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Are you out of paprika? Are you looking for a good substitute for paprika? How about 9 good paprika substitutes that you can use in various recipes? If this interests you, read more about all these paprika alternatives below!


What is paprika?

Paprika is a vibrant red or orange-red ground spice made from different types of ripe dried red peppers which may include cayenne peppers, paprika peppers, aleppo peppers, bell peppers, poblano peppers, sweet peppers etc. This kind of spice is used most popularly in goulash, chicken paprikash or as a garnish.

Flavor of paprika

Because paprika can be made from different types of peppers, its flavor and heat levels can vary widely.

Smoked paprika, made from peppers that are dried over oak fire adds that smoky rich, deep flavor and can range from mild to hot. 

Regular paprika, made mostly with bell peppers and other sweet red peppers, is more subtle in flavor. Some people even comment that sweet paprika adds no flavor to dishes, and is only useful for its bright red color.

Hungarian paprika can be mild or somewhat, with a very robust flavor and is made from pulverizing dried red paprika pepper pods.

Hot paprika is made with spicier varieties of peppers and has some level of heat.

Now that you know about the different types of paprika, here are the best substitutes for each:

Substitutes for smoked paprika

Before getting into the smoked paprika substitutes, here are some frequently asked questions about smoked paprika.

What’s in smoked paprika?

Smoked paprika also called smoked Spanish paprika is made from ripened, dried pimiento peppers that have been dried and smoked over oak fires and ground into a fine red smoky powder.

Note, smoked paprika powder can be mild or hot based on the peppers used to make it.

Here are the best alternatives for smoked paprika:

Chipotle powder

chipotle powder

Chipotle powder has a similar, but not identical flavor to smoked paprika, therefore, it is a good paprika substitute. 

Chipotle powder is a powdered seasoning made from grinding ripened, dried smoked jalapeños.

Because chipotle powder is smoked, like smoked paprika, it has that smokiness that will work to replace smoked paprika in any recipe. Chipotle powder also has similar hue to paprika, so that makes it even better as a paprika replacement.

Note, that chipotle powder is as much as 4 times more spicy than smoked paprika, so keep that in mind if the recipe does not require a lot of heat.

Chipotle powder can be an alternative to smoked paprika in recipes such as stews, soups, eggs, vegetable dishes, and also for dry rubs for chicken, meats, seafood, ribs, beef and more. It’s also great for adding to barbecues.

A good ratio for smoked paprika to chipotle powder is 2:1 + 1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke. Using less chipotle powder will lessen the heat and the smokiness, but, adding the liquid smoke will help add some extra smokiness to the dish. 

Tomato Paste + liquid smoke 

a smoked paprika substitute is tomato paste and liquid smoke

This paprika substitute might seem a little unusual but it can actually work.

If the recipe you’re making calls for smokiness as well as that vibrant red color, a combination of tomato paste and liquid smoke is ideal.

Tomato paste + liquid smoke will work great for recipes such as soups and stews where the texture of the tomato paste won’t be a problem.

For every tablespoon of smoked paprika powder needed, replace with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste for color and 1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke for smokiness.

Regular paprika + cumin

paprika and cumin mix for a smoked paprika sub

One question that is often asked is,

Can you use regular paprika instead of smoked paprika in a recipe?

The answer is yes.

If you have no smoked paprika, but you have the regular paprika, also referred to as ‘paprika’ on hand, then using this in addition to some cumin is another great replacement.

The regular paprika will add that rich red color to your recipe and the cumin will add that smokiness.

Some people even go on to use them separately. However, separately, each adds something while omitting something else.

For example, regular paprika on its own will add the rich red color that typically paprika adds to a dish, but the deep, rich smoky flavor would be missing.

On the other hand, cumin would add some of that rich smoky flavor, but the color of cumin is brownish-yellow, so that rich red color would be missing.

Substitutes for regular paprika (also called paprika)

Regular paprika, also labeled as ‘paprika’ on most packages is the most commonly used type in the US. It is very mildly flavored with the bright red color and is typically used to garnish deviled eggs, potato salads or add color in many other recipes.

It is not spicy. In fact, it is very mild and has that sweet pepper flavor and therefore, many people use it just for its ability to add that nice rich color to food.

