Home Articles 6 Best Substitutes for Red Pepper Flakes

6 Best Substitutes for Red Pepper Flakes

Need some quick substitutes for red pepper flakes? You’ve come to the right place!

From peppering your pizza to heating up a stew, I’ve got you covered.

Raw and Organic Red Pepper Flakes

There aren’t a ton of alternatives for red pepper flakes.

But there are enough to get you through in a pinch. And they’re readily available, so you don’t need to order anything special.

In fact, I bet you have a few on hand right now.

For heat, I usually go with cayenne. But for replicating flavor, I prefer dried peppers or paprika.

So if you are cooking and need some substitutes for red pepper flakes fast, keep reading!

What Are Red Pepper Flakes?

Red pepper flakes are a popular seasoning found anywhere that sells spices, including supermarkets, local grocery stores, and specialty spice markets. Consisting of dried and crushed peppers, a typical blend includes red chili peppers, Anaheim peppers, jalapeños, yellow chilies, and cayenne peppers.

Many pizza chains offer them in shakers to add a little heat to your slice.

They’re flavorful, colorful, and spicy, usually ranging between 30,000 and 50,000 SHUs.

They add a wonderful taste to savory dishes and plenty of heat if you want it.

Some people even add them to sweeter recipes, like jams and desserts.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how you use them; the important thing is that you have them on hand when the time comes. 

Unfortunately, there’s always the possibility of running out. That’s where these six substitutes for red pepper flakes come in handy. 

Keep in mind that some will work better for certain recipes than others. So double-check how each will affect the flavor of your dish before adding it.

Crushed Red Pepper Flake Substitutes and Easy Alternatives

Ground Cayenne Pepper in a Wooden Bowl

1. Ground Cayenne Pepper / Cayenne Pepper Powder

If what you’re after is heat, I highly recommend cayenne pepper.

Don’t get me wrong; it has a fantastic flavor, too. However, most people use it for its concentrated spiciness. 

Cayenne peppers are an integral ingredient in most red pepper flake blends, so substituting pure cayenne won’t make a massive difference in the recipe.

However – and this is important – remember that cayenne is hot

It packs a much spicier punch than red pepper flakes by a lot. Some ground cayenne can reach 90,000 units on the Scoville scale. (Most don’t, though.)

Even so, cayenne usually comes in powdered form. Therefore, it’s more concentrated and hotter.

That means you’ll need to adjust the ratio for your recipes, and I recommend cutting the amount in half.

If a recipe calls for two teaspoons of red pepper flakes, use one teaspoon of cayenne instead.

For a single teaspoon of red pepper, use half a teaspoon of cayenne, etc.

Some people claim cayenne works best as a substitute in stews and soups. But, honestly, I find it works well in practically any recipe.

It’s not always the best option for a topping, though.

Dried Red Chili Peppers in a bowl

2. Dried Peppers 

If you have a variety of dried peppers on hand, use those as a replacement.

After all, red pepper flakes are simply dried peppers that have been crushed.

Just cut off the stems, toss them in a processor, and voila. You’ll have homemade crushed red pepper flakes.

Use a good mixture of the peppers mentioned above for the closest flavor match.

When crushed, use dried chili peppers in the same ratio as red pepper flakes.

Chili Powder in a bowl

3. Chili Powder

Chili powder is another excellent red pepper flakes substitute.

Heat-wise, it’s much milder than red pepper flakes, but the taste is pretty similar. 

After all, chili powder is just dried and powdered chili peppers with some spice. But, as I mentioned, the flavor is comparable. 

However, if you’re looking to add heat to something, you’ll need to double the amount.

Use two teaspoons in recipes that call for one teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

This substitute works particularly well in baked goods.

Paprika in a Glass Ingredient Bowl

4. Paprika 

Paprika works best as a flavor substitute for red pepper flakes.

Like chili powder, it doesn’t have a ton of heat, and the texture won’t be the same.

However, paprika is terrific if you want to add color and flavor to a dish. You’ll need to really beef up the amount you use, though. 

So, what does that mean? Double it? Triple it? Nope. 

You’ll want to use four times as much paprika as red pepper flakes. In other words:

  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes = 1 teaspoon of paprika

Also, be sure you don’t accidentally use smoked paprika. It adds a smoky flavor to your dish that you might not appreciate.

Chile de Árbol Powder

5. Chile de Árbol Powder

If you have any chile de Árbol in your kitchen, you’re in luck.

It’s a little milder than red pepper flakes, but their flavors are almost indistinguishable.  

Chile de Árbol is popular in Mexican and Latin American cooking. That means it works especially well in salsa, sauces, chili, stews, soups, and rubs. 

You can substitute at a one-to-one ratio if you want. That means you need 1 teaspoon of chile de Árbol for every 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

For something a little milder, use 1/2 teaspoon for every 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. 

Hot Sauce in a Small Glass Dish

6. Hot Sauce 

Full disclosure: hot sauce doesn’t taste like red pepper flakes. It just doesn’t.

It’s tangier and almost has a sourness to it that can be overwhelming. Of course, anyone who’s ever had hot sauce knows what I mean.

However, if you’re looking to add heat, it’ll work. Use it sparingly and only as a last resort as it can alter your dish’s flavor.

Add a couple of dashes to every tablespoon of red pepper flakes and adjust to taste.

Unless you’re desperate for spicy food, you may want to avoid it.

More Kitchen Substitutes to Keep On Hand

Soy Sauce Substitutes
Buttermilk Substitutes
Chipotle Powder Substitutes
Balsamic Vinegar Substitutes
Chili Sauce Substitutes

6 Best Substitutes for Red Pepper Flakes

Need some quick substitutes for red pepper flakes? You’ve come to the right place! From peppering your pizza to heating up a stew, I’ve got you covered.


  • Ground Cayenne Pepper / Cayenne Pepper Powder

  • Dried Peppers

  • Chili Powder

  • Paprika

  • Chile de Árbol Powder

  • Hot Sauce


  • Choose your favorite substitute for red pepper flakes.
  • Use in all your favorite recipes.
Substitutes for Red Pepper Flakes

Did you like the recipe?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 1

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.


Share on social media:

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

author avatar
NaTaya Hastings
NaTaya Hastings is a food and recipe writer for Insanely Good Recipes. She’s an educator, boy mom, dog mom, and whatever-stray-enters-the-yard mom. As a result, she's constantly cooking for both humans and animals.

Luckily, she enjoys it!

Though born, raised, and still living in Alabama, her specialty is NOT down-home Southern cooking. Instead, she loves to experiment with Asian, Mexican, Italian, and other ethnic cuisines. She has two mottos when it comes to cooking. “The more spice, the better!” and “There’s no such thing as too much garlic!”

She’s also pretty good with desserts. Especially the easy, no-bake ones.

Her favorite things are cuddling with her four giant dogs, traveling, reading, writing, and hanging out in nature. She’s also pretty excellent at Dominoes.

Leave a Comment