Are you a fan of spicy foods? Constantly yearning for that hot kick whenever you eat a dish? If you consider yourself a spicy connoisseur, you can probably taste the difference between the two. However, if you prefer a milder kick, then you might confuse one for the other. Cayenne and chili powder look like the untrained eye when you see them in their respective spice bottles at the supermarket.
So, can you use these spices interchangeably? What exactly is the difference or the similarity between the two? Consider your questions answered! There shall be no more confusion between the two.
Technically speaking, cayenne pepper powder can be categorized as chili powder, but cayenne is actual peppers and has a stronger kick than chili powder. Chili powder is NOT the same as cayenne. Believe it or not, cayenne pepper powder is eight times hotter than chili powder.
To learn and understand the difference between chili powder and cayenne, keep reading this article.
Is Chili Powder The Same As Cayenne?
Again, the two spices are similar but not 100% the same, and that’s why they’re called different names.
Cayenne and Chili powder are two kinds of spices that can add heat to any dish. These spice rack cousins are notorious for their red coloring. However, there’s this debate on chili powder versus cayenne on which one has the tougher kick. Is chili powder not the same as cayenne?
Can you use cayenne pepper as an alternative for chili powder and vice versa?
But, before the showdown between the two spicy spices begins, let’s take a step back and assess each of the spices individually.
What Is Chili Powder?
From the name itself, one may think that chili powder is extremely spicy but actually a blend of multiple spices, including cayenne pepper powder. Of course, the main spice included is chili peppers, hence the name.
However, the chili powder is more than just the chilis. And it also contains additional spices such as cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and others, depending on the type of blend.
Chili powder originated in the US, and it was specifically used in Southwest and Mexican-style cooking. Americans considered it an attempt to create a mixture of chili peppers and other spices akin to Aztecs in Mexico. Depending on the blend, the spice can vary from mild to extremely spicy.
This red-colored blend of spices packs a lot of flavors and is considered a staple in the kitchen. Chili powder can be used in pretty much any dish, such as jambalaya, chicken tortilla soup, instant pot chili, and many more. The possibilities are endless!
Chili powder is known to have some health benefits such as fighting inflammation and pain, promoting digestive health, relieving nasal congestion, building immunity, and is also said to help with osteoarthritis.
Red chili powder is a go-to spice in many Sri Lankan foods. Check out our article on essential Ceylon Spices to discover more about it.
What is Cayenne?
Cayenne powder naturally comes from cayenne peppers, a type of hot chili in the Capsicum family. Cayenne peppers are closely connected to jalapeño and bell peppers. This spice is measured at about 40,000 Scoville units which are about 4 out of 10 on the scale. The spiciness comes from capsaicin, which is found in cayenne peppers, making them relatively spicier compared to jalapeños.
Cayenne peppers give off a prominent flavor is that fiery hot kick once it reaches the taste buds. Because of its high heat levels, it’s recommended to put a considerably small amount of cayenne pepper powder while cooking so that the concentrated spice doesn’t completely overpower the dish.
Cayenne peppers have an ingredient called capsaicin that provides medicinal benefits that can help manage weight, relieve pain, reduce inflammation and cancer risk, boost the nervous system, and treat congested noses. It’s also filled with many antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, lutein, and choline.
Chili Powder vs Cayenne
After reviewing both spices individually, it’s time to lay down the differences between the two.
Cayenne pepper powder contains one hundred percent cayenne peppers, so it’s entirely a chili powder. At the same time, chili powder contains other spices to create a variety of flavors. This means that cayenne pepper provides a spicy kick while chili powder focuses on creating an impact with its seasonings.
Both spices relatively contain that hot kick in terms of the heat factor. But in this match of chili powder versus cayenne, it’s cayenne that wins this round. This is because of its heat level as compared to chili powder. Cayenne pepper is usually hotter than chili powder, ranging between 30,000-50,000 Scoville heat units. And even if the chili powder did contain cayenne, its heat is reduced due to the blend of other spices included.
In terms of which spice is better than the other, that would have to depend on one’s personal preference and the kind of dish they’re cooking. If you crave more of that intense heat, then you may catch yourself gravitating towards the cayenne pepper powder. However, if you want that burst of flavor with a spicy kick, then the chili powder is your best bet!
Can You Substitute Chili Powder For Cayenne?
Let’s say you’re in the middle of whipping up a dish. However, you mistakenly thought that you had cayenne when it was actually chili powder. Is it possible to use that instead, or will you have to make a last-minute trip to the supermarket while cooking?
As mentioned earlier, the two spices are similar yet have different purposes. While you can replace one for the other, it may not be as perfect as one would expect.
Cayenne pepper has a higher heat factor compared to chili powder, so the heat can definitely alter the recipe’s spiciness. So it’s best to move with caution and adjust the measurements as needed.
In terms of flavor, since chili powder comes with other spices, substituting it in (or out) can change the dish’s overall taste. Once again, it will depend on how much you add to the recipe, and it can either go subtly or too obvious.
If you intend on substituting one for the other, then it’s essential to check the label of the spices and think about what other seasonings you need to cut back on to balance out the taste.
Just like chili powder and cayenne, saffron too adds a beautiful color, fragrance, and flavor to food. To explore more about cooking with saffron, we have an article right here.
Other Spicy Substitutes For Chili Powder And Cayenne
Cayenne and chili powder aren’t the only spices that can give off that hot kick. Perhaps there are other spices in your kitchen that you can use to substitute these two.
Paprika is an option that is readily available compared to others, and it also looks similar to the two because of its red color as well. This spice has a mild flavor, so it’s recommended to add double the amount if used as a substitute for cayenne.
Red Chili Flakes
Red chili flakes is another common ingredient in the supermarket. However, it is primarily sold in dried or crushed form, so there will be a noticeable difference regarding texture. Nonetheless, it still offers the spiciness you need.
Also known as Korean chili pepper, the Gochugaru is a mixture of red pepper flakes that gives off a smoky quality. It may alter the final taste of the recipe, but its flavor is still impactful and makes a good substitute.
Hot sauce can be a good substitute only if you use a few dashes. Louisiana hot style sauce is the common option for an alternative, but finding a non-vinegar-based hot sauce would be optimal–to not hugely affect the dish’s overall flavor.
Ancho is a good alternative for chili powder because of its flavor. You may want to add crushed red pepper to intensify the heat since ancho powder is less spicy than regular chili powder.
Is Cayenne Hotter Than Chili Powder?
There may be a misconception between the two since “chili powder” sounds more intimidating compared to cayenne but in reality, the facts state otherwise.
Since cayenne powder comes from pure ground peppers, it is without a doubt hotter than chili powder. Cayenne is even ten times hotter than jalapeños, whereas chili powder is a blend of peppers that are relatively lower in the Scoville heat scale.
And there you have it, and now you know the difference between cayenne and chili powder. If you want a spicier recipe, go for cayenne. However, if you’re okay with a mild spice but need a blend of flavors, it’s better to use chili powder. And if you don’t have either of these, then there are many substitutes (mentioned previously) you can use to make a recipe spicy. Just be mindful of the elements and the flavors that the replacements have.
It is up to one’s discretion to substitute one for the other. But, it’s no wonder that these two are the most popular spices when adding heat to a dish.