Guajillo peppers, also known as guajillo chiles, are a type of dried mirasol chile commonly used in Mexican cuisine alongside ancho chiles and chiles de Arbol. These peppers are 4-6 inches long and have a tough and shiny deep red skin.
Guajillo peppers are mild to medium-hot with a rating of 2,500-5,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. They offer a sweet, smoky, and fruity flavor with hints of tea and berries, and are used in many Mexican and Central American dishes.
There are two types of guajillo peppers with different sizes and heat levels. Guajillo puya is smaller and hotter, while guajillo is longer and less spicy with a richer flavor. These peppers are sold dry and in powder form. The dry chiles can be toasted and ground into powder or rehydrated and used as a paste or sauce.
Due to their unique flavor, guajillo peppers are used in a variety of dishes such as sauces, chili, salsas, soups, stews, marinades, dry rubs for meat, pastes, and moles.
However, if guajillo peppers are not available, there are other peppers that can be used as a substitute. In the following paragraphs, we will learn more about each substitute.
What is Guajillo Pepper?
Guajillo pepper is a type of chili pepper commonly used in Mexican cuisine. It is made by drying the mirasol chili, resulting in a shiny and tough deep-red colored skin. Guajillo peppers are typically 4 to 6 inches long and have a mild to medium-hot flavor, ranging from 2500 to 5000 on the Scoville scale.
In terms of taste, guajillo peppers have a spicy, sweet, fruity, and smoky flavor, with hints of berries and tea. They can be found in various forms, including whole dried, powder, or paste, and are commonly used in soups, stews, sauces, marinades, and meat rubs.
Guajillo Pepper Substitutes
Guajillo peppers are a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine due to their mild to medium-hot spiciness and complex flavor profile that includes notes of sweetness, fruitiness, and smokiness. However, if you can’t find guajillo peppers, there are several alternatives that you can use instead.
1. Ancho peppers
One option is ancho peppers, which are meatier and juicier than guajillo chilies and have a SHU range between 1000 to 2000. They are made from dried poblano peppers and are readily available, making them a great substitute for guajillo peppers. Ancho peppers can be used in soups, stews, sauces, marinades, or meat rubs, but you will need to use twice the amount as guajillo peppers due to their milder taste.
2. Pasilla peppers
Pasilla peppers, also known as pasilla negro, are the closest in flavor to guajillo peppers and have a SHU range between 1000 to 2500. These peppers can be used in sauces, stews, soups, or moles, and can be substituted in equal measure to guajillo peppers. However, if you prefer your food spicier, you can increase the amount of pasilla peppers used.
3. New Mexico chiles
Another option is New Mexico chiles, which have a SHU range between 800 to 1400 and offer earthy sweetness, acidic undertones, and dried cherry flavors similar to guajillo peppers. These peppers are less hot and pungent than guajillo peppers but still packed with flavors and spiciness. You can use New Mexico chiles in chutneys, chili sauces, stews, salsa, soups, seasonings, or dry rubs and use them in equal measure as guajillo peppers to add the right amount of flavor and spiciness to your recipe.
4. Cascabel Chilies
Cascabel chilies have a distinct appearance compared to guajillo peppers, with a rounder and shorter shape and dark brown-red color. With a heat level of 1,500-2,500 SHU, these chilies have a nutty and smoky flavor that can enhance the taste of various dishes, including sauces, stews, soups, and salsas.
5. Puya Chilies
If you prefer a smaller and spicier chili than guajillo, try puya chilies. These chilies have a light fruity flavor with hints of licorice and cherry, and a heat level ranging from 5,000-8,000 SHU. Puya chilies are a versatile ingredient commonly used in sauces, salsas, dips, enchiladas, stews, soups, casseroles, and cooked vegetables.
6. Mulato Chilies
Mulato chilies offer a mild level of heat, ranging from 2,500-3,000 SHU, and a fruity, sweet, and smoky flavor. Available in whole, flakes, and powder forms, mulato chilies are a popular ingredient in various dishes, including sauces, soups, moles, and more.
7. Ancho Chile Powder
Ancho chile powder is a type of chili powder made from dried poblano peppers. Unlike guajillo chiles, ancho chiles have a sweeter taste and are less spicy. They are also easier to find in stores.
When using ancho chili powder as a substitute for guajillo powder, you can use a 1:1 ratio since they have a similar flavor profile. However, it’s always best to taste the dish as you go when using a new ingredient to ensure that you’re happy with the flavor.
While guajillo pepper has a unique flavor that’s challenging to replicate, there are several substitutes available that can give your dish a similar taste. Cascabel chilies have a similar flavor profile, albeit more fruity, and similar heat levels to guajillo peppers.
Puya chiles are hotter than guajillo peppers and have a sharper taste, but the flavor is comparable. Combining pasilla negro chilies and cascabel chilies can result in a smoky and earthy flavor that is similar to guajillo peppers.
Alternatively, combining ancho chilies and cascabel chilies can yield a sweet, smoky, and nutty flavor with hints of raisins and chocolate that is quite similar to guajillo peppers. Ultimately, the choice of substitute depends on your personal preference for heat and flavor.
If you have tried any of these substitutes in your dish, we would love to hear which one worked best for you. Please share your experience in the comments below.