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5 Substitutes for Bird’s Eye Chili Revealed!

Bird’s eye chili, also known as Thai chili or bird chili, is a tiny pepper known for its potent heat. It’s a staple in many Southeast Asian dishes, providing that signature kick that spices up culinary experiences.

But what do you do if bird’s eye chili isn’t readily available, or the heat it brings is simply too much for your palate?

Fear not, as I’ve curated a list of five exceptional substitutes that maintain the spirit of this spice while offering a touch of versatility.

Whether you’re a home cook experimenting with new cuisines or a seasoned foodie looking for new flavors, these alternatives will ensure your dishes don’t miss out on the heat or taste that bird’s eye chili brings to the table.

Key Takeaways:

  • When substituting bird’s eye chili, consider the dish’s flavor profile and desired heat level.
  • Serrano peppers, cayenne peppers, jalapeño peppers, red pepper flakes, and Habanero peppers are excellent choices for alternatives to bird’s eye chili.
  • Use our recommended substitute ratios to achieve the desired heat level in your dishes.
  • Experiment with different substitutes and find the perfect match for your taste buds.
  • Remember to choose fresh, quality ingredients for a well-rounded and healthy diet.

Things to Know about Bird’s Eye Chili

The quest for the perfect level of spice in a dish is both a culinary and personal one. Bird’s eye chili, cherished for its fierce heat, is often a top choice for those seeking to elevate the flavor of a variety of dishes, from curries to chutneys.

But when the need arises for a substitute, it’s essential to find a comparable contender to balance your recipe’s composition. Join me as we explore five substitutes that promise to enhance your cooking without skimping on flavor or heat.

Substitute 1: Serrano Peppers

Serrano peppers, known for their thicker and slightly larger size compared to the bird’s eye chili, feature a smoother skin. Ranging from 10,000 to 23,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, Serrano peppers offer a mid-level heat that adds a punch to dishes.

Their flavor profile is characterized by earthy notes and a subtle smokiness, making them a versatile option to enhance the richness of various culinary creations.

Serrano peppers are excellent in sauces like pico de gallo, where they can provide heat without overwhelming the dish’s flavors. They also pair wonderfully with meats and are commonly used in marinades for a subtle spiciness.

Substitute ratio: 1 bird’s eye chili = 1/2 Serrano pepper

Substitute 2: Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne peppers, known for their fiery kick, boast a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating of 30,000-50,000, surpassing the heat level of bird’s eye chili.

Not only are they hot, but they also carry a hint of bitterness and earthy undertones, enhancing the depth of flavor in a wide range of dishes. Their versatile nature makes them a bold and indispensable ingredient in countless recipes.

Use ground cayenne pepper to achieve the intense heat characteristic of bird’s eye chili in various global cuisines. It dissolves well in liquids, making it the perfect choice for hot chocolates, chilis, and stews.

Substitute ratio: 1 bird’s eye chili = ⅛ teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Substitute 3: Jalapeño Peppers

Jalapeño peppers are a common sight in numerous kitchens, known for their thick green skin and a moderate heat level ranging from 2,500 to 8,000 SHU.

These peppers offer a unique taste profile that is mildly vegetal and slightly sweet, making them a versatile ingredient that complements dishes featuring corn and cheese beautifully.

The peppers can add a subtle kick and depth of flavor to a variety of recipes, from salsas and dips to savory dishes and marinades. Their vibrant color and distinct flavor make them a popular choice for adding a touch of spiciness to culinary creations.

Jalapeños are incredibly versatile and can be mild enough to be enjoyed fresh in salsas, pickles, and as garnishes. When allowed to ripen, their heat level increases and can offer a more substantial substitute for bird’s eye chili.

Substitute ratio: For a milder substitution, use one jalapeño for every two bird’s eye chilies. Use one-to-one if you prefer more heat.

Substitute 4: Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are a flavorful blend of various chili peppers, with cayenne commonly among them.

These flakes typically range around 15,000-20,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), offering a dry, flaky consistency and imparting a subtly smoky flavor profile that enhances the taste of dishes they are added to.

The versatility of red pepper flakes allows them to add a kick of heat and depth of flavor to a wide range of cuisines, making them a popular choice for spice enthusiasts and chefs alike.

These flakes are perfect for adding a perfect level of spiciness and color to pizza, pasta, and even marinades. They are shelf-stable and convenient, ensuring you have access to heat at a moment’s notice.

Substitute ratio: 1 bird’s eye chili = ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes

Substitute 5: Habanero Peppers

Finally, let’s explore the most excellent contender for a bird’s eye chili substitute – Habanero peppers.

Habaneros fall between 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) and boast a vibrant citrusy flavor profile. Their intense heat can be overwhelming for those unaccustomed to spicy foods, making them a bold choice for those seeking a fiery kick in their culinary creations.

Habanero peppers, known for their intense heat and fruity flavor, are ideal for creating fiery sauces and salsas that offer a perfect balance between spiciness and a hint of tropical sweetness. Their versatility extends to marinades, infusing dishes with a distinctive kick.

Moreover, when used judiciously, these peppers elevate the taste profile of soups, stews, and chilis, leaving a delightful and lingering heat that tantalizes the taste buds.

Substitute ratio: 1 bird’s eye chili = ⅛ teaspoon of Habanero pepper


5 Bird’s Eye Chilies Substitutes

If you're in need of a substitute for bird's eye chilies, look no further! We've compiled a list of five great alternatives that offer a similar heat level and flavor profile. Whether you're whipping up a spicy Thai dish or adding some kick to your marinade, these substitutes will have you covered. Just remember to adjust the quantity based on your spice preferences, and you're in for a flavorful culinary adventure!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Asian
Servings 1 Serving


  • Serrano pepper 1 bird’s eye chili = ½ serrano pepper
  • Cayenne pepper 1 bird’s eye chili = ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • Jalapeño 1 bird’s eye chili = ⅛ jalapeño
  • Red pepper flakes 1 bird’s eye chili = ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • Habanero peppers 1 bird’s eye chili = ⅛ teaspoon of habanero pepper


  • Choose the substitute based on the desired heat level and flavor profile of your dish.
  • Adjust the quantity according to your spice preferences.
  • Use our recommended substitute ratios for best results.
  • Experiment with different substitutes to find the perfect match for your taste buds.


  • Remember to choose fresh, quality ingredients for a well-rounded and healthy diet.
  • Use moderation when adding substitutes to your dishes, as they may vary in heat intensity.
Keyword Bird’s Eye Chilies Substitutes
Did you make this recipe?Mention @CooksCrafter or tag #CooksCrafter!
5 from 3 votes (2 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating


Tuesday 19th of March 2024

Bird’s eye chili is a staple in my kitchen, but I'm open to trying substitutes for different flavor profiles. Chipotle peppers sound like they could add a smoky kick – has anyone given them a go in place of bird’s eye chili?

Andrew Gray

Tuesday 19th of March 2024

Chipotle peppers are a reasonable substitute for bird's eye chili! They add a smoky flavor and a moderate level of heat that complements many dishes beautifully.