10 Best Substitutes For Aleppo Pepper

Aleppo pepper, named after the Syrian city Aleppo, is a deep red, mildly hot chili flake used commonly in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes (via Leite's Culinaria). Also known as the Halaby pepper, it can be used to add spice and a little extra kick to nearly any dish, regardless of origin. It's often described as having an earthy, slightly sweet, oily flavor profile.

A variety of Capsicum annuum, Aleppo pepper is most commonly found as a seasoning made from dried and coarsely ground Halaby peppers and used similarly to other crushed peppers or chili.

However, it's not the easiest spice to get your hands on. It might require a trip to a spice shop or specialized grocery store as many general grocery stores don't carry it. While Aleppo can certainly add a distinctive flavor to your recipes, not having it shouldn't mean you automatically scratch the entire dish.

There are plenty of substitutes that can add a similar flavor profile and provide just the right amount of punch to your next meal.

1. Sweet Paprika and Cayenne Mix

Aleppo pepper is a fairly mild spice, so substituting just cayenne might add a little too much heat to your dish. However, throwing in a bit of sweet paprika will calm the cayenne and add some similar flavor notes to Aleppo. Optionally, you can add a pinch of salt to the mixture as well. 

The Spice House shares that while paprika captures a lot of the flavor of Aleppo pepper, that bit of cayenne is essential for getting the right amount of heat for a good substitute. Luckily, paprika and cayenne are both pretty standard spices and can often be found in more grocery stores in the spices aisle.

According to Pepper Scale, mix four parts of paprika and one part cayenne for a simple Aleppo substitute. "The paprika adds the flavor and the cayenne provides the heat. The salt — if you prefer — adds that slightly salty quality that Aleppo pepper has due to its drying process," they explain. 

2. Hot Paprika

If you don't have the time or desire to mix cayenne and paprika to make an Aleppo-like substitute, you can easily opt for hot paprika instead. Obviously, the great thing about this substitution is that it doesn't require any additional prep on your part. Similar to the sweet paprika and cayenne mix, you'll get a similar flavor profile but that bit of a punch and spicy quality is already included. Likewise, a dash of salt can smooth out some of the spicier elements of the hot paprika and mirror the taste of Aleppo pepper well. 

The Kitchn describes that hot paprika is actually made with super spicy red peppers. They also advise using it sparingly because a small amount can provide the spice of cayenne and other ground chiles. Hot paprika is another common spice, and shouldn't be hard to find at a typical grocery store — if it's not already in your pantry. Popular brands include McCormick and Szeged.  

You can use equal parts hot paprika for Aleppo pepper in your recipes.

3. Paprika

If you've read this far and are freaking out because you've only got regular paprika, rest assured there's no need to worry. You can still use paprika alone as a pretty good substitute for Aleppo peppers, the lack of heat doesn't automatically make it a bad or unsuitable substitute for Aleppo. In fact, it may be perfect for those who like the smoky, earthy flavor of Aleppo but don't like spice. Greedy Gourmet calls paprika "an excellent substitute for Aleppo" and says that it can be a great addition to soups and stews.

Similarly, you could look for a smoked paprika that will enhance those notes that are often found in Aleppo. Some popular smoked paprika brands include McCormick, Simply Organic, and Target's Good and Gather.

If all you've got in your pantry is paprika, it's definitely worth using in equal parts. While it won't have the same kick, your dish can still benefit heavily from paprika's Aleppo-like flavor.

4. Ancho Chili Powder

Ancho peppers are the dried version of poblanos ' mild peppers that originate in Mexico. According to Chile Pepper Madness, ancho peppers are known for being smoky, their moderate heat, and a flavor profile not dissimilar to paprika. You'll notice all of these adjectives are very similar to the ones used to describe Aleppo. In fact, some people describe Aleppo pepper as tasting like anchos.

It's a great substitute because it's similarly mild in terms of heat, with a similar earthy flavor. Greedy Gourmet argues that ancho is the "best substitute" for Aleppo. As they point out, the ancho pepper scores about 1,500 heat units on the Scoville scale. While providing the heat, it still is fairly moderate and a close substitute for Aleppo pepper. 

The Epicentre recommends using equal parts ancho pepper for Aleppo pepper, and adding just a dash of salt to complete the flavor.

