7 Best Calabrian Chili Substitutes: Spice up your life!

What is the best Calabrian Chili substitute?

Do you need a Calabrian Chili substitute? Are you tired of using the same old chili pepper in your dishes? Looking to add some excitement and bold flavors to your recipes? Calabrian chili, known for its distinctively spicy and fruity flavor, is a staple in Italian cuisine. However, if you can’t find this specialty pepper or simply want to try something different, there are several alternatives that can bring a similar kick to your dishes. Whether it’s the smokiness of chipotle peppers, the earthy heat of Aleppo pepper, or the convenience of Harrisa, these substitutes offer a diverse range of flavors. So, let’s dive in and discover these exciting alternatives that will spice up your culinary creations.

Try using: Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, Smoked Paprika, Serrano Peppers, Aleppo Pepper, Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce, Harissa, or Cayenne Peppers.

What is Calabrian Chili?

Calabrian chili, originating from the Calabria region in Southern Italy, is a small but fiery pepper variety. It has gained widespread popularity for its intense heat and distinctive flavor profile. These chili peppers are renowned for their vibrant red color, compact size, and rich, fruity undertones. Often used in both fresh and preserved forms, Calabrian chilies are a staple in Italian cuisine. The peppers are frequently dried and then crushed to create a spicy Calabrian chili paste or flakes. The paste or flakes are then incorporated into pasta sauces, pizzas, marinades. In fact any recipe where you want to add a kick of heat and a depth of flavor. The balance between their fiery intensity and the subtle sweetness they bring makes Calabrian chilies a favorite among those who appreciate the complexity of heat in their culinary creations.

So what can you use instead of Calabrian chilies – well, read on to find out more.

Okay, before we look at your Calabrian chili substitute options, let’s deal with that empty cupboard situation!

Where can I buy Calabrian Chili?

If you want to be more prepared and ensure you don’t run out of Calabrian Chili, then you should stock up now.

Nowadays most delicatessens and general supermarkets stock a wide variety of Calabrian Chili. Or if you prefer you can also purchase Calabrian Chili on-line.

So why not jump on and place your order today.


Crushed Calabrian Chili Peppers

Authentic Crushed Calabrian Chili Peppers made using natural ingredients. Spicy, bold and full of flvaor.

Scoville ranking of 35.000 to 40.000. Remember a litttle goes a long way!

What can I substitute for Calabrian Chili?

Here are some of the best ingredients to substitute the flavor and role that Calabrian Chili provides in your recipes.

  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Serrano Peppers
  • Aleppo Pepper
  • Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
  • Harissa
  • Cayenne Peppers

Calabrian Chili substitutes

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

One of the most common and easily accessible substitutes for Calabrian chilies is crushed red pepper flakes. Found in many kitchens these dried and crushed chili peppers are available in most grocery stores. They are made by drying and then crushing red chili peppers, such as Cayenne Peppers. They can range from mild to hot, depending on which pepper was used, and how many seeds have been included – so be careful!

While they may not have the same fruity undertones as Calabrian chilies, they do provide a similar level of heat. Use them sparingly at first and adjust according to your taste preference.

Crushed red pepper flakes are extremely versatile which allows you to use them in a variety of dishes. Sprinkle them over your favorite pizza, pasta sauces, or you can also add them to your marinades for an extra kick. The flakes add a nice touch of heat without overpowering the other flavors in your recipe.

Chili Flakes. Red Pepper Flakes.

Smoked Paprika

If you’re looking for a substitute that adds a smoky flavor along with the heat, smoked paprika is an excellent choice. Made from dried and smoked red peppers, this spice brings a unique depth of flavor to your dishes. The smokiness of the paprika pairs well with a wide range of cuisines, from Spanish to BBQ-inspired dishes.

To use smoked paprika as a substitute for Calabrian chilies, start by adding a small amount to your dish. Then you can gradually increase the quantity according to your taste. Sprinkle it over roasted vegetables, mix it into your spice rubs, or you can also use it to season your grilled meats. The smoky undertones of the paprika will elevate your recipes and give them a distinct and flavorful twist.

Smoked paprika as a substitute for Calabria Chili

Serrano Peppers

For those who prefer a substitute that packs a punch, serrano peppers are an excellent choice. These Mexican peppers are known for their heat, which falls between jalapenos and habaneros. Serrano peppers have a bright and fresh flavor that can add a vibrant kick to your recipes.

To use serrano peppers as a substitute for Calabrian chilies, finely chop them or puree them to create a paste. Add the paste to your recipes to infuse them with heat and flavor. Serrano peppers work well in salsas, sauces, and also spicy cocktails. Just remember to adjust the quantity according to your heat tolerance.

[Scoville heat units – 10,000 – 23,000]

Serrano peppers

Aleppo Pepper

If you’re looking for a substitute that closely resembles the fruity undertones of Calabrian chilies, Aleppo pepper is an excellent choice. This Middle Eastern spice is made from dried and crushed Aleppo peppers and brings a unique flavor to your recipes. It has a moderate level of heat and a sweet and tangy flavor profile.

