Red pepper flakes are a common ingredient in many of your kitchens. It is so common you may at times overlook its availability and can run out of it. Imagine this happening when you need it the most. No worries! There are a few substitutes for the essential spice. Read on to know what to use in place of red pepper flakes.

Red pepper flakes are made of dried red peppers. There is often a higher share of seeds and hence its heat level is very distinct. These flakes have multiple uses namely, as a topping for your pasta or pizzas, as a key ingredient that lends an essential taste to your dishes, etc.

When you have run out of red pepper flakes (also called as crushed red pepper or chili flakes), you need not have to visit your grocery store. All you need to do is look inside your own kitchen. You are sure to find suitable alternatives. Some best suiting ones and closest substitutes are listed here in these succeeding sections.

#1. Cayenne powder

It is found as commonly as red pepper flakes in your kitchens; you can use it when the latter gets out of stock. The heat from this powder is not too very hot. On top of all these, cayenne powder has a good flavor that makes it a great substitute for red peppers. The only caveat however is- ensure to use lesser amounts of cayenne powder while it is used as a substitute. It can be added while cooking curries, stews, cheese-based dishes, soufflés, omelettes, meats, seafood, etc. At times, it can also be used as herbal additive or supplement.

On health benefits of cayenne, it can help minimise acidity, promotes blood circulation, etc. It is also known to boost gastro intestinal health by boosting your body’s ability to digest foods. As an outcome, it is used as a home remedy for bloating (formation of gas), diarrhea, abdominal cramps as well as pain.

#2. Dried pepper

You can easily make flakes by adding dried peppers to a blender. All you need to do is to grind them to get the flakes. This is exactly the same way red pepper flakes are also made. Be careful with the quantum of heat coming off the dried pepper flakes; the extent of heat depends on the type of pepper you choose. So as to tread safe, you can opt to use the same measure used for cayenne powder.

On the health front, dried pepper carries a world of goodness in it. It has abundant anti-inflammatory powers, antioxidants and is also endowed with properties to stimulate functioning of the brain. Besides these, pepper (especially black peppers) can help control cholesterol and blood sugar levels of your body. On its mineral contents, pepper is endowed with a variety of nutrients such as calcium, sodium, phosphorous, potassium, etc. Its vitamin footprint is equally impressive, packed with vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamine and niacin. Other benefits include presence of vitamin K, folate as well as vitamin E in noteworthy proportions. Its fiber and protein contents along with minimal levels of carbs make it a healthy addition to those watchful of their waistlines.

#3. Chili powder

If you are used to cooking spicy foods, your kitchen is most likely to have chili powder. It is a fine form of many hot peppers, blended as a powder. Though the powder has many kinds of peppers, the base has lesser amounts of it. So, you may have to add more of the powder while substituting for red pepper flakes. You are however advised to show restraint and add as per requirements of each dish.


On their nutritional side, chili powder have considerable levels of vitamin A (good for your eyesight), iron (to keep away anemia related risks by helping your body produce red blood cells), potassium (to boost your cardiac health), etc. The powder can also work wonders with your cognitive and reasoning abilities. It is known to promote your digestive health as well.

#4. Cocktail sauce

This sauce can be made with three simple ingredients namely prepared horseradish, ketchup and juice of lemon. But, this may not be the case with commercially sold cocktail sauces. These may have food additives, more importantly corn syrups with high level of fructose content. So, between homemade and commercially sold cocktail sauces, always opt for the homemade option if you wish a good substitute for red pepper flakes. It is both easy on your pockets as well as way too healthier than its commercial counterpart. Another advantage of the homemade sauce is you can change the ratio of any of these ingredients, and get the taste of your choice.

Addition of horseradish to the cocktail sauce renders unique health benefits such as boosting your immune system with antimicrobial and antibacterial powers. The sauce is also known to boost the functioning of lungs as well as help avoid complications in your urinary tract. The notable presence of antioxidants can help your body against likely risks of cancer and other such autoimmune diseases.

#5. Gochugaru

It is almost similar to red pepper flakes; the main difference is this has no seeds in it. This is a Korean equivalent of red pepper flakes. It is this spice that renders the heat to dishes such as kimchi. Though gochugaru is grown in Korea, it owes its origin to Central American regions. Stay mindful that gochugaru is milder in taste than conventional red pepper flakes. With no seeds in it, you can use it to your advantage while making spicy dishes. In some instances, this can be a great advantage – which most of the substitutes of red pepper cannot boast.

