More and more recipes are calling for the increasingly popular chile de àrbol. Its nutty taste and medium heat adds a unique earthy punch to dishes; while its slender profile provides extra value as a garnish and infusion ingredient. But what if you can’t find them in stores, or you’re simply (and surprisingly) out of them at your home? Where can you turn on the Scoville scale for the best chile de àrbol substitute for your need? Let’s break it down, so you can go on cooking amazing things.
As a dried chili, chile de àrbol can last for years when stored properly. Plus, it's easy to find them in bulk, like this option from Ole Rico.
Table of Contents
- Best option for similar heat: Japones pepper
- The easiest supermarket solution: Crushed red pepper
- The “step up” option: Dried cayenne pepper
- The “giant leap” option (but easier to find in a pinch): Thai chilies
- The nutty alternative: Cascabel pepper
- Must-read related posts
Best option for similar heat: Japones pepper
The japones chili looks a lot like the chile de àrbol: just a little wider in the middle and flatter in appearance when dried. It has the exact same heat profile as the àrbol chili – 15,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units, but in terms of flavor, it’s a little less complex. There’s a clean bite, but not that nutty undertone.
But, of course, if you can’t find chile de àrbol, finding japones chilies may be even harder. In this case, one of the easier-to-find options below will work best.
The easiest supermarket solution: Crushed red pepper
If all you are looking for is a similar level of spiciness, look no further than your spice rack. Crushed red pepper typically has a cayenne pepper base cut with lesser heat peppers. This lowers the heat profile to around the chile de àrbol level. This is a definite trade-off, though. Sure you get the heat, but not the flavor chile de àrbol or the creative presentation possible with a dried pepper.
The “step up” option: Dried cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper (30,000 to 50,000 SHU) is typically double in heat to the chile de àrbol, so if you’re happy with a little extra kick, here’s your answer. It, too, doesn’t share the same nutty flavor, but its slim profile makes the cayenne a good infusion chili pepper. it’s easy to fit into bottles of olive oil or liquor to spice up the flavor.
The “giant leap” option (but easier to find in a pinch): Thai chilies
Most supermarkets carry Thai chilies (a.k.a. bird’s eye chilies) in their international sections, so if you need a fast chile de àrbol substitute, this is your “in a pinch” option. But beware: It’s a big jump in heat between the two. Thai chilies are typically three to four times hotter (50,000 to 30,000 SHU) than chile de àrbol. They may be tiny, but they pack a wallop. Consider your recipe before using. Use only a quarter of what’s called for and add more to taste. Thai chilies with their slim shape are also excellent for chili infusions.
The nutty alternative: Cascabel pepper
The cascabel chili (1,000 to 3,000 SHU) is nowhere near the spiciness of the chile de àrbol, But what it lacks in heat, it makes up for in taste. It has its own unique nutty and earthy flavor that can add something special to dishes. If you’re looking for a flavor replacement, the cascabel is a terrific substitute for chile de àrbol.
Must-read related posts
- Are Dried Chilies Hotter Than Fresh? What should you expect when comparing two versions of the same chili? Does drying increase spiciness?
- How Long Do Dried Peppers Last? What’s the shelf life of dried chilies? Does leaving them whole matter to how long they’ll last?
- The Hot Pepper List: We cover over 150 different chilies, both dried and fresh. Filter by heat, flavor, origin, and more.