What can you substitute for paprika if you run out of it or need one with a milder heat level or spiciness? You'll be surprised to find out that many ingredients made it to my best paprika substitute list.
Some are common pantry staples, while others you might haven't heard of yet. Still, you can easily find each of the best paprika substitutes in your local grocery store or online.
What Is Hot Paprika?
From the name itself, you can already guess that hot paprika is a spicy variety of paprika. But more than that, what does this type of paprika have to offer? Let's find out together.
What It's Made Of
All types of paprika are made from peppers belonging to the Capsicum annuum family. However, hot paprika is made using spicier peppers and will include the inner piths.
These peppers are then dried to perfection. Then, the dried peppers are turned into powder form.
This paprika doesn't really have a distinct flavor like smoked paprika and sweet paprika. After all, its main purpose is to add spiciness to your recipes.
But did you know it requires heat to bring out its spicy flavor? It's why it's best to use it in recipes that require cooking.
Like with most spices, you'll come across several varieties of hot paprika. They differ in heat levels and coarseness. From mild to extra-hot and coarse to fine powder, you will surely find a variety that will work best for your recipe.
I also would like to mention that there's a type of hot paprika popular in Europe: the Hungarian variety. It is also available in different coarseness and heat levels, so hot paprika is often called Hungarian paprika.
Thus, please don't be confused when I use the terms hot or spicy paprika and Hungarian paprika interchangeably.
Apart from adding spiciness and heat to the recipe, hot paprika will also act as a colorant to make your dish or sauce look more appetizing.
What to Substitute for Paprika
Now that you have a good idea of what hot or spicy paprika is, let me introduce you to my favorite substitutes for paprika.
1. Cayenne Pepper Powder
Made from dried cayenne peppers, this powder is one of the best paprika substitutes because they have the same color.
Not only that, but it has a distinct heat and spicy taste that won't disappoint. It also adds a smoky flavor to your dishes that can help enhance the overall flavor and aroma of your final dish, marinade, and sauce.
Be warned, though; cayenne pepper powder is hotter than extra-hot paprika. Thus, make sure you use less than what is required in your recipe.
The ratio that works best for my recipes is for every teaspoon of paprika, I use one-fourth or one-third teaspoon of cayenne chili powder, depending on how spicy or hot I want the dish to be.
That said, I advise you to add the cayenne powder gradually to help you find the right amount that will work best for your taste buds or cooking style. Start with a one-eight teaspoon and adjust accordingly.
Best for just about anything.
2. Smoked Paprika
You'll find that smoked paprika is also available in mild (dulce), semi-hot (agridulce), and hot (picante) varieties, so you can definitely use it as a substitute for hot paprika. Like cayenne pepper powder, it can enhance the flavor and aroma of your dish because of its distinct smoky flavor.
However, any variety of smoked paprika won't match the heat level of hot paprika. It's why I also add red pepper flakes, chili flakes, or ground chilies to my recipe when using smoked paprika.
So, how do you replace hot paprika with smoked paprika? You first need to combine your smoked paprika with your chili. Here's the ratio I highly recommend:
- One cup of mild smoked paprika with one-eight teaspoon of your spicy ingredient.
- One cup of semi-hot smoked paprika with one-fourth teaspoon of your spicy ingredient.
- One cup of hot smoked paprika with one-half teaspoon of your spicy ingredient.
Of course, you can add more of the spicy ingredient if you want more heat and spiciness. Then, mix until well blended.
Once done, measure the same amount of the smoked paprika mixture as what the recipe calls for hot or spicy paprika.
Best for taco seasoning, potato dishes, and paellas.
3. Aleppo Chili Powder
Among the most popular chili powders in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine is the Aleppo chili powder. It's made from Halaby or Aleppo peppers, native to Syria and Turkey, that have been dried and ground.
Aleppo chili powder has a milder heat level than hot paprika. I will describe it as a middle ground between cayenne pepper powder and spicy paprika. Thus, it's a good substitute for paprika if you want to tone down the spiciness and heat of your recipe.
To use Aleppo chili powder in your recipe, add the same amount or half the amount of what's listed in your recipe for hot paprika.
Best for bean dishes, dips, and meat rubs.
