Among the many struggles I have faced as a home cook was finding a suitable smoked paprika substitute. It's one of the most challenging ingredients to replace because it isn't easy to replicate its aroma and flavor profile.
It took me years and many trials and errors to find the best substitutes for smoked paprika I could rely on as and when needed. So once again, I am sharing with you my list of ingredient replacements to save you from the stress and dilemma of wondering what to use in your recipe.
What Is Smoked Paprika?
Before we answer "What can I substitute for smoked paprika?", let's first get to know smoked paprika better. This way, you will have a good understanding of why you can replace it with the ingredients I have listed below.
How It's Made
Also known as Spanish smoked paprika, Spanish paprika, or pimenton, this paprika variety is made from sweet and mild capsicum peppers known as pimenton.
The peppers are smoked over burning oak wood and then dried. After which, they're ground to a fine powder.
Aroma and Flavor Profile
As you would expect, smoked paprika has a bold smoky flavor and aroma. It also has a slightly sweet flavor that blends well with the paprika's smokiness. You'll also find some varieties with a bit of heat level or mild spiciness, while others are bittersweet.
Apart from giving your recipes a good amount of smokiness and a bit of sweetness (sometimes spiciness), smoked paprika adds a unique color to your dishes, sauces, dressings, and marinades. Its vivid orange-red or burnt-red color will make whatever you're serving look more appetizing.
12 Best Smoked Paprika Substitutes
Now that you're more familiar with the main ingredient you're replacing in your recipes, here are my highly recommended alternatives to smoked or Spanish paprika:
1. Chipotle Powder
Chipotle pepper powder, chipotle chili powder, or chipotle powder is one of my favorite substitutes for smoked paprika when making my adobo sauce. However, you can also use it in other recipes.
Made from jalapeno peppers, chipotle chili powder has a bit of spiciness or heat that won't overpower any ingredients. After all, it has an intense smoky flavor!
The color of chipotle chilli powder is also similar to smoked paprika. Another great thing that I love most about chipotle chilli powder is it's easy to find. Most of you probably even have it in your pantries, waiting to be used maximally.
To use, add the same amount of chipotle chili powder to your recipe as what's required for smoked paprika.
Best for just about anything.
2. Smoked Sea Salt
If you still haven't tried using smoked sea salt or stock up on it, it's time to do so! Not only is it a good substitute for Spanish paprika. This type of salt is also one of the best ingredients if you just want to add a smoky flavor to your dishes, sauces, and more.
Keep in mind that smoked sea salt has a subtle smoky flavor and aroma, so it might not work for recipes with strong-flavored ingredients.
Smoked sea salt also has a coarser texture and a bigger size than paprika. And, of course, it won't add any color to your recipes. Thus, consider other substitutes for smoked paprika if any or all of these can affect the overall quality of your dish.
As a type of salt, you must also reduce the amount of or completely remove the salt listed in your recipe. Otherwise, you might serve salty meals!
With those out of the way, to replace smoky paprika in your recipe, add three-fourths of the amount listed in your recipe. For instance, add ¾ teaspoon of smoked sea salt for every teaspoon of smoked paprika required in your recipe.
Best for stir-fries, salad dressings, and grilled meat, chicken, and fish.
3. Liquid Smoke
Compared to the last two ingredients, liquid smoke has an intense smoky aroma and flavor. Thus, it's the perfect substitute for smoked paprika if you truly need smokiness in your dishes and you're using other strongly-flavored ingredients.
This intense flavor and aroma also mean a little goes a long way with liquid smoke. It's why I only use half the amount of what the recipe calls for when using it to replace smoked paprika.
Since liquid smoke won't give your dishes paprika's signature color, I mix it with regular paprika. Doing so also gives my dishes a more familiar paprika taste.
If you plan to go this route, combine one part of liquid smoke with two parts of regular paprika.
Best for just about anything.
4. Ancho Powder
Also known as ancho pepper powder and ancho chili powder, this good smoked paprika substitute is made from dried poblano peppers.
It has a sweet, spicy, and smoky flavor and is deep red in color. This flavor profile and color are why I sometimes use ancho chili powder to replace sweet paprika and regular paprika in my recipes.
