What is a Good Substitute for Ancho Chile Powder

Ancho chile powder is made from dried poblano peppers and they are considered a medium heat pepper. If ancho chile powder is difficult for you to find, then don’t throw the recipe out. There are many alternatives. 

Alternatives for Ancho chile powder include Guajillo chile powder, New Mexico chile powder, and pasilla chile powder, among others discussed below. 

Ancho chiles are among the most popularly used in Mexico. In fact, they are one of the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Mexican chiles. So getting that Ancho chile powder taste will make many of your Mexican dishes have an authentic taste. 

What is Ancho Chile Powder?

Ancho chile powder is made from dried and ground poblano peppers. It is often a go-to cooking powder in Mexican, Indian, and Spanish cuisines. Because of its unique earthy undertones in the flavor, Ancho chile powder can be difficult to replace. 

Mixing a few different chile powders can result in getting that Ancho flavor profile that the recipe is looking for. You will just have to get creative! 

This article will tell you how to best imitate the Ancho chile powder from chile powders you may even have in your kitchen. You may not even need to go to the store. 

What Does Ancho Chile Powder Taste Like?

Typically the taste of ancho chile powder is earthy with a bit of heat undertone. They rate 1,200 on the Scoville heat index. This is considered a mild part of the Scoville heat index, so the heat of Ancho chile powder is not one to be feared. 

When replacing other chile powder for Ancho chile powder it is important to keep in mind that the heat from Ancho chile powder is mild. You will need to use less than the recipe calls for if you want to use a hotter chile powder. 

What is the Difference Between Ancho and Regular Chili Powder?

There is a large difference between ancho chile powder and regular chili powder. First, note the spelling. The (e) and (i) at the end indicate our first difference. Ancho chile powder will only be dried and ground itself. Whereas regular chili powder, with an (i) is going to be mixed with a variety of other spices. 

To sum up, ancho chile powder is just a powder of dried poblano peppers. Whereas regular chili powder is going to include a variety of other spices like thyme, oregano, garlic, and more. 

What’s a Good Alternative for Ancho Chile Powder?

If you have a recipe that includes ancho chile powder and you are out of it or are missing it completely then there are possible alternatives.

Some alternatives match the Ancho chile powder very closely, but can be just as difficult to find. Some recommendations have you mixing a couple of different chile powders that are more common in stores and kitchens. 

1. Regular Chili Powder

It is possible to use regular chili powder as an alternative to ancho chile powder, but you must be aware that there are other spices usually mixed into chili powder. Therefore if the recipe is calling for spices that are included in the chili powder, then it is best to use less of those. 

2. Guajillo Chile Powder

Guajillo chile powder is recommended as a substitute for ancho chile powder. The 3,750 Scoville heat index on the Guajillo chile is going to be more spicy than the 1,200 Scoville heat index for the Ancho chile. The increased heat could be preferable to those who like a more spicy dish. 

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The Guajillo chile is the second most popular chile in Mexico, behind the Ancho chile. 

3. Pasilla Chile Powder

Pasilla chile powder is often recommended as a substitute for Ancho chile powder. Unlike the Guajillo chile, Pasilla chilies have a lower Scoville heat index than the Ancho chile. For those who are looking for less heat in their dish could prefer using the Pasilla chile powder rather than Ancho chile powder. 

4. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Crushed red pepper flakes are typically not recommended as a substitute for Ancho chile powder. 

  • First, crushed red pepper flakes are in flake form and not powder form. This will create a different texture and different use in your Ancho chile recipe
  • Second, the flavor will be completely different. Ancho chile has earthy undertones whereas the crushed red pepper is brighter and more tangy. 

5. New Mexico Chile Powder

New Mexico Chile powder is a very good one to one substitute for ancho chile powder. There is a match in heat and they are very similar in flavor.

This is possibly the best match to Ancho chile powder. Only a very sensible palate will be able to note the difference. 

6. Chipotle Powder

Although Chipotle powder is not as good a substitute for Ancho chile powder as New Mexico Chile powder is, Chipotle chile powder is amongst the easiest to find at the grocery store. 

