8 Best Ancho Chili Powder Substitutes With Images

ancho chili powder substitute

May it be for mouth-watering rub, marinade, or other well-seasoned dish, ancho chiles would be a great addition. However, what will you do if you can’t find ancho chili powder in your kitchen? It is time to find out some of the best ancho chili powder substitutes below. 

What is Ancho Chili Powder

A popular spice that is made up purely of dried and ground ancho chiles, ancho chili powder has a moderate heat level with fruity undertones. It is commonly used in spice rubs and mole sauce, sometimes spelled as ancho chile powder. 

Unlike chili powder that  is a blend made from various ground spices including ground chiles, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and/or cayenne pepper, ancho chili powder uses  just one specific chile, which is dried poblanos that are ground up. 

Since ancho chili powder is made from the sweetest dried chili, it is a combination of moderately spicy but rich flavor. When compared to the cayenne pepper powder, ancho chili powder is less hot, more earthy and smoky in terms of flavor.

The Best Ancho Chili Powder Substitute

If you need that moderate-heat substance ground from whole ancho chiles, the name for dried poblano peppers, and can’t find it in your kitchen, here are some of the substitutes for an ancho powder. 

Guajillo Chile Powder

Since Guajillo Chile pepper is the most common chili in Mexico after the Ancho, it is no surprise it can be used as a substitute for the ancho powder. Guajillo Chile powder is made from grinding the whole Guajillo Pepper, seeds and stem. The 100% pure powder offers authentic chili flavor for your dishes. 

The Guajillo Chile pepper is also just a smidge hotter than the ancho chiles, making it a great substitute for ancho chili powder. The tangy, pleasantly sharp taste with hints of berry and pine of this chili powder would also elevate the flavor of your dish. 

Though guajillo powder is traditionally used in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine, it can also be added to any dish that calls for chiles as it flavors everything from mole sauces to stews and braises. The mild heat with distinct flavor can be used to swap for a missing ancho chile powder in recipes. 

Pasilla Chili Powder

Pasilla powder is made up purely of dried and ground pasilla chiles and has a moderate heat level with fruity undertones. The flavor of the pasilla chile powder is dark, rich, and rather luxurious. Its color can range from dark aubergine to black.

Made from dried chilaca peppers, pasilla chili powder can work well in  mole sauces. Pasilla pepper powder can stand one-on-one with ancho powder as they share common traits, such as mild heat level.

Aside from mole sauces and bean-centric dishes, pasilla pepper powder can also be used in breads and vegetables as it adds depth to compound butters.

Chipotle Powder

Chipotle powder is made up purely of dried and ground chipotle chiles, though a bit spicier than ancho chili peppers, it has a moderate heat level with fruity undertones. It is also the chili powder that is mostly available in major grocery stores, as among the easiest-to-find substitutes for ancho chile powder. 

Since chipotle chili powder is spicier, you may do a taste-test if you are going to use it as a substitute for the ancho chile powder. If you need an ancho chile powder for your meat or seafood but don’t have one in your kitchen, then use chipotle instead. This will make a great substitute than your regular chili powder. 

Chipotle chili powder also works well on different dishes and as a flavor enhancer for any filling in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and more.

Mulato Pepper Powder

Similar in flavor to ancho chile peppers, Mulato Chili is a mild to moderate chili. Just like the regular Mexico chili powder, it is also used in soups, stews and most commonly, mole. But compared to the ancho chile powder, mulato peppers have darker color and more full-bodied flavor.

Mulato pepper powder contains notes of licorice and chocolate, which is why it is also used in sweeter dishes and desserts to achieve that tingly heat sensation. It can be used to substitute for ancho if you ever want to make a chile-flavored ice cream or baked good. 


Paprika is a spice made from dried and crushed red pepper that includes red pepper, bell peppers, and chile peppers. It is one of the perfect options to substitute for ancho chili powder. Mild paprika might be slightly sweeter than ancho chile powder, but it will do justice for any dish that calls for ancho chili pepper powder. 

You can find a sweet paprika for a sweeter profile and smoked paprika for that smoky flavor. If you will use paprika to replace ancho and need an extra kick, adding cayenne pepper might do the trick.

New Mexico Chile Powder

New Mexico chile powder is made by grinding dried New Mexico chiles. When compared to ancho peppers, New Mexico chiles are about six inches long and two inches wide. It also has  an aroma reminiscent of dried fruits and herbs. This should replace ancho chili powder well. 

New Mexico chiles can be ground when immature (green) and fully ripened (red), but the powder is generally made from red chiles, like dried anaheim chili. Using the new Mexico chili powder might give a slightly different taste but it should give a well-matched heat level with ancho Chilies. 

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is a hot chili in the Capsicum family, which is usually a moderately hot chili pepper used to flavor dishes. Cayenne chili powder is made from the  small, skinny, and lengthy chillies. 

Since cayenne chili pepper is way hotter than ancho chile, you might need to mix it with other sweeter types of chili powder to replace ancho chile powder. Combining it with New Mexico chile powder or pasilla powder might be a good idea. 

If you are not aware, cayenne chili powder is commonly used in Creole, Indian, Thai, Chinese, and Korean cuisines. Make sure to use a smaller pinch of cayenne chile peppers if you are going to use it as ancho powder substitute. 

Chile de Árbol Powder

Said to be equal to cayenne in heat and have a slight red bell pepper flavor, Chile de Árbol powder is made from ground chile de arbol dried chiles. It has a bright and clean with mild herbal tones flavor profile that’s close to being earthy flavor. 

Since they have a similar heat level as the cayenne chillies, you should also use this chili powder with precaution when using it as a substitute for ancho chile powder.

Other Substitutes for Ancho Chile Powder

There are few other options you can choose to replace for a missing ancho chile powder, just like the regular chili powder. Their main difference is that the regular chili powder is made from dried, pulverized fruit of one or more varieties of chili pepper, sometimes with the addition of other spices. 

Meanwhile, ancho powder uses one variety of chili and that is dried ancho chiles. Gochugaru might also work as a replacement if you don’t have ancho powder in your kitchen. 

When making your choice for a good ancho powder substitute, always consider which dish you are going to use it for. It can be for Mexican cuisine or other dishes

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