Although it has a mild flavor and aroma, I only replace Spanish paprika in my recipe with half or three-fourths of the amount listed in my recipe. This substitution ratio is enough to add smokiness without making my dishes sweet and spicy.
Of course, you can always add the same amount of ancho chili powder as smoked paprika if you think its slightly sweet and spicy flavor won't affect the overall balance of flavor.
Best for deviled eggs, omelets, enchiladas, salsas, stews, and soups.
5. Aleppo Chili Powder
Aleppo chili powder is an ingredient that doesn't only work as a good smoked paprika substitute; I also love using it as a hot paprika replacement. It has a smoky, earthy flavor combined with a slightly sweet, spicy, and fruity or tangy flavor.
With this complex flavor profile, the amount you need to add to your recipe will depend on what you're going after besides a smoky flavor.
If you also want your dish to have a slightly spicy flavor, replace smoked paprika with the same amount of Aleppo chili powder. If mild spiciness is what you need, together with the smokiness, only add half the amount.
Lastly, only add one-fourth of the amount of smoked paprika listed in your recipe if you only need to add a smoky, earthy flavor to your dish.
Best for bean dishes, dips, meat rubs, salads, and deviled eggs.
6. Regular Paprika and Cumin
If you have regular paprika and ground cumin in your pantry or spice rack, you're in luck! Combining these two popular spices will give you a great substitute for smoked paprika.
Regular paprika provides the paprika flavor and color, while ground cumin is responsible for the smoky, earthy flavor.
To create an excellent spice blend, combine two parts of regular paprika with one part of cumin powder. Then, replace your smoked paprika with the same amount of this spice mix.
If you don't have regular paprika, you can use sweet paprika instead.
Best for stews, soups, sauces, marinades, and rubs.
7. Hot or Hungarian Paprika and Cumin or Liquid Smoke
We already know that the answer to "Can you substitute paprika for smoked paprika?" is a yes, but you must combine it with an ingredient with a smoky flavor or earthy flavor.
The same goes for hot paprika or Hungarian paprika. You can combine it with cumin or liquid smoke, especially if you want to add a bit of a spicy taste to your dish.
To create the substitute, combine two parts of hot or Hungarian paprika with one part of cumin. Or, for every teaspoon of Hungarian or hot paprika, add one drop of liquid smoke.
To use as a paprika substitute, add one-fourth of the amount of the required smoked paprika in your recipe. If you want a spicier, smokier dish, add half the amount.
Best for just about anything.
8. Chili Powder and Cumin
If you think hot paprika is a bit too strong for your taste or your guest's, you can use regular chili powder. To make the blend and use it to substitute smoked paprika in your recipe, follow the same instructions as above. Just replace the hot or Hungarian paprika with regular chili powder.
Best for just about anything.
What if you only have cumin? Fret not because you can also use it to substitute smoked paprika in your recipes. That is if your dish really doesn't need paprika's color and other flavors.
In terms of substitution ratio, I add half the amount of or the same amount of cumin as what the recipe calls for smoked paprika. This will depend on the type of dish I'm preparing since cumin also has a distinct flavor.
That said, as I always advise, add the ingredient gradually if you're unsure if it can throw off the dish's balance of flavor and overall quality. Start by adding one-fourth of the amount and adjust accordingly.
Best for curries, stews, soups, and stir-fries.
10. Spice Blends
Did you know that some of the best smoked paprika substitute options are the spices you probably commonly use in the kitchen? Here are some of my favorites:
Replace your Spanish paprika with the same amount of creole spice, and you'll be surprised by how well it can enhance your dish's taste, aroma, and look. It has an orange color and a tangy flavor with a touch of spiciness due to the cayenne chili powder and/or crushed red pepper flakes.
Since the spice also contains garlic powder, oregano, thyme, and black and white pepper, it has a distinct smoky flavor that can mimic what smoked paprika adds to your dish.
Best for just about anything.
California Chili Powder and Other Spices
Although this spice has a coarser texture than smoked paprika, California chili powder blends with other spices. Plus, it's made from mild, unroasted peppers, so you won't have to worry about the spicy taste.
