Guajillo chiles are dried mirasol chiles with a tangy, sweet flavor and moderate heat. These reddish-brown chiles originated in Mexico and are popular in Mexican cuisine, adding heat and flavor to salsas and sauces.
Although no other chile pepper hits the exact same flavor notes as the guajillo chile pepper, many other chile peppers make good substitutes for guajillo chiles, offering similar flavors and heat levels.
Best Guajillo Chile Substitute: Ancho Chile
Ancho chile peppers, also originating in Mexico, are dried young poblano peppers with a flavor similar to guajillos. Usually found in specialty stores, anchos make a good guajillo substitute because both peppers are dried chile peppers.
Anchos have a smokier flavor than guajillos, but the two chile peppers have a similar heat level, so substitute ancho chile peppers for guajillo chiles at a 1:1 ratio in sauces, salsas, enchiladas, soups, and stews.
Other Guajillo Chile Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
Here’s a list of other ingredients to use in place of guajillo chiles.
Chile Pepper Substitutes For Guajillo Chiles
Chipotle Chile Pepper
A chipotle chile pepper is a dried jalapeño pepper with a smokey flavor similar to guajillo chiles. Chipotles are also dried, so they have the same consistency as guajillos and work well as a substitute.
With their smoky, sweet flavor, chipotles provide the same level of heat as guajillos and can be used at a 1:1 ratio in Mexican salsas, enchiladas, soups, and other dishes.
Mulato Chile Pepper
Like anchos, mulatos are also dried poblano chile peppers, but mulatos are fully ripened poblanos whereas anchos are young poblanos. Dark brown or black in color, with wrinkled skin, mulatos have an earthier, sweeter flavor than guajillos.
Because mulato chile peppers have a milder heat than guajillos, replace one guajillo with two mulatos in salsas, sauces, and stews.
Cascabel Chile Pepper
The cascabel is a small, round chile pepper with a nutty, piquant, smoky flavor. Because of the noise made by the loose seeds inside, this chile is often called the rattle chile.
Like guajillo chiles, cascabels are a dried variety of chiles from the mirasol family, with a similar spicy heat, so these chiles work well as a substitute for guajillo chiles.
A staple in many Mexican dishes, use cascabels as a 1:1 replacement for guajillos in salsas, sauces, dips, and casseroles.
Dried New Mexico Chile Pepper
Dried New Mexico chiles are long and thin, with a reddish-brown, shiny skin. With their sweet, earthy flavor and mild heat, these chiles work well as a substitute for guajillos in Mexican foods like salsas and enchiladas, but double the quantity for a 2:1 ratio of dried New Mexico chiles to guajillo chiles to compensate for dried New Mexico chiles’ lower heat.
Puya Chile Pepper
The puya chile pepper is smaller than the guajillo, with a fruity, slightly sour flavor. Hotter than guajillos, puyas make a good guajillo substitute in soups, stews, salsas, and sauces, where the intense heat adds a great kick.
Because of the puya’s stronger heat, use half the quantity to replace guajillos, at a ½:1 ratio, but add some extra sweetening agent to the recipe to compensate for the sour tang of the puyas.
Pasilla Chile Pepper
The pasilla chile, also called chile negro for its notoriously dark color, is a dried chilaca chile pepper. These peppers work as a substitute for guajillos because the two have a similar fruity, smoky flavor, but pasillas also have a hint of cocoa.
The two peppers also have similar heat levels, so substitute pasillas for guajillos at a 1:1 ratio in salsas, enchiladas, dips, and casseroles.
Powdered Spice Substitutes for Guajillo Chiles
All of the above dried peppers can also be found in ground powder form and can be used in place of guajillo chiles in most recipes. Below is a list of particularly good spices and spice blends to use in place of guajillo chiles.
Chile powder is made by grinding dried chiles into a fine powder that gives food a spicy, hot flavor. Use chile powder sparingly as a substitute for guajillo chile peppers, because the powder’s heat is more intense. Use ½ teaspoon of ground chile powder in place of one whole guajillo.
Sweet Paprika and Hot Paprika Blend
Different varieties of red peppers are used to make paprika — a spice with a sweet, peppery flavor. Depending on the type of pepper used, paprika can be predominantly either hot or sweet.
Mixing hot and sweet paprika results in a sweet, spicy, smoky-flavored blend that works as a substitute for guajillo chiles in salsas, sauces, dips, and casseroles. Use 1 teaspoon of hot and sweet paprika mix in place of one guajillo pepper.
Ground Cayenne Pepper
Dried cayenne peppers are ground into a fine powder to make ground cayenne pepper, a spice with a sweet, hot flavor similar to guajillo chiles.
Substitute one guajillo chile with 1 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper in sauces, enchiladas, dips, and salsas. Adjust the quantity of cayenne pepper for more or less heat, according to taste.
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Freshly ground black pepper adds a strong, spicy flavor to foods and can be used as a replacement for guajillo chiles in most Mexican recipes.
Use ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper in place of one guajillo to add a peppery, hot flavor, but also add a little extra sweetening agent to match guajillos’ hint of sweetness.
Black peppercorns also add a peppery flavor to foods and can be used as a substitute for guajillo chiles in salsas, sauces, stews, and soups — although the dish won’t have the same smoky flavor.
Use four to six black peppercorns, with a little extra sweetening agent, in place of 1 guajillo pepper. Avoid eating the actual peppercorns, unless you like really intense heat.