What’s A Good Chipotle Pepper Substitute?

With that smoky heat, chipotle peppers bring a unique earthy flavor to dishes that use them. So how do you match that if you don’t have any chipotle chilies available in your kitchen. What’s a proper chipotle pepper substitute that will save the day, both in smokiness and in spiciness? Here are the best options available: supermarket-friendly, milder, or hotter. 

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Best supermarket chipotle pepper alternatives: Chipotle powder and chipotle in adobo sauce

The good news is the chipotle pepper comes in many forms in the grocery store. If your grocer doesn’t carry whole dried chipotle, then opting for chipotle powder (found in the spice area) or chipotle in adobo sauce (typically found in the international foods section) are terrific options. They’re found in nearly all supermarkets, and they keep the heat and the flavor you want.

Though you may need to balance against the tomato-based adobo sauce when considering your recipe. That sauce is earthy and tangy, so it will impact your recipe. One option is to run the chipotle from the adobo sauce can under water, to remove as much of the sauce as possible.

If you opt for chipotle powder, the equivalent to one whole dried chipotle is around 1/2 teaspoon. The chipotle in the adobo sauce are whole, so it’s a 1 to 1 ratio.

If you’re only after heat: Crushed red pepper

You give up a lot of flavor when you opt for this solution, but if you’re only after the spiciness it’ll do. Crushed red pepper (a.k.a. chili pepper flakes) are a mix of chilies ground into flakes. These flakes tend to be more on the neutral side in terms of overall flavor, so you’ll lose any sense of earthiness or smokiness.

As well: The most common base chili is cayenne, so these flakes will typically be hotter than chipotle pepper. You may want to start conservatively in terms of use and work up from there.

Best mild dried chili alternative (but hard to find): Pasilla de Oaxaca

This is a variety of the dried pasilla pepper grown in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. It’s known for its smokiness. In fact, it’s even smokier than the chipotle, but in terms of heat it’s a major downgrade.

Pasilla peppers tap out at 2,500 Scoville heat units (SHU), while chipotle – being dried and smoked jalapeños – can reach up to 8,000 SHU. They can be easily three times spicier, if not more. This is a good chipotle pepper alternative if you love the smoke, but the heat of the jalapeño is too much. Though, they aren’t easy to find at grocery stores.

The “are you really ready for it?” step up: Chocolate habanero

Regular habaneros are known for their fruitiness, but the chocolate habanero is a variety that actually has more of an earthy and smoky flavor to it. The smokiness is not quite as strong as the chipotle, but there’s that layer of habanero fruitiness that goes along with it that’s very tasty.

In terms of heat: the chocolate habanero simply demolishes the chipotle. It even beats out the regular habanero with a top SHU of 577,000. That puts it into super-hot pepper territory, so if you go here, go in with eyes wide open. We think it makes a mighty fine extreme alternative to a chipotle rub for barbecue.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 20, 2022 to include new content.
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