Therefore, because of accessibility, the Chipotle powder is the most recommended powder for a substitute for Ancho chili powder. 

Since the Scoville heat index for the Chipotle pepper can vary from 2,500 to 8,000 it is best to determine how hot it is before you use a lot. If it is hot then you should only use half the amount the recipe says to use for Ancho chile powder. 

7. Chile de Árbol Powder

Chile de Árbol powder is recommended as a substitute for Ancho chile powder. They are relatively matched in heat. You may recognize the more common name for this chile, bird’s eye peppers. 

The Chile de Árbol is closer in heat to Ancho chile powder, however the flavor profile is close in match to the Cayenne pepper. 

8. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper powder alone is not a good substitute for Ancho chile powder. Cayenne pepper powder can be very hot and much hotter than Ancho chile powder. Therefore if you need to, it is recommended to mix cayenne pepper powder with a pepper powder that is milder in spice. For example, paprika, New Mexico chile powder, or Pasilla pepper powder. 

Cayenne pepper powder is commonly used in Mexican, Indian, Thai, Korean, and Chinese dishes meaning that it can be relatively easy to find around the world. However, with its Scoville heat index getting as high as 50,000 units, it is a very hot pepper. 

When using Cayenne pepper powder in an Ancho powder recipe it is best to use a quarter of the amount. 

9. Paprika

Paprika is a decent substitute for Ancho chile powder. Paprika is the national spice of Hungary. Therefore, it is not as popularly used in the Mexican and Spanish dishes that Ancho chile powder is. 

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Although there is a heat match, it is important to note that there is a big difference in flavor between paprika and ancho chile powder. Paprika is sweeter, whereas ancho chile powder is more earthy. It is recommended to mix paprika and cayenne pepper to mimic the flavor profile of the ancho chile powder. 

10. Mulato Pepper Powder

The Mulato pepper has a very similar flavor profile to the ancho chile. But be aware! The emulator pepper is nearly three times as hot as its ancho chile relative. Therefore, it may not be a good idea to substitute ancho chile powder with Mulato chile pepper powder unless you are willing to take on the increased spice. 

The Mulato pepper actually comes from the same pepper as Ancho chile powder. They are both dried poblano peppers. Where they differ is the Mulato pepper is left on to grow longer than the Ancho chile pepper creating this more intense heat. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I buy ancho chile powder?

Many grocery stores carry ancho chile powder. However if you cannot find it then it can be found in a Mexican grocery store. If you do not have one in your location, then ancho chile powder can be found online. 

Which is hotter Ancho or Chipotle chile powder?

Ancho chile powder is around 1,200 on the Scoville heat index. The Chipotle chile powder is between 2,000 to 8,000 on the Scoville heat index. Therefore, the chipotle chile powder is hotter in spice than the ancho chile powder. 

It is important to note that the Chipotle chile ranges from 2,000 to 8,000 on the Scoville heat index. So it is important to try a little of the Chipotle chile powder before using the entire recipe measurement. It can get spicy quickly! 

Ancho chile powder is considered a very mild chile powder on the Scoville heat index. It can be great to use for people who like the taste of Mexican and Spanish foods, but do not like the spice. 

Is ancho chili powder smoky?

Ancho chile powder has a bit of a smoky taste. This is mostly due to it having very earthy and soil undertones to its flavor. It is not quite as smoky as some of the smoky paprika powder. However, the ancho chile has a natural tendency to carry a mild smoky flavor. 


If you do not have ancho chile powder for your recipe then it is not the end of your dish. It is simply just time to get creative. 

New Mexico chile powder and Guajillo chile powder are going to be the best alternatives to the Ancho chile powder. However, if you have neither of these then you can get creative and mix the spices you currently have. 

Or you can completely change the dish. Do not be afraid to use a ground pepper powder that has more heat like the Mulato pepper. Or you can choose the Pasilla pepper, and get the similar taste of the Ancho chile powder, but not get any of the heat that typically comes with Mexican and Spanish dishes.