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The 15 Best Paprika Substitute For Your Favorite Spicy Dishes

Paprika is known as pimenton in Spain and is a crucial addition to paella. In North America, its sweeter varieties are better known. So, when you think of paprika, you more likely are thinking of its sweeter or milder variety.

So, what if you don’t have paprika in your kitchen? Here are some alternatives you can consider

  • Aleppo Pepper
  • Ancho powder
  • Black Pepper/White Pepper
  • Cajun Spice Seasoning
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Chile de Arbo Powder
  • Chili Powder
  • Chili Flakes
  • Chipotle Powder

If you still cannot find the above mentioned alternative ingredients from your kitchen, read on for the full comprehensive best paprika substitute that you can use.

15 Awesome Substitute For Paprika

Paprika Substitute

Paprika provides an earthy combination of sweet and spicy, often described as the mild child of peppers. It is made from ground chili pepper dry pods. The ingredient does not just add spice to your cooking, but it also adds a vivid splash of color. 

With its fiery color, people may be inclined to think that it has the same flavor as chili powder. However, it is not quite as hot because it is not mixed with cumin and garlic powder, which is the case with chili powder.

Luckily, all is not lost if you run out of it because you can still rely on the following substitutes

Aleppo Pepper


Aleppo pepper provides a smoky and earthy flavor that stands out in Middle Eastern cuisine. If you want to use it as a paprika substitute, you can test it first with a small amount because it can get hotter than paprika.

However, it would be best to use it to substitute for a hotter type of paprika. In that case, it will work seamlessly.

Ancho Chile Powder


Ancho Chile Powder is an excellent paprika alternative because it can give you both a similar color and taste. However, it may not be a usual ingredient that you will find in your kitchen.

It seems that you will more likely have paprika in your kitchen than ancho powder. Of course, you may have most of these spices and may have used up the more popular paprika first.

So, you can go with this spice, which is made from ground ancho chilis. These are dried and roasted peppers with a deep red color.

The bonus here is that it also comes with a sweet, mild flavor, which paprika is known for. It is a good match for Spanish smoked paprika.

Black Pepper/White Pepper


Sometimes, things can be desperate. So, you may want to grab something more common – like black pepper or white pepper. These ingredients are likely found in anyone’s kitchen.

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Obviously, neither can provide you with the splash of color and zest paprika can add to a meal. However, you can use these as easy enough substitutes. You use an equal portion of it to replace paprika.

The match is a long shot. However, it still should work if you are simply desperate for some heat in your dishes. Discriminating tongues will not be too happy, however. So, it is only suitable for quick meals, not competitions or serving up a plate for a connoisseur.

Cajun Spice Seasoning


But what if you want something less intimidating? After all, you may have picked something as mild as paprika for a reason.

You can then go for Cajun spice seasoning. It is a result of blending black and white peppers and cayenne. So, it is not as hot as cayenne, having been soothed down by other, milder ingredients. Its relative mildness compared to other types of ingredients may win this a place in your paprika substitute options.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne pepper is an excellent substitute because it can recreate the flavor and the color. However, it would help if you considered that cayenne could be a lot hotter than what you intended to have.

Paprika often comes in a wide range of spiciness and color. Therefore, you can adjust the recipe with the appropriate level in mind.

Chile de Arbo Powder


This chili pepper may be small and thin, but it is very potent. It originated from Mexico. The chili pepper starts as green. Then it matures into a nice red color. From its very color, you can expect a bold taste, but it also creates a unique flavor with not just a touch of smokiness but also a grassy taste.

The Mexican chili has also found itself in Thai curries. They are also commonly used to spice up pickling brines, sauces, salsas, and more.

Chili Powder


Chili powder shares the same vibrant color as paprika. However, their tastes are different. Still, chili powder can work as a substitute because paprika is expected to have variations in flavor.

So, if you want something a little hot with your paprika, chili powder can work, primarily if you have run out of paprika.

Chili Flakes

Chili Flakes

Chili flakes can provide you with a substitute that can provide you with the color, flavor, and heat you need. However, since it is in flakes, you will notice a significant difference in texture.

