Chipotle Pepper: Substitutes, Flavor, And Uses In Cooking

chipotle pepper substitute

Chipotle chili is delicious when made with beef, also goes well with ground chicken, turkey, or pork. Even having any beans dishes with this chili is amazingly tasty.

This article explores the best chipotle pepper substitute to use in a pinch, also a little about its flavor and uses.

What are Chipotle peppers?

A chipotle, or chipotle, is a smoke-dried ripe jalapeño chili pepper used for seasoning. Usually, they are ground and used in several Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking. Often, you’ll find it typically sold in a rich, smoky flavored adobo sauce.

Today, chipotles predominantly come from Mexico, where they produce two varieties of chipotle: Morita (made with green tender Jalapenos) and Meco (made with matured red jalapenos).

Chipotles are available in different forms like dried, powdered, canned, or pickled. To your displeasure, they are scarce and mostly available only where Mexican people live.


The smokiness is the distinctive flavor of chipotle, besides the smoke and heat, chipotles are also sweet. Their heat ranges from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville units. They are hotter than the commonly used ancho chiles.

Usually, the ripened chilies on the vine to a deep red are much sweeter than green jalapenos. Toasting the dried peppers for few minutes helps wake up the flavors to their full.


Chipotle peppers are central to Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisines. Some love to puree a can of chipotles into a dipping sauce; others may use the fine powder of dried chipotle to sprinkle onto popcorn or pizzas.

Canned Adobo sauce is a popular item made of chipotle chilies which are known for their great flavor with mild heat.

Tinga de pollo tacos are made by filling the shredded chicken tinga cooked in a chipotle sauce. Mole poblano and Camarones a la diabla are two deeply flavorful sauces that have chipotle chiles as the key ingredient.

RELATED: What is chipotle paste and what are its substitutes?

What’s A Good Chipotle Pepper Substitute?

Chipotle chiles aren’t easily available outside Mexico and the US. So the question arises: What can I use if I don’t have Chipotle?

An ideal substitute for chipotle pepper is another pepper that is both smoky and spicy. Here are the best alternatives to consider:

1. Smoke Your Own Chipotle Peppers

You can make the chipotle chilies at home if you have ripe, red Jalapeno peppers at hand.

Place the peppers on a charcoal grill and smoke them at a low temperature (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit) for three hours. Using soaked apple, oak, maple, alder wood chips can produce nice even heat and slow, steady smoke. If needed, keep adding small scoops of hot coals at regular intervals into the wood chips to maintain the fire and consistent output of low heat and smoke.

Once the peppers are smoked, dry them with a dehydrator. Alternatively, you can also dry the peppers using an oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit until they are completely dry and crispy. Or else, think of sun-drying the smoked peppers.  After drying, keep the smoked peppers stored in an air-tight container for future uses.

2. Chipotle Powder

In place of whole dried chipotle chili use a chipotle powder that you can get from a good grocery store or an online shopping site. This powder has the same level of heat and flavor as the whole chili.

When using chipotle powder, the equivalent of one whole dried chipotle is around ½ teaspoon.

3. Chipotle Adobo Sauce

Adobo is a tangy, slightly sweet red sauce composed variously of pepper (any peppers like chipotle or paprika), oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar; this sauce enhances the flavor and preserves the food. Of course, like most other sauces it’s a tomato-based sauce.

Instead of powder or whole dried chipotle pepper, you can try chipotle in adobo sauce.  Most supermarkets and grocery stores do have chipotle adobo sauce on sale.

Of course, you cannot use this sauce in all recipes that call for chipotle pepper as it can alter the flavor. The chipotle in the adobo sauce is whole, so it’s a 1 to 1 ratio.

4. Pasilla de Oaxaca

The dried pasilla pepper from the Oaxaca region of Mexico is another great alternative to chipotle. This pepper is not as spicy as chipotle but smokier indeed.

Pasilla peppers rank at 2,500 Scoville heat units (SHU) which is not a match for chipotle that can reach up to 8,000 SHU. However, you can use this pepper as a replacement for chipotle chili for its smoky flavor. Unfortunately, this is also a scarce variety of pepper difficult to trace out in most places.

5. Chocolate habanero

When I think of habaneros, what comes to my mind is their fruitiness. But the chocolate habaneros are earthy and smoky like the chipotle. What you might disagree with this pepper is its heat. Chocolate habaneros are hotter than regular habaneros with a SHU rank of 577,000. This is extremely hot and several times hotter than chipotle. Still, it’s a good alternative to chipotle pepper for those who can stomach this extremely hot pepper.

6. Pequín Chiles

Pequín chiles are also known as chiles pequeños, or little chiles because they are tiny, just about half an inch long. They have a wonderful smoky flavor along with bright heat. It’s a good equivalent to chipotle in all features and used in Mexican cuisines mostly.

Pequín chiles are hard to grow; therefore, they tend to be costlier than chipotle and other types of chiles.

The Bottom Line

Chipotle chiles are smoke-dried ripe jalapeño chili peppers used for seasoning. It is rather scarce in most places; it may become necessary for you to find a chipotle pepper substitute, especially for those of you living out of Mexico.

Making your own chipotle peppers is the best alternative to have for your recipe. Other smoked peppers like Pequín chiles, smoked paprika, pasilla pepper, or chocolate habaneros are a worthy replacement for chipotle.