To use Aleppo pepper as a substitute for Calabrian chilies, sprinkle it over your dishes as a finishing touch. It pairs well with grilled meats, roasted vegetables, and also dips and spreads. The fruity and tangy notes of the pepper will add a delightful twist to your recipes. They will also leave your taste buds wanting more.

Aleppo Pepper

Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

For a substitute that brings both heat and a rich, smoky flavor, look no further than chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Chipotle peppers are dried and smoked jalapenos, and when combined with the adobo sauce, they create a robust and spicy flavor profile. Found in most supermarkets this is a versatile ingredient which is easy to add to your recipes.

To use chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, simply puree the peppers with the sauce and add it to your recipes. The smokiness of the chipotle peppers adds a depth of flavor to dishes like chili, stews, and even salad dressings. Be cautious when using this substitute, as it can be quite spicy. Start with a small amount and adjust according to your heat tolerance.

Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce


Harissa, a North African chili paste, can serve as a flavorful substitute for Calabrian chili in recipes. While Harissa and Calabrian chili have distinct origins and flavor profiles, they share a common element: spiciness. Harissa is made from a blend of dried chili peppers, spices like cumin and coriander, garlic, olive oil, and sometimes other ingredients like tomatoes or roasted red peppers. This mixture creates a complex, fiery, and slightly smoky flavor. This mixture also offers a similar heat level to that of Calabrian chili.

When using Harissa as a substitute for Calabrian chili, it’s essential to consider the additional flavors that come with Harissa’s ingredients. Depending on the recipe, the cumin, coriander, and other spices in Harissa might impart a different taste compared to the fruitier and more subtle undertones of Calabrian chili. Adjust the quantity of Harissa to achieve the desired level of spiciness.

Ultimately, while Harissa may not replicate the exact flavor of Calabrian chili, it can still infuse your dishes with a bold and captivating heat. This makes it a valuable alternative in recipes that call for the unique spiciness of Calabrian chili.

Harissa paste as a susbtitute for Calabrian Chili

Cayenne Peppers

Use Cayenne pepper as a substitute for Calabrian chili, but remember there will be some differences. It is a widely available spice made from ground dried cayenne peppers, which are moderately hot and have a sharp, pungent flavor. On the other hand, Calabrian chili is known for its specific flavor profile that includes both heat and fruity undertones.

Cayenne pepper tends to be hotter than Calabrian chili, so use a smaller amount to avoid overpowering the dish with heat.

If you want to mimic the fruitiness of Calabrian chili, consider adding a touch of tomato paste or sun-dried tomatoes to your recipe. You could also add a bit of vinegar to mimic the tangy notes of Calabrian chili. Cayenne pepper has a strong flavor, so start with a small amount and gradually adjust based on your taste preferences.

Remember that the final result may not perfectly match the unique flavor profile of Calabrian chili, but using cayenne pepper as a substitute can still add a spicy kick to your dishes. It’s all about finding the right balance and adapting the recipe to your taste preferences.

[Scoville heat units – 30,000 – 50,000]

Cayenne Peppers as a substitute for Calabrian Chili.


Is Calabrian Chili really spicy?

Well, each chili pepper is allocated a score on the Scoville Heat Scale whch relates to its overall heat and spiceness. It’s named after Wilbur Scoville, who developed the scale. The heat level is determined by the amount of capsaicin, the compound responsible for the heat, in a particular pepper or hot sauce. The scale ranges from 0 (no heat) to millions (extremely hot). So, the higher the Scoville rating, the hotter the pepper or sauce. It’s a handy tool for spice enthusiasts and food lovers who want to know just how much heat they’re dealing with in their dishes!

If you want to go for a specific replacement you could also choose from the following – if you are brave enough!!

  • Anaheim Peppers – [Scoville heat units – 500 – 2,500]
  • Poblano Peppers [Scoville heat units – 1,000 – 1,500]
  • Serrano Peppers [Scoville heat units – 10,000 – 23,000]
  • Tiger’s Paw [Scoville heat units – 325,000 – 350,000]
  • Ghost Pepper Poblano Peppers [Scoville heat units – 855,000 – 1,041,427]
  • Carolina Reaper [Scoville heat units – 1,400,000 – 2,200,000]
Scoville scale

What is another name for Calabrian chilis?

Calabrian chilis are a paticular variety of pepper from the Capssicum Annuum family. Officially they are known as Peperoncino Calabrese and they are grow in the Calabria region (the toe of Italy). They are related to other famous varieites such as jalapeños, serrano peppers and Cayenne.

Summary for Calabrian Chili substitutes

Okay – that’s you all sorted with suitable substitutes for Calabrian Chili.

Finding substitutes for Calabrian chilies doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor and heat in your recipes. From crushed red pepper flakes to smoked paprika, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to Aleppo pepper, and serrano peppers, there are plenty of options to choose from. Experiment with these substitutes to discover new flavors and enhance your culinary creations. So, spice up your recipes and get ready to impress your taste buds with these fantastic substitutes for Calabrian chilies!

We have gathered together a lot more facts on ingredients such as herbs, spices, oils, nuts, etc. if you would like to learn some more. Or if you need to swap out another ingredient have a look at our Substitutes section.