Chile De Arbol Substitutes – 5 Similar Hot Peppers

Chile de Arbol (pronounced ar-boll) is a long, slender, hot chilies used in several Mexican dishes.  This chile is also known as bird’s beak chile and rat’s tail chile.

Chile de Arbol (Spanish for “tree chili”) is grown in Jalisco, Nayarit as well as the Mexico City regions in Mexico. Their heat index is between 15,000 and 30,000 Scoville heat units.

This hot chile is used in fresh salsa, sauces, and making chile wreaths.  It is rather hot, so be warned.

This article explores the best replacements for Chile de Arbol and how to use them in your cooking.

Chile de Arbol Substitutes

Many taco recipes and others call for chile de Arbol and have a soaring demand. To make things tough, this chile is hardly available in most places outside Mexico and the Southern part of the US.

What can I use instead of chile de Arbol?  Ideally, finding chiles in the same range of heat level is the best option to pin down a suitable chile de àrbol substitute for your recipe.

Here are some of the top alternatives to consider:

1. Japones pepper

The Chile Japones, aka Japones pepper or “Japanese pepper”, is a popular ingredient in several cuisines across the world and prized for its wonderful heat.  Japones pepper is a good alternative to Chile de arbor as they both have a similar heat range between 15,000 to 30,000 SHU.

All the more, they are look-alike chilies with a broader middle and both go flat after drying. Chile de Arbol has a more nutty, fruity, and complex taste as compared to Chile Japones which have a nutty and smoky flavor.

Use Chile Japones in a 1:1 substitute for chile de Arbol.

2. Crushed red pepper

Typically, Crushed red pepper contains the base ingredient cayenne pepper, and a few other low-heat chiles. In no doubt, it’s a wonderful substitute for chile de Arbol for the same level of heat they both share. Unfortunately, you can’t find the same flavor and appearance of chile de Arbol in crushed red pepper. To your ease, red pepper flakes are easily available in groceries across the world.

Use the red pepper flakes in the same way as you use chile de Arbol and in the same quantity as well. Also, you may think of using a red pepper flakes substitute if that fits into your recipe.

3. Dried cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper is about two times hotter than chile de Arbol. If you can tolerate the higher heat of cayenne, look no further, it’s a good stand-in ingredient for chile de Arbol.

When you are using cayenne instead of bird’s beak chile, you’ll miss out on the nutty flavor and earthy punch. However, it is an easy pick because you will find cayenne pepper in every grocery near you.

It’s very hot, thus use it in lesser quantity than the chile de Arbol while substituting.

4. Thai Chiles

Bird’s eye chili or Thai chili is a chili pepper variety belonging to the Capsicum annuum species commonly found and used in Ethiopia and Southeast Asia. This spicy chili, popularly used in Thai cuisines, is an easy, quick de àrbol substitute, but an emergency solution only.

Beware; the tiny Thai chilies are about four times hotter than chile de Arbol. Thus it may not be a good choice for all recipes. But you can balance heat by using it only in a quarter portion of chile de Arbol required for your recipe. It is also worth considering a replacement pepper for Thai chiles in a pinch.

5. Cascabel pepper

Lastly, I’ve cascabel chili on the list of substitutes for chile de Arbol. Of course, the low-level heat (below 3,000 SHU) of this chile isn’t a perfect match for the highly spicy chile de Arbol.  Leaving aside its low spiciness, the earthy and nutty flavor of this chile makes it a worthy substitute for your consideration.

If you value the nutty flavor more than the heat profile of the chile, then cascabel pepper is a satisfactory substitute for chile de Arbol.

Chile De Arbol

Frequently Asked Questions

Is chile de Arbol the same as Cayenne?

Chile de Arbol is milder than cayenne pepper (30,000-50,000 SHU). Chile de Arbol is considered to be the Mexican cousin of cayenne and both are members of the Capsicum Annuum family. They are commonly dried and powdered for various uses in cooking. When toasted, they have a smoky, nutty flavor.

Is chile de Arbol spicier than jalapeno?

On the Scoville Scale, Chile de Arbol sits between 15,000 and 30,000 SHU, but some variants can go as high as 65,000 SHU. This chile at a heat level of 30,000 SHU is about 6 times hotter than the average Jalapeno (2,500-8,000 SHU).

Where can I find Chile de Arbol?

In Mexican groceries, you can buy de Arbol chile in fresh, dried, or ground form. If it isn’t available in your locality, then the dried and ground version of this chile is available from online vendors.

What does Arbol chili taste like?

De Arbol chiles have a grassy flavor with a hint of nuttiness. The dried chiles have a distinctive flavor that is smoky, nutty, and slightly grassy. They add searing, acidic heat to dishes.

How spicy is chili de Arbol?

De Arbol chiles are medium-hot chiles with a heat level ranging between 15,000 and 30,000 Scoville Heat Units. On average, it has half the heat of cayenne pepper but is about six times hotter than an average Jalapeno.

What do you call chili de Arbol in English?

Chiles de Arbol in Spanish means “tree chili” in English. Other names for this pepper include “bird's beak chilies” or “rat's tail chilies”.

Final Thoughts

If you can’t find chile de arbol peppers, you have some good substitutes to try. Cayenne pepper brings a similar fiery kick and taste to the table, while serrano peppers match the heat and add a bit of a fruity twist. These alternatives fit right into many recipes, making them great stand-ins for chile de arbol peppers.