Red Pepper Flakes Substitute – 7 Equivalent Swaps That Work

red pepper flakes substitute

What is Red Pepper Flakes?

Red pepper flakes or crushed red pepper is a condiment or spice. It consists of dried and crushed chili peppers. Usually, cayenne-type peppers go into their making, although commercially manufactured pepper flakes may combine a variety of peppers from different cultivars.

What can you use red pepper flakes for? Typically pepper flakes are used for a robust heat in savory cooking like Indian curries, and Italian and Mexican dishes. Also a hot flavorful addition to marinades, dressings, and stir-fries or sprinkled over pizzas and pasta. Surprisingly, you’ll find it occasionally used in desserts and hot chocolates as well.

What is the taste of red chili flakes? Dried and crushed red chili flakes have a pungent and smoky flavor. Generic pepper flakes are slightly sharp and a little earthy with a handsome level of spiciness.

What Is A Good Red Pepper Flakes Substitute?

Red pepper flakes, a.k.a crushed red pepper flakes or chili flakes are a staple ingredient in every kitchen rack. However, you may use a suitable crushed red pepper flakes substitute if you have run out of it. To make things easy for you, some of the replacement ingredients for chili flakes are common ingredients that you might already have in the pantry.

1. DIY – Homemade Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are nothing but dried and coarsely ground chili peppers. Believe me, it’s is super simple to make it at home.

Use any mixture of two more varieties of moderately hot chili peppers. Ancho and guajillo peppers are most commonly used for making them. Jalapeños, serranos, Anaheim chilies can also be used. Any good grocery store would have these varieties of chili peppers.

To make an instant blend of chili flakes, simply tear the dehydrated chilies into small pieces and grind them in a spice grinder or blender. Just pulse it at a moderate speed for a few seconds. Then remove the larger pieces; the remaining blend of small flakes and seeds are your ultimate red pepper chili flakes substitute.

To make it professionally, first manually sort the best quality chili peppers and dry them well to the extent of total dehydration (sun drying is recommended).  Secondly, tear chili peppers into narrow pieces and then coarsely grind them in a grinder. If you love the smoky flavor, you may smoke-dry the peppers before grinding. Well, dried chili pepper flakes have better flavor and longer shelf life.

2. Dried Peppers

You can also make the chili flakes with any dried chili peppers you have on the kitchen shelf. Grind the peppers into a mix of flakes, seeds, and powder. That is an instant replacement for crushed red chili pepper.

Note, all peppers are not the same because they vary a lot in flavor and have different levels of heat. If you have a comparatively hotter variety of pepper, then use fewer pepper flakes to balance the level of pungency.

Serrano, yellow hot wax peppers, red cayenne peppers, Anaheim, Poblano, Ancho, Chipolte, Jalapeño, or others that have Scoville scale ratings between 1,000 to 20,000 are best for making chili flakes.

3. Ground Cayenne Pepper

Ground cayenne pepper usually contains the same peppers as those used for making crushed red pepper flakes. Therefore, you can smoothly use ground cayenne pepper in place of chili flakes. There won’t be much difference in their heat levels as well.

To your advantage, cayenne pepper powder is conveniently available in almost all grocery stores. Probably, you already have it because it’s ubiquitously found in almost every kitchen.

On a negative note, in some recipes, you can’t use the ground cayenne pepper like the chili flakes. Not possible to sprinkle chili powder over pizza, pasta, dressings like you do with chili flakes. In addition, some varieties of ground cayenne pepper are hotter than chili flakes.

4. Gochugaru

Gochugaru is a Korean variant of red pepper flakes mostly used in Korean cuisines like kimchi. Generally, it contains sun-dried long, slim, and mild peppers, made of either red or green peppers. But the seeds are excluded from this blend of peppers, unlike red pepper flakes.

All the peppers used in Gochugaru are peppers cultivated in Korea but they actually belong to the same species of chili peppers of Central American origin.

Gochugaru is milder than regular chili flakes, thus you need to use them in a little more quantity than the crushed pepper flakes.

5. Chili Powder

Chili powder is the dried, pulverized fruit of one or more varieties of chili pepper, some brands of this product also include other spices. Chili powder is popularly used in traditional Latin American dishes like tacos and enchiladas. Like the pepper flakes, it works well for stew, soup, grilled meats, a pot of beans, and vegetables.

In a pinch, if you have chili powder in your kitchen rack, use it instead of crushed pepper flakes.

Importantly, chili powder is mild and doesn’t have the texture of the chili flakes.

6. Fresh Red Chili Pepper

Fresh, hot chilies (a.k.a. hot peppers or chili peppers) are a great addition to many recipes, especially in vegetable dishes. They have a green, grassy flavor that exudes a good kick of heat.

They differ a lot from red pepper flakes in appearance, flavor, and uses. However, in an emergency, you can use finely chopped fresh red chili peppers as a substitute for chili flakes. This substation works best in recipes that are okay with extra bulk and moisture of the fresh chilies.

7. Hot Sauce

Hot sauce can very well mimic the heat of crushed pepper flakes.

If you don’t have red pepper flakes alternatives that I have listed above, then use hot sauce instead.

The heat level of hot sauce can vary according to the peppers used to make it. Always start by adding only a few splashes of hot sauce to your recipe, if required add more midway through cooking.

The Bottom Line

When you have run out of red pepper flakes, you can use a substitute that balances the required heat level of your recipe. I would recommend you to use the DIY homemade chili flakes as the best replacement for crushed pepper flakes. Other alternatives for crushed pepper flakes, in the order of preference, are dried pepper, ground cayenne pepper, and Gochugaru.