Jalapeno powder is a versatile spice used to add flavor and a touch of heat to many dishes like tacos, chili, soups, marinades, dressings, and more. It ranks around 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units, making it moderately spicy.
If you don't have any jalapeno powder, don't worry! There are many good substitutes you can use instead. The best alternatives will depend on whether you want to match the heat level, flavor profile, or texture of the jalapeno powder in your recipe.
Below you can find various options to substitute for jalapeno powder. You can use other chili pepper powders, flakes, or pastes to mimic the heat. For flavor, smoked paprika or chili powder blends work well. And if you need texture, you can rehydrate dried peppers or use fresh peppers.
We'll also provide tips on converting amounts when substituting, as well as how to make your own jalapeno powder. Let's get started!
Matching the Heat Level
If you are mainly trying to mimic the spiciness of jalapeno powder, you have several options:
1. Cayenne Pepper Powder
Cayenne pepper powder is made from ground dried cayenne peppers. It has a heat level of 30,000 to 50,000 SHUs, making it significantly spicier than jalapeno powder.
When substituting cayenne powder for jalapeno powder, start with about half the amount and adjust to taste. You can always add more cayenne, but it's hard to take away the heat once it's in your dish.
A small amount of cayenne pepper will provide a similar punch of heat as jalapeno powder. Keep in mind it has a slightly more pronounced pepper flavor.
2. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Crushed red pepper flakes are dried and crushed red chili peppers. They range from 15,000 to 30,000 SHUs, so they are also hotter than jalapeno powder.
Use about 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes in place of 1 tablespoon of jalapeno powder. The flakes will distribute spice evenly throughout a dish.
3. Ground Ancho Chile Powder
Ancho chiles are dried poblano peppers. Ground ancho chile powder has a heat range of 1,000 to 2,000 SHUs, milder than jalapeno powder.
When substituting, use about 1-2 tablespoons of ancho powder for every 1 tablespoon of jalapeno powder for a similar heat level. Ancho chile powder has raisin, plum, and dried chili flavors.
4. Chipotle Powder
Chipotle powder is made from dried, smoked jalapeno peppers. It ranks around 5,000 to 8,000 SHUs, very similar to the heat of regular jalapeno powder.
The main difference is the deeper, smoky flavor. Use an equal amount of chipotle powder as a substitute for jalapeno powder for both heat and flavor.
Matching the Flavor Profile
If you want to replicate the bright, fresh flavor of jalapeno powder, these options can help:
1. Chili Powder Blend
Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting chili powder for jalapeno powder. Add it at the same stage of cooking as you would add the jalapeno powder.
Try our homemade chili powder blend recipe to customize the flavors. Add extra jalapeno powder if you want an authentic taste.
2. Smoked Paprika Powder
Smoked paprika powder is made from smoked and dried red peppers. It provides a similar flavor profile to jalapenos with a smoky character.
Smoked paprika rates at about 500 to 1,500 SHUs, so it is milder in heat compared to jalapenos. Use about 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika in place of 1 tablespoon of jalapeno powder.
3. Ground Pasilla Chile Powder
Pasilla chile powder has lush fruity tones along with mild heat ranging from 1,000 to 2,500 SHUs. Pasilla chiles are smoked, dried chilaca peppers.
Substitute pasilla powder 1:1 for jalapeno powder for a similar flavor with slightly less heat. The rich pasilla flavor is a unique alternative.
4. Ground Guajillo Chile Powder
Guajillo chile powder is made from mature, dried mirasol peppers. It has a bright, fruity flavor with mild heat around 2,500 to 5,000 SHUs.
Use the same amount of guajillo powder as you would jalapeno powder. The guajillo flavor profile makes it one of the closest matches to a fresh jalapeno taste.
If your recipe relies on the crunchy bits and texture of jalapeno powder, you have a couple of options:
1. Rehydrate Dried Peppers
You can substitute dried chiles like ancho, pasilla, New Mexico, or guajillo peppers. Remove the seeds and stems, then rehydrate in hot water for 20 minutes until softened.
Chop or blend the rehydrated peppers until they reach a fine, powdered texture. Use 2-3 dried peppers in place of 1 tablespoon of jalapeno powder.
2. Use Fresh Jalapenos
Chopped fresh jalapenos add texture and fresh flavor similar to jalapeno powder. For 1 tablespoon of jalapeno powder, use about 1 small fresh jalapeno, seeded and minced.
Adjust the amount based on the heat level of your fresh peppers. Roast them first for a more concentrated flavor.
How to Make Your Own Jalapeno Powder
Making homemade jalapeno powder allows you to control the flavor and spiciness. Here is a simple process:
- 8-10 fresh jalapenos
- 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
- Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Wash and dry jalapenos. Slice lengthwise and remove stems, seeds, and membranes.
- Toss jalapeno slices with olive oil and spread in a single layer on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 2-3 hours, flipping once halfway through, until completely dried.
- Allow to cool fully, then grind into a fine powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
- Store powder in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Adjust oven time as needed to fully dehydrate peppers. Grinding them when they are crispy and dry results in the best powder texture. Make a big batch to have homemade jalapeno powder whenever you need it!
Can I use chili paste instead of jalapeno powder?
Yes, you can substitute chili paste or hot sauce for jalapeno powder. Use about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili paste for 1 tablespoon jalapeno powder. The paste form will add texture and moisture along with a spicy flavor.
What about using bell peppers instead?
Green bell peppers can be used in place of fresh jalapenos before dehydrating into powder. Bell peppers have a similar flavor profile without the heat. You'll need to add cayenne or other spices to recreate the kick of jalapenos.
How long does homemade jalapeno powder last?
Homemade jalapeno powder will last 3-4 months in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. The flavor and spice start to fade over time. For longer storage up to 6 months, keep it refrigerated or frozen.
Can I use serrano peppers instead of jalapenos?
Yes, serrano peppers can substitute for jalapenos. Serranos are similar looking but pack more heat at 10,000 to 23,000 SHUs. Adjust the amount based on the spiciness of your serranos when making powder. Start with half as many serranos as jalapenos.
What's a quick sub for jalapeno powder in salsa?
For a quick salsa, use 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper plus 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika in place of 1 tablespoon jalapeno powder. Add fresh jalapeno if you have it for texture.
Jalapeno powder is a handy spice to keep in your pantry. It provides a perfect level of heat and flavor to liven up recipes.
If you don't have jalapeno powder, there are many viable substitutions. Go for cayenne or crushed red pepper for heat, smoked paprika or chili powders for flavor, and rehydrated dried peppers or fresh jalapenos for texture.
Experiment with the amounts to find the right balance of spice and taste. Making your own jalapeno powder is also an option so you can customize the heat level.
With these handy tips, you can easily replicate the jalapeno experience using spices and peppers you likely have on hand. No more missing out on great flavors in your favorite recipes!