Looking for the best substitutes for paprika?
Here are 14 spices and alternatives that make for a perfect substitute, without sacrificing flavor!
No need to panic if you’ve run out of this pantry staple. I have you covered.
With these substitutes, you’ll hardly be able to tell that you’re missing the paprika.
With others, the taste might not be exactly the same, but it will be delicious.
And if you’re worried that your recipe will lack color, fear not.
Each of these substitutes features a vibrant, reddish hue just like paprika.
Every one of these paprika substitutes will add some fabulous flavor to your meal.
What is Paprika?
To understand why these substitutes work so well, you have to know a little about paprika.
Let’s discuss why this kitchen staple is so popular.
Paprika is made from dried, pulverized peppers.
Most varieties of paprika come from different peppers in the same pepper family.
So, they can vary from sweet to spicy.
But your basic paprika is made from the mildest peppers.
And though its flavor is slightly smoky and totally savory, it’s used mostly for color.
It definitely adds delicate peppery goodness, but no heat or sweetness.
This is why it’s such a versatile spice. You can use it on just about anything, from deviled eggs to spice rubs.
The Best Substitutes for Paprika
The best substitutes for paprika will perform similar functions as paprika in cooking.
So, they must add a peppery flavor.
And depending on your dish, you want them to add sweetness, heat, or smoke. Or even a combo of all three!
And they must add some color. That’s half the reason to use paprika. After all, we eat with our eyes first.
The following are the absolute best substitutes for basic paprika.
1. Smoked Paprika
Smoked paprika (pimentón) is made in Spain from peppers smoked over oak fires.
It has an incredibly deep and smoky flavor that will excite your tastebuds.
Smoked paprika actually comes in three spice levels: dulce (mild), agridulce (medium), and picante (hot).
The amount of heat depends on the peppers used.
But no matter the spiciness, smoked paprika will impart a rich flavor to your dish.
I personally love to use dulce smoked paprika the most. It’s utterly delicious.
Substitution Ratio: substitute equal portions of mild or medium smoked paprika for basic paprika. Add hot smoked paprika to taste. (1:1)
2. Sweet Paprika
Sometimes called Hungarian paprika, sweet paprika is the national spice of Hungary.
Technically, Hungary boasts numerous varieties of paprika.
But the sweet kind is the most commonly used. And it’s featured in their cultural dishes like paprikash and goulash.
It’s no surprise that sweet paprika has a sweet taste with notes of fruitiness and bitterness.
That’s because it’s made from mild red peppers like bell peppers and sweet peppers.
Substitution Ratio: substitute equal portions of sweet paprika for basic paprika. (1:1)
3. Aleppo Chili Powder
Aleppo chili powder is made from Aleppo peppers, and it’s one of my favorite spices!
It’s commonly used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.
It has a deep, earthy, smoky flavor that tastes like cumin.
Aleppo chili powder is a slow-burning spice. It starts really mild, but the heat will build in the back of your mouth.
It’s quite pleasant. But if you’re not big on heat, start with less than the recipe calls for.
You can work your way to the full amount from there.
Substitution Ratio: substitute a half portion of Aleppo chili powder for paprika. (1:2) Feel free to add more to taste. 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper = 1 teaspoon paprika
4. Ancho Chile Powder
Ancho chile powder is a fabulous substitute for paprika!
Ancho chiles are extremely mild and super flavorful. They’re made from dried and roasted poblano peppers.
If you’re a fan of authentic Mexican food, you’ll recognize the flavor. It’s rich, sweet, and smoky.
Substitution Ratio: substitute a half portion of ancho chile powder for paprika. (1:2) Feel free to add more to taste. 1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder = 1 teaspoon paprika
5. Black Pepper
I think most people will have black pepper on hand.
And it’s a good substitute when you don’t have anything else. It has a little bite but no real heat.
Substitution Ratio: substitute equal portions of black pepper for paprika. (1:1)
6. Cajun Spice
Cajun spice is a savory, smoky seasoning that typically contains some paprika.
It also usually features garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black/white pepper, oregano, and thyme.
Some blends also use cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes.
You could even use it to replace all the spices in your recipe.
Substitution Ratio: substitute Cajun spice to taste.
7. Cayenne Pepper Powder
Cayenne pepper is hot, hot HOT! Cayenne peppers have a Scoville rating of 40,000.
Bell peppers have a 0 rating and jalapeños have an 8,000 for reference.
The powder is delicious, but it’s best used to replace hot paprika in a recipe.
But it can replace basic paprika as well.
Unless you like things really spicy, I wouldn’t recommend starting with the full amount.
Substitution Ratio: substitute a quarter portion of ancho chile powder for paprika. (1:4) Feel free to add more to taste. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder = 1 teaspoon paprika
8. Chili Powder
Chili powder is the perfect substitute if color is what you’re after.
As for flavor, it does not taste the same, but it’s still pretty scrumptious.
Chili powder is actually a blend of savory spices, including paprika. That’s why the flavor differs so much from plain paprika.
Substitution Ratio: substitute chili powder to taste.
9. Chipotle Powder
Chipotle powder is a fantastic substitute for paprika in Latin or Tex-Mex dishes.
It has a delicious, deep smoky flavor, even more so than smoked paprika.
But it’s also much hotter, and a bit browner in color, so your dish won’t be as vivid.
Substitution Ratio: substitute a quarter portion of chipotle powder for paprika. (1:4) Feel free to add more to taste. 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder = 1 teaspoon paprika
10. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Crushed red pepper flakes are not the ideal substitution, but they will work!
They’re a better substitute for hot paprika due to their spiciness.
I like them best when they’re meant to be the finishing touch of my dish.
Substitution Ratio: substitute red pepper flakes to taste.
11. Gochugaru Powder
Gochugaru is a spice commonly found in Korean cooking.
It might actually be the most used spice in Korean cuisine. It has a gentle heat and plenty of flavors!
And its color is fantastic! Just like paprika, it will make your food a beautiful red color.
If you’ve ever had kimchi, you’ve had gochugaru.
Substitution Ratio: substitute equal portions of sweet paprika for mild paprika. (1:1) For more spice, add more gochugaru to taste.
12. Guajillo Chili Powder
Guajillo peppers have a sweet, fruity, and smoky flavor with just a hint of spice. They’re milder than jalapeños, so don’t worry.
Needless to say, guajillo chili powder tastes just like the peppers.
Guajillo chili powder makes an excellent substitute for medium-heat smoked paprika or hot paprika.
Substitution Ratio: substitute equal portions of guajillo chili powder for paprika. (1:1)
13. Liquid Hot Sauce
Who doesn’t have a bottle of hot sauce in the fridge? Whether it’s Frank’s, Tabasco, or Sriracha, it’ll work in a pinch.
Liquid hot sauce works best in meat marinades and soups.
Substitution Ratio: substitute equal portions of hot sauce for paprika. (1:1) Adjust to taste.
14. Pasilla Pepper Powder
If you want to add a lot of richness to your dish, use pasilla pepper powder. It’s fantastic!
It has a fruity and almost chocolatey flavor. That’s why it’s so popular in moles, salsas, and other Mexican dishes.
However, it will not color your dish the beautiful red you’d see with paprika.
Pasilla pepper powder has a dark, raisin-like color.
So, if your goal is visuals rather than flavor, I’d use something else.
Substitution Ratio: substitute equal portions of pasilla pepper powder for paprika. (1:1)
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