10 Best Chile De Arbol Substitutes – A List

For those who don’t know – Chile de Arbol are red, long, and very hot chiles mostly added to Mexican dishes. It is widely popular in Mexico especially in its powdered form and used in various sauces and salsa dishes. It is a very versatile spice that works for a variety of recipes. This is one of the many reasons why Chile de Arbol is slowly but successfully building its fan base around the world.

While it is not very popular except in Mexico and might be quite difficult to find anywhere else, the Chile de Arbol is similar to a wide variety of chiles that are readily available in different countries. In case you are looking for a similar option, here’s a list of our best Chile de Arbol substitutes for you to choose from.

10 Best Chile De Arbol Substitutes – A List


Cayenne Pepper

Our first best Chile de Arbol substitute is the Cayenne pepper. It is the most popular and most similar replacement. Cayenne peppers look similar to the Chile de Arbol peppers, they are inexpensive and very easy to find in their powdered or dried form and are also quite easy to grow at home. Although the Cayenne pepper does not share the nutty flavor that comes with the Chile de Arbol, it remains the best substitute option because it has a heat level of 50,000 SHU, while the Chile de Arbol peppers have a heat level of 30,000 SHU.

Japones Pepper

The second-best Chile de Arbol substitute on our list is the Japones pepper. These have the exact same heat level as the Chile de Arbol and look very similar to them as well. The Japones peppers have a simpler flavor without the nutty taste, they are also a bit wider in the center and flatter when dried, but that’s about the only differences you can find between both chiles. They are not as popular as Cayenne peppers but are mostly found in Mexican stores.


Jalapenos are just as popular as the Cayenne peppers and less similar to the Chile de Arbol but will work as a great substitute. They have thicker walls and are less spicy compared to the Chile de Arbol peppers. They are also inexpensive and very easy to find in most stores.

Serrano Pepper

The serrano peppers are our fourth best Chile de Arbol substitute. Compared to the Jalapenos, they are spicier, have thinner walls, and will add a marvelous flavor to your cooking. They are not as spicy as the Chile de Arbol peppers, but they have a better flavor. They are typically sold green and then turn red as they ripen, similar to the Chile de Arbol and they can either be used fresh or dried.


Paprika is all about the flavor. It offers the flavor and color of the Chile de Arbol without the heat. You can mix paprika with cayenne peppers to tone down the heat and increase the flavor. If you prefer a smoky flavor in your recipe, you can opt for smoked paprika instead. It comes with an even more powerful and rich flavor.

Thai Chiles

The Thai chiles are small but extremely hot. They are known to be three to four times hotter than the Chile de Arbol peppers. If you are going to opt for this, you must proceed with caution. The Thai chiles can be easily found in Asian stores or the international section of most supermarkets.

Chili Flakes

Chili flakes are another good Chile de Arbol substitute. They are just as hot and far more common than powders. Italian chili flakes are typically used mostly on pizzas. It is important to note that they are not as flavorful as the Chile de Arbol peppers and are larger and you might need to further grind them for the best results.

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Mirasol (Guajillo) Chili

The next best Chile de Arbol substitute is the Mirasol chili. These are not very popular but will be an excellent substitute if you can find them. They are not as hot but they have a unique flavor that works just like the Chile de Arbol. They are more popular in Mexico and can be found at Mexican stores.


These are basically Korean dried chili pepper. They might be difficult to find but will work perfectly as an alternative for Chile de Arbol. They are typically used in a wide range of Korean dishes and could be found in Korean stores.

Bell Peppers

Our last best Chile de Arbol substitute is the Bell pepper. These come in three different colors, depending on how ripe they are. They are very popular and are used in several dishes from different parts of the world. Bell peppers can be a great Chile de Arbol substitute if you want the flavor but not the heat. They are absolutely flavorful with a satisfying aroma but have zero heat.

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Is Chile De Arbol The Same as Cayenne?

No, Chile de Arbol is not the same as cayenne. Cayenne is a great alternative when Chile de Arbol is unavailable because they are similar in looks, form, and heat but not in flavor. They both originate from the Capsicum Anuum family but have certain differences between them. For one, Cayenne is almost two times hotter than the Chile de Arbol and it does not provide the same nutty and smoky taste as the Chile de Arbol.


It is very important to be precise when following recipes and when one ingredient is basically impossible to find, you would have to discover a good enough alternative for it. This article describes the 10 best Chile de Arbol substitutes for those who need them, feel free to give some more great alternatives in the comments.

By Luong Tan

Luong Tan, the creative and passionate founder of Bourbono, is a multi-talented individual with a deep love for the culinary arts. An accomplished food blogger, cookbook author, and former Ambassador of US cuisine in Vietnam (2015-2016), Luong has been on a mission to share his appreciation for food with the world.

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