I recently learned that I am allergic to ALL forms of pepper except black pepper. Bell peppers, chili peppers, etc. I am allergic to and it makes my throat swell up. I have several recipes using ground chili pepper. Is there a substitute spice that will give my (mostly ground beef casseroles) recipes SOME flavor?

  • related : cooking.stackexchange.com/q/12562/67
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 11, 2014 at 21:23
  • 4
    Do you know if you're allergic to capsaicin, or to something else in the peppers? If you're not allergic to capsaicin, you could probably buy pure capsaicin and add a tiny amout to dried tomatoes for a "pepper" flavor and texture. That's assuming you're not allergic to tomatoes as well, of course ...
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 7:21
  • 3
    Black pepper, which you say is OK for you, is usually underestimated in terms of heat (we are used to use tiny amounts) and flavour (the average stuff we get is not the best available, doubly so if preground and/or stale). To make the best of it, IMHO, freshly ground or mortar&pestle... The chinese actually make a condiment/cooking sauce out of mostly black pepper, tried the bottled version once and found it respectably spicy (read: would likely be too f.... hot for the average american/european palate) Commented May 9, 2015 at 22:28
  • White pepper, Galangal. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galangal Galangal is kind of like ginger on steroids; well wort a try. You can get it dried, and it retains most flavor. Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 0:54

8 Answers 8


You are not going to find anything outside the chili family that gives quite the same flavor, so substituting flavor-wise is not going to be possible. Note that paprika is a spice ground from particular pepper, so if you are allergic to all capsicum peppers, you don't want to use it.

What you can do is build other flavorful combinations which you enjoy and which you can eat. Some things to consider that bring a touch of some type of heat with them include:

  • Mustard powder (a touch of mustard-type heat, and a deep flavor. Probably want to combine with some herbs like oregano or rosemary.
  • Horseradish (just a touch for piquancy)
  • Ginger, which will work very well in Asian inspired dishes, and in combination with those flavors
  • Szechaun peppercorns (not a capsicum pepper) -- they have a unique flavor and effect; you will have to decide if you like them

All of these flavors are "hot" but from different chemicals than the capsicum peppers, so they will all have different effects.

  • You may also want to experiment with ground papaya seeds. The flavor is similar to black pepper, and they also act as a meat tenderizer.
    – mrog
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 21:52
  • Adding to the list: raw garlic freshly cut/squeezed. It can get very spicy, although it's "slow burn", takes time to reach the full burn potential on the tongue - and cooking it even just a bit completely kills the heat, plus some people seem completely, 100% immune to the burn. Plus there may be... "social repercussions".
    – SF.
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 9:05

I share your allergy and have for some time. First - I'm very sorry, it's not a fun one to have. Second - there are a lot of spices you can use that give color and flavor without going into the pepper family.

I have a recipe for a curry powder you can use: 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds, toasted 2 tablespoons whole cardamom seeds, toasted 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds, toasted 1/4 cup ground turmeric 1 tablespoon dry mustard

It's adapted from an Alton Brown recipe (no cayenne) but the cumin still adds a bit of a kick without requiring an epi-pen.

Also - you can use wasabi in some cooking - it gives a bit of a bite as well. I also use tumeric, as it adds color as well as flavor. I use quite a bit of raw garlic and onion, as it gives a bit of a bite to food, but too much will leave a casserole bitter.

Hope this helps!

  • 3
    DO NOT USE WASABI! "wasabi" which is marketed in the USA and Western Europe is generally 0-30% actual wasabi root, and the rest made up with powders from jalopenos and other chili peppers. This allergy sufferer would have a reaction.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 7:19
  • 2
    @FuzzyChef I'm sure some products labeled as wasabi use chili peppers, but not all. Real wasabi can be found in the US, and others have horseradish and mustard, but no chili. Good point, anyone with allergies should read the label, but wasabi isn't necessarily verboten. See this answer for more: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/50329/… One of the ingredient lists is suspect because it lists "natural flavor", I don't know chili powder can fall under that or not.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 21:13
  • Sure. But since the original question was about allergies, you shouldn't recommend a product which often contains what the person is allergic to without warning them. And yes, chili powder can fall under "natural flavor", but more likely extracted pure capsaicin can. And we don't know if the OP is allergic to capsaicin.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 21:04

Galangal root is a possibility (more info). It's sort of like ginger that's been kicked up a notch on the hot/spicy axis. Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai stores will have it. There's also a powdered form available online. I've never tried that, but maybe it doesn't suffer the same terrible fate as powdered ginger.

Prickly ash (Sichuan pepper) and Japanese Prickly ash are other possibilities. The Sichuan pepper does add a funny sort of heat to things. I've never found the Japanese version to try.


Thanks for all the tips. I have arthritis and any thing in the 'deadly night shade family of plants is bad for us. That is: Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, chilli and its sidekick Paprika. These two latter things make my joints swell - not life threatening but very painful. In looking for an alternative, I have found some Garam Masala does not contain any Chilli or Paprika and many recipes for Korma curry do not use chilli. It doesn't quite have the kick but it is very tasty.


Be very careful with mustard. Premade mustard contains paprika. I make my own for recipes that call for it, and use the dry mustard to cook often. Cumin is a wonderful way to add flavor, and I especially like corriander. Experiment and see what you like best. Its a bit of a crapshoot and everyone's tastes are a little different. Cook in small batches, so there's no leftovers, until you find what you like best. Good luck!

  • Some premade mustard contains paprika (French's does, for example); however, there are plenty that don't. Neither Maille nor Coleman's contains paprika; Grey Poupon has no paprika but does have all kinds of random junk. Commented Jul 22, 2018 at 17:17

Black Pepper falls into a very different plant family than chilies and bell peppers. Also the compound that produces the spicyness is different (piperine vs capsaicin). There's are a A LOT of different pepper species that should offer some variety if you can get a hold of them. Also don't underestimate the differences in black pepper alone.

This site also lists a few other species that are sold as "pepper" but are neither Solanaceae nor Piperaceae:

And as others have suggested, the Ginger family is always a good source of flavorfull spicyness.

Further options for spicyness taken from this answer:

Or Wasabi as others have also already suggested and warned about fakes.


I'm allergic to red chili pepper and usually make do with ginger, mustard and some cumin.


At last! Other people who are allergic to all forms of capsicum. I thought I was alone. I use mustard (Colman’s) and lots of black pepper. I am not that fond of heat.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.