The best similar substitutes for Guajillo Chiles are Ancho Chiles and Pasilla Peppers. Ancho Chiles have a slightly more pronounced earthy aroma than Guajillo chiles. Use New Mexico, Cascabel, or Chipotle peppers if you can’t find Ancho Chiles or Pasilla Peppers.
Below, this article will explore in more detail the best Guajillo chile substitutes, discussing their origins, spiciness level, flavor, taste undertones, availability in stores, and the recipes you can use instead of Guajillo chiles.
1. Ancho Chiles
Ancho Chiles are an excellent substitute for Guajillo Chiles. They have a darker, meatier, and rounder appearance than Guajillos. However, they share more similarities in taste. They both have a noticeable smoky, earthy, and fruity flavor that gives an exotic twist to many dishes.
Anchos are less spicy than Guajillos (weighing in at 1000 to 1500 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) compared to Guajillos’ 2500 to 5000 SHU). Consequently, you can use more (usually double the amount) Anchos than Guajillos to reach the same heat level. Alternatively, mix Anchos with spicier chiles to achieve the wanted heat level.
Being more widespread and easier to find in stores outside Mexico, Ancho Chiles are great substitutes for Guajillos without changing much of the authentic taste.
You can use Anchos instead of Guajillo in almost any recipe, including stews, sauces, salsas, and soups.
2. Pasilla Peppers
Pasilla Peppers can be used instead of Guajillo Chiles. Together with Guajillo and Ancho peppers, they make up the Mexican chiles “Holy Trinity.” They have a slightly lower heat level and a sweeter flavor. However, they, too, have the smokey and berry hints that make Guajillos so popular.
Pasillas are darker, thinner, and smaller than Guajillos. They have a distinct sweet and fruity flavor. However, they pair with almost all of the dishes that include Guajillo. The good news is that these peppers are easier to find in stores. You can find them in grocery stores in the US as well.
Their heat range varies from 1000 to 2500 SHU, making them a more convenient Guajillo substitute than Anchos regarding spiciness. You can use Pasilla instead of Guajillo peppers in a 1:1 ratio, but the result can be milder. You can try adding more Pasilla Peppers or mix them with spicier peppers, like Chipotle Chilies (as will be described below).
You can use these chiles dried or soaked in water for a milder spiciness and revitalization of its fruity flavors. These chiles can replace Guajillos in recipes like enchilada sauce and mole sauce.
3. New Mexico Chiles
New Mexico Chiles can be substituted for Guajillo Chiles in most dishes. The former are milder in heat and have fewer fruity undertones. However, these chiles are both acidic and provide an earthy flavor to the recipes. In addition, New Mexico chiles are much easier to find in US grocery stores.
As the name suggests, New Mexico chiles originate from New Mexico, US. This makes them much easier to find in US stores. They are deep red, smooth-skinned, dried chili peppers. These peppers are larger than Guajillos.
New Mexico chiles have a relatively low heat level, ranging from 800 to 1500 SHU. Consequently, you must use about double the amount of Guajillo Chiles to reach the same spiciness.
These peppers have a simpler compound of tastes, lacking the rich flavor cocktail that characterizes Guajillos. However, New Mexico chiles are as acidic as Guajilos, making them taste similar in dishes.
Use these spicy peppers instead of Guajillos in salsas and sauces served over dishes like tacos.
4. Cascabel Chiles
You can replace Guajillo Chiles with Cascabel chiles. The latter look very different and are less sweet than Guajillos. However, the similar earthy notes and spiciness level makes Cascabel chiles a good substitute for Guajillos.
Cascabel chiles originate from Mexico and are famous for their nutritional value. They are smaller and rounder than Guajillo chiles. Their green-to-reddish color also makes them look so much different than Guajillos. Their taste, however, is similar. They both contain earthy and smokey tones, although Cascabels lack Guajillos’ sweetness signature.
The heat level of Cascabel chiles ranges from 1500 to 2500 SHU, making them milder than Guajillos but spicier than many other substitutes, like Anchos or Pasillas. You can replace guajillos with Cascabels in a 1:1 ratio or add more of the latter if you prefer spicier dishes.
You can use Cascabel chiles instead of Guajillos, not only in salsas and sauces but also in stews.
5. Puya Chiles
Puya chiles can be substituted for Guajillo chiles, as they have similar fruity and nutty tastes. The former has additional licorice undertones that Guajillos lack. In addition, Puya chiles have a higher heat unit which you should consider when using them instead of Guajillos.
Puyas are native to Central Valley, Mexico, and are widely used in Latin American cuisine. They are a small but rich bundle of fruity, nutty, earthy, and licorice flavors.
These chiles are smaller but much spicier than Guajillos. They have a heat level that varies from 5000 to 8000 SHU. So remember to replace Guajillos with Puyas in a 1:1 ratio only if you want your dish to be much spicier. You may use about half (or a little more) of the required amount for Guajillos.
