Ancho chili powder is made from ripened poblano peppers (Ancho chiles) that have been dried and smoked. This mild pepper has an earthy, smoky, fruity flavor that can make your dishes deliciously sweet and smoky in taste.
Ancho chili powder is a staple in several Mexican cuisines. This hot chili is part of the “holy trinity” (Ancho, Pasilla, and Guajillo) widely used in mole sauces. When you are trying out a spicy Mexican recipe like the mole sauce or salsa, ancho pepper is a conspicuous ingredient.
This article explores the best substitute for ancho chili powder that you can use in a pinch.
Substitute For Ancho Chili Powder
Ancho chili powder is easy to source or makes powder yourself, especially if you are living in a Mexican locality.
If you cannot find it in grocery stores near you, the best alternative to ancho powder is to make it yourself at home. Get well-dehydrated fresh poblano peppers and grind them.
In case, you don’t even have the poblano peppers, then save your recipe with a good substitute for ancho pepper powder. I’m sure that you might have at least one of these stand-in ingredients in your kitchen cabinet.
1. Guajillo pepper powder
Guajillo pepper is a close cousin of ancho chili and is equally popular as well. Also, it’s a core ingredient in ‘holy trinity’, a famed Mexican chili pepper mixture.
The mild heat of this chili that usually does not go beyond 5,000 SHUs is in line with ancho pepper.
Guajillo pepper is slightly sweeter than ancho pepper but perfect enough for tomato dishes, sauces, soups, and marinades. It has also a similar smokiness to the ancho.
In place of ancho powder, you can easily use Guajillo chili powder or paste. It works perfectly in sauces and salsa.
2. Pasilla powder
The brownish pasilla chile or chile negro is the dried form of the chilaca chili pepper, a long and narrow member of the species Capsicum annuum. It is also part of the ‘holy trinity’ chili pepper mixture.
Pasilla chile is a worthy substitute for ancho chili powder as they both have similar heat levels and flavors. Chile negro is sweet like ancho but has notes of berry cocoa.
Use it in the same quantity as the ancho powder required for the recipe.
3. Chipotle powder
Chipotle are smoked dried jalapeños that also come from Mexico, the land of chili peppers. The earthiness of this powder is far superior to ancho.
As for a major difference, it is at least 4 times hotter than the ancho chili powder. Still, it’s a good choice for replacing ancho powder. By using chipotle in less quantity than ancho powder required for your recipe, you can balance the heat level.
In the groceries, you’ll find two types of chipotle: Meco and Morita. Meco chipotles have a more intense smoky flavor than Morita. While using chipotle instead of ancho powder, make sure that the smokiness of this chili won’t overpower the flavor profile of your recipe.
4. New Mexico chili powder
If you prefer to have a less spicy alternative to ancho chilies, then go for New Mexico chili powder. It’s a lot similar to ancho pepper despite its low spiciness.
Most brands of New Mexico chili powder are made with Anaheim chilies, but some brands do use Californian chilies.
Don’t expect to find the earthiness of ancho chilies in it; still, it works as a replacement for ancho powder in a pinch. While using it as a stand-in chili for ancho chili powder, use it in a little more quantity to catch up with the spiciness of the ancho.
5. Mulato Pepper Powder
Like the ancho chili, Mulato also is another variety of poblano pepper that is processed from fully mature and dried poblanos. It is a mild to medium spicy pepper-like ancho powder but with a different flavor. The Mulato is a poblano that ripens to brown (almost black), while the ancho is a poblano that ripens to a deep red, and then dried.
The Mulato has a sweet chocolatey flavor that is a departure from ancho peppers. Also, the dark brown color of Mulato may not be appealing in pale dishes.
In a pinch, Mulato chili powder is an agreeable substitution for ancho chili powder.
Can I substitute chili powder for ancho chili powder?
Chili powder, made of hot chili peppers and a few spices, differs from ancho powder in heat and flavor. Generally, chili powder isn’t a suitable substitute for ancho powder. If you use chili powder in place of ancho powder, it not makes your dishes spicy but also alters the taste.
Can paprika substitute for ancho chile powder?
You may use paprika in place of ancho pepper but the least suitable option. Mild and sweet paprika may work in some recipes but it lacks the smoky taste of ancho chiles. Most paprika varieties made of moderately hot chilies like cayenne, serrano, or jalapeno will make your dishes spicy and adds bright red color.
Can I substitute cayenne pepper for ancho chili powder?
As opposed to the mild and earthy, sweet, and smoky flavors of ancho powder, cayenne peppers are 30 to 40 times hotter and have a neutral flavor. It’s not recommended that you substitute cayenne pepper powder for ancho chili powder.
Which is hotter ancho or jalapeno?
The heat level of Ancho chili powder ranges from 1,000 to 2,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale. When compared to jalapeno (2,500-8,000 SHU), ancho powder is 2 to 7 times milder.
The Bottom Line
Sweet and mild, this chile pepper is commonly used in Mexican and Southwestern U.S. cuisine. If you are looking for a substitute for ancho chili powder then use Guajillo or Pasilla pepper powder. Other useful ancho powder alternatives are chipotle powder, Mulato pepper powder, or new Mexican chili powder.
For further reading, also have a look at the best substitutes for chili powder that you can use in cooking.