4. Guajillo Chili Powder
Guajillo peppers are second to jalapeno if we're talking about chilies used in Mexican dishes, but are also commonly used in Southwestern cuisine. Hence, their ground or powder form is among the best Hungarian paprika substitutes.
In terms of heat level, I consider it moderate or milder than hot paprika because it has a distinct earthy flavor and fruity notes that balance the spicy taste.
It's why when I use it to substitute hot paprika in my recipes, I combine it with chili flakes or powder. I usually add one-eight to one-fourth teaspoon of chili to a tablespoon of guajillo chili powder.
Once combined, I add half the same amount of the guajillo chili powder mixture as what the recipe calls for paprika.
Another thing I want you to note when using this mixed substitute spice for paprika is to ensure its distinct flavor goes well with all the ingredients in your recipe. Otherwise, you will end up with a dish with an unbalanced flavor.
Guajillo chili powder also has a reddish brown color instead of bright red, so keep this in mind if you're very particular about the resulting color of what you're preparing.
Best for stews, salsas, soups, chilies, and sauces.
5. Bell Pepper Powder
Bell peppers definitely have a less spicy flavor and heat level than the peppers used to make hot paprika. But I have tried bell pepper powder in many of my recipes, and it worked just fine.
While it's a good paprika substitute when you want mild spiciness and heat when using a 1:1 substitution ratio, you can increase the amount added for more heat. Specifically, you can double the amount of what's listed in your recipe for hot paprika.
Now, if you're on the hunt for bell pepper powder, make sure you choose a product made from yellow or orange bell peppers. Yes, red bell peppers resemble paprika in terms of color, but they're the sweetest variety because they're the ripest.
So, only use bell pepper powder if the color won't affect the overall quality of your dish.
Best for just about anything.
6. Pasilla Pepper Powder
Pasilla pepper powder is made from one of the most popular Mexican chilies: chilaca pepper or chile negro. From its name, you probably already guessed that its color differs from hot paprika.
However, its spiciness and heat level make it an excellent substitute for paprika powder. It's available in mild, moderately hot, and hot varieties, so you can easily replace any hot paprika variety in your recipe.
This substitute for hot paprika also has an earthy flavor that can enhance the overall taste and aroma of what you're preparing.
Mesurement-wise, you won't need to make any adjustments because one teaspoon of paprika is equivalent to one teaspoon of pasilla pepper powder.
Best for salsas and moles.
7. Black or White Pepper Powder
When asking, "What can I substitute for paprika?", black and white pepper powder are the last two ingredients that will come to your mind. After all, the color is very different from paprika. They are also not basically "chili peppers" compared to red chili, jalapeno, and cayenne pepper.
That said, black pepper or white pepper has a distinct spiciness and heat level that can match what paprika brings to the table. In fact, I add the same amount of ground black pepper or white pepper when using it to substitute hot paprika in my recipe.
Best for marinades, rubs, curries, and salad dressings.
8. Chili Powder
With two specific varieties of chili powders included in my list, I can't miss including one that you surely have in your pantry: regular chili powder. But I want to emphasize that you must only use it as a substitute for Hungarian paprika when you have no other options.
Remember that not all regular chili powders are the same. Most are made with a blend of different peppers, but some contain other spices like onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, and oregano.
Always make sure you check the label of the chili powder you intend to use to know if it will work for your recipe. I also advise reducing the amount of any of the ingredients included in the spice blend to avoid serving overly seasoned dishes.
So, how can you substitute chili powder for paprika? Well, I can't really give you a standard substitution ratio. It's best to add it gradually, give your recipe a taste, and then adjust accordingly.
Best for just about anything.
9. Cajun Spice
Like regular chili powder, only use cajun spice when you're in a pinch or if it's the only Hungarian paprika substitute available in your pantry and you can't run to the grocery. That's because it contains several ingredients.
Apart from different varieties of peppers, such as black, white, and cayenne pepper, cajun spice contains other spices and herbs. They can include onion powder, garlic powder, salt, thyme, rosemary, and oregano.
It's why cajun spice isn't just spicy. It also has a distinct earthy, smoky flavor. While this flavor profile is good news, you have to make sure you tweak the measurement of the other spices and herbs used in your recipe.
