Looking For A Guajillo Chiles Substitute? Try These 4 Swaps

guajillo chiles substitute

If you are a Mexican foodie, then you cannot miss out on Guajillo chiles with their sweet-heat and smoky flavor. A commonly used pepper in salsa, tortilla chips, or enchiladas. Mixing Guajillo with other chiles for complex adobos or mole sauces is a predominant practice in Mexican cooking.

This article explores the best Guajillo chiles substitute, and a little about its flavors and uses in cooking.

What are Guajillo Chiles?

Guajillo Chile is the dried form of mirasol chile, a variety of chile pepper of the species of Capsicum annuum. Mexican farmers from the state of Zacatecas are chief producers of this chile. After poblano, this is the most popularly used chile in Mexican cuisines.

Most groceries with Mexican spices sell this chile in whole, dried, ground, or paste forms. This pepper is commonly used in making stews, salsa, soups, and sauces.

Smooth and thick fleshed Guajillo peppers are about 2-4 inches long with reddish skin when ripened.  Besides Ancho and Pasilla peppers, this hot chile is part of the “holy trinity” of Mexican chiles.


What does Guajillo chile taste like? Guajillo chiles have a sweet, fruity, smoky, tangy flavor with notes of tea and berries.

The mild heat of Guajillo ranges between 2,500 to 5,000 0n Scoville Heat Unit (SHU). This chile is as hot as the popular Jalapeno which is 2,500 to 8,000 SHU but hotter than poblano that ranks between 1,00 to 1,500 SHU.

What Is A Good Guajillo Chiles Substitute?

Guajillo chile is popular in Mexico but it’s scarcely available in most parts of the world. So what are the alternative chiles to use in place of Guajillo?

I have found a few good substitutes for Guajillo chiles that have similar heat and flavor profiles. Here are the alternatives to consider:

1. Ancho pepper

Ancho pepper is a close cousin of Guajillo which is also part of the Mexican ‘holy trinity’ of chiles. Basically, it’s the ripe and dried poblano peppers. This is an easy pick substitute for this pepper is conveniently available in most supermarkets and groceries.

Ancho pepper is milder than Guajillo in the heat but their similar sweet and smoky flavor makes them a tango. However, ancho pepper has a deeper and earthier flavor compared to the fruity flavor of Guajillo with notes of tea.

Despite a few dissimilarities, you can very well use ancho pepper in place of Guajillo pepper in any recipe that calls for it.

While substituting, use ancho peppers in little more quantity than Guajillo pepper.

2. Pasilla pepper

Pasilla chile or chile negro is the dried form of the chilaca chili, also a member of the ‘holy trinity’ of Mexican chiles. This chili is milder than Guajillo in the heat but both are slightly sweet.

Both of them have an aura of earthiness in flavor. Pasilla pepper has slight hints of berry and cocoa whereas Guajillo has hints of green tea.

Of course, Pasilla pepper is not an ideal substitute for Guajillo chile, yet they have more similarities in common than the few differences.

As Pasilla being a milder chile, use it in a little more quantity than Guajillo pepper.

3. Cascabel pepper

The cascabel peppers, also known as the rattle chili, are one of the Mirasol cultivars. The ‘rattle’ or ‘bell’ descriptions narrate the tendency of loose seeds to rattle inside a dried cascabel when shaken.

To be sure, it isn’t a perfect replacement for Guajillo, but its earthy and nutty flavor is an equally satiating substitute for Guajillo chile flavors.

You won’t find the same sweetness of Guajillo in the Cascabel but its woodsy taste is equally gratifying as the tea-like undertones of Guajillo.

In a pinch, Cascabel is a worthy stand-in pepper for Guajillo pepper.

4. New Mexico Chiles

New Mexico chile is a cultivar group of the chile pepper from the US state of New Mexico. You’ll be disappointed with its low heat, but this chile has an earthy and sweet flavor like the Guajillo. Plus, this chile has wonderful cherry tones and traces acidity equivalent to Guajillo.

When it comes to heat, New Mexico chile ranks at 1,400 SHU in the heat ratings. So this chile works best as an alternative to Guajillo chile only in low spicy dishes.

Use toasted New Mexico chiles for better flavors, as you do with Guajillo.

The Bottom Line

Guajillo pepper is one of the most popular Mexican chiles widely used in several Mexican and American dishes. If you are living out of the Mexican region, this chile is quite a scarce item and thus it calls for an alternative.

To my findings, ancho pepper is the best Guajillo chile substitute. Other worthy alternatives for this chile are Pasilla chile and Cascabel pepper.