9 Best Ways To Substitute For Red Pepper Flakes

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Last Updated on November 11, 2022 by Toya

Here are 9 easy ways to substitute for red pepper flakes in just about any recipe. Most of the substitutes can be found in among the spices in your spice cabinet

Red pepper flakes which are often also referred to as crushed red peppers, chili flakes, red chili flakes, or crushed red pepper flakes are a condiment made by crushing dry red chili peppers from the capsicum annuum family until they become pepper flakes.

  substitutes for red pepper flakes

When you purchase red pepper flakes, the package will usually contain a blend of crushed cayenne peppers, Serano peppers, jalapeño peppers, bell peppers, and Fresno, with cayenne peppers being the most prominent chili pepper in the mix.

As a result, red pepper flakes are usually around the 30,000–50,000 Scoville unit range and are known for adding a nice kick and a pungent taste to a lot of recipes such as pasta, sauces, pizza, seafood, and more.

No other spice or condiment can truly take the place of red pepper flakes, but there are quite a few crushed red pepper substitutes that can work because they have similar heat levels and or a nice pungent taste like red chili flakes.

Therefore if you’re in a pinch or cannot find any crushed red pepper flakes in your grocery store, here are some easy alternatives.

What are the best substitutes for red pepper flakes?

The best substitutes for crushed red peppers are:

  • Cayenne pepper powder
  • ​​Chili powder
  • Chipotle powder
  • Chili de Arbol powder
  • Crushed Aleppo pepper flakes
  • Hot paprika powder
  • Hot Sauce
  • Black pepper
  • Homemade dried pepper flakes

Common ways to substitute for red chili flakes

Cayenne pepper powder

cayenne pepper powder

Cayenne pepper powder is often used in many of the same recipes that use red pepper flakes. Cayenne pepper powder adds a nice kick and pungent flavor to soups, stews, gumbo, chili recipes, and more. It works well as a substitute for red pepper flakes because store-bought red pepper flakes usually contain more cayenne peppers than any other red pepper.

Ground cayenne pepper is spicier and more compact than red pepper flakes so I’d caution you to use less of this condiment if it is to replace crushed red peppers in a recipe.

Use this conversion:

1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder = 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes

​​Chili powder

If you can’t find red pepper flakes, but you can get your hands on chili powder, this condiment will work just as well. 

Chili powder is a blend of ripe peppers (it usually includes one or more of these; paprika, cayenne, Aleppo, jalapenos, and ancho), as well as spices like onion powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and salt. 

Chili powder can range from mild to relatively spicy based on how much cayenne pepper is in the chili powder. And, it can be used for pizzas, meats, dry rubs, soups, stews, and more.

Compared to red pepper flakes, chili powder can be better incorporated into a dish since it is a powder. Therefore, it is advisable to use less chili powder.

Use this conversion:

1 teaspoon of chili powder = 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes

Chipotle powder

Chipotle powder is another good substitute for red pepper flakes. It does have an added smoky element and is also not as spicy as red pepper flakes, but the chipotle powder will add a nice rich color and a great flavor to a dish.

The heat level of chipotle powder is less than chili pepper flakes, and I’d personally only use this condiment as a last resort to replace red pepper flakes, so I’d typically use more.

Use this conversion:

2 teaspoons of chili powder = 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

Chile de Arbol powder

Chile de Arbol powder is made from pure dried chilis and is another easy substitute for crushed red pepper.  

Chile de Arbol powder is smoky, spicy, and slightly nutty compared to the spicy, pungent flavor of red pepper flakes. Nevertheless, this condiment is an excellent addition to many recipes that call for red pepper flakes like salsa, sauces, dry rubs, soups, stews, tacos, etc. 

Being that it is a powder, this condiment is more compact than pepper flakes, so use ½ a teaspoon of Chile de Arbol powder for every 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes called for in your recipe. 

Crushed Aleppo pepper flakes

Crushed Aleppo pepper flakes are a natural substitute for chili flakes. 

They’re more popular in Middle Eastern cooking, but if you have some on hand, then Aleppo pepper flakes will add a nice rich, vibrant color and moderate heat to many dishes including salads, pasta, meats, sauces, etc. 

It should be noted that many vendors add salt and oil to the crushed Aleppo pepper flakes thus changing the flavor and texture. Preferably, you should use 100% crushed Aleppo peppers for the best results. I personally like to use Premium Aleppo pepper flakes from The Spice Way on Amazon. It contains no oil or salt and is reasonably priced.

However, if your Allepo pepper flakes contain salt and oil, consider adjusting the other sources of salt in your recipe. 

Use 1 teaspoon of crushed Aleppo pepper flakes for every 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes called for in your recipe. Then adjust the amount if you need to add more spice to the dish.

Hot paprika powder or Hot Hungarian paprika (mainly for color)

Hungarian paprika

If you have some hot paprika in your cabinet it can also work as an alternative for red chili flakes. It is a moderately hot alternative but can serve to add a beautiful bright red color and a nice warm flavor to many recipes. Use hot paprika in all kinds of recipes including dry rubs, chili, soups, meats, and more. 

Since hot paprika is more compact than red pepper flakes, start with less, then adjust to your taste.

A good hot paprika to red pepper flakes ratio is 1:3. This means, you will use ⅓ of a teaspoon of hot paprika for every 1 teaspoon of crushed red peppers.

Hot Sauce

As a very last resort, hot sauce can be used to add some heat to a few recipes that call for red pepper flakes. Note, hot sauce does not taste like crushed red peppers. It is tangy, spicy, and, salty. But, it does bring heat so if you’re desperate for some heat, use a few dashes of hot sauce in place of the crushed red peppers.

Black pepper

ground black pepper

Black pepper is a very unusual substitute for crushed red peppers, but it works! Almost everyone has black pepper in their kitchen, so it’s convenient, but also, it’s pungent and will add a kick of spice to your dish.

Use this conversion:

½ teaspoon of black pepper = 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

Make your own dried red pepper flakes

red chili peppers

The best substitute for red pepper flakes is made with dried red chile peppers. 

So, if you happen to have a red chile pepper plant in your garden, pick a few, dry them in the oven and make your own homemade dried red pepper flakes.

Additionally, if you happen to have store-bought dried red peppers available, place a few of these in your food processor and grind until they turn to flakes.

Any variety of dried capsicum annuum red peppers will work, but a combination of one or two will make your homemade pepper flakes even better since you’ll get a combination of heat, flavor, and pungency! A few good ideas are cayenne peppers, Serano peppers, jalapeño peppers, bell peppers, and Fresno chiles. 

Use this conversion:

1 teaspoon of homemade crushed red peppers = 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes


Non spicy substitute for red pepper flakes

The best non spicy substitute for red pepper flakes is dried red bell peppers which are crushed to make red bell pepper flakes. These are perfect because they’re mild with no heat and are the same texture as red pepper flakes. These will take up to 2 hours to make, so if you don’t have the time, the second best option is regular paprika. Paprika is much more convenient and most people have it. It will add a mildly sweet flavor and bright red color to your recipe.

Recipes with red pepper flakes

Crispy fried chicken thighs

fried chicken thighs


Easy taco seasoning

taco seasoning


Seafood boil seasoning

seafood boil spice


FAQs about substituting red pepper flakes

What is a good non-spicy substitute for red pepper flakes?

The best non-spicy substitute for red pepper flakes is hot paprika. Another worthy option is homemade red pepper flakes made with dried red bell peppers.

How much ground red pepper equals red pepper flakes?

This will all depend on the type of ground red pepper since they all have different heat levels. But, generally, ½ a teaspoon of ground red peppers is enough to replace 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. 

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