Good Substitutes For Ancho Chili Paste

As an Amazon Associate, Eat Wine Blog earns from qualifying purchases. We get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

If you are somebody who enjoys eating and preparing traditional Mexican cuisine, then you are likely familiar with Ancho Chilies.

Ancho chilies are an integral part of Mexican cooking, and they are used in the majority of dishes.

So, if you are thinking of making Mexican food, it is likely that you will be searching for ancho chili paste to add to your meal.

But, once you start searching, you will realize that it is actually pretty hard to find.

Good Substitutes For Ancho Chili Paste

In fact, quite often it is almost impossible to get your hands on ancho chili paste.

In which case, you will probably find yourself searching for the next best thing. 

In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at what ancho chili paste is, and what the best substitutes are, if you can’t get your hands on it.

So, if you want to find out more, keep on reading! 

What Is Ancho Chili Paste?

First things first, let’s take a look at what ancho chili paste is. Ancho chili paste is a paste that is created using ancho chilies.

The paste is usually created using around 5-6 chilies which are crushed and added to a mixture of vegetable oil, onion, garlic, and other spices.

This paste is then used in cooking, rather than having to add the chilies, garlic, and other spices individually. 

As we said earlier, ancho chili paste is incredibly common in traditional Mexican cooking, and you will find it in a lot of Mexican cuisine.

Some people think that this is just for the heart of the Ancho chilies, but that isn’t the case.

While these chilies bring heat, they also bring tons of flavor,in particular an earthy, smoky flavor that you would struggle to find in other chilies. 

Ancho chili paste is totally unique, which is why so many people of Mexican heritage use it in their cooking.

Once you taste Ancho chili paste, you will understand the hype.

But what can you use if you can’t get your hand on this paste?

Let’s take a look at some of the best substitutes. 

Good Substitutes For Ancho Chili Paste

While Ancho chilies have a totally unique flavor, there are actually quite a few substitutes that work for this paste.

This is because there are multiple ingredients alongside the ancho chilies in the paste.

So, if you cannot get your hands on Ancho chili paste, here are some of the best substitutes to use in your cooking. 

Ancho Chili Powder & Mild Paprika

First up, we have ancho chili powder and mild paprika.

It is often really difficult to get your hands on fresh ancho chilies, and it is even more difficult to get your hands on dried ancho chilies.

However, quite a lot of grocery stores will stock Ancho chili powder, and this is a great substitute. 

To make ancho chili paste, the chilies are mixed with additional ingredients.

Of course, you cannot add things such as vegetable oil and onions to dried Ancho chilies.

But you can add seasoning to the chili powder to make it taste more like the paste.

One of the most effective seasonings that we find is paprika. 

When you mix ancho chili powder and mild paprika you get a flavor combination that is very similar to ancho chili paste.

The ancho chili powder will give a similar kick to the flavor that real ancho chilies would.

Then the mild paprika will come along and really bring out the earthy tones of the chili powder. 

Together, they create a flavor that is incredibly similar to the paste.

Just remember that due to the difference in consistency, you may need to amend your recipe to account for the lack of liquid.

Regular Chili Powder & Crushed Red Pepper

Regular Chili Powder & Crushed Red Pepper

If you cannot get your hands on Ancho chili powder, then regular chili powder is okay to use too.

As Ancho chili has the word “chili” in it, a lot of people expect this paste to be incredibly spicy, but this isn’t actually the case.

In fact, Ancho chili powder actually tends to be pretty mild.

This is why regular chili powder works pretty well as a substitute for it. 

With this substitute, it is best to do it to taste.

That is why we would recommend starting with a few teaspoons of regular chili powder.

From there you can add a little crushed red pepper until you achieve your desired taste. 

When it comes to this substitute, it is very important that you do not go overboard when it comes to adding your crushed red pepper.

It can be very easy to think that you need to add a lot, especially if you are not familiar with Ancho chili paste.

However, you only really need a sprinkle of crushed red pepper to achieve the perfect substitute for ancho chili paste. 

Chipotle Powder

If you cannot get your hands on any of the previous substitutes, you can use chipotle powder.

Chipotle is a spicier chili than Ancho chili, so you do need to be aware that this will be a step-up in terms of spice.

However, it does have the same smoky flavor that makes Ancho chili paste so popular.

When you are using chipotle powder as a substitute for ancho chili paste.

You will have to take real care when it comes to measurements.

Chipotle is significantly hotter, so you really will only need a sprinkle to achieve your desired flavor. 

While chipotle powder isn’t the most ideal substitute, it is readily available in most grocery stores.

So, if you are really struggling to find a substitute, this is a good one to use if you are stuck. 

Guajillo And Mulato Peppers

The final substitute that we would recommend trying is guajillo and mulato peppers.

This substitute is a little to the others that we have looked at as it uses actual peppers, rather than powder.

These peppers are some of the holy trinity of Mexican chilies.

And they are very common in traditional Mexican cooking. This is why they make a great substitute for ancho chilies.

You likely won’t be able to pick up either of these peppers in your local grocery store, but you will be able to get them online in dried form.

Both of these peppers are hotter than ancho chilies.

So just like chipotle powder, you will have to reduce the amount of peppers that you use.

If you follow the measurements for ancho chili paste, then you will end up with a dish that is much hotter than it is supposed to be. 

Just like chipotle powder, this wouldn’t be our first choice when it comes to substitutes.

However, if you are stuck, it does work pretty well.

Just remember to add the peppers slowly, otherwise you could risk over-powering the flavor of your dish with heat.

Go slow and add the peppers to taste, that way you can stop once you achieve your desired flavor.


In short, there are lots of great substitutes that you can use for ancho chili paste.

We all know that ancho chili paste can be tricky to get your hands on.

So if you can’t find it in your local grocery store, check out one of these substitutes instead.

You won’t be disappointed!