Therefore, the best substitutes for regular paprika are:

Tomato powder

Tomato powder is made from dehydrated tomatoes that have been turned into a powder and used for any dish that requires tomatoes. 

Beyond that, tomato powder can be used for recipes where you need that red color but you wouldn’t mind not having that fruity flavor. 

Use tomato powder as an alternative for paprika in recipes such as soups, stews, and even to garnish. 

Note, not all tomato powders are made the same, so be very careful not to purchase tomato powder that has that brownish color as it will not work to impart that rich red color you’re looking to replace.

Homemade paprika (made with red bell peppers)

red bell pepper powder as a substitute for sweet paprika

This is another good paprika substitute worth trying out. To make:

Thinly slice a few red bell peppers (make sure to discard seeds and core)

Place the sliced red pepper on a baking rack.

Preheat the oven to 150F. Then place the rack with the sliced red peppers in a preheated at 150F for 1-2 hours, making sure to leave the oven door cracked open to allow the moisture from the pepper to escape. 

Once dried place the dried red bell peppers into a coffee grinder and pulverize until a fine red powder is formed. This homemade paprika is a really good substitute for paprika in fried chicken. 

Use this bell pepper powder on a 1:1 ratio in any recipe that calls for paprika. 

Substitutes for Hungarian paprika

There are 8 types of paprika from Hungary each with a varying level of sharpness and heat. They are:

  • különleges – this is the mildest Hungarian paprika with the most vibrant red color.
  • csípősmentes csemege – Exquisitely delicate and mild with rich flavor.
  • csemege – Delicate, but more pungent.
  • csípős csemege – very pungent.
  • édesnemes – Most commonly used, bright red and slightly pungent.
  • félédes – medium pungency and semi-sweet.
  • rózsa – mildly pungency and pale red in color
  • erős – hotter than all the rest and light brown to orange in color because it was made with the seeds intact.

While all these classifications exist the most popular type imported into the US is the édesnemes or sweet Hungarian paprika.

Note, while it is called sweet Hungarian paprika, it does not have the sweetness that one would expect like in sugar. In this case ‘sweet’ refers to the fact that there is no lingering slightly bitter taste to this type of paprika as is very typical with the regular paprika. 

The word sweet is also used to differentiate this type of paprika from the hotter paprika. 

This section will focus on outlining suitable substitutes for sweet Hungarian paprika:

Tomato paste + chili powder to replace Hungarian sweet paprika

The tomato paste will serve to add the color, while the chili powder will add the deep, more robust flavor that sweet Hungarian imparts.

This is not a perfect sweet Hungarian paprika substitute, however, it can work in a pinch for adding some of that sweet paprika flavor.

For every 1 teaspoon of sweet Hungarian paprika needed, replace with 2/3 teaspoon tomato paste and 1/3 teaspoon chili powder.

Hot paprika substitutes 

Hot paprika packs some heat and it is made from a mixture of sweet paprika (with seeds) and cayenne pepper for that spicy kick.

Best hot paprika substitutes are:

Cayenne pepper (for color)

Cayenne pepper is a good substitute for hot paprika. This is so because it has a similar color. Now keep in mind that cayenne pepper is super hot compared to spicy paprika, so use a lot less cayenne pepper when alternating for hot paprika.

A good sub ratio is 1/4 teaspoon cayenne for every 1 tablespoon of hot paprika.


Sweet paprika + cayenne pepper  

Another good substitute for hot paprika is a combination of sweet paprika and cayenne pepper. The sweet paprika will give the paprika flavor and the cayenne pepper will add some spice. This mixture makes a good replacement for hot paprika in a pinch.

Use 3/4 tablespoons of sweet paprika with 1/4 tablespoon of cayenne pepper to replace 1 tablespoon of spicy paprika powder. 

Where to buy paprika?

Now all these substitutes can work, but, maybe you don’t want to make al these mixes as you’d prefer to buy a few (or all) the types mentioned here. If this is the case, you can find some amazing deals online.

  • Smoked paprika – Check out the price on Amazon
  • Paprika – Check out the price on Amazon
  • Sweet Hungarian paprika – Check out the price on Amazon
  • Hot paprika – Check out the price on Amazon

More spice substitutes

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