Anaheim peppers, also known as California chile peppers, are a type of green chile pepper with a slightly sweet flavor and just a hint of spiciness. On the Scoville scale, they measure 500-2,500 Scoville heat units (SHU) (1).
These delicious peppers are large, averaging six to ten inches long, and perfect for stuffing with ingredients like meat, beans, rice, and cheese. They can also add a fresh flavor and spicy kick to salsas, soups, and cornbread.
While canned Anaheim chiles (labeled simply as “canned green chiles”) are available at most grocery stores, the fresh version can be trickier to find depending on where you live.
So what if your recipe calls for Anaheim peppers and you can’t find any? Don’t worry — we’ve compiled a list of the best Anaheim pepper substitutes to help you choose the right one.
Best Anaheim pepper substitutes
1. Poblano peppers
Poblano peppers are the best substitute for Anaheim peppers because they are widely available and similar in flavor, heat level, and size.
They measure 1,000-2,000 Scoville heat units, making them twice as hot as Anaheim peppers on the low end of the range (1).
Although their flavor profiles are similar, poblanos tend to have an earthier, almost smoky flavor, while Anaheim peppers are a bit sweeter.
Poblanos are shorter and fatter than Anaheim peppers, averaging four to five inches long and two to three inches wide.
Fresh poblanos can be found at most supermarkets but may not be available at smaller grocery stores. Dried poblanos are referred to as ancho chiles and can be purchased at Latin markets or online.
(Check out our in-depth comparison of Anaheim vs poblano peppers to learn more about their nutritional and culinary similarities and differences.)
Summary: Widely available, similar heat level, flavor, and size.
2. Bell peppers
Bell peppers are the perfect Anaheim pepper substitute for people who don’t like spicy foods or don’t have access to other peppers.
They come in a variety of colors — red, orange, yellow, and green — and have absolutely no heat, measuring in at 0 Scoville heat units (1).
Like Anaheim peppers, bell peppers have a somewhat sweet flavor. Of all the colors, red bell peppers are the sweetest. Green bell peppers are only slightly sweet and have a bitter aftertaste.
This delicious vegetable is ideal for stuffed pepper recipes because they have a large inner cavity that can easily hold a half-cup or more of filling ingredients.
Bell peppers might be the most accessible Anaheim pepper substitute out there. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a grocery store that doesn’t carry this staple food.
Summary: Easy to find, but no spice at all.
3. Hatch chiles
Hatch chiles, also called New Mexico chiles, are chile peppers grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico. They’re a great substitute for Anaheim peppers because the two are closely related.
In fact, Anaheim peppers come from the same plant as Hatch chiles. They have slightly different flavors and heat levels due to differences in soil between Anaheim, California and Hatch, New Mexico.
Compared to Anaheim peppers, Hatch chiles are equally spicy or up to 16 times hotter, measuring 1,000-8,000 SHU (2).
Hatch chiles are smoky and sweet, with a bit more earthy flavor than Anaheim. They’re also slightly smaller, about four to six inches in length, and have a tapered shape.
Finding Hatch chiles is tough outside the Southwestern United States, but you can sometimes find them in specialty stores or online. You may also be able to find canned Hatch chiles at some supermarkets.
Summary: Very similar, but usually spicier.
If you like spicier chile peppers, jalapeños can make a decent substitute for Anaheim peppers.
Jalapeños measure 2,500-8,000 SHU, making them equal in heat to the spiciest Anaheim pepper or up to 16 times hotter than the mildest (1).
It can be a grab bag on how spicy any particular jalapeño pepper will be, but it’s safe to assume that substituting jalapeños for Anaheim peppers will result in a much spicier dish.
At two to three inches long, jalapeños are also much smaller than Anaheim peppers. While they can be stuffed with small amounts of cheese or other ingredients, they’re a better Anaheim pepper substitute in recipes that call for diced peppers.
Jalapeños have a fresh, bright, and grassy flavor with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Compared to Anaheim peppers, they are less sweet.
You’ll find fresh and canned jalapeños at most grocery stores, along with their dried, smoked counterparts (called chipotle chiles), which are typically canned in adobo sauce.
Summary: Smaller, spicier, good substitute for canned chiles.
5. Cubanelle peppers
If you can get your hands on them, cubanelle peppers are one of the best substitutes for Anaheim peppers.
Cubanelle peppers are bright green and measure four to six inches long and two inches wide. They are slightly smaller than Anaheim peppers but have a similar shape.
On the Scoville scale, cubanelles come in at 100-1,000 SHU, which makes them similar in heal level to Anaheim peppers (1).
Flavor-wise, cubanelles might be the closest match for Anaheim peppers — they’re bright, peppery, and slightly sweet.
The downside to cubanelle peppers is that they can be very difficult to find depending on where you live. If you can’t find them at the grocery store, check your local farmers’ market.
Summary: Most similar in flavor, but can be hard to find.
