Skip to Content

6 Red Chili Pepper Alternatives: Spice Up Your Cooking

Ever find yourself staring at your spice rack and thinking, “Where’s the zing?” We all crave a bit of excitement in our meals.

Sometimes, red chili peppers just aren’t cutting it. That’s where these six spicy alternatives come into play.

We’ve all had those moments cooking where we need that perfect heat. Too much and it’s a fiery disaster; too little and it’s just meh.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with some awesome options.

6 Easy Substitutes for Red Chili Peppers

If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself scouring the grocery store for a good red chili pepper and coming up empty-handed. Or maybe you just don’t feel like dealing with the hassle of chopping up a messy pepper.

Whatever your reasons may be, here’s a list of six fantastic alternatives to get that heat in your food without having to resort to those pesky red chili peppers.

SubstituteTasteTextureRatioSuitable Dishes
Bell PeppersMild, SweetCrisp1:1Fajitas, Stir-fries, Salads
JalapeñosMedium HeatFirmAdjust to tasteSalsas, Guacamole, Tacos
Cayenne PepperHot, SpicyPowderedAdjust to tasteCurries, Chili, Hot Sauces
PaprikaMild, SmokyPowdered1:1Deviled Eggs, Roasted Meats, Stews
Serrano PeppersHot, FreshFirmAdjust to tasteSalsas, Pico de Gallo, Pickled Peppers
Bird’s Eye ChiliesVery HotSmallAdjust to tasteThai Curries, Spicy Soups, Stir-fries

1 – Bell Peppers

First, let’s talk bell peppers.

They are mild in taste but make a great substitute for red chili peppers. Ditch the hassle of spice, chop up some bell peppers instead.

We can use them in salads, stir-fries, and even sandwiches. With a sweet and tangy flavor, they offer a different dimension without the heat.

Bell peppers have 0 SHU, so they won’t add spiciness, just color and crunch. For a swap, use a bell pepper per chili pepper. Bell peppers are a solid choice if you’re into the best bell pepper substitutes.

2 – Jalapeños

Next up, jalapeños! These little guys are small, but they pack a serious punch of spice. They hover between 2,500 and 8,000 on the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) scale.

We love adding jalapeños to our nachos and tacos. They bring a nice kick without being too overwhelming. Use one jalapeño as a replacement for each red chili pepper.

Here’s a pro tip: remove the seeds if you want to tone down the heat. Jalapeños are a versatile substitute, perfect for those who want spice and flavor. For more ideas, check out the best jalapeño substitutes in our detailed guide.

3 – Cayenne Pepper

The unexpected star of the spice world is cayenne pepper. This fiery friend hits around 30,000 to 50,000 SHU, so brace yourselves. It’s way spicier than jalapeños, but that means you need less of it. Use about 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne for each red chili pepper.

We often sprinkle it on our pizza for a spicy upgrade. Got a recipe that needs a boost? Cayenne pepper is your go-to.

Check out our best cayenne pepper substitutes for more spicy ideas.

4 – Paprika

Paprika – the wonder spice we all need in our pantry. Mild yet flavorful, it clocks in at 100 to 2,500 SHU. Great for those who want taste over heat.

We love it in our soups and stews. It’s a smooth swap, needing just 1.5 teaspoons for each red chili pepper.

Looking for more ideas? Check out best paprika substitutes.

With its vibrant color, paprika makes dishes pop. It’s perfect for people who prefer low heat. Try it, you’ll love the depth it brings to any meal.

5 – Serrano Peppers

While bell peppers and jalapeños have their places, serrano peppers take it up a notch. They hit 10,000 to 23,000 SHU, making them hotter but still manageable.

We often use serrano peppers in our salsas and guacamoles. They bring a crisp, bright heat that we love.

Pro tip: Use one serrano for every red chili pepper. Remove seeds if you need less spice.

Want more ideas? Check our guide on serrano pepper substitutes.

Serrano peppers are easy to find and exceptionally versatile. Give them a shot in your next dish!

6 – Bird’s Eye Chilies

Last, we’ve got bird’s eye chilies, and let me tell you, these tiny powerhouses bring the heat. They clock in at a whopping 50,000 to 100,000 SHU. That’s not a typo – these babies are hot!

We use them in stir-fries and curries for that bold kick. One chili goes a long way, so use just 1 bird’s eye for every red chili pepper. If you want that fiery essence without the pepper’s pain, these are your go-to. Check our bird’s eye chili substitutes for more spicy submissions.

Bird’s eye chilies are for spice lovers who aren’t afraid to take it to another level. Perfect for adding an intense punch to any dish.