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6 Chile de Árbol Substitutes for Your Recipes

Swapping out chile de árbol can feel like a bit of a mystery. How spicy do we want it? Do we need smoky? Sweet? Both?

Finding the right substitute can be a culinary detective mission, but worry not, friends. We’ve combed through our spice racks to uncover the best replacements for that fiery little pepper.

Back in the day, we used to think all spicy foods were the same. Boy, were we wrong. Our taste buds have since evolved, and now they crave a bit more nuance.

If you’re staring blankly at a recipe calling for chile de árbol, we’re here to make life easier.

6 Easy Substitutes for Chile de Árbol

For those of you not familiar with chile de árbol, it’s a small, thin red pepper often used in Mexican and Latin American cooking. It’s known for its vibrant color and fiery heat. Here are six easy substitutes to try:

1 – Ancho Chili Powder

First, let’s talk about ancho chili powder. This mild option brings a smoky, sweet flavor to your dish. It’s great if you don’t want overwhelming heat. With a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) of 1,000 to 1,500, it’s quite tame compared to chile de árbol’s 15,000 to 30,000 SHU. We use it when we want a hint of spice without burning our tongues off.

Use about the same amount of ancho as you would chile de árbol. It’s a 1:1 substitute, easy peasy. It’s perfect in smoked meats, stews, and even soups. Need more ideas? Check out these ancho chili powder substitutes for more spicy fun!

2 – Guajillo Chili Powder

Next up, let’s chat about guajillo chili powder. It’s a flavor bomb with a mild heat, coming in between 2,500 to 5,000 SHU. Perfect if you want a spicy kick without setting your mouth on fire.

We find it adds a rich, tangy flavor that’s great in sauces and marinades. If you love mole, this one’s your buddy.

Use 1.5 times the amount of guajillo to sub for chile de árbol.

Need more swaps? Check out these guajillo pepper substitutes. You’ll thank us later!

3 – New Mexico Chili Powder

New Mexico chili powder is our spicy secret weapon. We feel it has a moderate kick and a rich, earthy flavor.

With a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) of 1,000 to 2,000, it’s less fiery than chile de árbol. Use it when you want just a touch of heat.

For those wondering about the ratio, use two times New Mexico chili powder for chile de árbol. It’s great for spicing up soups and stews.

Curious about other options? Our guide on New Mexico chile substitutes has more spicy secrets!

4 – Chipotle Chili Powder

While we’re on this chili adventure, let’s talk about chipotle chili powder. This smoky, spicy wonder is our go-to for adding depth to dishes. It’s got a medium heat, rating between 2,500 to 8,000 SHU, which adds just the right amount of kick. We love using it in BBQ rubs, chili, and even on roasted veggies.

Use about half the amount of chipotle as you would chile de árbol since it’s quite potent. This means if a recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of chile de árbol, you’ll use just 1 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder. Looking for more options? Check out our chipotle chili powder substitutes.

5 – Smoked Paprika

The king of smoky flavors! Smoked paprika stands out with its rich red hue and deep smoky taste. It’s perfect for adding complexity without overwhelming heat. This powder ranges from 500 to 1,500 SHU, making it milder than chile de árbol.

We use it in everything from stews to meats. Need some heat balance? Smoked paprika does it!

Substitute ratio: Use 1.5 times more smoked paprika than chile de árbol. Mix it up in a dish, and it won’t disappoint.

Curious for more swaps? Check out our guide on smoked paprika substitutes.

6 – Cayenne Pepper

Last but not least, meet cayenne pepper. It’s spicy, it’s vibrant, and it’s in almost every pantry. With a heat range of 30,000 to 50,000 SHU, it’s hotter than chile de árbol, but don’t let that scare you.

We love its versatility. From spicing up our soups to giving our fried chicken a spicy kick, cayenne knows how to bring the heat. Use half the amount of cayenne to replace chile de árbol.

Need more ideas? Check out our article on cayenne pepper substitutes to keep things spicy.