10 Kashmiri Chili Substitutes [Mild, Spicy, & Non-Pepper]

This week I was feeling ambitious and attempted to try making Rogan Josh (recipe), a celebrated Indian dish made of stewed lamb in a sweet and flavorful chili sauce.

I prepared my list and made my way off to the grocery store, but couldn’t locate the main ingredient, Kashmiri chili, anywhere in the entire store!

At this point I was on a mission. I would need to find a suitable substitute to make my stewed lamb.

Kashmiri chili is a beautiful bright red chili essential to Indian and Kashmiri cuisine.  It is known for having a slightly sweet and smoky flavor that is popular in dishes that call for some peppers but do not require heavy heat or spice.

Despite its popularity in Indian cuisine, it can be difficult to locate Kashmiri chilies in the U.S.

Fortunately, I was able to find do some research and find some great substitutes that will work in so many different recipes!

If you are looking for a red pepper that is mild like the Kashmiri chili, some great substitutes include Kashmiri chili powder, deggi mirch, ancho chili powder, and guajillo chili. For a pepper with a bit more kick, try gochugaru, smoked paprika mixed with cayenne, sweet paprika mixed with cayenne, or byadgi chili. If you’re only looking for the red coloring and don’t care about the pepper, try adding red food coloring or beetroot to get that deep red color that Kashmiri chili brings to food.

In this article we’ll be going over these substitutes in more detail to help you choose which substitute to use.

We’ll also be answering some common questions you may have about Kashmiri chilis!

Mild Substitutes For Kashmiri Chilies

1)Kashmiri Chili Powder

Kashmiri chili powder is the most accurate substitute for whole Kashmiri chilies

If you have it on hand, Kashmiri chili powder is the easiest and most accurate substitute for whole Kashmiri chilies.

It will have the same deep bright red color and will stain your entire dish a lovely red color.

Kashmiri chili powder, much like the whole chili is very mild in heat, registering only 1,000 to 2,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).

You can learn more about SHU here: The Scoville Heat Scale for Chilli Peppers and Hot Sauces (chilliworld.com)

To replace Kashmiri chilies with Kashmiri chili powder, substitute ½ teaspoon for every pepper called for.

2)Deggi Mirch (1,500-2,000, Bright Red)

Deggi mirch is a beautiful Indian spice blend. Americans may be familiar with garam masala, a popular Indian spice blend easily found in the U.S.

Deggi Mirch is a spice blend made primarily from Kashmiri chilies and other red peppers.

It is mild in heat and gives a beautiful red color and mild earthy flavor to tandoori chickens, soups and more.

Deggi mirch is about as spicy as Kashmiri chili powder, about 1,500 to 2,000 SHU. Use ½ teaspoon for every whole Kashmiri chili called for in a recipe.

3)Ancho Chili Powder (1500-2000 SHU) -Made From Dried Ground Poblano Peppers

Ancho chilies are a popular chili found in Mexican cuisine. It is made from dried and ground up poblano peppers. Slightly sweet and a hint of smokiness, this chili powder gives a very mild heat.

At only 1,500 to 2,000 SHU, it is comparable in heat to the Kashmiri chili. Ancho chili is not commonly used in Indian cuisine, so the flavor will be different.

However, only the most discerning palates will notice a difference. Note that ancho chili powder is not red so it will not give your dish a red coloring at all.

Use ½ a teaspoon for every Kashmiri chili.

4)Guajillo Chili (Mild, Dark Red/Brown) 2,500-5,000 SHU

Guajillo chili is a mild substitute to Kashmiri chili

Guajillo chilies are one of the most popular chilies used in Mexican cuisine.

Made from dried mirasol chilies, the guajillo is known for having a leathery skin when dry and a dark brown or reddish hue.

It is used in salsas, cooking meats, and soups to add a slight sweetness and pop of heat.

At 2,000 to 5,000 SHU, guajillos are a bit spicier than the Kashmiri chili. However, it is not so hot that it will noticeably change the structure of your dish.

You can replace one Kashmiri chili with ½ a teaspoon of guajillo chili powder.

5)Gochugaru (1500-10,000 SHU) Bright Red

Gochugaru is a coarse ground red chili powder that is the backbone of Korean cooking.

It is used in kimchi, soups, braised meats, and a wide variety of pickled vegetables. Gochugaru is bright red and stains dishes a beautiful red color, much like Kashmiri chili.

A touch sweet, Gochugaru has a wide range of spiciness depending on the batch of chilies. It ranges from 1,500 to 10,000 SHU. It has a bit of smokiness as well.

The smoky and sweet notes along with the bright red color of the powder makes it an easy swap for Kashmiri chili.

Just note that it might be a bit spicier than Kashmiri chili, so taste as you go to be sure the flavor is to your liking.

