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14 Peppery Ancho Chile Pepper Substitutes You Need To Try Now

Are you preparing your favorite dish and ran out of ancho chile peppers? No worries, we have a wide range of ancho chile pepper substitutes for you that will give you the similar taste in your recipe.

Ancho chilies are part of the ‘Holy Trinity of dried chiles’ popular in various Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. The mild and distinctively sweet ancho chiles have a fruity flavor, an essential ingredient of famous mole sauces.

The whole dried ancho chiles are commonly used to prepare different sauces, salsas, and stews. Ancho ground powder is also used in many recipes to add spiciness.

The fresh and raw ancho chiles are poblano peppers that add freshness and earthy flavor. They are “family-friendly” peppers that add a little kick to the recipe.

Ancho chilies are mild that have a mild smoky flavor but do not contribute much heat to recipes. They are flat, larger in size, and have a leathery texture.

Ancho chiles are used in many recipes, and one of the most famous recipes of ancho chile is the mole poblano. It is the national dish of Mexico that originated from Puebla.

What Is Ancho Chile Pepper?

Ancho chilies are ripe and dry poblano peppers with a distinctive fruity sweet flavor. Ancho chiles with pasilla and mulato form a part of the ‘Holy Trinity of Mexican chiles that are extensively used in mole, sauces, and many other recipes. 

They are low in the heat, but rich sources of vitamin C and K. Ancho are pretty mild with spiciness ranges of 1000-2000 SHU and have coffee and chocolate notes.

You can find ancho chiles online at most Mexican and Central American grocery stores. 

Nutrition Table

Nutrition Value TableCalories (Per 100g)
Anaheim Chili Pepper40
Cayenne Pepper318
Chile de Arbol Powder34
Chili Flakes314
Chipotle Powder371
Guajillo Chile Peppers50
New Mexico Chili Peppers90
Mulato Pepper Powder225
Pasilla Chile Powder281
Pequin Chili Pepper40
Poblano Peppers281
Serrano Peppers32

1. Anaheim Chili Pepper

Anaheim peppers are also called California chile. Like ancho chiles, they are not too hot and rank from 500 to 1,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale.

Anaheim does well with many recipes due to its mild heat and suits people of all tastes unless the recipe calls for more heat.

Anaheim is the perfect substitute for ancho chiles as these provide similar heat and flavor. You can buy them at the grocery fresh and in can form. 

Dried Anaheim pepper is widely used in many Mexican dishes. It adds a little heat to the recipe and doesn’t burn your mouth. Anaheim is a little sweet, like ancho chiles, with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Anaheim makes a perfect replacement if you are short of ancho chile in your kitchen. Anaheim is commonly used in preparing poultry dishes and slow-cooking beef or pork lends an excellent smoky flavor.

How To Substitute

Use one-to-one swaps.

2. Cayenne Pepper

The small and lengthy chile is the source of finely ground cayenne pepper. The skinny pepper is hot and commonly used in Tabasco sauce with salt and vinegar.

Compared to mild spicy ancho, cayenne is much more potent, and it is better to combine it with pasilla powder or New Mexico powder to use in your recipes to substitute ancho chile.

Cayenne pepper is extensively used in various Indian, Chinese, Korean, Creole, and Thai cuisines. They are readily available, and the heat range is from 30,000 to 50,000 SHU. 

Cayenne chiles are available as fresh, dried, and in the form of flakes, and you can replace ancho chiles with any of these forms.

You can add a dash of cayenne pepper to your soups or stew or sprinkle over eggs and roasted meats for a spicy touch.

How To Substitute

Use ⅛ teaspoon of cayenne pepper to replace one chopped ancho chile pepper.

3. Chile De Arbol Powder

The expert considers chile de árbol powder an excellent substitute for ancho chile powder. Chile de árbol is popular in Southeast Asian cuisines, and most recipes of Jalisco state in Mexico.