Combine half a teaspoon of California chili powder with one-fourth teaspoon of garlic powder and one-eight teaspoon of thyme and oregano powder to give it a smoky, zesty flavor. Then, replace smoked paprika with the same amount of this blend.
Also, you will need to tweak your recipe if it includes any of the spices mentioned. Decrease the amount listed in your recipe or completely remove the ingredient to ensure you have a well-balanced dish.
Best for Asian and Mexican dishes.
Other Spice Blends
If your smoked paprika's only purpose is to add a smoky flavor to your recipe, you can replace it with the same amount of popular spices in your pantry. That includes oregano, thyme, garlic, and smoked onion powder.
Just make sure you adjust the amount of the ingredient you'll use if your recipe also calls for it. Doing so will ensure you won't end up with an overly seasoned dish.
Best for stir-fries, rubs, and marinades.
11. Toasted or Roasted Bell Peppers
When asking, "What is a substitute for smoked paprika?", you probably won't think about fresh ingredients like bell peppers. If you have nothing else and can't run to the grocery, toast or roast your yellow, orange, or red bell peppers.
The toasting or roasting will give the peppers a smoked flavor, while the peppers will give your dish hints of paprika flavors.
In terms of measurement, it's a bit complicated because of the difference in form and texture. But what I do is slice the peppers into dice. Then, I add the same amount of diced toasted or roasted peppers as what the recipe calls for smoked paprika.
Best for casseroles, soups, and stews.
12. Tomato Sauce, Paste or Powder, Spices, and Herbs
Tomatoes don't have the same flavor and aroma as peppers, but color-wise, they won't disappoint! It also has a tangy or zesty, slightly sweet flavor that can add depth to your dish.
To make a great substitute for Spanish paprika, make sure you combine tomato sauce, tomato powder, or tomato paste with other spices like smoked onion, garlic, oregano, thyme, black pepper, or white pepper powder to give it an earthy or smoked flavor.
Simply combine two parts of tomato sauce, paste, or powder with one part of your chosen spice. Then to substitute for smoked paprika in your recipe, follow a 1:1 ratio.
Best for soups and stews.
Adding a Smoky Flavor and Aroma Without the Paprika
With the many options I have provided in my list, it's now easier to find smoked paprika substitutes that will work best for your recipe. Whether you need to add smoky flavor and aroma (even color) or just flavor and aroma, there is an available substitute for smoked paprika in your local grocery store and/or kitchen pantry.
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Homemade Smoked Paprika
- Baking Pan
- Small bucket
- Chopping board
- Large bowl
- fine-mesh sieve
- Paper towel
- Parchment Paper
- Oakwood chips
- 1 lb red bell peppers (0.45kg)
- Soak a good amount of oakwood chips in a bucket full of water for 15 minutes, preheat your oven to 125F (52C) or 170F (77C), and cover your baking pan with parchment paper.
- Wash the peppers thoroughly with running water.
- Place the washed peppers in your colander to drain excess water.
- Once drained, place the peppers on top of two layers of paper towel.
- Grab sheets of paper towel and tap the peppers dry.
- Once dry, remove the pepper's top with the stem and the seeds.
- Slice the peppers into two and remove the white ribs and any remaining seeds.
- Slice the de-seeded peppers lengthwise into four to eight pieces.
- Load your smoker with the soaked oakwood chips and turn your smoker on.
- Place the sliced peppers in your smoker basket and smoke them for at least three hours.
- Once done, place the smoked pepper slices on your baking pan.
- Place the baking pan with pepper slices in your oven and allow the peppers to dehydrate for five hours at 125F or three hours at 170F. Make sure to check the peppers every hour to avoid burning them. Sometimes, you will already have perfectly dehydrated or dried peppers before reaching the three- or five-hour period.
- Once done, place the dehydrated or dried peppers in your spice grinder and pulse to change them into a powdered form.
- Transfer your homemade smoked paprika to your glass container, seal tightly, and store in a cool, dry place.
- When stored properly, the homemade paprika has a shelf life of one to two years.
- You can use your regular charcoal grill if you don't have a smoker.
- Make sure all your windows are open and exhaust fans are on when dehydrating the peppers, as they emit strong, spicy odors.
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