Skip to Content

The Best Alternatives To Chili Powder

Perhaps one of the more versatile spices used in cooking, chili powder is a favorite for Indian dishes and dishes that give your food a little extra kick. This mix is typically made using grounded chili peppers, cumin, onion powder, oregano, garlic powder, and salt. 

You will notice that the spiciness of your chili powder will vary depending on the brand, which peppers have been used, and how many peppers have been added to the mixture. The vast majority of chili powders are actually fairly mild.

The best alternatives to chili powder

Some of the spicier varieties tend to feature ground chili peppers such as cayenne or chipotle. These are much hotter than some of the milder varieties on the market, so make sure that you choose the chili powder product that best reflects your favorite level of spice.

Powdered chili is often used as a meat rub to give the joint more flavor. It can also be used in other dishes such as sauces, marinades, chili con carne, beans, casserole dishes, as well as many other recipes.

Sometimes despite your love of chili powder, you can find that your pantry has run out of your supply.

So if you don’t have any chili powder to hand, how can you carry on cooking without having to pop to the grocery store? We’ve made a list of the best chili powder alternatives to help you out in a pinch. If you have any of these beauties in your pantry, you can use these in place of chili powder until you can next stock up on your favorite spice.

The Best Alternatives To Chili Powder

You may notice that some of the alternatives that we have listed for chili powder are actually some of the main ingredients in the real thing.

So you can easily mix and match with some of the below alternatives to make your very own homemade chili powder. You can also use this method to adjust the spiciness of your dish.

So let’s take a look at the best alternatives to chili powder so that you can get back to cooking!

Cumin Seeds Or Powder

Perhaps one of the best substitutions for chili powder is cumin seeds. These are a relative to the parsley plant, and it can come in several different varieties. The most common type is the brown-yellow variety.

This is a popular herb in Indian, Middle Eastern, as well as Latin American cuisine. Cumin tends to have a bitter earthy taste with a unique warm tone. What’s really great about cumin is that you can use both the seeds or the powdered variety in your dishes.

It’s worth noting that powdered cumin has a much more potent flavor than its seeds. So if you opt for cumin powder as your chili powder alternative, you will need to use less of this than you would cumin seeds.

For around 1 ½ tablespoon of cumin seeds, you will need to use 1 tablespoon of cumin powder. 

It can be used in a variety of recipes including marinades, soups, stews, sauces, or as an ingredient in your very own homemade chili powder.

Powdered Garlic

You may notice that powdered garlic is one of the ingredients used to create chili powder. This is typically crafted using both ground and dried garlic. It is a versatile ingredient that is used in virtually every type of cuisine around the globe because of its unique, intense flavor.

Powdered garlic can be used for a wide variety of dishes including sauces, soups, marinades, stews, stir fries, or even mixed in with your ground beef for a unique flavor.

You can even combine your powdered garlic with powdered cumin and dried oregano for a better chili powder substitute.

Powdered Onion

Powdered onion is a highly versatile ingredient that is often used in a variety of dishes around the world. It can be used to flavor casserole dishes, sauces, soups, meat dishes, vegetable dishes, as well as salad dressings. Powdered onions are typically made using dehydrated onions.

You’ll notice that powdered onions tend to have a savory and sweet taste. You can use powdered onion with cumin powder and flaked chili peppers for a chili powder substitute.

Dried Oregano

This earthy herb makes a fantastic alternative to chili powder. It is made using the dried leaves of the oregano plant. You can also use the fresh variant if you want a fresher flavor in your dish. Oregano is typically used to season pizzas.

Dried oregano is a versatile herb that can be used in a variety of dishes. It can be used to help season seafood, chicken, pasta sauces, meats, beans, vegetables, and salads. To make an even better substitute for chili powder, you can mix dried oregano with garlic powder and ground chili pepper. This will give you a similar flavor profile.

Chili Flakes

Perhaps one of the best alternatives to using chili powder is to opt for chili flakes. This is made using dried and crushed chili peppers, and is typically very spicy depending on the varieties that have been used. Some of the more popular varieties include jalapeno, serrano, and Anaheim.

Chili flakes make the perfect addition to pasta sauces, pizza sauces, soups, sausages, pickling mixtures, as well as a variety of other recipes. You can create an even stronger flavor by combining your chili flakes with ground cumin. This will help to mimic the flavor profile of chili powder.

Ground Black Pepper

Next to chili pepper, ground black pepper is one of the most popular condiments used as a seasoning. It typically has a stronger spicy, piney, woody taste. Ground black pepper is a highly versatile seasoning and can be used in a variety of dishes.

It works well with meats, soups, vegetables, fish, pasta, salad dressings, and many other dishes.

To help improve the substituted flavor of your ground black pepper, you can combine it with dried oregano and ground cumin. It will be notably less spicy than chili powder, but will still give your dish the flavorful punch it needs.