The thin, long, and hot chiles are also called bird’s eye peppers in Thailand. They have got mild herbal tones with a bright and clean flavor profile.

They pair well in vegetable preparations and are a suitable replacement for ancho chile pepper in many recipes, including hot sauces, salsas and other Mexican dishes.

Chile de Arbol Powder has grassy and smoky characteristics. The heat ranges from 15,000 to 30,000 SHU. They are rich in calcium and iron, essential for strengthening bones.

The capsaicin in chile de Arbol helps lower blood pressure and relieves inflammation. 

How To Substitute

Use chile de Arbol to substitute ancho chile in a 1:2 ratio.

4. Chili Flakes

Chile flakes are a suitable replacement for ancho chile and are readily available in the market. Like ancho chiles, chile flakes are made from dried peppers, but they are a bit hot so ensure you add the correct quantity to your recipes.

Chili flakes add a spicy twist to salads, sauces, and salsas. They combine different peppers, including bell peppers, jalapenos, and Anaheim.

The heat intensity can vary as per the quantity and quality of peppers you use to prepare the flakes. 

Flakes are famous for their tempting flavors in pizzas, curries, and soups and are an excellent replacement for ancho chilies if used in the right quantities.

Chile flakes are available at all grocery stores. Due to the medium heat level, they do not dominate the flavors of other ingredients.

How To Substitute

Use flakes in the same quantities as you would use ancho chile.

5. Chipotle Powder

The heat level of chipotle is in the range of 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units as compared to ancho chile’s levels between 1,000 to 1,500 SHU.

It will give you an idea of how much chipotle powder to use in your recipes to replace ancho chile powder. The best thing about chipotle powder is that it is amongst the easiest-to-find powder replacement for ancho chiles.

The heat level is higher, but by adjusting the amount, you can make it a good substitute. 

Chipotle powder is made from dried and smoked jalapenos and adds an earthy flavor to the recipes. It is used in many traditional Mexican and Southwestern dishes, adds excellent flavor to seafood, and is rich in proteins. 

Chipotle makes a good seasoning agent, and you can use it as an instant flavor-enhancing spice in tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and more. It will give the recipe a smoked taste, much like ancho chiles.

How To Substitute

Before using chipotle powder, determine the level of heat. If mild, use it as a one-to-one swap for ancho chile powder; if hotter, use half the amount.

6. Guajillo Chile Peppers

Cuisenaire recommends Guajillo chile powder as an excellent alternative to ancho chile pepper. They have similar sweet and smoky flavors with mild heat registering 2,500 to 5,000 on the Scoville scale.

A bit hotter than ancho chile powder, Guajillo peppers have a pleasantly sharp taste. You can add it to any recipe that calls for chiles.

Guajillo chile peppers are used in many Southwestern and Mexican recipes to provide hints of pine and berry. It adds spice and distinct flavors to braises, stew, and sauces. 

Like ancho chile, Guajillo peppers are also dried peppers; you can use these two interchangeably. The taste is similar, and users can replace it in the same ratio.

Your dishes will get the same taste and flavors with Guajillo as with ancho chiles. The availability can be an issue as it is not freely available.

How To Substitute

Use a one-to-one swap for ancho chile but be sure to taste as you go. Remember that a little Guajillo goes a long way, so ensure you don’t overdo it.

7. Jalapenos

Jalapenos are dark green and smooth with a medium to intense heat range. The heat level ranges between 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. They are used in various recipes worldwide and are one of the most used chiles in Mexican cuisines.

You can replace ancho chiles with Jalapenos for recipes that need a spicy touch. Jalapenos are hotter than ancho chiles, so they use only half the quantity compared to the ancho chile.

These chiles offer many health benefits as they are nutrient-rich. Jalapeno peppers are readily available that are widely used in many recipes, including sauces, stews, and soups.

They are known to add tempting flavors and delicious tastes to the meal.  

How To Substitute

Use Jalapenos to substitute ancho chile in a 1:2 ratio.