Now, to use cajun spice as a substitute for paprika, add it gradually to your recipe. Make a taste test before adding more. I usually start with one-eight of a teaspoon for every teaspoon of paprika the recipe calls for.
Best for rubs, sauces, and marinades.
10. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Red pepper flakes might be an unexpected answer to "What is a substitute for paprika?", but trust me when I tell you that it's one of the best paprika substitutes!
Yes, it will change the overall texture and appearance of your final dish or sauce. But, when it comes to heat and flavor profile, red pepper flakes are the closest to Hungarian or spicy paprika.
Why not? Like paprika, they're made from a combination of dried peppers belonging to the Capsicum annuum family.
If you're worried about the difference in texture, you can turn your crushed red pepper flakes into powder. Simply place a good amount in your coffee or spice grinder and pulse.
One thing that you might need to pay attention to is how hot red pepper flakes are. Unlike paprika, you can't find mild, medium, and hot varieties of crushed red pepper flakes.
So, how do you use crushed red pepper flakes to substitute for paprika in your recipes? You will need to add one-third of the amount to the same amount of paprika required in your recipe.
I highly advise that you gradually add the powdered or crushed red pepper flakes to your recipe. Start with one-third of a teaspoon for every teaspoon of paprika. Give it a taste to check the heat and spiciness, and add more when needed.
Best for soups, stews, Mediterranean salads, hummus, and sauces.
11. Liquid Hot Sauce
Another entry on my list that you might not be expecting is liquid hot sauce because, again, the texture is different. But when it comes to heat and color, any liquid hot sauce is a good substitute for paprika.
Simply replace your paprika with the same amount of hot sauce available in your pantry or condiment rack, and you're good to go!
However, if you want to play it safe because you're unsure whether the hot chili sauce will make your recipe hotter than you want it to, then add it gradually. Start by adding one-fourth of the amount and adjust from there.
Best for just about anything.
12. Tomato Sauce Plus Chili Powder
Who would have thought that when you combine tomato sauce with chili powder, you end up with one of the best substitutes for paprika? The tomato sauce will provide the required color and a bit of umami-ness, while the chili powder will add the kick of spice and heat.
To make this paprika substitute, combine one part of tomato sauce with two parts of chili powder. Blend them well before measuring.
Now, to replace paprika with this blend, add the same amount as what the recipe calls for paprika.
Best for marinades, soups, and stews.
13. Tomato Juice Plus Hot Sauce
Consider combining tomato juice and hot sauce if you want a spicier and hotter blend. Simply follow the same ratios as above to make the blend and replace paprika in your recipes.
Best for marinades, soups, and stews.
Whipping Up Delicious Spicy Dishes Without Hot Paprika
"What's a substitute for paprika?" is a question you can now easily answer with the help of my list. Simply choose the best paprika substitute for your specific recipe and follow the how-tos and tips I have provided for each ingredient alternative.
Homemade Spicy Paprika Substitute
- Paper towel
- Chopping board
- Dehydrator (or oven, baking pan, and parchment paper)
- Coffee or spice grinder
- Small glass jar with lid
- 15 fresh red chili peppers
- If you'll use your oven to dehydrate the peppers, pre-heat it to 200F (94C).
- Wash your fresh peppers.
- Place the washed peppers in your colander to drain.
- Place sheets of paper towel on your chopping board and then transfer the peppers on it.
- Grab a paper towel sheet and dab the peppers to dry them more quickly.
- Place your dry peppers on your dehydrator tray. If you're using your oven, place parchment paper on a baking pan before placing the peppers.
- Put the peppers in your dehydrator and set the appliance to 130F (54C). Leave the peppers to dehydrate until they're crumbly, which takes around four hours. For those using their ovens, the dehydration process can take around one to three hours. Make sure you check the peppers after an hour if they're already crumbly. If not, check after every 30 minutes to avoid burning them.
- Once crumbly, remove the tray or pan from your kitchen appliance.
- Place enough dehydrated peppers in your coffee or spice grinder and pulse until you have finely ground peppers.
- Transfer your homemade paprika substitute to your small glass jar, seal tightly, and store it in a cool, dry place.
- Use serrano or bell peppers if you're making mild paprika.
- The shelf life of this homemade paprika is two to three years when stored properly.
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