Green chilis represent a crucial part of the Mexican and Indian cuisines but are also used worldwide to add mild yet tasty spiciness with a subtle sweetness to balance all the other ingredients in multiple recipes.
They’re heavily used in several main and side dishes, but if you can’t find green chilis when you need them or if you don’t like their flavor, in this article you’ll find tasty alternatives that you can try if you want a substitute for green chilies.
Let’s explore them together.
The best substitutes for green chilies
Green chilis are eaten raw, pickled, roasted, or cooked in several recipes. They represent an important ingredient in multiple dips, curries, enchiladas, stews, broths, and casseroles because they add the needed spiciness without being too overwhelming.
These peppers have a low to moderate spiciness level that scores between 500 and 2500 units on the Scoville Scale. They also have a complex and tasty flavor that can be described as slightly smoky, pungent, subtly sweet, in addition to being crisp and spicy.
Luckily, if you’re looking for a substitute for green chili peppers in your dish, there are multiple options to try, and each of them will offer a different level of spiciness and a new texture.
So, whether you want to pump up the hotness level in your dish or need to tone it down, you can choose a green chili substitute to customize your recipe.
1. Poblano Peppers
Poblano peppers work perfectly as a green chili pepper substitute because they’re mild and sweet. When cooked, these peppers become even milder and add a slightly sweet and smoky flavor to your recipes.
Poblano peppers are widely used in Mexican dishes, with a score that ranges between 1000 to 1500 or 2000 units on the Scoville Scale, depending on the ripeness of the peppers. The ripe red peppers are spicier than the unripe green ones.
Because they’re smoky and delicious, Poblano peppers will taste great when eaten raw or if you roast them. You can also use them to make a dip or sauce. You can also use them to make chilis and stews because they can be cooked for long periods.
2. Pasilla Peppers
Pasilla peppers will work for you if you need a substitute for green chilies that provides the same heat level. They have a score between 1000 and 2500 units on the Scoville Scale, and they’re widely used in a variety of Mexican dishes.
These peppers have a subtly sweet, earthy, and fruity flavor, and this explains why they’re called Little Raisins. Their flavor shows hints of berries and dried fruits, so they add moderate hotness and subtle sweetness to your recipes.
You can use Pasilla peppers in sauces and can be combined with other types of chilies if you need more hotness. You can also serve Pasilla peppers with roasts or eat them raw because they taste delicious on their own.
3. Banana Peppers
Banana peppers are probably the most common substitution for green chilies because they’re easy to find and provide a moderate level of spiciness.
These peppers have a slightly tangy, fruity flavor and offer a low to medium level of spiciness as they score between 0 and 500 units on the Scoville Scale. Thanks to their tanginess, they will work perfectly to replace green chilies in your recipe without being too overpowering.
Their level of hotness depends on the maturity of the peppers, so you might need to add more to achieve the same level of spiciness of green chilis. They are usually used to make a salsa, stew, or dip.
You can also eat banana peppers raw or pickled, and they come in several colors that range from green when they are unripe to yellow, orange, and eventually red. They work great in sandwiches and salads and go well with all types of meat.
4. Bell Peppers
On the Scoville Scale, bell peppers have a rating of 0 units, so using them in your recipe won’t add any heat. If your recipe calls for green chilies, but you need a milder version, this is the option you should consider.
Bell peppers have a mild, sweet, and grassy flavor, and they taste amazingly fresh when served raw. In addition, the thick skin of bell peppers adds a lot of crunch to your salad and other raw dishes when used as a diced green chilies substitute.
You can find green, yellow, orange, and even red varieties of bell peppers. The green ones are grassier, while the yellow, orange, and red ones are fruitier. The red variety is the sweetest.
Roasting or sautéing bell peppers brings out their sweetness, so you can use them in slow-cooked or baked dishes. Moreover, they pair well with all sorts of food, so you can use them in a stew, salsa, pizza, or grill them to be served as a side dish next to your ribs or steak.
5. Ancho Chili Peppers
Ancho chili peppers are the dried smoked Poblano peppers and will add a unique taste and aroma to your recipes. Ancho peppers are widely used in Mexican recipes and have a distinctively chocolaty and sweet taste and aroma.
These peppers are moderately spicy, with a score between 1000 and 2000 units on the Scoville Scale. They can be used to replace green chilies because they provide the same level of hotness, but they add a distinctively different flavor that tastes almost like raisins.
When Poblano peppers are allowed to ripen and turn red, their fruity flavor intensifies, and they’re later dried and smoked to be used in multiple recipes. Ancho peppers can be used in their dried form or rehydrated to become the base of a stew, soup, or sauce.
The peppers can also be ground into a powder form and later sprinkled on meat, poultry, or seafood dishes or mixed with other spices to prepare a rub or a marinade.
6. Anaheim Peppers
Anaheim peppers have a crunchy texture with a bright, slightly fruity, and moderately hot flavor, so they can work as a substitute for green chilies if you need to add a little kick to your recipes.
When cooked, the sweetness of Anaheim peppers intensifies, and they become smokier and tangier, adding a great taste to your dishes.
Anaheim peppers can measure between 500 and 5000 units on the Scoville Scale, so they will still work for you if you don’t want your recipe to be too spicy.