9. New Mexico Chile Peppers

New Mexico chiles have an earthy flavor and subtle hints of sweetness. They add zest to chutneys, sauces, chile Verde, soups, stews, salsas, and seasonings.

New Mexico chiles are widely used in Mexican, Southwestern, and US dishes and are a common ingredient in chile sauces, enchiladas, and ground beef. People also use roasted New Mexico chiles in dips, sandwiches, and salads.

Unlike traditional chile powder, which has additional spices, New Mexican chile powder is made from dried chiles and adds a distinct flavor to the dish.

The unripe New Mexico chiles are green in color and become red when they ripen. You can use them fresh, in powder, chopped, or dried form, and add them to the recipe at any cooking stage.

They are mild with spice levels at 800-1,400 SHU and are one of the best replacements for ancho chiles.

How To Substitute

Replace ancho chile powder with an equal amount of New Mexico chile powder.

9. Mulato Pepper Powder

Like ancho chiles, mulato peppers are also dried versions of poblano peppers. You can use these two varieties as a whole, chopped, or powdered in Mexican dishes. They are the main ingredients in moles and stews. 

Mulato peppers have notes of licorice and chocolate, so you can sometimes use them in sweeter dishes and desserts. Mulato peppers will help you add a spice of heat to the recipes.

You can use mulato peppers in everyday cooking due to low heat levels. Mulato pepper powder is moderately hot, and the heat level ranges from 500 to 2,500 Scoville heat units.

They add a smoky flavor to the dishes and have a sweet and fruity flavor similar to ancho chile pepper.

Mulato chiles get dark brown when dried, making them ideal for mole recipes after soaking. All popular Mexican recipes, like a chicken with rice, sauces, and stews, are made with mulato chiles.

In most recipes, you can substitute ancho chile pepper with mulato pepper powder to get a similar taste and flavor. They are an excellent substitute if you are short of ancho chile in your kitchen.

How To Substitute

Use mulato chile pepper powder as a one-to-one swap for ancho chile powder.

10. Paprika

Paprika has a good heat match for ancho chile pepper, and it makes an excellent choice to replace them in recipes that call for similar taste and heat. Paprika may add a slightly sweeter tinge to your recipe, but it works well.

The best part is that paprika is readily available in the market. Paprika is commonly used in egg dishes, barbecue sauce, marinades, Italian sausage, and cream sausage.

Sprinkling paprika on mac and cheese adds flavor and taste, and people love the spicy touch.

Different blends of peppers determine the heat and flavor of peppers. You can find sweeter paprika that is not spicy, whereas smoked paprika has a tone of charred flavor.

Using the ratio, you can substitute ancho chile pepper with paprika in many hot and cold recipes.

How To Substitute

Use a one-to-one swap in recipes. Add a pinch of cayenne if you want your recipe to give a bit of a kick.

11. Pasilla Chile Powder

Pasilla chile powder has an earthy flavor and is commonly used to prepare mole sauces. It is prepared from dried chilaca peppers, and as per Spiceography pasilla, chile powder is an excellent option to replace ancho chile powder.

Ancho chile pepper and pasilla chile powder both have mild heat levels. Sometimes you can find ancho chile powder labeled as pasilla powder in many stores.

The ground pasilla chile powder is dark and rich with a chocolaty flavor, and its color ranges from deep purple to black. You can get hints of dried fruit from pasilla chile powder, similar to prunes and raisins.

Pasilla chile powder compliments the taste in bean-based recipes and mole sauces.

How To Substitute

Use pasilla powder in a 1:1 ratio to ancho powder in recipes.

12. Pequin Chile Pepper

Pequin chile peppers are spicy and add a smoky flavor to recipes like ancho chiles with varying intensity.

They may not be the easiest peppers to find at a grocery store, but if you get some, they make an excellent substitute if you run short of ancho chile peppers.

