Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitutes

Published Categorized as Ingredients

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To bring any of our cooking to life, the key addition is using the right herbs and spices to season our meals. Having a deep knowledge about the flavors and combinations that can be provided from such a vast variety of herbs and spices can really make or break your meal.

A lot of us typically stick to the well-known flavors, and of course a sprinkling of salt and pepper never hurt anyone. Whether it be paprika to give a bit of a kick, dried basil to bring out that Italian flavor, maybe even cumin to bring out those Mexican flavors

However, when it comes to chili, a lot of us hesitate. Not only is it hard to gauge how much spice to add when you are cooking for others, but to even know how much spice to add for your own enjoyment can be difficult.

The world presents us with numerous options of chillies and it can be really difficult to even know where to begin without sticking to the most basic of chili powder. One chilli that really does stand out in the crowd is the Kashmiri chili.

Today I am going to find out a bit more about the Kashmiri chili, what it is good for and whether it really is the greatest chili powder available!

Table of Contents

What are Kashmiri Chillies?

Well, to fully understand the purpose and benefits of using Kashmiri chili powder, it would help if we really knew what Kashmiri chiles were.

Kashmiri chillies, also known as Kashmiri Mirch (the Hindi translation), are the Indian chili peppers that are known for their extraordinarily red color and their intoxicating aroma. Although they look and appear hot, they are not so well-known for their spicy heat.

They are long, red, and cone-shaped and usually come quite thin and wrinkled, even before drying. The outer layer of the chili is not as vibrant as the chili powder, as this red color really starts to come out once the chili has been milled into a powder. The powdr consists of the entire chili pepper, helping to bring more of a kick to the flavor.

Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitutes_Alices Kitchen

History of Kashmiri Chiles

Kashmiri chiles originate in the Goa region of India. Originally, India would use black peppercorns and Sichuan peppers to spie their foods, however in 1497, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama led the first European expedition to India and planted chili pepper seeds. Hundreds of years later, at least the different types of chilli are growing in the Goa region and eventually the Kashmiri chili was introduced to north India as well.

Kashmiri chili powder was traditionally used more to color foods rather than spice foods. The rich red colour gives a very appetizing appearance and is commonly used in dishes like tandoori chicken and Rogan Josh. From this, the chillies were bred for coloration purposes as opposed to taste purposes and this popularity grew across India. This unique use of the chili powder really makes it stand out from the crowd.

Kashmiri Chili Cultivation

Most chillies thrive in moist, nutritious, and well-drained soil. The plants are placed roughly a foot apart and are trained to grow upwards, usually growing up a wooden pole that is placed in the ground to help support their growth.

Kashmiri chillies grow best in shade. A little sunlight can help them, but too much sunlight and not enough water will cause them to grow a lot spicier than the Kashmiri chili is meant to taste and therefore they need to be carefully monitored whilst being harvested.

The fruits begin green, like most plants, and over time they go through shades of orange and then eventually reach that beautiful red color. Most chillies will in fact end up red in color but the green chiles we find in store have been harvested early so that they remain green.

The bright red color of Kashmiri chillies can be very attractive to animals, particularly birds, and so this is another reason the plants need a lot of attention whilst growing.

The name of the chili remains the same even if they are grown outside of the Kashmiri region. These chillies are easy to grow elsewhere and so the lack of chili farmers in Kashmir, India is no problem to the production of the Kashmiri chili plant.

What Does Kashmiri Chili Powder Taste Like?

The Kashmiri chili provides a very sweet and fruity flavor. The heat in Kashmiri chili powder should be very mild and produce a 1000 to 2000 SHU (scoville heat units).

This means the chili is very versatile. It is hard to go overboard with this chili powder as the heat will not become too hot to handle. However, the color from going overboard with Kashmiri chili powder may become quite extreme in your cooking and begin to look quite artificial.

Kashmiri chili powder is widely loved because it is of a heat that most people can handle, and also provides your dishes with a delicious, sweet flavor. If you are looking for some extra heat, you can always add a couple of types of chili powder together in order to get that lovely red color with some extra heat alongside it.

How can you tell Kashmiri Chili Powder?

Well, besides the name on the tub, Kashmiri chili powder is easy to recognise from its prominent red colouring. The peppers themselves can be identified from the medium size, cone-shaped, dark-red skin, often with a lot of wrinkles.

You can make sure your chilli powder is natural by adding a teaspoon to a glass of water. If the powder is artificially colored then it will stain the water a red color. If the chili powder is natural, it should not dissolve.

What is special about Kashmiri chili powder?

Kashmiri chili powder is a very pure form of chili powder. A lot of your regular chili powder will have other blends of chili, and sometimes even other spices, added through it to bring out a different flavor.

Kashmiri chili powder is made solely with the chillies themselves. There are no added herbs or salts which means that Kashmiri chili powder is a very undiluted powder and also means that you know what to expect when you buy it.

Further to this, most chili powder tends to pack more heat than Kashmiri chili powder, and so as mentioned before, a unique aspect is that this powder comes with a vibrant color and very little heat.

Uses of Kashmiri Chili Powder

We have already established that one of the main uses for Kashmiri chili powder is to seek that gorgeous, red colour throughout our cooking. The mild heat but sweet flavor means that Kashmiri chili powder can add a delicious, but unexpected twist to your regular tomato sauces, particularly when using them in tandem with star anise.