You can use Puya Chiles instead of Guajillo Chiles in any recipe that requires heat, like Mexican salsas and savory marinades.
6. Chipotle Chili Peppers
Chipotle chili peppers can substitute for Guajillo chiles, being acidic and having similar smokey and earthy underlying tones with a sweet twist. However, these peppers are spicier and have a more pungent taste compared to Guajillos.
Chipotle chiles are dried and smoked Jalapeño peppers sourced from Northern Mexico and are widely used in the US. They are easier to find in US grocery stores compared to Guajillos.
They are dark purple or dark red. Similar to Guajillos, they have smokey tones that are even more predominant than in Guajillos.
Chipotles preserve the Jalapenos’ heat level, which ranges from 2500 to 8000 SHU. Consequently, remember that you may need about half the amount of Guajillos to reach the same level of spiciness in a recipe.
These peppers work exceptionally well as Guajillo substitutes in many recipes. They are especially good in those that do not include other intense flavors like garlic. Use them in stews, salads, tacos, BBQ sauces, and Mexican salsas that are served over other dishes.
7. California Chiles
California chiles are another substitute for Guajillo Chiles, as both chiles are part of the same flavor family. Even though California chiles are milder than Guajillos, their smokey and earthy undertones make them potential substitutes for each other.
California chiles are dried and smoked Anaheim Chiles. They originate from New Mexico and are widely cultivated in California, making them easy to find in US grocery stores. They have a dark brownish-red color and thick wrinkled skin. These chiles have a mild heat level but are acidic and chocolatey.
These dried peppers are among the mildest of this flavor family, with a heat scale varying from 500 to 1500 SHU. Consequently, apply a ratio of 1:2 when substituting California chiles for Guajillos.
These chiles can replace Guajillos in almost any dish without being too overwhelming for the other flavors in Mexican dishes. They are great for soups, stews, and grilled vegetables.
8. Mulato Chiles
Another similar substitute for Guajillos is Mulato Chiles. They are less spicy and less potent in taste than Guajillos. However, by using a larger amount, these chiles may provide an exciting twist to recipes that require Guajillo chiles.
Mulato Chiles originate from Puebla, Mexico. They are made of Poblano peppers left to ripen longer to achieve a reddish-brown color and then dried to achieve an even darker brown color. They are milder and more savory compared to Guajillos.
These chiles’ heat scale is relatively low, ranging from 1500 to 2500 SHU. So make sure to use a larger amount (about a 1:2 ratio) of these chiles when replacing Guajillos.
Mulato chiles can be used dried to substitute Guajillos, especially in traditional Mexican salsas. However, they can also be rehydrated by soaking in water for about 30 minutes to make puree or stuffed chiles.
Tabasco can substitute for Guajillo Chiles in certain dishes. It is a spicy Mexican sauce made of aged Tabasco peppers. Its spicy, acidic taste makes it a suitable replacement, even though Tabasco has more savory undertones than Guajillos. It is very easy to find in grocery stores and online.
Tabasco, different from the above options, is not a chili. It is a famous sauce whose recipe originates from the Mexican state of Tabasco. Today it is produced in the US under the Tabasco brand.
It is made of only three ingredients: aged red peppers, salt, and distilled vinegar. Its authentic flavor, a mixture of savory taste from the salt and sweetness from the chiles, makes Tabasco a great addition to many dishes.
Tabasco’s heat level starts from 2500 SHU and can reach up to 5000 SHU. However, since Tabasco is a concentrated sauce, you may need to use half as much as Guajillos to reach the same spiciness level.
Another benefit is that you can find it easily everywhere, in markets, grocery stores, or online.
You can use Tabasco instead of Guajillo Chiles in stews, vegetables, steaks, etc. However, if you replace Guajillos with Tabasco in spicy salsa recipes, the difference in taste may be notable.
What Does Guajillo Taste Like?
Guajillos feature a unique bouquet of flavors that makes them Mexican cuisine’s favorites.
Guajillos taste like a combination of acidic, earthy undertones with the sweetness of dried fruits and a spicy twist that brings out this chili’s smokey notes.
Because of their complex taste, Guajillos are not always easy to substitute. Their spiciness (2500 to 5000 SHU) is not the mildest, but still not overwhelming. They are an excellent option for many dishes, including salsas, soups, stews, roasted vegetables, and steaks.
Are Ancho Chiles Similar to Guajillo Chiles?
Ancho Chiles are some of the best substitutes for Guajillo Chiles. They are both used in traditional Mexican and Latin cuisine. However, Ancho Chiles are easier to find outside Mexico. They are less spicy than Guajillos but have similar smoky and earthy notes.
Even though they have different heat levels (Anchos being milder on the SHU Scale), both these chiles have similar undertone flavors. To reach Guajillo chiles’ spiciness level in a dish, add a larger amount of Ancho chiles.
For more, check out The 9 Best and Most Similar Cabbage Substitutes.
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