If you want to spice your soups, salsas, or stews, pequin chile pepper is a great choice to get the heat. When exposed to heat, pequin chile pepper provides an intense aroma that is tempting and complements the taste of the recipe.

Pequin chile pepper is small and comes only one inch long. You can quickly chop them to any size you want. Also called ‘bird pepper, ’ pequin chile pepper adds a punch of heat and a nutty and citrusy flavor to the dish.

The heat levels of pequin range from 30,000-60,000 SHU. Pequin chile pepper makes an excellent substitute for ancho chiles in preparing salsas, soups, sauces, stews, dressings, and marinades.

How To Substitute

Use pequin chile pepper to substitute ancho chile in a 1:4 ratio.

13. Poblano Peppers

Poblano pepper may not be as hot as ancho chile peppers, but they make a suitable replacement for ancho chiles in many recipes.

Use fresh poblano peppers to replace ancho chiles to get a similar flavor touch and taste as poblano is the main ingredient of ancho chile. The fresh poblano gives a pleasant flavor and is a perfect mix of spice and heat.

Chop the peppers in whatever way you want and add them to your recipe as per the intensity of heat you want. You can use them in the same quantity as ancho chiles.

The poblano pepper is rich in vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant and helps fight free radicals. Dried poblano peppers or ancho chilis also have higher amounts of vitamin A and other nutrients.

How To Substitute

Use the same ratio of poblano and ancho chile or add a little extra, as poblano have a milder heat level.

14. Serrano Peppers

Serrano chiles are delicious in all kinds of spicy food and a good replacement for ancho chile pepper. They are not very popular, but you can find them easily.

Serrano is hotter than the ancho chiles, and the heat level ranges from 10,000 to 20,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. They have a gassy flavor and taste much similar to a jalapeno pepper.

The raw and unripe serrano peppers are green, but the color varies when they mature. Serrano peppers have a semi-sweet and earthy flavor and an acidic profile.

Serrano chile peppers have their roots in the mountainous regions of Puebla and Hidalgo in north Mexico. These peppers have been cultivated for centuries.

You can buy fresh serrano peppers at the grocery and use them in powder form or as flakes in soups, stews, or salsas to replace ancho chile peppers.

How To Substitute

Use serrano pepper to substitute ancho chile in a 1:2 ratio.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Ancho Chiles Differ From Mulato Chiles?

Both ancho and mulato chilies are dried poblano peppers. However, they differ in flavor due to different harvesting methods. Harvesting of ancho chilies is done when they are just ripe but not overly hot.

However, mulato is harvested later when they mature fully, making them spicier. They also develop a more chocolaty taste than ancho chilies.

Are Ancho Chiles The Same As Pasilla And Poblano Peppers?

No, these chiles are different from each other. Ancho chilies are the dried poblano pepper, whereas poblano peppers are unripe fresh and green peppers.

Pasilla peppers are comparatively thin, dark, and lengthy than poblano and hotter with deep fruit flavors.  

What Is The Taste Of Ancho Chiles?

Ancho chiles vary in spiciness. They have a mild heat with a slightly sweet, smoky, and fruity flavor. Its flavor is well-suited for marinades, and you can use it for making chile paste.

14 Peppery Ancho Chile Pepper Substitutes You Need To Try Now

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Serrano chiles are delicious in all kinds of spicy food and a good replacement for ancho chile pepper. They are not very popular, but you can find them easily.


  • Anaheim Chili Pepper

  • Cayenne Peppera

  • Chile De Arbol Powder

  • Chili Flakes

  • Chipotle Powder

  • Guajillo Chile Peppers

  • Jalapenos

  • New Mexico Chili Peppers

  • Mulato Pepper Powder

  • Paprika

  • Pasilla Chile Powder

  • Pequin Chili Pepper

  • Poblano Peppers

  • Serrano Peppers


  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list given above
  • Follow the directions given in the recipe after having substituted the ingredient in the correct ratio

Recipe Video

Jess Smith

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Wednesday 12th of April 2023

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