Beyond Kashmiri Chili: Top Substitutes for Indian Cooking

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Discovering the perfect Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitute can be a game-changer when you’re in the midst of creating a flavorful dish that calls for this vibrant, mildly spicy ingredient. Kashmiri chili powder is prized for its rich red color and relatively mild heat, which makes it an essential component of many Indian recipes.

However, finding a suitable substitute can be challenging, especially when you want to maintain the unique flavor and visual appeal of your dish. In this article, we will explore the world of Kashmiri chili powder substitutes, guiding you through various alternatives that closely mimic the taste, heat, and color of the original ingredient.

So, let’s embark on this culinary journey and find the perfect Kashmiri chili powder substitute for your next culinary masterpiece!

Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitute
Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitute

History of Kashmiri chili

Kashmiri chili is predominantly grown in the Kashmir region of India today but was originally introduced by the explorer Vasco da Gama in 1497. It was grown in Goa for years until it was introduced to northern India. Since the conditions were conducive for growing it in Kashmir, production in Kashmir increased significantly.

What does Kashmiri chili powder taste like?

Kashmiri chili has a mildly spicy flavor and a mildly sweet taste-note. Its dark red color and mild flavor have made it famous. According to Wikipedia, its heat level is between 1000 to 2000 SHU. The demand for this chili is so high that, at times, it becomes difficult to procure it, and this is where substitutes come into the picture.

Why You May Need a Substitute

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Kashmiri chili powder taste like

There are a couple of reasons you might need a substitute for Kashmiri chili powder:

Availability Issues

Depending on where you live, Kashmiri chili powder might be hard to find at your local grocery store or specialty market. In such cases, you’ll need an alternative that can provide a similar flavor profile and color.

Heat Preferences

Kashmiri chili powder is known for its mild heat, but some people might prefer a spicier alternative. In this case, you’ll want a substitute that can provide the desired level of heat without compromising the dish’s overall flavor.

Kashmiri chili powder substitute

Chili VarietyHeat Level (Scoville Units)Flavor ProfileCommon Uses as a Substitute
Byadgi Chili5,0000-100,000Mild, fruity, sweetCurries, chutneys, spice blends, tandoori dishes
Deggi Mirch1,000-2,000Vibrant, slightly smokyCurries, spice blends, tandoori dishes
Ancho Chili Powder1,000-2,000Mild, sweet, fruityCurries, stews, sauces, marinades
Paprika and Cayenne Mix500-50,000Varies, sweet to hotCurries, spice blends, rubs, marinades
Guajillo Chili2,500-5,000Mild, tangy, sweetCurries, sauces, stews, spice blends
Red Chili Powder30,000-70,000Hot, pungentCurries, spice blends, tandoori dishes
Rogan500-100,000Mild, aromatic, earthyCurries, stews, sauces, marinades
Hot Sauces1,500 – several millionVaries widelyCurries, spice blends, sauces, marinades
Chipotle Powder2,500-8,000Smoky, earthy, spicyCurries, stews, sauces, marinades
Chile Pasilla1,000-2,500Mild, fruity, earthyCurries, stews, sauces, spice blends

1. Byadgi chili

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Byadgi chili is a great substitute that comes from India as well. A similar color profile certainly makes it easy to use. However, the hotness level is much higher at 50,000- 100,000 SHU. Due to the same, limit it to 1/4th of the quantity of Kashmiri chili.

The color of this chili is so distinct that it is used in products like dyes, nail polish, and even lipsticks. Nevertheless, it is a food-grade ingredient entirely safe for consumption.

2. Deggi Mirch

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With a heat level of 1000-2000 SHU, Deggi Mirch corresponds closely to the heat level of Kashmiri chili. In terms of composition, Deggi mirch is a spice blend consisting of Kashmiri chili and other spices. Since Kashmiri chili is present, the color is the same, and you get a similar mild taste with a little sweet flavor. However, since it also consists of other chili types, use it in half the quantity of Kashmiri chili.

3. Ancho Chili Powder

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Ancho Chili is native to Mexico. However, in many traits, it is similar to Kashmiri chili. For example, its heat level is between 1000 to 2000 SHU. The core ingredient of this powder is Poblano peppers. They have a hint of smoky flavor along with a slightly sweet taste.

While it is not used widely in Indian cuisine, it is very popular globally. The only difference is in color; therefore, you will miss out on that classic red color. Use it in half the quantity of Kashmiri to get the flavor right.

4. Paprika and Cayenne mix

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Sometimes you need to improvise to create a substitute. By improvising, I mean creating a mixture of Smoked paprika and cayenne. The good news is both are common in home pantries in most parts of the world.

You might think, why does this mix work?

Paprika has a smoky and little sweet taste similar to Kashmiri chili. Cayenne adds heat and earthy flavors to the mixture. Both of them together offer excellent taste notes.

The only downside is the heat level of 50,000 SHU which makes it much hotter than other substitutes on the list. So, use it in 1/5th of the quantity of Kashmiri chili.

5. Guajillo Chili

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Need a chili that is slightly hotter than Kashmiri chili?

If yes, go with Guajillo chili, which has a heat level of 2500 to 5000 SHU. This is another chili native to Mexico. Usually, it’s used in the dried form or in powdered form. These chilies are characterized by reddish-brown color. Since it is a notch spicier and hotter than Kashmiri chili, use it in half the proportion. Apart from being slightly spicier, it also has a slight sweet punch in its taste. However, there is not much change in color due to the reddish brown color. You can use it in salsas, meats, soups, etc.

6. Red chili powder

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Sometimes simple solutions are the best. An example is using red chili powder in place of Kashmiri chili. Red chili powder is made from Gochugaru chilies. Such powder is widely used in kimchi, soups, and pickled vegetables. With a color similar to Kashmiri chili, no additional coloring agent is needed. 

