What is the Best Substitute for Calabrian Chili?

by Charlie
Calabrian Chili

Every now and then, we go looking for something that can help us spice up our food. For a lot of people, this spice can be found in Calabrian chili. This chili option has made waves across the world, and its use is pretty versatile.

Despite its popularity, however, there are situations where Calabrian chili might not be the best choice for you. Something else will need to work.

So, what is the best substitute for Calabrian chili? Of all the available substitutes, chili flakes are the best substitute for Calabrian chili. They do their best to capture the essence of Calabrian chili, and they also work well because they are readily available. You can find them around you, and you can choose to grow them as well.

An Overview of Calabrian Chili

Calabrian chili is one of the many chili variants available. It originates from Italy, and it has become a regular in Italian cuisine. With a rich red color and a fruity flavor, Calabrian chili is highly versatile. It provides sufficient heat for those who love heat in their chili, and it works for different types of dishes.

With a rusty appearance, Calabrian peppers grow on vines. They hang out until they grow and mature, and they’re aged as much as possible to provide that tangy and fruity flavor – and to add an even more intense spice.  

As expected, Calabrian chili is mostly famous in Italian cuisine. However, it is becoming more popular in different areas of the world as well. With a combination of spicy and fruity tastes, it leaves a lasting aftertaste for sure. Also, with enough versatility, you can’t run out of things to do with Calabrian chili.

Why Replace Calabrian Chili?

  • Non-availability: If you can’t find any Calabrian chili close to you, then you’ll need to find something else to stand in.
  • Taste accommodation: For many people, the intense heat of Calabrian chili might be too much to handle. So, a substitute will need to work.

Options for Calabrian Chili Substitutes

Best Overall Substitute for Calabrian Chili: Chili Flakes

A lot of the time, you will find that Calabrian chilies help to add spice and juiciness to dishes. They might not do much when it comes to promoting juiciness, chili flakes are salty and spicy – just what you get with Calabrian chilies.

Beyond the flavor similarity, chili flakes are also ideal because they bring versatility to your dish. They can work for different types of dishes – even those that have been made. For adding that bit of spice to a ready-made meal, chili flakes are a great fit as well.

Thanks to their versatility, chili flakes make it much easier for you to customize their heat. You can adjust the heat based on your preferences, so people with low accommodation for heat won’t have much of a problem with chili flakes.

Unlike Calabrian chili, chili flakes are much more readily available. You can find them at supermarkets and grocery stores, so you don’t have to do much work to get your hands on them.

In fact, you can make chili flakes yourself if you can’t find them at your local supermarket. You can grow them in your garden or simply purchase a big batch from a grocer. When chilies are in season, getting them won’t be much of a hassle for you. To dry the chilies out and make flakes, you can use a dehydrator – or simply dry the chilies directly.

If you’re looking to dry the chilies, simply chop them into small pieces and place them in the oven or dehydrator. Set the heat at 130 degrees Fahrenheit and leave the chilies there for a few hours. If your oven can’t get that low, then you could leave its door slightly open and let some of that heat escape.

When the chilies have gotten dry to your preference, crush them and put them in a shaker. Always remember to wear a pair of gloves and don’t put your hands on your face – or really, anywhere tender.

Best Substitute for Sensitive People: Anaheim Peppers

Another ideal substitute, Anaheim peppers are even easier to source than chili flakes. The peppers originate primarily from New Mexico, and they’ve become a regular across the United States. Today, it is almost impossible for you to go to a grocery store and not find the peppers.

When it comes to flavor, Anaheim peppers are much milder than Calabrian chilies. They are also less spicy than Calabrian chilies, so people with overly sensitive taste buds will most likely find them to be ideal substitutes. Other than the mildness, Anaheim peppers work perfectly as substitutes for Calabrian chili.

Note, however, that the peppers aren’t one-for-one substitutes. Since they are milder, you will need to add more quantities to capture the same essence of Calabrian chili. You can use Anaheim peppers when they turn red, although most people use them while they’re still green and ripe.

Best Substitute for Salsa: Serrano Peppers

Also originating from Mexico, serrano peppers are an interesting substitute for Calabrian chili. These peppers look quite like the famous jalapeno peppers – they’re similar in color, but they are different in shape. Most serrano peppers tend to grow between 1 to 4 inches in length and about half an inch in width.

Like the Calabrian chili, serrano peppers are considered to be medium heat. So, it’s easy to see why serrano peppers are an ideal substitute for Calabrian chili. Thanks to this similarity, you can use the same amount of serrano peppers as Calabrian chili when you work.

However, note that serrano peppers are meaty. So, they aren’t an ideal choice for drying – although it is possible nonetheless. Instead, serrano peppers especially shine when making salsas, garnishes, and relishes. You can also use serrano peppers to make hot sauce, although several other pepper options will be more ideal for that.

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