Gochugaru can help control your blood sugar level (it does a commendable work when clubbed along with foods having high fiber as well as protein contents), and also supply a rich amount of antioxidants (avoids internal inflammation and thus keeps cancer, cardiac disorders at bay). It also can stimulate loss of extra fats from your body (many believe it is the best substance available naturally to burn fats), help keep cardiac problems away (by reducing the levels of triglycerides as well as visceral fats) and top of it all, boost your metabolism rate by rendering you with powers to digest foods with relative ease.


#6. Sweet paprika

This substitute uses pimento pepper as its base. But there are other varieties that are made with hotter types of chilies. Based on the types of chilies used, its heat levels can vary. In its purest form, the paprika is a finest blend of chilies. The chilies are first dried and ground to a fine powder form. There is no great risk of a change in taste as the paprika is made without any other additives or fillers. However it is recommended to read the food packaging label to know if any other species are added to this otherwise great substitute for red pepper flakes.

While choosing paprika, it is better to know the various types available in the grocery store. The generic type of paprika is quite mild. But if it is packaged with an explicit label stating it is hot, then you can expect it to come closer to cayenne pepper. Paprika made in Spain can go upto three levels in terms of heat while its Hungarian counterpart can reach upto eight levels in terms of spiciness.

Paprika is known as a rich source of folic acid, oil-soluble nutrients such as vitamin A and vitamin K. It is also found to contain water-soluble essentials such as vitamin B as well as vitamin C. The key health advantage is the sizable levels of antioxidants (such as carotene) present in it.

#7. Serrano peppers

These peppers are widely used in Mexican cuisine. They command their value due to their unique flavors as well as the high level of heat they yield. Known for the softer rind, they need not be peeled before use. These peppers are popularly used while making salsa. The fleshy nature of these peppers makes them an ideal choice for such cuisines.

The other benefits of using this pepper as a substitute are the low level of fats present in it. It has been studied that a cup may contain as low as 0.5 gram of fat. Also, it is endowed with vitamin C as well as minerals such as potassium. Apart from these, its nutrient contents include zinc, selenium, iron and calcium among many other equally essential minerals.

#8. Jalapenos

This is another good substitute for red pepper flakes. It is picked when it is green. It is much milder than serrano peppers. It is known for its vitamin B6, vitamin C as well as vitamin E contents. It also has traces of vitamin K. Its mineral profile includes potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium and sodium.

Heat generated from this substitute may vary between varieties of plants. The heat levels are found to increase when it ripens more. The easiest way to stay away from excessive hot jalapenos is to look for color differences. Green-colored jalapenos possess lesser heat levels than the ripe, red-colored ones.

Once you have handled these peppers, do not make your hands to come in contact with your eyes or nose; it may cause redness onto your skin and you may also experience a burning sensation.

#9. Habaneros

These are extremely hot chilies, and reserved only for lovers of spicy foods. It is strictly used in very moderate quantities. Owing to its excessive heat levels, usage is restricted to very spicy foods as well as very hot sauces. You may try a milder version (derived by cross breeding with some variants sourced from Bolivia). Always remember that even tiny slivers of this chili can make a huge impact to the spiciness of your dishes. It is widely used in marinades made for grilling as well as in sauces made for barbecues. It can also be used in jellys and salsas. These chili peppers can be paired up well with sweet cuisine. One of the popular combinations is habaneros combined with mangos.

On the nutritional index, habaneros are endowed with a rich share of vitamin C. It is so abundantly blessed with this vitamin that a single pepper can serve more than 100% of your body’s daily need of vitamin C. It also has some traces of vitamin A, iron and calcium. An added attraction is the presence of nil fats and energy measuring to less than 20 calories. The pepper also has phytonutrients; the wonder substance which can keep many health disorders at bay. Also, this pepper owes its anti-inflammatory properties to high levels of capsaicin.

You can try any one of these common substitutes for red pepper flakes when your kitchen has run out of them. Apart from these, you can also try a few other substitutes and alternatives. These include paste made from chilies. Some also use a variety of hot sauces with varying proportions of peppers and chilies. These sauces can add different flavors to your dish. Always stay mindful of heat levels of these substitutes as well as the risks associated to change of taste by adding these alternatives.

So, you need not be helpless when your kitchen runs short of red pepper flakes all of a sudden. With so many options available as substitutes, all you need to do is to stay careful with the heat levels and the consistency. After all, the thing you would not want is to have the substitute change the texture and taste of your dish.


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