Thai Chilies, or as they’re sometimes called, Bird’s Eye Chilies, are a very spicy pepper from the Capsicum species. This pepper is extensively used in many Asian dishes across Southeastern Asia.
Some of the best substitutes for the Thai chili pepper are Serrano Peppers, Cayenne Peppers, Jalapeno Peppers, Habanero Peppers, Finger Hot Indian Peppers, and Tabasco Peppers.
What Kind of Chili is Thai Chili?
Thai Chilis are part of the Capsicum annuum family. They’re small, red chilies popularized for the signature flavor they add to many Southeastern Asian dishes. The Thai Chili pepper has many different varieties ranging from mild, medium, hot, and very hot.
How Spicy are Thai Chilis?
Thai chilis range anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 on the Scoville scale. These peppers can be pretty dang hot, so be careful if you aren’t used to the heat.
In comparison, the Jalapeno pepper only ranges between 2500 and 8000 units on the Scoville scale. Be careful because the Thai chili pepper definitely doesn’t lack in heat or flavor, which is why they have earned their place as a staple in many Asian dishes.
What Pepper is Closest to a Thai Chili
If you don’t have access to Thai Chili peppers or perhaps find them simply too spicy, you might be wondering what the best alternatives are. Fortunately, this list has you covered!
1. Serrano Peppers
Serrano peppers are part of the same Capsicum annuum family as Thai Chili peppers and even look quite similar in size, shape, and color—though Serrano peppers can be red or green, and Thai Chilies are usually bright red.
You could consider Serrano peppers to be the Mexican counterpart to Thai chilies as the two are distant cousins. Serranos range anywhere between 10,000 to 25,000 on the Scoville scale.
They’re hot but not as hot as Thai chilies, making them an excellent substitute for dishes that demand flavor without the scorching heat.
2. Cayenne Peppers
Cayenne peppers are also from the same family as Thai chilies and Serranos, ranging between 30,000 to 40,000 on the Scoville.
They’re a bit drier in flavor than Thai chilies, but if you want a spicier alternative to Serranos, these are a perfect choice.
3. Jalapeno Peppers
Much like how Thai chilies are a staple across many Southeastern Asian cuisines, Jalapeno Peppers are the bread and butter of many Mexican dishes.
These peppers aren’t too spicy but add a bold flavor that enhances any dish. Jalapenos taste great pickled too!
4. Habanero Peppers
Habaneros are one of the spiciest peppers around. Originally from the Amazon, these peppers start green before maturing into a bright orange.
You’ll definitely want to use these peppers in moderation as they come in between 100,000 and 350,000 on the Scoville! That’s anywhere between two to seven times spicier than a Thai Chili.
Even though these peppers are incredibly spicy, they add some of the strongest flavors of any peppers around.
5. La Jiao Mian
La Jiao Mian is a red chili power with a nice kick that’s commonly used in Chinese cuisine. This powder adds strong flavors and aromas to any dish or hot pot. This powder isn’t overly spicy and adds more flavor than direct heat.
This power is quite similar to the red chili powder used in Korean Gochujang.
6. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Crushed red pepper flakes are another great mild option to use if you want a little flavor without the bold heat of Thai chili peppers. These pepper flakes are a staple in Italian cuisine and make for an excellent topping on pizzas or flatbreads!
7. Finger Hot Indian Peppers (Jwala)
The finger hot Indian pepper, or Jwala, is the most popular pepper in India, which is known for its signature spicy dishes. This pepper is like a kicked-up Cayenne, making it an excellent Thai chili substitute for people who like their dishes extra spicy.
8. Tabasco Peppers
Tabasco peppers, made famous by the hot sauce, are a great Thai chili alternative for those who don’t want to skimp on flavor. These bad boys come in between 30,000 and 50,000 on the Scoville and pair great with vinegary dishes.
9. Chilies de Árbol
Another cousin in the same pepper family is the chili de Árbol. These dark red peppers are also called rat’s tail chilies.
They’re a nice option for people who can’t handle as much heat. They range between 15,000 and 30,000 on the Scoville.
10. Ghost Peppers
No hot pepper list would be complete without including the renowned Ghost pepper. They’re in the same family as the Habanero, and the oils alone can burn, especially if they make it anywhere near your eyes.
Ghost Peppers rank over 1,000,000 on the Scoville. You’ll want to use gloves with these puppies as they’re over 170 times hotter than tabascos!
If you’re a spice devil, keep your eyes out for hot sauces that feature ghost peppers with a delicate balance.
How to Choose a Good Thai Chili Substitute?
Choosing a strong Thai chili substitute depends on your palate and what kind of dish you’re trying to create. If you want to put a Mexican twist on a classic Southeastern Asian dish, Jalapenos or Habaneros might be the best option.
For an Indian twist, the Jwala might be the perfect choice for you. However, the closest substitute in terms of bang for the buck is the Serrano.
If you’re a daredevil with no regard for scorching your taste buds, try adding a ghost pepper!
Frequently Asked Questions
Many people haven’t had the privilege of working with Thai chilies, so there are many questions regarding them.
What else are Thai Chilies Called?
Thai Chilies are also called Bird’s Eye Chilies because of their small red shape and because birds often transport them! Surprisingly, the birds don’t seem to be affected by the heat.
What can I do with a lot of Thai Chili Peppers?
If you have a lot of Thai chili peppers, drying them is an excellent idea, or even throwing a bunch into the base of a soup to add a nice bright kick.
Are Thai Chilies Healthy?
Thai chilies are very healthy for you! They’ve been shown to improve digestive health and speed up the metabolism. Some studies have even shown that they can aid in alleviating migraines.
They’ve also been used to ward off infections, colds, and the flu. In addition, they can help provide joint pain relief and fight inflammation.
These peppers are also great for cardiovascular health.
The Thai chili is a versatile pepper that offers a bold bunch to any dish. While it’s most popular in Southeastern Asia, it has a place in any dish for those of you who can handle a moderately high kick.