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11 Great Substitutes for Chile De Arbol

Chile de Arbol, also known as the “bird’s beak chili” or tree chili, is a famous Mexican pepper that brings in flavors in all its forms. You can use these chilis as a powder, dried flakes, and even fresh and whole in your favorite dishes.

Chile de Arbol peppers are gradually becoming available internationally, but what are the best substitutes to use if you can’t get your hands on them?

Here are 11 excellent substitutes for Chile de Arbol:

  1. Thai chilis
  2. Cayenne peppers
  3. Paprika
  4. Jalapeños
  5. Serrano peppers
  6. Sweet Bell peppers
  7. Gochugaru
  8. Chile piquin
  9. Guajillo chile
  10. Cascabel chile pepper
  11. Mirasol chili

These alternatives can help you make your favorite Mexican dishes taste like you added Chile de Arbol to the mix!

Photo of small red Thai chili peppers placed in a row facing alternative directions against a white background
Photo by Antonio Riberio

1. Thai Chilis

Most grocery stores these days carry Thai chilis. While Chile de Arbol scores between 15,000 to 30,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, Thai chilis are significantly hotter.

They sit between 50,000 to 100,000 SHU, hitting all the right notes for spice enthusiasts. Thanks to their high capsaicin content Thai chilis are hot! They are also known for a unique fruity heated aftertaste, making them a powerful ingredient for some spicy meals.

Since Thai chilis are spicier than Chile De Arbol, add just a little to your recipe for a strong taste.

If you like the heat, you’re sure to enjoy its filling, warm, and deep flavors that amplify the taste of all your desired dishes.

You can use these Thai chilis whole, chopped up, or even in their powdered form while cooking.

2. Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne peppers are packed with heat and have a strong flavor profile. These chilis are the closest to Chile de Arbol, considering how similar they are in their fried and powdered forms.

You can sprinkle Cayenne pepper on a dry steak rub or even infuse it with olive oil for a fantastic flavor kick to your pizza.

These spicy bites reach around 30,000–50,000 SHU on the Scoville scale.

They’re known for being tangy, peppery, and full of flavor. Its warmth adds loads of goodness to soups and stews, making it the perfect addition when you’re feeling under the weather.

3. Paprika

If you want to enjoy the flavor of Chile de Abol without the excessive heat, paprika might be your ideal pepper substitute. Unlike Chile de Arbol’s fiery and deep aftertaste, Paprika adds a smoky and rich flavor to all your dishes.

Paprika is derived from ground Bell peppers. They’re often sold in powder form and used in many cultural recipes. The spice is rich in flavor and can help you enjoy a similar experience to eating Chile de Arbol but without the heat.

Most Paprika powders are mild, ranging from 250 – 1000 SHU, making it a helpful flavoring agent for various savory dishes.

Photo of a green jalapeno pepper held by the stem
Here is a photo of one of my Jalapeno peppers. Photo by Spicy Trio.

4. Jalapeños

Jalapeños might not be your first choice when substituting for Chile de Arbol, but they are readily available when you’re limited on time and do not have any other peppers to add to your recipe.

The best way to use this as a substitute is to include larger quantities to bring out the heat. Jalapeños’ heat range from 2,500 to 8,000 SHU, making them a mild but flavorful option.

Fully ripe Jalapeños are reddish in color and are relatively hotter than their green counterparts due to increased levels of capsaicin. If you want to replicate the essence of Chile de Arbol, buy these in bulk. Remember that Jalapeños do not have as pronounced heat and flavor.

5. Serrano Peppers

One of the best substitutes for Chile de Arbol is Serrano peppers, native to some Mexican states.

These chilis emit spiciness similar to Chile de Arbol at 10,000 to 25,000 SHU, making them a perfect ingredient for spicy dishes and substitute for Chile de Arbol. Store mostly carry these in their green color, but you can wait for them to ripen to a red color before using them for your dishes if you want a little more sweetness.

The ripest Serranos are bright red, making them look similar to Chile de Arbol.

One of the best ways to use Serrano peppers is to dehydrate and crush them to form a powder you can use in various recipes.

You can also use them fresh to add a kick to some bland dishes. These peppers have a slight hint of sweetness alongside a mild, naturally smoky flavor that goes beautifully with salsa dips and Guacamole.

