13 Best Serrano Chili Substitutes

by Jinal Gangar last updated -

If you want to make your favorite Mexican salsa without exposing your taste buds to the hot serrano chili, select a serrano chili substitute from the range below.

Serrano chili is appreciated for its tender, thin skin and heat, which ranges between 10000-23000 SHU. The heat of chili peppers is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), which probably means that you won’t have to bite a chili before adding it to your shopping cart.

Serrano Chili Substitute

Jalapeno pepper is the most popular serrano chili substitute. Other options include cayenne pepper, banana pepper, red pepper flakes, green peppers, Anaheim, and scotch bonnets. [1]

Jalapeno Pepper

Jalapeño peppers are a reliable substitute for serrano chili in your recipe. They do not have the same level of heat (2500 – 8000 SHU), but there is a crisp and bright flavor that will keep your guacamole dip tasting the same. You can use 2.5 teaspoons of jalapeno peppers in place of 1 teaspoon serrano chili.

Cayenne Pepper

If you want to go up a notch in terms of heat, you can use fresh cayenne pepper, but it has comparatively more heat (30,000-50,000 SHU) and adds a forward flavor to your recipe. Use 1 teaspoon of dried cayenne pepper in place of 3 teaspoons of serrano chili.


Being extraordinarily spicy with 100,000-350,000 SHU, habanero chili is a spice you may want to use only when you want to experiment with the spiciness in your dish. [2]

Red and green serrano peppers in a bowl

Serrano peppers are great for making sauces and salsas. Photo Credit: Shutterstock


With 500-700 SHU, guero chilies are best suited for dishes that need a yellow texture. As these are mild in taste, you can add 3 times more of the chilies than the serrano chilies in your dish.

Red Pepper Flakes

A dried form of cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes can be used in pasta and pizza sauces and seasonings. Use a 1/4th teaspoon of red pepper flakes per teaspoon of serrano chili to match the flavor.

Anaheim Pepper

Also, known as California chili, Anaheim is a great substitute for serrano chili in your chile relleno. Use it in lesser quantity than serrano as the heat varies depending on the variety.

Chopped Green Pepper

Crushed cayenne pepper in a wooden spoon with red chillis placed around

Cayenne pepper contains a high amount of capsaicin. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Many a time, green peppers come handy when you cannot find serrano chilies. They do not provide any significant hotness to your dish but are a great addition to curries and salsas.

Poblano Pepper

Poblano peppers have 1000-1500 SHU and they may easily mimic the flavor of serrano chilies when used in slightly more quantity than the serrano. Moreover, they may not attack your stomach like the spicier chilies do so go ahead, add some spice to your dish!

Banana Pepper

Banana pepper is a mild chili pepper with 5000-10000 SHU. 1 teaspoon of serrano can be substituted with 2 teaspoons of banana pepper for a tangy, spicy flavor.

Bhut Jolokia

The ghost pepper is a very hot pepper with 855,000 – 1,050,000 SHU. Use these chilies in a moderate quantity for a tangier, spicier salsa, and enjoy your tortillas without knowing that serrano pepper was missing from the spice stack! [3]

Pasilla Chile

With 1000-3999 SHU, pasilla chilies are a safe option for dishes that require a more mellow taste. Though they possess a mild heat, their rich flavor can enhance the taste of guacamole.

Thai Chilies

Bird’s eye chilies, another name of Thai chilies, are hotter than serrano peppers with 50000-100000 SHU. When your taste buds are craving some spicy burst, add these chilies to your curries or dips and enjoy the appealing recipe.

Thai curry in a bowl surrounded by leaves and red chilies on a table

A hot bowl of Thai curry can help relieve you cold. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Scotch Bonnet

Scotch bonnets belong to the same family as habaneros, with 80000-400000 SHU. Use them in extremely lesser quantities than serrano peppers to match up the flavor in your dip.

Note: Many of the chilies possess a very spicy flavor, so add them to your dish cautiously. Make sure you wear gloves and handle the chilies as they are strong and pungent and can harm your eyes.

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About the Author
 Jinal, an ex-banker who has completed her MBA in finance from Mumbai University, is passionate about health and wellness. She is a social media enthusiast. She has completed an online program on “Introduction to Food and Health” from Stanford University, US. On weekends you can find her in cafes or movie theaters. Positivity drives her and she finds peace in cooking, reading, and coffee!
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