Thai chili flakes: Heat, Uses & Substitutes

Thai chili flakes
Thai chili flakes, also known as prik bon (พริกป่น or Thai chili powder)– are made by crushing dried Thai chili peppers into small flakes. It is essential in Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, Korean, and other Asian cuisines. Chili flakes can add a good kick to Tom Yum soup, dim sum, Mexican tacos, or your favorite pizza.

What are Thai chili flakes?

Thai chili flakes
Thai chili flakes

Thai chili flakes or Thai chili powder are a type of dried chili widely used in Thai and other Asian cuisines. In Thai food preparation, you can use chili flakes to create a spicy and flavorful dish.

Thai cooks often combine chili peppers with other essential Thai ingredients such as lemongrass, garlic, and ginger.

OriginSouth America
AppearanceBright red, fine texture
Flavor profileStrong heat with hints of sweetness, smokiness, and a fruity taste


Thai gastronomy is all about spicy food, and the chili peppers used to make Thai chili flakes and chili powder have been around for centuries. Thai chili flakes are made from dried chili that’s crushed or ground.

The Thai chiles trace their roots to South America. Portuguese and Spanish explorers first brought hot peppers to Southeast Asia during the 16th century. Since then, the peppers have evolved into different varieties, generally known as Thai chiles.


Thai chili flakes/prik bon (พริกป่น) or chili powder are bright red, often with fine texture. You can buy them at Asian grocery stores and online stores like Amazon, usually in sealed jars or bags.

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Flavor profile

As simple as they may look, Thai chili flakes give dishes a dose of depth and complexity. They come packed with strong heat with hints of sweetness, smokiness, and a fruity taste.

Nutritional Benefits of Thai chili flakes

Aside from making you sweat, consuming Thai chili or chili peppers, in general, may help protect you from cancer and heart disease.

The same study also claims that it may aid longevity. Capsaicin found in chili peppers also naturally decreases appetite and might help people who aim to lose weight.

Aside from the health benefits mentioned above, chili peppers contain iron, Vitamin A, and dietary fibers.

How spicy are Thai chili flakes?

The crushed red pepper flakes are typically pegged between 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), given the wide variety of Thai chiles.

For comparison, jalapeño is between 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. This makes Thai pepper around 15x hotter than your average jalapeño.

What is a typical use for Thai chili flakes?

Thai chili flakes are a versatile spice that can add heat to any dish. Used sparingly, you can expect subtle warmth and added depth to the food. Putting too much of it may easily overwhelm other flavors and ingredients.

Thai chili flakes or chili powder is essential in:

  • Thai soups
  • Stir-fry dishes
  • Thailand noodles
  • Thai condiment
  • Chili oil
  • Hot sauce

How To Make Thai Chili Flakes

If you come across a Thai cuisine recipe that requires Thai chili flakes or chili powder, it might be best to make it yourself. You can make most of the flavors when you make your own stash from whole dried chili peppers.

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Preparing Thai chili flakes at home is easy and may take around 12 to 15 minutes. Here are the steps:

  1. Throw your dried Thai chili peppers with some salt on a medium-hot stove.
  2. Toss the dried chili peppers for about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Let the Thai chili peppers cool down.
  4. Discard the salt and pound the toasted dried chili in a mortar and pestle. You may also use a coffee or spice grinder.

Thai chili flakes substitute

The best substitute will be Cayenne pepper, in case Thai chili flakes are unavailable. While cayenne pepper flakes might not be as hot, the flavor profiles of the two spices are similar enough.

A pinch of chili powder, made from a blend of chile peppers, is another good alternative. You can also use jalapenos or fresh serrano peppers.


Randell loves experimenting in the kitchen (with his family and friends as willing victims). He sees cooking as a great adventure. To enjoy that, he believes this is the recipe: a tad of creativity, a dash of courage, a pinch of humility, and a ton of love.

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