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Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitute

Kashmiri chili powder is a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine used to flavor everything from curry to kabobs. If you are out of the brightly-colored seasoning, save yourself a trip to the store. Find the BEST Kashmiri chili powder substitute from this diverse list of suggestions.

A cover for Kashmiri chili powder substitute.

What is Kashmiri Chili Powder?

Kashmiri chili powder in a small bowl.

Kashmiri chili powder, also known as Kashmiri lal mirch, is a fine powder made from red chiles from the Kashmir region in India.

Use the spice to impart color and subtle flavor to Indian dishes like rogan josh, beef Seekh kabobspani puri, and chicken lollipops.

How to Use Kashmiri Chili Powder?

Unlike most chili powders, Kashmiri chili powder adds a distinctly red hue to chutneys, curries, and grilled meat without increasing the spice level of a dish.

Kashmiri chiles are mild compared to jalapeño or cayenne peppers, meaning you can include ground Kashmiri peppers in meals without overpowering the other ingredients. Kashmiri chili powder has a warm, smoky flavor that complements Indian spices like garam masalaturmeric powdercumin, and coriander to flavor all your favorite home-cooked meals.

You can also use the spice blend to provide a delicious red color to recipes like pasta sauce, stew, and lasagna.

What’s The Best Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitute?

Kashmiri chili powder is a popular ingredient in South Asian, Pakistani, and Indian cooking for its mild taste and vibrant red color. If you don’t have Kashmiri chili powder, you can leave it out since it’s usually used for color anyway. Either way, here are a few substitutes you can use:

Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitutes

1. Paprika

Paprika in a bowl.
Smoked paprika in a bowl.
Hot paprika in a bowl.

Paprika is the best substitute for Kashmiri chili powder when I run out or don’t have it in my pantry.

There are many different types of paprika, so what you use depends on what you are making and your goal for including it. If all you want is to add color, reach for sweet paprika. The ground spice has a brighter red color than other varieties of paprika. It’s an excellent natural food coloring for meals like rindsgulasch without altering the flavor.

Smoked paprika producers use sweet and spicy red chili peppers to prepare the ground spice. Use it to infuse meals with a warm, smoky flavor. Smoked paprika is an excellent substitute for Kashmiri chili powder in marinade. Add it to tandoori recipes for a deep red color (not as bright as sweet paprika) and a smoky flavor without using a tandoor to make it.

Kashmiri chili powder doesn’t add heat to recipes like regular hot chili powder. However, hot paprika is a great way to add color and heat because it features dried cayenne or jalapeño peppers ground into a fine powder. The ground spice can add a fiery kick to meals, depending on where producers source them.

2. Red Chili Powder 

Red chili powder in a small bowl.

I want to clarify something that threw me for a loop when I first started cooking Pakistani food. Red chili powder differs from the darker-chili powder sold in the United States and is used in Tex-Mex recipes like chili con carnebrisket, and beef ribs. Use it if that is all you have, but it will alter the overall flavor of the meal.

Red chili powder has a spicier, more intense flavor than Kashmiri chili powder, similar to cayenne powder. Red chili powder is a suitable substitute to add color to recipes like curry or achar if you don’t mind the extra heat. The color is darker and not as bright as Kashmiri chili powder, but it will do the trick.

3. Deggi Mirch

This suggestion is a bit of a cheat because the spice blend has dried Kashmiri peppers in it, along with and red capsicum (red bell peppers) for a subtle heat and earthy flavor. You can see why deggi mirch is a good Kashmiri chili powder substitute if it’s all you have in your spice cabinet. Like Kashmiri chili powder, use deggi mirch to enhance the flavor and provide vibrant color.

4. Byadgi Chili Powder

Byadgi chili powder is an Indian spice made from dried Byadgi chiles known for their deep red color and mild flavor. Byadgi chili powder is commonly used in South Indian recipes to season everything from sambar and rasam to pickles and chutneys. Use Byadgi chili powder instead of Kashmiri chili powder to enhance a dish’s color without changing how it tastes.

5. Gochugaru

Gochugaru in a glass container.

Korean red pepper powder or gochugaru is a staple in Korean cuisine used to make classic meals like tteokbokki and kimchi jjigae. The ground spice is made from deseeded red chili peppers and comes in various heat levels, depending on the grade of chiles used. If you need a good substitute for Kashmiri chili powder, choose a mild version of gochugaru unless you prefer the spicy kick. 

6. Aleppo Pepper

Aleppo pepper in a bowl.

Aleppo pepper is a popular spice used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine that gets its name from Aleppo, a city in Syria known for its rich culinary history. Aleppo pepper has a slightly sweet flavor that ranges from mild to spicy. Like Korean gochugaru, I recommend using mild Aleppo pepper as a substitute for Kashmiri chili powder. While it has a similar flavor to dried Kashmiri peppers, it doesn’t add color to meals in the same way.

Other Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitutes:

These options don’t make the cut for being the BEST Kashmiri chili powder substitute, but they are suitable if you’re in a pinch.