We recommend using Anaheim peppers in stews and soups because they bring out the flavors of other ingredients. You can also dice them on top of your nachos or salad.
7. Jalapeno Peppers
Compared to other types of peppers, jalapenos have a brighter and grassier flavor. They’re significantly hotter than green chilis, with a Scoville Scale score that ranges between 2500 and 8000 units. As a result, they will work for you if you’re looking for a green chili substitute that adds more heat.
You can choose between the unripe green jalapenos or the hotter red ones. Because they’re so versatile, you can enjoy jalapenos when they’re pickled, roasted, grilled, or incorporated into several recipes.
Use jalapeno peppers to prepare a dip, salsa, stew, or chili, or sprinkle them on top of your nachos or salad. You can eat them raw, smoked, or even powdered, and they will beautifully bring out the other flavors in your recipe without masking them.
8. Fresno Peppers
On the Scoville Scale, Fresno peppers have a score between 2500 and 10000 units, so you can use them to replace green chilies in your dishes if you want to add more spiciness and kick.
Green Fresno peppers are milder than the ripened red ones. The green peppers are eaten raw or pickled because they have a crispy texture with a slightly fruity and smoky aroma. They work perfectly as a chopped green chilies substitute in dips or sprinkled on nachos and on top of pizzas.
9. Serrano Peppers
If you wish to go a step further with the hotness, you will need a green chilis substitute like Serrano peppers, because they have a score between 10,000 and 23,000, or even 30,000 units on the Scoville Scale, so they’re typically hotter than other types of green chilies.
They add a bright and noticeable flavor to salsa and sauces. Because they have thin walls, Serrano peppers are usually eaten raw or even pickled. They have an acidic, earthy, and subtly sweet flavor, followed by a noticeable pungent heat.
You can use Serrano peppers for garnish as they add the needed kick. You can also use them to make hot sauce or sprinkle them on top of your pizza.
10. Red Chili
There are different types of red chili on the market, and some of them can have a score between 30,000 to 50,000 units on Scoville Scale, while others can be as hot as 80,000 units.
When green chilies are left to ripen, they turn red and become spicier. They will add an earthy, smoked, and bitter flavor to your recipe.
Red chilies are best cooked or roasted to reduce their bitterness and infuse their hotness with other ingredients in your recipe. You can add a little number of red chilies to your stews or chilis to add the needed hotness or use them in baked dishes and casseroles.
11. Fresh Cayenne Chili
Fresh cayenne peppers will work for you if you want to add a strong yet slightly sweet and smoky peppery flavor to your dishes. However, these peppers have a score between 30,000 and 50,000 units on the Scoville Scale, so they’re pretty hot and should be used with caution.
Thanks to their subtly sweet flavor, fresh cayenne chilies can be combined with various flavors. They pair well with sweet ingredients like pineapples and sweet potatoes as the sweet flavor balances their hotness.
You can use fresh cayenne peppers in your chilis and stews because they add more character to the sauces. However, don’t use too many of them, or your dish will be too hot.
12. Chili Powder
If you’re looking for a green chili substitute that adds low to moderate hotness to your recipe without the texture of the peppers, then chili powder will work for you.
Most chili powders are mild with a score between 500 and 1500 units on Scoville Scale, but there are some hotter versions that you can try if you want to add more spiciness to your dish.
Chili powder is usually made using several spices like garlic powder, oregano, and cumin to add more flavors to your dish. You can use chili powder to season your chilis, stews, casseroles, and marinades. This spice can also be used in fajita or taco filling as it adds moderate heat with a nice taste.
13. Cayenne Pepper Powder
Cayenne pepper powder is made of cayenne chili and works if you want to replace green chilies in your dish by adding more heat and no texture.
Cayenne pepper powder has a hot fiery effect on the taste buds and is usually mixed with other spices to prepare sauces. Just like fresh cayenne peppers, cayenne powder has a score between 30,000 and 50,000 units on the Scoville Scale.
If you want to use cayenne powder to substitute green chilies, you need to add a small amount and taste your dish before adding more as it can be too overpowering. You can also combine it with less spicy peppers to recreate the same level of hotness of green chilies.
How to choose a green chili substitute
There are two factors to consider when you’re looking for a green chili substitute; the heat and the flavor.
- Green chili spiciness: you can use Poblano peppers or Pasilla peppers if you need a green chili alternative that provides that same level of hotness and spiciness. They both work for chilis, stews, salsa, or with different types of roasts.
- Milder than green chilis: banana peppers and Bell peppers are milder than green chilies, and they add a fresh and grassy flavor to your dips, salads, pizza, and nachos. Ancho chili peppers add a moderate heat level, but they have a rich smoky and fruity aroma. For a slightly hotter salsa or chili, you can add Anaheim peppers instead.
- Hotter than green chilis: fresh cayenne, jalapenos, and Fresno peppers are extra spicy and you can use them in chilis, stews, and nachos. If you prefer food to be extremely spicy, you can use Serrano or red chili peppers. Both have strong earthy flavors and should be used in small amounts.
If you need an ingredient that adds hotness to your recipe without the green chili texture, we recommend that you try chili powder for a low to moderate hotness and cayenne pepper powder if you need your dish to be extra spicy.