Photo of three red bell peppers ripening on the vine
Photo by Iamtkb

6. Sweet Bell Peppers

Do you want a mild, sweet pepper with a slightly sweet flavor? If you do, sweet Bell peppers are perfect for your preferences.

While these peppers contain almost no capsaicin and are not spicy, their flavor profile is similar to Chile De Arbol. Thanks to this, Bell peppers are popular among people who love flavorful dishes without the spiciness.

Bell peppers are large and thick fleshed. They taste best when you cook them fresh and add them to different recipes for a smooth and mild flavor.

While most peppers become spicier as they ripen, the green-red Bell peppers become sweeter when ripening towards a bright red hue. So, if you want a sweeter taste from these peppers, let them ripen on the vines before plucking them.

7. Gochugaru

Gochugaru is an excellent substitute for the hot Chile de Arbol if you like dried, spicy, and flaky spices. This Korean dried chili pepper seems to have gained popularity in recent years thanks to many food vloggers and they can be a fun alternative to Chile de Arbol when used in various recipes.

Gochugaru is prevalent in Korean dishes. Its heat ranges between 1,500 to 10,000 SHU, making it a mild yet flavorful chili powder. Its texture is usually composed of halfway crushed pepper flakes, often mixed with a fine powder.

The spice is bright red because the peppers’ seeds are removed during production. The Gochugaru powder is made from dried peppers which yields a smoky and fruity flavor profile, perfect for noodles, curries, roasted chicken and veggies, and more.

Gochugaru is uncommon in most grocery stores but not too rare to find both online and at Asian supermarkets.

Its perfect blend of flavor and spiciness makes it a fierce alternative to Chile de Arbol.

8. Chile Piquin

The Chile Piquin or the piquin pepper is a Mexican chili famous for its spicy and smoky flavor profile. It ranks high among other peppers in hotness, soaring at 40,000 to 60,000 SHU.

Once it has ripened to its bright red color, the Chile Piquin develops a nutty and citrusy flavor. It carries a slightly fruity aftertaste, which pairs nicely with its high heat levels.

You can consume Chile Piquin smoked, dried, and even its powdered form to enjoy its smoky undertones. The peppers are available from summer to fall and make an excellent substitute for the ever-spicy Chile de Arbol.

So, if you are looking for a perfect substitute for Chile de Arbol, the Chile Piquin has earned a much-deserved spot in terms of flavor and spiciness.

9. Guajillo Chile

The Guajillo Chile is all about fruity flavors, smokiness, and intense tastes. Clocking in at 2,500–5,000 SHU, the Guajillo Chilis are soft, thin chilis with bright red flesh.

Once dried, they are dark red and wrinkly, with a thick fleshy exterior. While Guajillo Chiles are not too spicy, these chilis showcase a berry-like smokiness and fruity undertones, paired with a moderate green-tea flavor.

Guajillo Chile is well known for being an integral ingredient in chili sauces and pastes and enhancing the tastes of marinades and soups. You can create some beautiful, heartwarming dishes by using these uniquely-flavored chilis in your recipes.

These chilis will remind you of Chile de Arbol seasoning, only without its intense heat. You can get these chilis in Mexican grocery stores and some traditional supermarkets.

10. Cascabel Chile Pepper

While not too spicy at 1,000-3000 SHU, the Cascabel Chile pepper brings in some beautifully rich flavors, smokiness, and a mildly fruity aftertaste. Some even say it has a unique and harmonious blended taste of strawberries and beef.

While it sounds somewhat peculiar, the flavor profile reminds many of a fruity and smoky BBQ sauce used for steaks and patties.

These bell-shaped chilis are stout, smooth to the touch, and small in size. They start as green peppers and mature into a reddish-brown chili with complex and translucent flesh. You can use them for homemade sauces and marinade pastes for various recipes. You can also ground these peppers to use as pepper powder.

It adds a woody flavor, paired with a sour, smoky, and nutty taste that pairs beautifully with tomatoes and meat dishes. Thanks to its smoky, fruity, and tangy flavors, you can rely on the Cascabel Chile peppers to bring out the best culinary performances in your dishes.

11. Mirasol Chili

Mirasol chili has a beautifully distinctive flavor that adds a zing to every dish. It is fruity yet spicy and delicate in flavor, which makes it a popular substitute for Chile de Arbol.

These peppers’ hotness ranks within 2,500 to 5,000 SHU, making them perfect for adding spiciness and zing to chicken dishes, salsas, marinades, sauces, stews, and more!