not complement certain dishes, like fresh salads, for instance. If this is the case, it’s best to opt for one of the other substitutes on this list. 

To use chipotle powder in place of red chili flakes, use a 2:1 ratio. 

Chile De Arbol

Chile de Arbol isn’t a very common kitchen ingredient, but if you can find it, it’s a worthwhile red chili flake substitute! 

Chile de Arbol powder is sourced from dried, ground De Arbol chilies. The product has a bold red hue with an earthy flavor. The spice is regularly used in Caribbean, Chinese, and Mexican dishes, thanks to its distinctive heat level. 

Chile de Arbol is spicier compared to red chili flakes, with a similar heat level to cayenne pepper. Even though it’s hotter, the powder can still work well in its place. 

In most cases, ½ teaspoon of ground Chile de Arbol will be enough for each teaspoon of red chili flakes. We’d advise sprinkling the powder slowly and taste testing along the way. 

If you need more heat, you can add more powder, but remember, you won’t be able to take the spice away! 


Paprika has a similar hue and taste to chili flakes, which is why it may work as an alternative ingredient. This spice is made by drying various red peppers, then grinding them into a powder. 

Most of the powder comes from sweet bell peppers, but some of it is sourced from red chili peppers. This gives the paprika a little spice, though not as much compared to red chili flakes.

Paprika may not be as spicy as red chili flakes, but as the flavors are similar, it may work when used in large quantities. 

To substitute paprika for chili flakes, add a tablespoon of paprika for every ¼ teaspoon of chili flakes. 

Red chili flakes can help add a little heat to lots of recipes. As its spice level works well in a variety of dishes, here are some tasty examples that use this ingredient

Classic Chili Con Carne

If you like filling dishes that are full of tasty flavors, you’ll adore this traditional chili con carne recipe

The chili flakes pair naturally with the dish’s chopped tomatoes and kidney beans, giving the recipe a nice amount of heat. Red wine adds a pleasant bitterness, while cinnamon’s sweetness complements the spice from the chili flakes. 

Served with warm rice and a touch of lime, this is a perfect recipe for weekend dinners! 

Frying Pan Pizza 

Chili flakes work well with many pizza recipes, just like this unique version. No pizza oven is needed here, you can have a tasty homemade pizza made with your frying pan on the stove! 

This pizza is full of classic Italian flavors, thanks to the oregano, tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese. A sprinkle of chili flakes adds a gentle amount of spice that’s not overwhelming. 

Just try to add the flakes evenly, as you may end up with unpleasant clumps around your pizza. 

Avocado Toast With Honey

Avocado toast is a popular breakfast choice, loved for its creamy and savory flavors. This recipe uses honey and chili flakes for a touch of sweetness and spice. 

Sourdough toast creates a crunchy base, while mashed avocado adds a velvety contrast. A little sea salt gives the toast a nice crunch with every bite, helping to form a complete flavor profile. 

You only need ten minutes to put this meal together, making it a nice choice for busy mornings! 

Rosemary, Fennel & Chilli Flake Rubbed Pork Chop

Chili flakes go very well with grilled meat, just like this pork chop recipe. You’ll be leaving the bone in, which gives the meat a great flavor. 

The pork is seasoned with paprika, garlic powder, pepper, and chili flakes. This infuses the meat with savory, spicy, and gentle sweet flavors. A sprig of rosemary adds a refreshing element, while butter-coated apples give the food a decadent feel. 

This dish looks very elegant, but you’ll only need half an hour to make it! 

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio

If you need a straightforward dinner recipe, this spaghetti dish has a lot of tasty flavors, but only needs simple ingredients. 

Parmesan, olive oil, and garlic give the pasta traditional Italian flavors, while fresh parsley adds a refreshing feel to every bite. The chili flakes add a gentle heat that isn’t overpowering. 

Topped with extra Parmesan and parsley, this recipe goes down a treat every time! 


If you’re making a recipe that needs red chili flakes, but you can’t find them in your kitchen, you can use several things in its place!

Cayenne pepper and chili powder are the most effective substitutes, as they have a similar flavor. Cayenne pepper is spicier than red chili flakes, so you’ll need to use a little less in your recipe. Chili powder, however, has a comparable spice level, so you can use it in a 1:1 ratio. 

If you don’t have these available, you can opt for other household ingredients, like paprika or hot sauce. However, keep in mind that these may add other flavors to your recipe, depending on the one that you choose.  

Try experimenting with a few alternative ingredients and see which red chili flake substitute you like the best. We hope you find the right substitute for your recipe! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Chili Powder Instead Of Chili Flakes?

You can use chili powder in place of chili flakes, as both products are made from the same ingredient. Chili flakes are made from crushed red chilies.

Chili powder is made from dried and ground red chilies, turning them into a powder. Both ingredients have different textures, but they do have a similar spice level.

Is Paprika The Same As Red Chili Flakes?

Paprika and red chili flakes are different, as paprika is mainly sourced from dried and ground bell peppers. This turns it into a mild, slightly sweet powder.

Red chili flakes come from ground chili peppers, so they are a spicier product. The chilies have their seeds removed beforehand, so the flakes aren’t overwhelmingly spicy, but they are hotter than paprika. 

Can I Use Smoked Paprika Instead Of Chili Flakes?

Smoked paprika has a different flavor compared to chili flakes, so it isn’t recommended as a substitute. Unlike regular paprika, the smoked version has a woodsy, slightly charred finish.

This sweet and smoky powder is very different from spicy chili flakes. As chili flakes are used to add heat to recipes, it’s best to use another substitute, like chili powder or chili paste.

Can I Make My Own Chili Flakes?

You can make your own chili flakes at home, as long as you have an oven and a blender. This involves roasting red chilies until they are crisp, then blending them to turn them into flakes.

You’ll need to use long chilies here, as smaller ones can burn in the oven. Don’t blend the chili’s too much, as you may end up with a powder instead of flakes.

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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