Chipotle Pepper Substitutes – 5 Great Alternatives

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Chipotle peppers have an incredible smoky flavor and heat that is hard to perfectly replicate. They are essential in certain sauces, salsas, and seasonings.

However, chipotles are not necessarily a common household item. So, if you find yourself in need of chipotle pepper, but don’t have any on hand, you’re in the right place.

In this article, I’ll share 5 chipotle pepper substitutes that will work in a pinch. You may have these alternatives on hand in your pantry.

Chipotle peppers in packaging
Sun dried chipotle peppers.

If you’re not in a rush, you can buy dried chipotle peppers online. These can be stored for many months in the pantry until they’re needed, and make a great addition to hot sauces and taco seasoning.

1. Smoked Paprika

One of the best ways to get the flavor of chipotles is to use smoked paprika. While chipotles are smoked and dried red jalapeño peppers, smoked paprika is made from smoked and dried sweet red peppers.

The main difference between chipotle peppers and smoked paprika is that chipotles are spicy, and paprika is not. To get even closer to the flavor of chipotles, mix smoked paprika with cayenne powder to get both smoky flavor and heat.

Smoked paprika powder
Smoked paprika has a similar smoky flavor to chipotle peppers.

Smoked paprika is commonly available at grocery stores in the spice section. It is a wonderful ingredient to use in hot sauces, tacos, and salsa.

To convert, use about 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika per chipotle pepper that is called for. This will give a similar flavor profile as chipotles.

Get smoked paprika here

2. Chipotles in adobo sauce

Another item you can easily find at the grocery store is chipotles in adobo sauce. This canned item contains smoked jalapeños in a flavorful adobo sauce.

This amazing ingredient can easily be used as a substitute for dried chipotle peppers, because it essentially is the same thing. You can choose to either rinse off the chipotles in adobo, or use the tasty adobo sauce.

For example, in our slow-cooker barbacoa recipe, we use chipotles in adobo, sauce and all. These chiles impart amazing smoky flavor and heat, as you’d expect from plain chipotle peppers.

Barbacoa ingredients

Find chipotles in adobo in the international aisle of the grocery store, usually in a small can. Or, if you’re in no rush, find them online.

3. Cayenne pepper powder

If its just the heat that you need, then cayenne powder can fill in for chipotle peppers. With a similar heat level, cayenne pepper powder is probably the most popular replacement.

Homemade cayenne pepper powder in glass jar
Chipotle powder.

Chipotle peppers are usually sold dried, and cayenne powder is also a dried hot pepper. Use between 1/2-1 teaspoon of cayenne powder per 1 chipotle pepper that is called for in your recipe.

To replace the smoky flavor of chipotles, you can add a drop or two of liquid smoke, or smoked paprika. Or, use a smoker to cook your meal and add natural smokiness.

4. Fresh jalapeño peppers

While fresh peppers cannot deliver the smoky flavor of a chipotle, they’ll add great heat and fresh taste. Again, chipotles are made by smoking and dehydrating jalapeño peppers.

Fresh harvest of various jalapeno peppers
Fresh jalapeño peppers.

So, you can use fresh jalapeño pepper as a substitute for chipotles in a pinch. This may not always be the right format of ingredient for every recipe. If your recipe requires a dried pepper, you can consider dehydrating your own jalapeños in a dehydrator or the oven.

To achieve the smokiness of chipotles, you can add smoked paprika or liquid smoke. Or, if you have some hot sauces, you can check to see if any of them have that smoky flavor that you’re after. If you see chipotles or smoked peppers as an ingredient, this may help add the desired flavor!

Dried chipotle peppers
Chipotles are smoked and dried red jalapeños.

5. Homemade chipotles (smoked jalapeños)

If you have a bit of extra time, and are up for a bit of a challenge, you can use fresh jalapeños to make homemade chipotle powder. This involves smoking the jalapeños for 2-3 hours, followed by dehydrating them.

If you have a smoker, this is the ideal method of smoking jalapeños. Use pecan or hickory wood and smoke the jalapeños for 2-3 hours over low heat.

Homemade chipotle peppers on dehydrator tray
Chipotle peppers after dehydrating.

However, you can also smoke your peppers on a gas or charcoal grill! The workaround is to make small woodchip pouches that release smoke slowly into the grill chamber.

The result is a rich, smoky flavor that makes a wonderful hot & spicy ingredient. Dried chipotle peppers or powder will also keep for up to a year in a cool, dry location.

Chipotle peppers are hard to replace, but if you need to, I hope you found a good option. Next time, I highly recommend getting the real thing in advance. You won’t be disappointed!

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One of the original Pepper Geeks! When Calvin isn’t gardening or learning more about peppers and botany, he might be traveling new places or playing some music.

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