You may want to use flakes in dishes that will have a lot of textures, anyway, to disguise the difference they make. Of course, discriminating tastes will still notice, but it is better than skipping the spice at all.

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The flakes may affect the general look, though, with its more tangible appearance.

Chipotle Powder


If you don’t mind changing the color of your dish, you can go with chipotle powder. It is made from smoke-dried jalapeño peppers of the Morita variety.

Because of its smoky flavor, it may be a better fit for when you want to substitute for smoked paprika. However, it can also be used instead of regular paprika.

Aside from a color change, there will also be a change in overall flavor and heat level. It is deeper in color and earthier in taste.

The chipotle peppers themselves begin green and become red during the autumn. It is harvested during that time. The heat level also rises with chipotle, but it is generally a medium-hot spice. It is not as spicy as some of the other substitutes on this list, and it will then make it a great substitute for smoked paprika.

Cumin with Regular Paprika and Cayenne Chili Powder

So, what if you have a little bit of paprika left, but you are trying to make it last for the whole dish or whatever you are planning to make?

You can then combine regular paprika with cumin and cayenne chili powder.

So, it combines a few ingredients that you have in the kitchen. It is recommended if you have only a few of each spice left. It is also recommended if you are planning to prepare taco seasoning or marinade.

Guajillo Powder


The Guajillo powder is made from dried mirasol pepper, which originates from Zacatecas, Mexico. It comes with a complex flavor and aroma, a mix of berry, green tea, and pine nut.

This Mexican powder is an excellent substitute for sauces, salsas, and many other dishes, especially Mexican ones. They can also be used to rub meats with before cooking them.

The complex flavor can provide a mild heat, which is just right for a paprika substitute. However, it will change your meal’s overall taste as Guajillo powder has its own distinctive flavor.

Hungarian Paprika

Hungarian Paprika

Usually, when a recipe calls for paprika, it refers to the generic kind. So, you may wonder if Hungarian paprika can also work in these cases.

Generic paprika is generally sweet. Whatever spice you get from it is mostly mild. However, Hungarian paprika is different. It comes with a sumptuous aroma and possibly a deeper color than you may expect.

It also has various appearances and favors. In the end, though, it can still work as a substitute for generic paprika.



Pimento means smoked paprika. It is often used in many dishes, although you can expect them in stews and soups better.

It is made from dried and smoked pepper. After this process, it is then ground to powder form.

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You may be surprised, but some people may use tomatoes to substitute paprika. However, the focus is more on the color and presentation in such cases.

You have perhaps seen paprika used more as a garnish rather than a source of flavor. This is where tomatoes can come in, providing the necessary color to complete the dish. However, put a few drops of hot sauce or sprinkle a dash of chili powder, and you can also get the flavor you need.

Other Chili Powders

You may use other types of chili powders to substitute for paprika. Of course, you should check their heat levels, colors, and other distinctive flavors.

Are their unique tastes too potent that they can overpower your dish? Are they too hot or too mild? You need to find a way to somehow set them into the mild, middle-range heat level of paprika.

What about their colors? If you thought of using paprika because of its striking color, you might need another spice that can provide the same effect.

Why You Might Need a Substitute for Paprika?

When and why would you need a paprika substitute? Here are a few possibilities.

Out Of Stock

The most obvious reason would be that you have run out of the ingredient or it is out of stock in your nearly grocery store. However, you still want a similar flavor or a similar appearance.

Perhaps you are in the middle of cooking your meal, so you do not have time to go out and buy paprika.

Something spicier than paprika

So you like paprika. It is vibrant and hot. However, you feel like you need to move on to the next level. Your tongue has developed a taste for something hotter. So, it would help if you found something with a similar taste but with more fire.

On the other hand, you may want to lower the spice a notch. You can also find a few substances that can do that for you. Moreover, you can mix some spices to lower the heat level of the more dominant ones.

Different texture

Some paprika substitutes come in various textures. You may want to play with these variations while keeping the same flavor.

Milder Color Palette

Perhaps you are OK with the mild spice that paprika offers but do not want a color that takes over the dish. Then, you can go for black and white pepper, and any other spice that does not have a bright red color like paprika.

However, it may also mean sacrificing a bit of the flavor, not being able to get the nuanced taste you may be going for.