Smoked paprika is perfect to use in almost all meat recipes but it is best known for being incorporated in BBQs for rubs, sauces, and stews.
It does not only give a distinct flavor to the dish, but it also adds a rich color to it that could range from orange to red, and when cooked, can give a beautiful caramelized brown color.
Since smoked paprika is a staple in the pantry, it can be commonly found in most supermarkets and grocery stores. However, you cannot always say when you’ll run out of it. Here are some substitutes you can try:
- Chili powder
- Regular paprika powder
- Sweet paprika powder
- Cayenne powder
- Red pepper flakes
- Cajun powder
- Chipotle powder
- Liquid smoke
- Chili sauce
Don’t worry too much if you still cannot find anything from this list. We will delve deeper into the full list later on.
But first, let us understand why is this spice so popular.
13 Best Substitute For Smoked Paprika
Smoked paprika also known as Spanish paprika is a popular spice that originated in Spain but is now widely used in many parts of the world.
It is made primarily by smoking peppers and drying them over oak wood to achieve the specific smoky flavor that we want.
If you are looking for the same spicy and smoky flavor, some of the best alternatives that you can use include red pepper flakes or cajun powder whenever smoked paprika is not available.
Of course, you can still test out the rest of the alternatives mentioned below.
Chili powder is a spice that is composed mainly of cayenne papers. It is also a perfect alternative since it is commonly used in many dishes, which also means that it is widely available.
Chili powder is a popular substitute for smoked paprika because it is tasty and has little to no stinging heat that leaves your mouth sore after eating it.
To those who don’t want to complicate their dish, chili powder is a good alternative since it doesn’t really add a different taste to food, regardless of how much you put to it.
Regular paprika powder
Of course, there is no better way to substitute a spice than to just go with the basics. Regular paprika powder can suffice if smoked paprika is not available.
After all, it is also the same paprika spice that we want, minus the strong hint of smoky flavor to it. But other than that, you will achieve the same color and paprika flavor when added to your dish.
Sweet paprika powder
While many people enjoy the pungent, smoky flavor of smoked paprika, there are also those who dislike it. Good thing, paprika comes in a variety of flavors, which include the sweet one.
Sweet paprika will bring the same appearance to your dish, but it will have a lighter flavor. It is also a good option if you’re just starting out in the kitchen.
In case you want to spice up a little more, you may add a dash of cumin to obtain that smoky flavor without dominating the sweetness of the component.
Although sweet paprika powder will not give you that hint of smoke that you want, it will give a little sweetness in your dish, which can slightly improve the overall taste of your dish.
Although this spice is far hotter than any of the other options, cayenne pepper is commonly available in most spice cabinets.
Its flavor is normally bland, so you won’t have to worry about overpowering your food with a strong flavor. However, you should be aware that dried cayenne can impart a slight smoky undertone to your meal.
Cayenne powder is not quite as smoky as you’d need for an ideal substitute, but sometimes, what you have on hand is all that matters.
Just keep in mind that it’s a lot hotter than the other options on our list (30,000 to 50,000 Scoville heat units), so only go for it if you like it spicy. Start with a third of the recommended amount of smoked paprika in a recipe and work your way up.
Red pepper flakes
Red pepper flakes and cayenne powder both came from the same peppers so it would also work great if you use it as a substitute to smoked paprika. Red pepper flakes have a spicy, smoky, and fiery flavor that would surely remind you of smoked paprika.
Depending on how it was prepared, the heat level ranges from mild to spicy. Since some red pepper flakes are spicier than smoked paprika, you should know how to adjust the amount to taste.
Red pepper flakes are also easy to make. Most red peppers will dry out on their own when left, but you can also dry them under the sun to develop their sweetness. But if you want to save time and energy, you can also use an industrial oven to dry them out. This way, you can easily pulverize them.
Cajun Powder(Cajun Seasoning)
Cajun powder is a mixture of a variety of peppers and other spices. It can be used as a substitute for smoked paprika in the same way that cayenne pepper can.
Because the taste of the pepper mixture is akin to smoked paprika rather than cayenne pepper, the end product will be just great.
What’s more, since Cajun powder is a mix of different spices, it can even be better than smoked paprika. When added to dishes, it provides a burst of the different palates acquired from various flavors.