The flavor also means that the chili is versatile throughout many cuisines. Whilst most chili powders work best in typically spicy foods, such as curries and chillies, you can use Kashmiri powder in just about anything. It will add a slight kick to your meal without overpowering, and of course it will add that red color if used with certain foods as well.

One popular way to use Kashmiri chili powder is in macaroni and cheese. Lots of people add paprika to their mac and cheese to give it a little burst of something different, however Kashmiri chilli powder brings quite a sweet sensation whilst also changing the color of your mac and cheese to make it all that more interesting.

Additionally, people add it to marinade quite a lot. Again, this is to add an appetising color to the outside of whatever it is you are marinating, but also adds a slight kick without taking away from the main meal itself. A very popular choice is to add it to your butter chicken. If you are using an authentic recipe and it calls for chili powder, you should still use the one it is asking for, but can also add some Kashmiri for that extra burst of color.

Finally, Kashmiri powder can be added to just about anything that will absorb color and this will bring a dramatic appearance to your food. You can add it to your cooking oil, but also to things like rice and onions. It won’t do much to alter the flavor but will make the meal more interesting to look at.

It is important to remember that in authentic Indian cooking, the spices and quantities called for are usually there for a reason. Whilst adding Kashmiri chili powder to certain meals may make things look and taste slightly more interesting, most Indian recipes will require a certain chili powder for a specific reason, so try not to go too off-track with this.

Kashmiri Chili Powder Substitutes_Alices Kitchen

What can I replace Kashmiri chili powder with?

If you do not have Kashmiri chili powder and your recipe calls for it then, as mentioned above, I would really recommend you try and locate the required chili powder. However, this may not always be an option and so it is useful to know what can potentially be used in place of Kashmiri chili powder.

If you are looking to add color to the dish, you can opt for a paprika. Paprika has very little spice, however it does taste particularly smoky in comparison to Kashmiri chili powder, and so it is important to bear this in mind if swapping one for the other.

Many recipes may suggest swapping your Kashmiri powder for cayenne, however the heat in cayenne chili powder is a lot higher (30,000 to 40,000 SHU) and so the spiciness can quickly overpower the purpose of the chilli powder.

As a result, mixing three parts paprika with one part cayenne chilli powder can bring that reddy color whilst keeping the heat at a mild level, and so this combination would probably be the safest and most accurate substitution.

Finally, Guajillo chili powder (2500 to 5000 SHU) is only slightly spicier and may be used as a substitute if the recipe only requires small amounts. However, it is a little bit hotter and may be more difficult getting your hands on this than it would be to find Kashmiri chili powder!

Can I make my own Kashmiri Chili Powder?

Like most herbs and spices, it is possible to grow the plants yourself and then crush them into the correct powder, however Kashmiri plants are particularly hard to grow, as mentioned above. If you do have a great desire to make your own chili powders though, then you can purchase Kashmiri chiles from the shop and create your own powder from there.

First of all you need to sun dry your chilis. You can also dry them out on a very low heat in the oven, but it will be most effective to dry them naturally for 24 hours.

They should look slightly shrivelled and more wrinkled than beforehand, and once this is the case, you need to wipe them all down and remove the stem of the chili.

Cut your chiles into small pieces and roast them on slow gas to dry them out even more. Allow these pieces to cool down and you can then begin to grind them down. It is best to blend and then use a good grinder for this.

You then need to strain these chillies and repeat this process until all of the chili turns into a fine powder. From here you should be ready for your powder!

Final Thoughts

In summation, the Kashmiri chili is one that originates from India and Kashmiri chili powder is exceptionally popular in Indian cuisine.

The chillies are not of any particular heat, but they do pack a really sweet, fruity flavor that can add an unexpected kick to your meals.

The bright red color of Kashmiri powder is predominantly what the chilies are bred for and can add a really gorgeous reddy colour to your cooking – whether that be in sauces, rice, oil, or even your mac and cheese!

The mild flavor means that it can be used in just about any cuisine and is not restricted, unlike other chili powders. It also means that it is a popular choice for those who are not particularly fond of spicy food.

Although it is possible to substitute, it is recommended to stick with whatever your recipe requests when it asks for chili powder. Each chili powder has its own purpose and value, and so to really get your authentic Indian food tasting good, you should try not to stray from the recipe too much.

If you can get a hold of some Kashmiri peppers, it can be fun to try and make your own powder. However, it is super easy to find Kashmiri powder online or in your supermarkets. So what are you waiting for? Go and grab a bag of Kashmiri chili powder and start spicing up your meals!


Is Kashmiri chili powder the same as chili powder?

Kashmiri chili powder is not the same as chili powder. It consists of only ground Kashmiri peppers, whereas chili powder often consists of a combination of chillies, but also herbs and salts. Kashmiri chili powder has a distinctive red color to it and is also a lot milder than chili powder.

Is cayenne pepper the same as Kashmiri chilli powder?

Cayenne pepper is not the same as Kashmiri chili powder. Cayenne pepper has a high heat to it and does not have as rich of a color.

How hot is Kashmiri chili powder?

Kashmiri chili powder is a very mild chili powder. It has a sweeter taste as opposed to a spicy one. It sits at about 1500 to 2000 SHU.