How to Use Kashmiri Chili Powder

1. Curry Dishes

Chefs and home cooks incorporate Kashmiri mirch powder into salan and gravy (called curry here in the States) to add a bright red color. The ground spice also helps balance the flavor of other curry spices, such as cumin, turmeric, and coriander, for a more full-bodied flavor.

Best Substitute: Aleppo Pepper, Byadgi Chili Powder, Deggi Mirch, Paprika, Red Chili Powder

Butter chicken masala in a bowl with rice.

Butter Chicken Masala

Tender pieces of chicken simmer in a robust, fragrant, and creamy curry to make this easy butter chicken masala recipe.

Chana masala in a serving dish.

Authentic Chana Masala

This authentic chana masala recipe is ready and on the table in less than an hour. Serve the tasty, spiced chickpea dish as a main dish or a side dish with other entrees like moong dal.

A plate of chicken karahi.

Chicken Karahi

Prepare an easy recipe for authentic chicken karahi featuring a tomato-based curry with warm spices like Kashmiri chili powder.

Chana chicken with rice.

Chana Chicken

Chana chicken is a tasty one-pot dish featuring succulent pieces of chicken and hearty chickpeas for a healthy and satisfying meal.

2. Marinades

Combine Kashmiri chili powder with other warm spices, yogurt, fresh garlic, ginger, and lemon juice to create delicious marinades for vegetables, paneer, and meat like chicken, beef, or goat. The ground Kashmiri peppers infuse the marinade with a rich, red color to enhance the look of popular meals, such as Kashmiri chicken, chicken 65, and chicken rara.

Best Substitutes: Byadgi Chili Powder, Deggi Mirch, Paprika, Red Food Coloring

3. Tandoori Dishes

Authentic tandoori recipes begin by marinating meat, fish, paneer, or vegetables in a blend of yogurt, aromatics, and warm spices like Kashmiri chili powder to give the dish its brilliant red color

Best Substitutes: Byadgi Chili Powder, Deggi Mirch, Red Chili Powder, Smoked Paprika

Grilled tandoori chicken on a serving plate.

Grilled Tandoori Chicken

Easy grilled tandoori chicken delivers all the traditional, restaurant-style flavor. The smoky chicken is perfect for BBQs, cookouts, and gatherings.

Tandoori chicken tikka in a serving dish.

Tandoori Chicken Tikka

Tandoori chicken tikka skewers are coated in spiced yogurt marinade and grilled to perfection for juicy chicken you can scoop with fresh naan.

Air fryer paneer on a plate with jeera rice.

Air Fryer Paneer

Try air fryer paneer with homemade tandoori masala! You can serve the crispy, tender paneer as a tasty main dish or appetizer.

Baked tandoori chicken on a plate.

Baked Tandoori Chicken

Tangy tandoori masala imparts all the best flavor into the baked tandoori chicken – the meal is ready in less than an hour!

4. Rice Dishes

Biryani and pulao are colorful and delicious rice dishes introduced to the Indian subcontinent by the Mughals via trade routes. Both dishes combine long-grained basmati rice, meat (such as chicken, beef, goat, lamb, and fish), vegetables, and an array of aromatics and spices, including Kashmiri chili powder. The spice is often stirred into marinades or sprinkled over the rice as it steams to give it color.  

Best Substitutes: Aleppo Pepper, Byadgi Chili Powder, Deggi Mirch, Gochugaru, Red Chili Powder, Smoked Paprika

Chicken tikka biryani in a small bowl.

Chicken Tikka Biryani

Make delicious chicken tikka biryani, full of aromatic flavor, for your next gathering or family dinner. It’s a perfect combination of two famous dishes in one!

Yakhni pulao on a plate topped with cilantro.

Yakhni Pulao

Combine yakhni-infused basmati rice, fork-tender mutton, crispy onions, and warm Indian spices to make authentic yakhni pulao recipe.

Instant Pot chicken biryani in a serving dish.

Instant Pot Chicken Biryani

Instant Pot chicken biryani has all the mouth watering appeal of traditional biryani but this recipe cuts the cooking time in half.

A platter of chicken yakhni pulao.

Chicken Yakhni Pulao

Make simple, mouthwatering chicken yakhni pulao! The dish combines tender chicken, crispy onions, and aromatic spices with yakhni-infused basmati rice.

5. Pickles and Chutneys

Combine Kashmiri chili powder with Indian ingredients like tamarind paste and coconut cream to flavor homemade pickles (achar) or sauces (chutneys).

Best Substitutes: Byadgi Chili Powder, Deggi Mirch, Paprika, Red Chili Powder


Store spices, like Kashmiri chili powder, in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Spices lose their freshness over time, so it’s best to use them within six months for best results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where to buy Kashmiri chili powder?

You can find Kashmiri chili powder online and in most health food grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. However, I recommend visiting your local Asian or Indian grocery store to shop and explore. 

More Substitute Suggestions:

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