Overall, Cajun powder can be considered as one of the best alternatives to smoked paprika given the flavor, color, and aroma it gives to every recipe.
Chipotle powder and smoked paprika evidently have similar color and flavor profiles. Aside from giving a smoky and spicy heat to your dish, they are also both pungent spices.
Chipotle powder is derived from smoked dried jalapeño peppers, which is the main ingredient that provides the earthy flavor that we are looking for in a perfect smoked paprika substitute.
Chipotle powder is one of the best options to try because of its close similarity to the taste of smoked paprika. And because it is used by many, you can also find it in most spice cabinets.
Liquid smoke, like smoked sea salt, imparts a hickory, smoky flavor to your cuisine. It’s a natural result of wood burning that may be found in bottles in most supermarkets.
Just as liquid smoke can give you that smoky taste and aroma to your dish, it will not, however, turn your meal crimson.
This isn’t always a problem. However, if you want your dish to look like the original smoked paprika, mix liquid smoke with other red spices like chili powder, cayenne, paprika, and many more.
Also, keep an eye out for the liquid smoke as it has a very, strong taste. To substitute, start first with 1 tbsp. of liquid smoke when replacing 1 tbsp. of smoked paprika. Adjust accordingly, depending on your “smoky flavor” preference.
Since liquid smoke is concentrated and can be too overpowering, it is best used in BBQ sauces, marinades, and stews.
If there is no smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, or chili powder available, you can use chili sauce as an alternative.
In any dish, hot sauce or any other spicy sauce made with chili peppers and other components such as oil, vinegar, and water can be used in place of smoked paprika.
If you want the flavor to take precedence over the color, spicy sauce is the way to go.
Chili sauce contains several other spices aside from chili powder, so it will make your cuisine extra flavorful.
Although tomato powder is not a common spice that you can find anywhere, it could be a viable substitute for smoked paprika in sauce or powder form in any meal that asks for it.
Tomato powder, like smoked paprika, is made from finely crushed concentrated tomatoes, therefore the two components have a lot in common in terms of color and texture but not entirely in taste.
It is a one-of-a-kind ingredient that adds a strong tomato flavor without adding liquid or texture to your dish. To feel its taste on your food, you’ll need to sprinkle a touch more than the typical amount.
Smoked sea salt
Smoked sea salt is a pungent salt that has been smoked for up to two weeks with a variety of bark-free woods.
Because of the diverse flavors and smoky tang accumulated by the salt during the process, it is popularly used in a lot of recipes that call for smoked paprika.
Smoked salt is ideal for enhancing the flavor of BBQ rubs, sauces, and cocktails. It’s also vegetarian-friendly, which is great if you are conscious about your health.
Smoked sea salt is another great alternative to incorporate mild smoky notes on your dish. It is colorless and flavorless, so it won’t overpower whatever you’re cooking. However, there is, of course, a limit to how much salt you can use.
Preferably, smoked sea salt is best used for softer recipes with fewer competing flavors.
Black pepper is a staple spice in the pantry, and surely, every household has at least a glass bottle of peppercorns or ground black pepper ready in their kitchen.
When no other spice is available, resorting to black pepper as a substitute to smoked paprika is the answer.
Black pepper has a significant smoky and spicy flavor that can mimic the taste of smoked paprika. When added in specific amounts, it gives a different smack to the dish.
This alternative, however, does not have the crimson tint of paprika. So if you are only looking for something to spice up your dish, and you are not after the color, pepper will get the job done.
Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice that is linked to the toxic shrub of the same name. However, the edible variant is safe to eat and may be distinguished by its bright red berries.
Sumac’s flavor is rather startling, since the deep red spice tastes like fresh lemon juice. This sweet but sour flavor is followed by a powerful and sharp punch.
Sumac combines particularly well with other spices like thyme, cumin, and chili, despite its broad flavor profile.[Source]
Sumac is not a common spice so it will be most unlikely to be in your cupboard, but if it is, it will give your food a crimson paprika-like color.
However, do not expect to get the smoky undertones because they will be surely absent from the flavor profile.
Smoked paprika is perfect to use in almost all meat recipes but it is best known for being incorporated in BBQs for rubs, sauces, and stews. It does not only give a distinct flavor to the dish but it also adds a rich color to it.