Red Pepper Flakes Substitute – 7 Equivalent Swaps That Work

Red pepper flakes for crushed pepper flakes are made of dried and crushed chili pepper, usually, a mixture of a few different types of peppers.

This spice or condiment is most commonly produced from cayenne-type peppers within the heat range of 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Units.

Most commercially sold red pepper flakes are typically cayenne pepper heavy and have a neutral earthy, peppery flavor. This crushed pepper mixture is a versatile ingredient that can make any of your dishes instantly hot and spicy; and is frequently used in pizza sauce, sausage, pickling blends, chowders, spaghetti sauce, soups, and savory dishes.

Red Pepper Flakes Substitutes

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 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, and 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 that 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, and dressings like you do with chili flakes. In addition, some varieties of ground cayenne pepper are hotter than chili flakes. Any of the substitutes for cayenne pepper can also be used if suitable.

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 on 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. Also, use any of the alternative spices for chili powder if they are suitable for your recipe.

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.

Red Pepper Flakes


Can you substitute chili powder for red pepper flakes?

If you are just looking to spice up your recipe, then red pepper flakes and chili powder can be used interchangeably. However, flakes are just crushed dry peppers with coarse texture; they need to be ground into powder-like consistency to appear like chili powder. In addition, traditional chili powders also contain other spices like cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and paprika.

Can I use Sriracha instead of red pepper flakes?

Sriracha sauce is spicy like the red pepper flakes. Just a few drops of Sriracha are enough to supply the same level of heat as a teaspoon of red pepper flakes. You can use Sriracha instead of red pepper flakes in savory dishes, soups, and sauces.

Can I use paprika instead of red pepper flakes?

Paprika and crushed pepper are different in texture but both are equally spicy with similarities in flavor. Definitely, paprika is a good substitute for pepper flakes.

What are the differences between chili flakes and red pepper flakes?

Chili flakes are made from a single type of chili but pepper flakes are a mixture of different peppers dried and crushed into flakes. Flavor-wise, crushed pepper flakes have a complex flavor and medium-level heat. Chili flakes’ heat largely depends on the type of chili; generally, mild chilies are used for making chili flakes.

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.