Chipotle peppers are ripe red jalapeños that have been smoke-dried. They have a distinctive flavor of smokiness, but beneath the smoke and moderate heat, chipotles are also sweet. They are one of the most famous Mexican spices.
Chipotle chilies are delicious when made with beef and also go well with ground chicken, turkey, or pork. Even having bean dishes with this chili is amazingly tasty.
This article explores the best chipotle pepper substitutes to use in a pinch.
Best Chipotle Pepper Substitutes
Chipotle chiles aren’t easily available outside Mexico and the US. So the question arises: what can I use if I don’t have any 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 them at home if you have ripe, red jalapeno peppers on 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, and alder wood chips can produce a 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 airtight container for future use.
2. Chipotle Powder
In place of whole dried chili, use 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. If it isn’t available, even one of the best chipotle powder substitutes could be used in an emergency.
3. Chipotle In Adobo Sauce
Adobo is a tangy, slightly sweet red sauce composed variously of peppers (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 chipotles, you can try chipotles in adobo sauce. Most supermarkets and grocery stores do have chipotle peppers in adobo sauce on sale.
Of course, you cannot use this sauce in all recipes that call for chipotle chili peppers, as it can alter the flavor. The chipotle in the adobo 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, which 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, making it difficult to trace 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 chipotle. What you might disagree with is this pepper’s 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 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 is used in Mexican cuisines mostly.
Pequín chiles are hard to grow; therefore, they tend to be costlier than chipotle and other types of chiles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I substitute cayenne pepper for chipotle powder?
Cayenne pepper or cayenne powder is a possible replacement for chipotle powder, though they differ in heat level and flavor. Cayenne pepper is very hot, just a sprinkle will make your soups, meat, or stews spicy with a bit of smoky flavor and more than enough heat. Considering the great health benefits of cayenne, it’s a healthy alternative to ground chipotle.
How much chipotle powder equals 1 pepper?
About ½ a teaspoon of the chipotle powder is equal to 1 large canned chipotle chile.
What is the difference between chipotle paste and chipotle in adobo?
The biggest difference between them is the ingredients. The chipotle paste is made from a purée of chipotle chilies with a few other ingredients, such as tomato purée, garlic, onion, vinegar, spices, dried herbs, and sugar. On the other hand, chipotle in adobe is canned chipotle (whole or crushed chilies) packed in adobe sauce. It may also include additional ingredients such as lime, high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, salt, and a few spices.
Can chili powder be substituted for chipotle?
Chili powder is not an ideal substitute, but still, it works. Besides different chili peppers, regular chili powder also includes spices such as cumin powder, oregano, and garlic powder. It lacks the smoky flavor of the former but is spicier.
Can I substitute chipotle for ancho powder?
You may use ancho peppers (dried poblano peppers) as a substitute for it. However, it has a milder heat and less smokiness.
Is chipotle pepper the same as crushed red pepper?
No. The key difference between them lies in the heat level. Crushed red peppers are typically as hot as cayenne, which is their base pepper. Those flakes do not have a smoky flavor. Crushed red peppers have a neutral flavor and lack the depth of chipotles.
What is a good substitute for chipotle powder?
Some of the best alternatives to it are pasilla powder, Piri Piri powder, ancho chili powder, guajillo powder, and Aleppo pepper powder.
What is a good adobo sauce substitute?
The most recommended substitutes for Adobo sauce are:
- Tabasco chipotle hot sauce.
- Ranchero sauce.
- Chili garlic sauce.
- Ancho chile paste.
- Homemade spice blends.
What is a good substitute for chipotle sauce?
The most recommended replacements for chipotle sauce are:
- Smoked paprika
- Smoked paprika and tomato puree
- Chipotle powder puree.
- Hoisin sauce
- Achiote paste
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 chipotle pepper substitutes, especially for those of you living outside of Mexico.
Making your own dried chipotle peppers is the best alternative to buying them for your recipe. Other smoked peppers like Pequín chiles, smoked paprika, pasilla pepper, or chocolate habaneros are worthy replacements for chipotle.
Read Next: Chipotle Paste: Substitutes, Ingredients, Flavor, Making, and more.