You can substitute ½ a teaspoon of Gochugaru for every Kashmiri chili used.

6)Smoked Paprika And Cayenne

Smoked paprika and cayenne is one of the most commonly recommended substitutes for Kashmiri chili powder if you are living in the states.

Paprika and cayenne pepper are pantry staples found in most home kitchens and easy to find in any grocery store in the U.S.

The sweetness and smokiness from the paprika brings the elements typically found in Kashmiri chili powder, and a pinch cayenne adds just a small element of heat and earthiness to round out the flavor.

At 30,000 to 50,000 SHU, cayenne pepper can pack a bit of a punch. Be judicious when adding it as it can throw off the spice levels of your dish.

Use a ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika and a pinch of cayenne for every Kashmiri chili pepper.

7)Regular Paprika And Cayenne

Paprika is mild and almost tasteless but will add the same bright red color as the Kashmiri chili

Regular paprika (also known as sweet paprika) is the next best option if you cannot find smoked paprika.

Sweet paprika will not have the smoky flavor. It is very mild and almost tasteless but will add the same bright red color that Kashmiri chili will add to a dish.

Paprika is a key element of Hungarian cooking, a favorite in dishes such as goulash. If you want to add some body and heat to your dish, add a pinch of cayenne to your paprika as well.

½ a teaspoon plus a pinch of cayenne will replace one Kashmiri chili pepper in your dish.

8)Byadgi Chili (Very Hot, Red In Color) 50,000-100,00 SHU

Byadgi chili is a very famous and celebrated type of chili pepper native to the Indian subcontinent.

Its bright red pigmentation makes it a popular item used for dyeing fabrics, nail polish, and coloring lipsticks in India.

The pepper is very hot, clocking in at 50,000 to 100,000 SHU. As a hot chili pepper, using the byadgi chili can potentially change the flavor of your dish quite a bit, so you want to be careful when using this as a replacement for Kashmiri chilies.

If you’d like to learn more about some peppers that really pack some heat, check out this article on substitutes for scotch bonnet peppers: Scotch Bonnet Pepper Substitutes.

9)Red Food Coloring

Some people prefer to avoid chilies altogether, either because they are allergic or because they do not like spicy food.

If this is the case for you but you still want to have the characteristic redness found in dishes that call for Kashmiri chilies, red food coloring can be an easy and inexpensive alternative.

Red food coloring is found in any grocery store in the baking aisle. A few drops will turn a dish pink, while a more liberal approach will give you a deep red color.

Start with only a few drops and work your way up from there. The benefit of this option is that it will not change the flavor of your dish at all.

There isn’t a good ratio of replacement for red food coloring to Kashmiri chilies. Simply add the food coloring little by little until it is the color you desire.

10)Beetroot

beetroot is a great substitute due to its red color which is similar to Kashmiri chilies

Beetroot is naturally deep red or purplish and is a popular natural choice for staining foods, clothes, hands, and more.

It has been used for centuries as a natural dye for clothing. Beetroot juice will turn any dish a beautiful burnished red color similar to Kashmiri chilies.

Be careful though, the beetroot juice has a strong and distinctive flavor that is sweet and somewhat earthy. It can overpower your dish if you are not careful.

Like the red food dye, there isn’t an easy ratio for replacing Kashmiri chilies with beetroot juice.

Start with a few teaspoons and adjust as you go based on the color you want and the flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Paprika And Kashmiri Chili The Same?

Paprika and Kashmiri chili are not the same. They are easily confused though because they are both mild spices that have a deep red color.

Many people from India choose to use paprika in their dishes that call for Kashmiri chili because of its mild flavor and similar color to Kashmiri chili.

What Does Kashmiri Taste Like?

Kashmiri chili does not have a very strong flavor, especially in its powdered form. It is slightly sweet and smoky, with a very subtle amount of spice -more than paprika but less than cayenne pepper.

When used in large enough amounts the sweetness and smokiness comes through more distinctively in a dish.

Where Can I Buy Kashmiri Chili?

Kashmiri chili is easily found at any Indian grocery store. It can sometimes be found in Asian markets as well.

If you have a very well stocked grocery store the ethnic food aisle might carry it.

Final Considerations

Kashmiri chili is a beautiful chili perfect for adding an earthy flavor and robust red color to your dishes.

If you are looking for a mild replacement for Kashmiri chilies, some good options include Kashmiri chili powder, Deggi Mirch, Ancho chili powder, and guajillo chili powder.

For spicier alternatives, try gochugaru, smoked paprika with cayenne, sweet paprika with cayenne, or byadgi chili.

For a non-chili substitute, red food coloring or beetroot juice are great options. Happy cooking!

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