Many Thai dishes use Thai chili powder. It makes them spicy and tasty. You can find it in soups, curries, salads, and sauces.
But maybe you don't have it, or you want less heat. No problem, you can use other spices instead.
We will tell you how Thai chili powder is used in Thai food, where it comes from, and what it is like. Most importantly, we will explain how to pick a good alternative for your recipe.
Understanding Thai chili powder
Thai chili powder (Prik pon or Phrik pon) is a fine powder made from small red chilies that are dried and ground.
These chilies come from Thailand, and people have grown them for a long time.
They are very hot, with a Scoville rating of 50,000 to 100,000 units. They also have a fruity and smoky taste, making other ingredients more flavorful.
Prik pon is also added to dishes after cooking or served as a condiment for people to choose their spice level.
Choosing the right substitute
When you look for a substitute for Thai chili powder, think about these things:
- How spicy is it? Try to use something that has a similar heat level as Thai chili powder, or change it to suit your taste. Some alternatives might be more or less spicy, so you might need to adjust the amount.
- How does it taste? Try to keep the same flavor of your dish without adding too much or too little of any taste. Some sweet, sour, smoky, or earthy alternatives might taste different. You might need to balance these differences by changing other spices in your dish.
- How easy is it to get? Try to use something that you can find easily in your store or online. Some alternatives might be more or less common, depending on where and what food you make.
Best Thai Chili Powder Substitutes
Dried chili substitutes
You can use other dried chilies as an alternative. They can make your dishes hot and tasty.
Here are some common ones and how to use them:
1. Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper is a red chili pepper used in many foods. It is red and spicy.
It is not as hot or smoky as Thai chili powder, but cayenne can give your dishes heat and color.
Use the exact amounts when substituting. You can change the quantity to suit your taste. Start with a little and taste as you go.
2. Crushed red pepper flakes
Crushed red pepper flakes are dried, and crushed red chilies. They are usually from the cayenne or serrano peppers. They are coarse and hot.
They are different from Thai powder in smoothness and color. They have some seeds and skin, which can add texture and flavor to your dishes.
Use half the amount of crushed red pepper flakes as Thai chili powder. You can change the amount to suit your taste and recipe.
3. Korean gochugaru
Korean gochugaru is a kind of red pepper that Koreans dry and use in their food. It is red and not very spicy.
It tastes sweeter and fruitier than Thai chili powder and has a smoky flavor. It is also finer and more even in color.
You can use the exact amounts in your recipes. But remember that Korean gochugaru tastes different, so your food may not taste the same.
If you want more spice, add some cayenne or red pepper flakes to the Korean gochugaru.
Fresh chili substitutes
Fresh chilies can replace dried ones in some dishes.
These are some common fresh chilies:
1. Serrano peppers
Serrano peppers are green or red chilies that you can find in many stores.
- They have thin skin and crisp flesh.
- They are medium to high in heat.
- They are fresh and juicy than Thai chili powder.
- They have a slight grassy flavor.
- They can make your dishes crunchy and bright.
Use four grams of serrano peppers for every gram of Thai chili powder. This may change depending on the peppers you use. You can take out the seeds and membranes to make them less spicy.
2. Jalapeno peppers
Jalapeno peppers are a type of chili pepper that you can find in most supermarkets.
- They are green or red, with thick skin and fleshy pulp.
- They have a mild to medium spicy taste.
- They also have a slightly fruity flavor.
- They can make your dishes more colorful and zesty.
If you want to use jalapeno peppers instead of Thai chili powder, you should use them eight times more by weight.
For example, use eight grams of jalapeno peppers for every one gram of Thai chili powder.
But this may change depending on how big and hot the peppers are. You can also take out the seeds and membranes of the peppers to make them less spicy.
You don't need fresh or dried chilies to add spice and flavor to your dish. You can use similar spice blends.
1. Homemade Thai chili powder blend
You can blend Thai chili powder with some common spices from your pantry.
Recipe and ingredients
To make about 1/4 cup of Thai chili powder blend, you will need the following:
- Two tablespoons of cayenne pepper
- One tablespoon of smoked paprika
- One teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- A pinch of black pepper
Mix all the ingredients well and store them in an airtight container.
You can replace Thai chili powder with this homemade blend in most recipes. Use the same amount as the recipe says. Add more or less to suit your taste.
This blend has the same flavor and heat as Thai chili powder.
2. Chili paste alternatives
You can replace Thai chili powder also with chili paste. They have a similar thickness and taste.
Thai red curry paste
This paste adds a lot of heat and flavor to your food. It has red chilies, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, and other spices.
To use it instead of Thai chili powder, mix it with some water or oil. This makes it less intense. Add some sugar or honey to make it less salty and sour.
The amount of paste you need depends on the brand and quality. A good rule is to use one teaspoon of paste for one tablespoon of powder.
This is another tasty Indonesian chili paste. It has crushed red chilies, vinegar, salt, and sometimes garlic. It is red and chunky.
Sambal oelek is as hot as Thai chili powder but more tangy and acidic. You can use the exact amounts.
Harissa paste can replace Thai chili powder in dishes that need its rich and fragrant flavor. You can use half the amount of harissa paste as Thai chili powder.
Some people don't like spicy food or have a weak stomach. They should not use hot chilies or hot chili products when they cook.
Here are some less-spicy alternatives:
1. Smoked paprika
Smoked paprika is a kind of red pepper that is dried and smoked. It has a smoky, sweet, and deep flavor. It can give a similar heat and color as Thai chili powder.
It has a more prosperous and pleasant smell. You can use smoked paprika in food that needs a smoky taste.
Use less of it. For example, use half a teaspoon of smoked paprika for one teaspoon of Thai chili powder.
You can change the amount to suit your taste and the spiciness of the smoked paprika.
2. Sweet paprika
Sweet paprika is a type of red pepper that is dried, ground, and offers a mild taste. It has a sweet and fruity taste.
It makes food look like Thai chili powder but not spicy. It is suitable for mild dishes like sauces, dips, or salads.
Use identical amounts when cooking.
Add some cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to make it hotter if you want.
Tips for Using Substitutes
Adjusting Heat Levels
Thai chili powder is very hot, so you might want to change your substitute based on your taste and how much you can handle.
A good tip is to start with half the amount the recipe asks for and then add more if you want.
You can make your substitute finer by grinding it with a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. This will make it hotter and more flavorful.
Thai chili powder's unique flavor matches other Thai ingredients, like lemongrass, lime, coconut milk, and fish sauce.
When you use a substitute, you might want to match the flavors with some of these ingredients or others that go well with your dish. For example, if you use cayenne pepper instead of Thai chili powder, you can use lime juice or vinegar to make the flavor fresher and less spicy.
If you use paprika instead of Thai chili powder, add garlic or ginger to make the flavor more robust and more prosperous.
Tasting and Adjusting
The best way to ensure your dish has the right spiciness and flavor is to try it while you cook and change it as needed.
You can always put more spice but you can't take it out once it's in the dish. So be careful and start with a little substitute, then increase it slowly until you get the spiciness you like.
You can also use sugar, honey, or other sweet things to reduce the heat if it's too much for you.
You can easily find a good substitute for Thai chili powder.
Think about how hot and tasty the substitute is. Try different spices like cayenne, red pepper flakes, or paprika.
See what you like best for your dish. Adding your personal touch can make your food more delicious and fun.