5. Crushed Red Pepper

If you're in a bind, crushed red pepper can be used as a quick substitute for Aleppo pepper. As Basically explains, those shakers of red pepper flakes at pizza places that we're all really familiar with are actually a combination of peppers from the capsicum annum family. Sure, cayenne will likely be the big pepper in the mix, but you may also get some Fresno, bell, and jalapeño in there.

Understanding what we do about Aleppo, if you choose to use crushed red pepper as your chosen substitute, your dish may lack some of the smoky and earthy flavor that the Aleppo carries. However, you'll be good to go in terms of spice and heat, so it should still work well — especially if spicier food is something you enjoy. 

Grab a pinch and use it to season your dish in the same way you'd use Aleppo.

6. Marash Pepper

According to the LA Times, marash pepper is "smokier and carries a little more heat than Aleppo pepper, but is very similar." If your initial reaction is "what is marash?" you're definitely not alone. 

It's a Turkish spice and according to Market Hall Food, is as ubiquitous as black pepper is here in the States. Market Hall Food adds that "the oily quality of these chiles is their hallmark —there is a delightful moistness to the ground chili that carries the heat perfectly." 

While it surely makes a great substitute — especially for those who want to take the smoky and spicy flavors of Aleppo and want to take them to the next level — one of the major downsides is that it's not the most common spice, and not an everyday backup in a lot of pantries. It might be harder to find in a typical grocery store and require some extra hunting. 

7. Antebi Pepper

Another option if you can't find Aleppo? Antebi pepper. As Chowhound reports, Antebi pepper comes from the same region as Aleppo peppers and that some chefs use Aleppo and Antebi interchangeably. When it comes to Antebi, Spice Station describes it as stong, hot pepper with a slightly fruity flavor. In fact, it's commonly used to season dishes like steak, fish, and vegetables.

Similar to marash pepper, it's not the easiest spice in the world to get your hands on. Online retailers do sell it, but that option requires a little advanced planning if you want to make it happen. You may also be able to find it at a specialty spice store, and it can be a great option to pick up if Aleppo is all out of stock.

8. Urfa Pepper

Another Turkish chili pepper of the Capsicum annuum family, this spice is another great option to use as a substitute for Aleppo. Food and Wine claims this pepper has chocolate and wine flavor notes, making for a complex but pleasant heat. Producers dry out the peppers in the sun, and that direct exposure to sunlight creates a smoky flavor — similar to the notes in Aleppo peppers — without actually being smoked. 

The LA Times described urfa as "far darker and much smokier than [other Aleppo substitute] but also pretty wonderful." If you're interested in trying urfa pepper, you may run into a similar issue where it's not the easiest spice to just pick up at your local grocery store. Like Antebi and marash pepper, you can order it online or check in with your local specialty spice store. You can use it in equal parts to Aleppo pepper.

9. Piri Piri Powder

If you like spicy foods, consider substituting piri piri (peri peri) for Aleppo. Piri piri peppers are very hot, and a close relative to the tabasco pepper. Similar to other chile powders, the peppers are dried and then ground into a powder. Piri piri peppers grow wild in different parts of Africa (via Hot Sauce Fever), and while they're also commercially produced there, they're still not the most common spice in the States. You can, however, order it online through Amazon. It will take some planning, though, if you specifically want it for a meal. 

Be warned, though, if you choose to substitute piri piri for Aleppo, your dish will be much hotter. While Greedy Gourmet recommends it as a substitute for Aleppo, they caution its spice. "In short, it is very hot, ranking form 50,000 – 150,000 on the Scoville scale," the outlet writes. 

If you do choose this option, using it sparingly might be your best bet.

10. Chili Powder

If all else fails, chili powder can be a quick and safe substitute for Aleppo. The biggest downside of substituting chili powder for Aleppo is that you might miss some of the sweet and oily notes that Aleppo is known for. But, on the upside, you'll have plenty of spice. When considering chili powder as an Aleppo substitute, Fitibility recommends keeping in mind that "chili powder also has a smoked flavor, so you may want to counterbalance with something sweet." They also suggest tasting the mixture before substituting exact portions as some chili powder has more cayenne than others, and you may end up with a dish much spicier than if you'd used Aleppo. 

The big benefit of chili powder is it's such a common household spice that you may already have it in your pantry. While the flavor of chili powder might not be the exact same as that of Aleppo, you'll add some spice and kick to your dish without having to rush to the store.