Spicy Chili Sauce

Love your spice? Then spicy chili sauce is the alternative that you should opt for. This is typically manufactured using chili peppers, vinegar, salt, and sugar. The ingredients are combined and cooked over a high heat until a thick mixture is formed.

Some additional spices and seasonings are often added depending on the flavor that the chef is aiming for.

The overall flavor profile of chili sauce will vary depending on the ingredients used. It could be hot and spicy, or warm and sweet. If you want to make an even better substitute for chili powder, you can add dried oregano and ground cumin to your spicy chili sauce.

Powdered Smoked Paprika

Another fantastic substitute for chili powder is the tasty powdered smoked paprika. This is typically made by smoking and drying peppers over a smokey oak fire. This smoking helps to give the paprika its classic smoked flavors. Smoke paprika can vary from mild, to medium, to extra hot.

Powdered smoked paprika is wonderfully versatile and can be used in a variety of different recipes. It can be used as a meat rub, or to help flavor soups, stews, potatoes, rice, sausages, or many more different dishes.

Smoked paprika makes the perfect alternative to chili powder if you don’t want to use a mixture of different herbs and spices.

Persian Cumin

Persian cumin is a spicy powder that has a notable aniseed taste, with a hint of citrus and pepper. You can use it both as its powdered variant or even as the uncrushed seeds. Persian cumin is also called meridian fennel or caraway. It is a popular seasoning for curries, soups, stews, meats, vegetables, and cheeses.

You will notice that ground Persian cumin is much more potent than the raw seeds. It is also more versatile as it can be used in a variety of recipes. You can substitute roughly 1 teaspoon of Persian cumin seeds with ¾ of a teaspoon of powdered Persian cumin.

To get a closer match to the flavor of chili powder, you can mix your ground caraway with ground chilies and garlic powder.

DIY Powdered Chili

If you want to get the next best thing to chili powder until you can get to the grocery store and stock up, you can of course try to make your very own powdered chili. What’s really great about this substitute is how easy it will be to make it at home. You can use virtually any spice that you would like to, in as large quantities as you want to. You can then use this in equal measure as an alternative to chili powder.

Here is a simple recipe to make your very own homemade chili powder from the comfort of your own kitchen.

How To Make Your Own Homemade Chili Powder?

The best alternatives to chili powders

To craft your very own DIY chili powder, you will need to gather the following ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons of oregano
  • 3 teaspoons of powdered onions
  • 3 teaspoons of powdered cumin
  • 3 teaspoons of powdered smoked paprika
  • 3 teaspoons of powdered garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of chili flakes
  • Pinch of chili peppers and salt

In a small bowl, place all of the ingredients, and stir with a spoon until well combined. This is a highly versatile chili powder that will make a seamless alternative to your favorite brand of chili powder. This is arguably the closest in taste alternative to your usual brand of chili powder without compromising on the integrity of your dish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Powdered Paprika Be Used In Place Of Chili Powder?

Yes, you can use powdered smoked paprika instead of chili powder. However, you will need to note that this won’t be an exact flavor match. You will notice that the seasoning has a sweeter edge than the spice you are used to.

Can You Use Cayenne Pepper In Place Of Chili Powder?

Yes, you can use cayenne pepper in place of chili powder. However, if you’re used to a milder variant of chili powder, then you will notice that your dish has more of a spicy kick when you use cayenne pepper instead.

It will also not have as much nuanced flavor as the spices of your favorite chili powder.

Can Chili Flakes Be Used In Place Of Chili Powder?

Yes, you can use chili flakes in place of chili powder. However, it is worth noting that these are much spicier than your usual chili powder. Your dish will likely be much hotter as a result.

Can Cumin Seeds Be Used In Place Of Chili Powder?

Yes, you can use cumin seeds in place of chili powder. In fact, ground cumin seeds are one of the main ingredients in traditional chili powder. So it will be the perfect alternative if you have run out of your favorite chili powder.

What Is The Same As Chili Powder?

Cayenne pepper is virtually the same thing as chili powder. This is a chili powder that uses a single type of chili pepper to get that signature flavor. Chili powder is usually a mixture of different chili peppers.

In Summary

And there you have it! If you’ve run out of your favorite brand of chili powder, you now have a list of 10 suitable alternatives that you can use instead. You are sure to have many of these herbs and spices stashed away in your pantry ready to use instead.

If you want to achieve a closer flavor to chili powder, you can even combine several of the herbs and spices that we’ve mentioned above. This homemade chili powder will be the best alternative to your favorite brand of chili powder.

The Best Alternatives To Chili Powder

5 from 2 votes

If you’re looking for a chili powder alternative, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got the best chili powder alternatives for you to try.


  • Cumin Seeds Or Powder

  • Powdered Garlic

  • Powdered Onion

  • Dried Oregano

  • Chili Flakes

  • Ground Black Pepper

  • Spicy Chili Sauce

  • Powdered Smoked Paprika

  • Persian Cumin

  • DIY Powdered Chili


  • Decided on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy

Recipe Video

Jess Smith