Popular in numerous recipes, cayenne is a spice that’s made of ground cayenne peppers, a decently hot red chili pepper. Some ground cayenne powders on the market may use cayenne peppers plus a blend of other peppers.

Now I’ve seen some, what I’d consider, exotic substitutions out here on the interwebs. Now I assume if you don’t have cayenne pepper in your pantry, the odds of you having Gochugaru are slim to none. But use it if you got it! 

Here are some great cayenne pepper substitutes that you may actually have in your pantry.


The best dry substitutes for ground cayenne pepper:


1. Red pepper flakes

I listed crushed red pepper flakes in the #1 spot mainly because they can usually be found in most pantries. Red pepper flakes typically contain a variety of dried red peppers including cayenne peppers. I’ve found that not all red pepper flakes are equal. Some can be fairly mild while some are quite hot. Taste them first to see just how spicy they are.

If you want them in powder form, simply throw them in a spice grinder (don’t inhale while doing this) and you’ll have a powder that is VERY similar to store bought ground cayenne pepper. Now depending on how spicy the red peppers flakes are, you may need to use more or less to achieve the desired level of spice, but in equal amount of chile flakes in place of cayenne pepper is a good place to start.

2. Chili Powder

Another easy to find and great cayenne power substitute is chili powder. Most people have this on hand, and I find the heat level to be fairly close to cayenne pepper, although that can vary by brand. 

Just be aware that chili powder typically has salt added (and garlic) and cayenne pepper does not. So if using chili powder as a substitute, taste test as you go. It does taste saltier. You may need to lower any added salt in a recipe

3. Hot Paprika

Also called Hot Hungarian Paprika (not to be mistaken for regular or sweet paprika which has nearly no heat or smoked paprika, which is just too smoky to be a good cayenne pepper substitute).

While I find Hot Paprika to be the closet substitute for cayenne pepper, it’s listed at #3 here but it also wasn’t the easiest to find in the grocery store and I can’t see it being a staple in most pantries.

I checked three grocery stores, and only one carried it, so if you have to shop anyway, then there’s no reason not to just get cayenne pepper. I picked up McCormick’s Hot Hungarian Paprika and, with all the spice substitutes listed, I taste tested it against cayenne pepper. Hot paprika is a tad less spicy than cayenne pepper, so I’d start with equal amount of hot paprika in place of cayenne pepper and then adjust to taste.