Red chili peppers are the ideal option when you’re having a meal and you want something to really rock your taste buds. They’re hot, easy to cook with, and quite readily available too.
However, there are times when red chili peppers might not necessarily do the job. Times when a substitute will need to step in and save the day.
What is the best substitute for red chili peppers? Serrano peppers are the most ideal substitute for red chili peppers for a lot of reasons. They look alike, are readily available too, and are hot. They might be hotter than red chili peppers, but you can always make up the difference in your recipe application.
An Overview of Red Chili Peppers
If you’ve ever eaten a dish and you feel like a dragon breathing fire, then you probably just had some red chili peppers. These peppers are obtained as the fruit of the Capsicum pepper plant, and they are used in different types of dishes.
There are different types of chili peppers, but there is little doubt that the red ones hold the cake. They’re the most popular and most versatile, and they make your recipe better for sure. In red chili peppers, you get a healthy dose of carbohydrates and even some amounts of fiber and protein. They also provide vitamins and minerals.
But, no one is really interested in the nutritional benefits – it’s the taste we love. With a hint of sweetness and sourness and even some hint of smokiness, red chili peppers are great for any dish. From seafood to salsa and stew, you can use red chili peppers however you like.
When cooking with peppers, you must take things easy. This is especially true if you’re a beginner cook or someone who’s experimenting with recipes. Cooking with peppers can be dicey, so you want to use less pepper than your recipe requires. If you’re almost done and you notice that the dish is still too mild, then you can add more pepper to it.
Why Replace Red Chilli Peppers?
- Taste differences: If you think that red chili peppers are too hot – or you think they’re not hot enough – a substitute will come in handy for you.
- Trying something new: Sometimes, you might want to experiment with your meal. So, you substitute red chili pepper for something else.
Options for Red Chili Peppers’ Substitutes
Best Overall Substitute for Red Chili Peppers: Serrano Peppers
Most of the people who go for chili peppers do so for their heat and flavor. Well, if you’re looking for something similar, you’ll absolutely love what serrano peppers have to offer.
These peppers are basically another version of chili peppers, with similar tastes but an even hotter flavor. In fact, serrano peppers are almost twice as hot as chili peppers. If you’re looking for a proper challenge for your taste buds, serrano peppers are definitely the right fit for you.
Like chili peppers, serrano peppers are still harvested while they’re green. They are especially popular in the United States, and you should have no trouble finding them around. They might be less popular than the red chili peppers and options like jalapenos, but finding them shouldn’t be much of a hassle for you.
If you’re making your dish and you find that you need a little bit more heat, then serrano peppers will be the right choice. However, be sure to adapt the heat levels in your recipe. Since serrano peppers are hotter than red chili peppers, they’re not a one-for-one substitute for the latter. So, you will need to remember the difference in heat levels when cooking.
Best Available Substitutes: Cayenne Peppers
Anyone who has been cooking for a while will know cayenne peppers when they see them. With a finger shape and a curved, pointy end, this pepper variant is as iconic as you can expect. They’re red and hot, and also an ideal substitute for red chili peppers.
With cayenne peppers, you get a range of spicy tones. Some of them are mildly hot, while others will blow the roof off your taste buds. Usually, the heat levels will depend on the growing conditions of the pepper and the type of pepper it is. There are different types of cayenne peppers, ranging from Carolina cayenne peppers to golden cayenne peppers and much more.
Cayenne peppers are also a joy to cook with – you can usually find them fresh, and you can dry them as well. Like the serrano peppers, cayenne peppers are pretty easy to find. They’re available in your favorite stores, so hop in and enjoy your cooking.
The proportions for cayenne peppers will usually depend on you. If the peppers are mild, then you might need more than you would usually need red chilli peppers. If they’re too hot, you will need less.
A Good Option if You Find One: Pequin Chili Pepper
The pequin chili pepper isn’t so famous – certainly not as famous as some of the other options on the list. It is pretty short and squat, and it has a funny rectangular shape. However, don’t let this funny shape fool you; this pepper means business.
With a signature flavor, the pequin chili pepper is usually smoked over wood to deliver its flavor. It is commonly used as a spice, and it packs quite a lot of heat in its serving. In terms of heat, it is closer to options like cayenne peppers and much hotter than jalapenos and other names.
As explained earlier, smoking is really what makes this pepper stand out. When consumed fresh, its flavor is more nutty and fruity. There are also different options for pequin chili peppers, with the greener ones usually applied in making salsas and other dishes. As the peppers get hotter and start ripening, they are dried or smoked, then grounded to form chili powders or flakes.
Sadly, these peppers aren’t so easy to find. Their cultivation is limited, with most of them originating in Mexico. Pequin chili peppers can also be consumed and spread around by wild birds, hence their moniker “Bird peppers.”