Such chili powder is used in both Indian and Korean cuisine. Numerous variants of such powder are available, ranging from a heat level of 30,000 to 70,000 SHU; accordingly, you have to reduce the quantity of this powder.

7. Rogan

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I do not blame you if you do not know what Rogan is. It is common in commercial establishments rather than among home cooks. Rogan is nothing but oil mixed with chili to make any curry or delicacy hot and spicy. It is native to India and used in curries for ages.

The heat level of Rogan actually depends on the type of chili used to make it, ranging from very mild to very hot. In general, the SHU could range widely from as low as 500 to as high as 100,000.

Since it is a layer of oil, it can be applied as a garnish in any recipe. The heat level depends on the chili powder that is used along with the oil. Use a milder one, and you can add oil to the delicacy in ample amounts. The versatility of Rogan is what propelled me to include this substitute in this list.

8. Hot sauces

Not all Kashmiri chili substitutes are fresh. Many hot sauces are available online and in your nearest supermarkets with different types of chilies in the ingredient list.

Best of all, the shelf life of such sauces can range from a couple of months to even one year, which means you can store such sauces for a long time.

9. Chipotle powder

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Most Kashmiri chili substitutes in this list are of Indian or Asian origin.

What if you need something that is native to western cuisines?

If so, go with chipotle powder. The core ingredient of chipotle powder are jalapeno peppers that are smoked and then dried. Smoky flavor adds another taste note to your recipe.

Depending on the concentration of peppers in the powder, its heat level can vary from 2500 to 8,000 SHU. As for the taste notes, the powder offers pungent, mildly spicy, and earthy notes. None of these will overpower your recipe. The dark orange color of this powder makes it very similar to Kashmiri chili. Couple all this with its wide availability, and it is one of the best substitutes.

10. Chile pasilla

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Chile pasilla is dried chilaca pepper known for its classic dark brown color. The heat level is low, with a heat level between 1000 to 2500. Smoky, earthy notes certainly help it impart excellent taste to any recipe. However, there is a surprise fruity note (very subtle) to it. The color imparted might be a bit darker than red chilies, but this is an excellent choice if you are looking for a milder alternative.

Solution for getting the right color

A couple of substitutes in the list above do not impart a red color to the delicacy. When using such substitutes, impart the right color using the ingredients below:

  • Food color

Go with any natural food colors available online to get that deep red color.

  • Beetroot

Beetroots (solid form or juice form) can impart that deep red color to any delicacy. Using it in conjunction with the substitutes above ensures the color of the delicacy remains the same.

Homemade Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitute

If you can’t find any of the pre-made substitutes mentioned earlier or prefer to make your own custom blend, you can create a homemade Kashmiri chili powder substitute. This DIY recipe combines different chili powders to mimic the mild heat and fruity flavor of Kashmiri chili powder.

DIY Kashmiri Chili Powder Recipe


  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon guajillo chili powder (optional, for a slightly hotter blend)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, for a spicier blend)


  1. In a small bowl, mix the paprika and ancho chili powder together. This blend should provide a mild heat and fruity flavor similar to Kashmiri chili powder.
  2. If you prefer a slightly hotter substitute, add the guajillo chili powder and mix well.
  3. For a spicier blend, add the cayenne pepper to the mixture. Remember to use cayenne sparingly, as it can significantly increase the heat level.
  4. Once you’ve achieved your desired heat level and flavor profile, store your homemade Kashmiri chili powder substitute in an airtight container, away from heat and light sources.

This DIY recipe allows you to adjust the heat and flavor to your preferences, making it a versatile and convenient substitute for Kashmiri chili powder. You can use it in any recipe that calls for Kashmiri chili powder, ensuring you get the desired taste and color in your dishes.


What is the main difference between Kashmiri chili powder and regular chili powder?

The main difference between Kashmiri chili powder and regular chili powder is the heat level and flavor profile. Kashmiri chili powder has a milder heat and a slightly sweet, fruity flavor, while regular chili powder can vary in heat and flavor depending on the blend of chilies used.

Can I use regular chili powder as a substitute for Kashmiri chili powder?

You can use regular chili powder as a substitute for Kashmiri chili powder, but be aware that it may have a different heat level and flavor profile. To achieve a closer match to Kashmiri chili powder, consider mixing regular chili powder with paprika or another mild chili powder.

Are there any other substitutes for Kashmiri chili powder besides the ones mentioned in this article?

Yes, there may be other suitable substitutes depending on your preferences and the ingredients available in your region. Some examples include New Mexico chili powder, Aleppo pepper, and even a blend of smoked paprika and sweet paprika. Feel free to experiment with different chili powders to find the one that works best for you and your recipe.

How can I adjust the heat level of a substitute for Kashmiri chili powder?

To adjust the heat level of a substitute, you can mix different chili powders together or use them sparingly. For example, if you want a milder heat, mix a hotter chili powder like cayenne pepper with a milder one like paprika. If you prefer a hotter blend, increase the amount of a spicier chili powder in your substitute.

How should I store my homemade Kashmiri chili powder substitute?

Store your homemade Kashmiri chili powder substitute in an airtight container, away from heat, light, and moisture. Keeping it in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or cupboard, will help preserve its flavor and potency for an extended period.


  1. Byadgi Chili: source
  2. Deggi Mirch: source
  3. Ancho Chili Powder: source
  4. Paprika: source
  5. Cayenne: source
  6. Guajillo Chili: source
  7. Red chili powder (Gochugaru): source
  8. Rogan: Heat level depends on the chilies used in the oil, e.g., Ancho or Cayenne (link as above)
  9. Hot Sauces: Varies widely based on peppers used: source
  10. Chipotle Powder: source
  11. Chile Pasilla: source

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