Bird’s eye chili is a popular ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine, but it can be hard to find and difficult to cook with.
This can be frustrating when you’re in the middle of cooking dinner and realize that you’ve run out of an ingredient that is crucial to making your dish taste good.
Fortunately, I have collected five great bird’s eye chili substitutes so that you can still enjoy your spicy meals without having to worry about running out of them or not being able to find them at local grocery stores.
Serrano pepper, Cayenne pepper, Habanero pepper, Scotch Bonnet (also known as Bonney pepper), and Jalapeno pepper are all great bird’s eye chili substitutes to try!
Some of these alternatives may add a little bit more heat than what people expect from bird’s eye chili so make sure to read till the end for proper usage instructions.
- What is Bird’s Eye Chili?
- 5 Best Bird’s Eye Chili Substitutes
- What Does Bird’s Eye Chili Taste Like?
- How Spicy Are Bird’s Eye Chilies?
- Is Bird’s Eye Chili the Same as Thai Chili?
- How to Store Bird’s Eye Chilies?
- Final Words
What is Bird’s Eye Chili?
Bird’s eye chili is a type of chili pepper that originated in Southeast Asia. In English, it is also referred to as “Thai chili”, “bird’s chili” or “bird eye chili.”
It is considered to be one of the hottest chilies with a score between 50,000 – 100,000 on the Scoville heat scale.
You’ll be able to purchase bird’s eye chilies from Asian grocery stores, specialty grocery stores, or online.
5 Best Bird’s Eye Chili Substitutes
If you don’t want to head out and search for an ingredient that might not even be available, then here are the best substitutes for bird’s eye chili:
1. Serrano Pepper
Serrano peppers are quite low in heat levels (10,000 to 23,000 Scoville heat units) as compared to bird’s eye chili. However, they have a similar flavor profile, but they are readily available in most supermarkets.
Serrano pepper is used mostly in Mexican cuisine and has a crisp, slightly grassy taste making it suitable for everyday cuisines that call for bird’s eye chili.
Although they have half the heat, if you find that the substituted dish is too hot, I would recommend adding the Serrano pepper towards the end of cooking so that it doesn’t get too spicy.
2. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper also has almost half the heat level of bird’s eye chili (25,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units), but they also have a unique smoky flavor as well.
The resulting dish will be slightly sweeter with a smokier flavor than if you used bird’s eye chili, but it will still have that familiar spice.
Cayenne pepper is often used in Cajun and Creole cooking, so feel free to experiment with those flavors when using cayenne pepper as a substitute.
It can be found in most supermarkets, so it should be easy to find without having to go on a quest to hunt it down!
3. Habanero Pepper
Habanero peppers are one of the hottest chili peppers (100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units) that you can get your hands on and are perfect for those who love spicy food or have never tried it.
This pepper is about 20 times hotter than regular jalapenos, so it contains more heat than bird’s eye chili.
However, habanero peppers have a fruity flavor that goes well with chicken dishes and adds an extra kick to family dinners.
You can find habanero peppers in specialty food stores and some supermarkets, so head to your local grocery store or market and pick up a couple of these guys!
4. Scotch Bonnet or Bonney Pepper
Scotch bonnet is the perfect substitute for bird’s eye chili if you love hot, smoky flavors. Bonney pepper is usually found in red or yellow colors and sizes between 1 to 2 inches.
Although they look cute and all, these chilies are extremely hot (100,000 to 350,000 Scoville heat units) so make sure you can handle that spice level before using them.
Scotch Bonnet has a fruity and bright flavor profile with a hint of sweetness – much like habanero peppers. If you don’t need too much heat in your recipes, I’d recommend removing the inner white placental tissue before adding it.
5. Jalapeno Pepper
Jalapeno peppers are on the bottom when it comes to heat level, but they have a much more potent capsaicin flavor.
These chilies range from 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville units making them one of the least hot peppers. But the advantage is that you can use them in everyday cuisine and they cater to a wide group of people.
Make sure to add at least double the amount of jalapeno pepper if you want to get a similar taste profile as bird’s eye chili.
Jalapeno peppers are also very easy to get a hold of and can be found in most supermarkets or at any farmer’s market. You might already have a bottle lying around in your pantry!
What Does Bird’s Eye Chili Taste Like?
Bird’s eye chili has a fruity, peppery flavor with intense heat. When eaten, bird’s eye chili will leave your mouth feeling tingly and numb for about 30 minutes.
It has a very pungent smell that is typically described as earthy or citrusy. Although bird’s eye chili (or Thai chili) is used more as a condiment than the main ingredient but can be used in many Southeast Asian recipes.
How Spicy Are Bird’s Eye Chilies?
The heat of any chili pepper is measured using the Scoville scale, and bird’s eye chili is one of the world’s spiciest peppers but not as spicy as the infamous ghost pepper.
The Scoville rating for bird’s eye chili is between 50,000 to 100,000 units which helps add a kick to your recipe but not too much.
Is Bird’s Eye Chili the Same as Thai Chili?
Yes, they are the same thing and both terms are used interchangeably depending on where you live.
How to Store Bird’s Eye Chilies?
The best way to store bird’s eye chili is in plastic wrap or zip-lock bags and freeze in the refrigerator for later use. If properly stored, it doesn’t lose its heat content and you can use it for up to a year.
If you’re craving the spicy flavor of a bird’s eye chili but don’t know what to do without it, these five great substitutes will surely help.
Whether you want to add more heat or replace bird’s eye chili with a subtle pepper in your recipe, these swaps will work perfectly.
The best part? You can find them at any supermarket so head on over there and pick up one (or all) of these chilies today!