9 Ideas For A Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitute

Kashmiri chili powder in a gray bowl.

Find ideas for the best substitute for Kashmiri chili powder, a mild to moderate spicy Indian chili powder. It is an Indian spice that gives a vibrant red color to dishes.

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About Kashmiri Chili Powder

There are many different spices used in Indian cooking.  Kashmiri chili powder is sometimes used in Indian dishes, especially North Indian cuisine.  It is not used as often as regular hot chili powder (Indian lal mirch).

Kashmiri chilli powder is used for its smokey flavor, mild heat and for the vibrant red hue / color it adds to dishes. Kashmiri mirch (pepper) are dried whole red peppers which are sun dried than ground into a fine powder. Both the whole spice and powdered spice are used in Indian dishes.

Tandoori dishes are known for their bright red color and Kashmiri chili can provide that color without the use of artificial colors.

Kashmiri chili powder is different from chili powder or chili powder flakes because it comes from Kashmiri chilies which gives a different flavor. The red chili used most often in Indian cooking provides a greater level of heat.

You can easily find Kashmiri chili powder at local Indian grocery stores or online.

Best Substitute

So, you may be looking for a Kashmiri chili alternative or replacement for your recipe. Here is the short story:

What is a substitute / replacement for Kashmiri chili powder?

The best substitute for Kashmiri Chili powder is a 3:1 smoky paprika to cayenne pepper spice blend. This gives you the smoky taste from paprika and a touch of heat from the cayenne pepper. See other ideas.

The above provides you with a similar flavor but note, it won’t give you the same vibrant red hue.

While you may be looking for a substitute for now, you can easily find Kashmiri chili powder at local Indian grocery stores or online.

Other ideas for Kashmiri chili substitute

There are so many types of chilies and also types of chili powder.  Looking at the factors of flavor profile and the Scoville Heat Index of different chilies, the list below provides some ideas for a substitute of Kashmiri chili. 

Note, there are may chilies produced and used in India.

I have to be honest, the best substitute is what you have in easy reach! If you cook Indian food regularly or plan on getting into making Indian cuisine at home I suggest buying some from your local Indian grocer.

1. Whole Dried Kashmiri Chili

While you may not have Kashmiri chili powder on hand, maybe you can get some whole dried chillies.  Since this is what the powder is made from, it’s the next best option. Often used when tempering oil or tadka.

You can substitute ½ tsp powder for one dried Kashmiri chili pepper.

2. Deggi mirch –degi mirch

This is a popular type of chili powder which is made of spice blend of Kashmiri chili powder and red pepper (red bell peppers). The bell pepper adds a hint of sweet taste to the spicy taste / smoky taste of Kashmiri chili.

You can substitute it 1:1 for Kashmiri chili powder

3. Smoked Paprika + Cayenne

This is the best substitute as I think you can imitate the smoky flavor as well as provides comparable mild heat to your dish. This can be achieved by making a mixture of paprika and cayenne. I also believe it is usually easily available in many Western kitchens.

You can use 3 parts smoked paprika to 1 park cayenne powder (for example, ¾ tsp smoked paprika to ¼ tsp cayenne).  This blend can be used 1:1 to act as a substitute for Kashmiri powder.

4. Red chili powder

Red chili powder on a white plate.

Mild Kashmiri chili powder is not used as often as regular hot chili powder (Indian lal mirch).

There are many types of Indian chili powders. Depending on the variety you have, you can start at 1/4 tsp : 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder.

5. Byadgi chillies

Comes from Karnataka and they are widely used in India.  They give great color, but they are very spicy compared to Kashmiri chilies.

You can use ¼ tsp to 1 tsp Kashmiri

6. Paprika (regular paprika) + cayenne

While this won’t provide the slight smoky taste, it will give you a similar level of heat.

Use a 3:1 (paprika: cayenne) blend.

7. Smoked salt plus red chili powder

If you have smoked salt on hand you could add that to the dish and use a chili powder with moderate heat.

8. Hot Sauces – get creative!

This is by no means a true replacement, but reach for what you have! You can look up the Scoville Heat Index of various hot sauces to help you pick and determine quantity.

9. Explore other chili powders

Can I substitute chili powder for Kashmiri chili powder?

Yes, if you don’t have Kashmiri chili powder on hand you can substitute a different chili powder. Try to find a mild to moderately spiced chili powder and add a touch of smokey flavor to imitate Kashmiri chili powder. Use the Scoville Scale as a reference for understanding the heat level of other chili powders relative to Kashmiri chili.

Scoville Scale Heat Units Comparison of Chilies

Type of ChiliScoville Heat Units (SHU)
Kashmiri chili1,000 – 2,000
Smoked Paprika500-1,000
Cayenne Pepper30,000-50,000
Byadgi Chilli (known for color, but spicy!)50,000 – 100,000
Resampatti chilli powder40,000
Hot saucesVaries – List of hot sauces

 As I mentioned at the start, the best replacement or alternative to Kashmiri Chili is what you have on hand.  Adjust it to try to match the right heat level, add in a light touch of smoky flavor and you are set. 

Bonus points for the added color, but the taste is most important!

Then, grab some true Kashmiri chilli powder or Kashmiri chillies for the next time you make the recipe!

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