6. Hungarian wax pepper
Hungarian wax peppers are a good substitute for Anaheim peppers if you want to really ramp up the heat. (They are spicier than jalapeños!)
These chile peppers measure 5,000-10,000 SHU — that’s 2 to 20 times hotter than Anaheim peppers (1).
Despite their spiciness, Hungarian wax peppers still have the same sweet, fruity flavor as Anaheim peppers, but with a tangy kick.
Hungarian wax peppers look similar to banana peppers, with bright yellow skin and an elongated shape. They’re typically five to six inches long, only slightly smaller than Anaheim peppers.
Depending on your location, you might be able to find Hungarian wax peppers at your local supermarket. They’re also sometimes available at specialty produce stores or online.
Summary: Similar size and shape, but much spicier.
7. Shishito pepper
Shishito peppers are a good substitute for Anaheim peppers if you want a similar flavor but less heat.
Shishitos are one of the mildest chile peppers that exists — they measure 50-200 SHU on the Scoville scale and are up to 50 times milder than Anaheim peppers (1).
These little guys are about two to three inches long and ½ inch in diameter, making them much smaller than Anaheim peppers. They are probably not the best substitute for stuffed pepper recipes, but are a good pick for recipes that use chopped peppers.
Shishito peppers have a similar flavor to Anaheim peppers — sweet and a little fruity, with a peppery kick.
Although fresh shishito peppers are not widely available, you can sometimes find them at supermarkets and Asian grocery stores, especially in the summer and early fall when they are in peak season.
Summary: Much smaller, less spicy.
8. Chilaca pepper
Fresh chilaca peppers are rare in the United States but they make a great substitute for Anaheim peppers if you can find them.
At 1,000-2,500 SHU, chilacas have almost the exact same heat level as Anaheim peppers (3). Their flavor is similarly sweet and smoky but also has a raisin-like undertone.
Chilaca peppers are six to nine inches in length and about one inch wide, with a slightly skinnier shape than Anaheim peppers.
In the United States, fresh chilaca peppers are very difficult to find, but you can check for them at Latin markets, farmers’ markets, and online.
When dried, chilaca peppers are referred to as pasilla chiles — these are commonly found in many grocery stores and Latin markets.
Summary: Very similar, but hard to find fresh.
How to choose an Anaheim pepper substitute
When choosing a substitute for Anaheim peppers, ask yourself the following questions to help you decide which pepper best suits your needs.
What’s available near you?
Poblanos, jalapeños, and bell peppers are the most widely available substitutes for Anaheim peppers. You’ll find them in the produce section of most supermarkets in the United States.
Hatch chiles, cubanelles, shishitos, and Hungarian wax peppers can be more challenging to find, depending on where you live. They’re sometimes available at health food stores, farmers’ markets, and online.
Fresh chilaca peppers are quite rare in the United States, but you can find the dried form labeled as “pasilla” chiles at most Latin grocery stores.
What spice level do you prefer?
Anaheim peppers are fairly mild, measuring 500-2,500 SHU on the Scoville scale (1).
If you want something similarly mild, choose poblanos (1,000-2,000 SHU), cubanelles (100-1,000 SHU), or chilaca peppers (1,000-2,500 SHU).
For people who are wary of hot peppers, shishito peppers (50-200 SHU) are an even milder option than Anaheim peppers and many other substitutes.
If you don’t like spicy foods at all, bell peppers (0 SHU) are your best bet. They lack capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the spiciness of chile peppers (4).
For a spicier substitute, try Hatch chiles (1,000-8,000 SHU, jalapeños (2,500-8,000 SHU), or Hungarian wax peppers (5,000-10,000 SHU).
How are you going to use them?
If you’re making stuffed peppers, you’ll want to choose a pepper with a larger cavity like poblanos or bell peppers, so there’s plenty of room for the filling.
Medium-sized peppers like cubanelles, chilacas, Hatch chiles, and Hungarian wax peppers can also be stuffed. Just keep in mind they won’t hold as much filling.
Jalapeños, shishitos, and other smaller peppers are best for recipes that call for diced peppers, like salsas, sauces, and soups.
Anaheim peppers are a mild chile pepper with a sweet and smoky flavor, but they can sometimes be difficult to find depending on where you live.
Poblanos are the best overall substitute for Anaheim peppers because they are easy to find at the grocery store and very similar in size, flavor and heat level.
Other Anaheim pepper substitutes include bell peppers, Hatch chiles, jalapeños, cubanelles, Hungarian wax peppers, shishitos, and chilacas.
When selecting a replacement pepper, keep in mind the availability of different varieties, their heat level, and how you’ll be using them in your recipe. This will help you pick the right substitute for your dish.
Amy Richter is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Missouri. She is an experienced nutrition writer and medical advisor for Healthline and Medical News Today. Amy is passionate about all things food-related and enjoys translating complex science into easy-to-understand articles.