When you think of paprika, the bright red hue is the first image to pop into your head, right?We also think about its sweet, savory, earthy, and sometimes spicy flavor. This taste can be hard to replicate. Although finding the best paprika substitutes might be difficult, it isn’t impossible.
We did a little digging and found some great replacements for most dishes that call for paprika. These are fantastic options to consider when you realize your jar sitting on the spice rack is empty.
What is Paprika?
Paprika is a popular spice made from grounded up, dried red pepper. The spice has been around for a long time, with the first notation of its use dating back to the late 1800s.
Paprika is often associated with Hungarian cuisine. But, it is a go-to ingredient for many around the world.
You will find it produced in places such as
- The Netherlands
- The US
Paprkia’s main ingredient includes red peppers. This spice can come in all sorts of flavors and different strengths.
- Noble sweet: Slightly pungent. It is the most exported paprika and has a bright red color)
- Special quality: This is the mildest version of paprika, which is very sweet and has a moderate red color.
- Delicate: Mild taste and light-dark red in color.
- Exquisite delicate: Like delicate, but more pungent
- Pungent exquisite delicate: The most pungent version of the delicate type.
- Rose: This has a strong aroma and mild pungency and comes in a pale red color.
- Semi-sweet: A mixture of mild and strong paprikas
- Strong: This is the hottest version of paprika and is a light brown color.
Paprika comes in three main categories; smoked, hot, and sweet.
- Smoked paprika, often called Spanish paprika, are peppers smoked over an oak fire. This type provides a smokey flavor.
- Sweet paprika, or basic paprika, has a sweet pepper flavor with little to no heat.
- Hot paprika is the traditional Hungarian version. It is the most common spice in rubs, stews, goulash, etc.
This type of paprika provides a bit of a kick and offers a beautiful red hue to any plate.
When substituting paprika in your dish, know the results you are looking for. Are you looking for some serious heat or a little sweetness?
The Best Paprika Substitutes
Whether you are looking to add a little sweetness to your recipe or flavor it with a bit of spice, we have your back.
Here are a few great substitutes for paprika when you are out.
1. Chili Powder
Chili powders are one of our top recommendations for replacing paprika in any dish. This spice not only replicates the flavor well but also has a similar color.
Chili powder is another product that consists of fine, chopped, and dried-out peppers. This is a fabulous way to up the flavor in many recipes and is often used in things such as stews, soups, and marinades.
To substitute chili powder for paprika, follow a 1:1 ratio, one TBSP of chili powder for one TBSP of paprika.
Why choose chili powder?
- It is similar in color.
- It has the same semi sweet and smokey flavor.
- You can use the same measurements to get the same taste.
2. Cayenne Pepper Powder
Cayenne peppers are moderately hot chili peppers. They are often used in dishes looking for a little heat with a mildly sweet undertone.
Cayenne pepper can provide a bit of a kick, so you might want to tone it down a bit by adding a dash of sugar to the mix.
You will usually see this alternative to paprika in sweet and spicy dishes. It is often used in desserts, casseroles, and as a flavoring for veggies.
To substitute cayenne pepper for paprika, follow a 1:1 ratio; unless you want less heat, then only use ½ to 1. So, ½ TBSP of cayenne pepper to one TBSP of paprika.
Why choose cayenne pepper?
- It has a similar hue to paprika.
- It can add a little heat.
- Great in sweet, spicy, and savory dishes
Learn more: What’s A Good Substitute For Cayenne Pepper?
3. Chipotle Powder
Chipotle powder is another way to add some heat to your dish. You will still get the sweet and savory flavor of paprika but with a kick.
This powder comes in a bright crimson red color and can dress up a dish very well.
Keep in mind that this is only a good option for those who like a spicy meal. The chipotle pepper resembles jalapenos, losing a little heat through the drying process.
Chipotle powder is a great paprika substitute in chili and soups. This is due to its bitter, smokey, earthy flavor with a hint of sweet undertones.
To substitute chipotle powder for paprika, follow a ½:1 ratio. ½ TSP of chipotle powder to 1 TBSP of paprika.
Why use chipotle powder?
- It adds a zesty flavor and heat.
- Great for chili
- It tastes and looks like paprika.
4. Hot Sauce
Hot sauce is a liquid mixture of peppers, vinegar, and spices. Each recipe will look a little different depending on the brand you buy. They can and will contain different types of peppers. Use the hot sauce best suited for the flavor you want to get from your dish.
For the best soups, rubs, and stews that call for paprika, consider grabbing a light hot sauce. The ones made from chili peppers are a good option.
Keep in mind most hot sauces have vinegar as a main ingredient, which will add an extra tang to your plate.
To substitute hot sauce for paprika, follow a 1:1 ratio, one TSP of hot sauce for one TBSP of paprika.
Why use hot sauce?
- Great for soups and stews.
- Simulates the taste of chili peppers
- It adds a tang thanks to the vinegar.
5. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Like paprika, crushed red pepper flakes come from dried up red peppers. Unlike paprika, these peppers are crushed up instead of ground.
Crushed red peppers will give your dish a much smokier and hotter flavor. This makes it a good substitute in dishes calling for a more pungent paprika.
This ingredient won’t offer the same color as paprika, changing the look of your dinner. These flakes should be a substitute for foods like salads and hummus, where they can add a little kick.
To substitute crushed red pepper flakes for paprika, add to desired taste.
Why use Crushed red pepper flakes?
- It adds a hot and smokey flavor.
- A great topping on a dish added to desired taste.
- Great for dishes that call for a pungent paprika
6. Crushed Black Peppercorns
While crushed black peppercorn is not our favorite option, it is still a good substitute.
Keep in mind black peppercorns will not offer the same vibrant red color as paprika. Yet, it can still give it a nice flavor and some spice.
Use black peppercorn in place of paprika in dishes such as meat rubs, marinades, or curries.
To substitute crushed black peppercorn for paprika, follow a 1:1 ratio, 1 TSP of black pepper for 1 TSP of paprika.
Why use crushed black peppercorns?
- Great for meat rubs and curries
- Use in a 1:1 ratio.
- It is a common item in most pantries.
7. Cajun Spice
Cajun spice is a great alternative to paprika and is usually found in many home pantries. If you find yourself low or completely out of paprika, this is a fabulous alternative.
Cajun spice is ideal for smoked or regular paprika because of its savory and sweet flavor.
The flavor can differ depending on the brand you have on hand. Many of the ingredients used include things like,
- Cayenne pepper
- Onion powder
- White pepper
- Garlic powder
- Black pepper
- Red pepper flakes
Use cajun spice in place of paprika for dishes that don’t depend on the bright red color. Cajun seasoning is often more orangeish.
When substituting cajun spice for paprika, follow a 1:1 ratio. One TSP of cajun spice for one TSP of paprika.
Why choose cajun spice?
- Provides an array of flavors
- It has a nice savory feel.
- Not too spicey compared to other options listed.
Can You Make Your Own Paprika?
Yes, you can make your own paprika at home. You will need around 15 peppers to make one jar. All you have to do is dry, smoke, and grind the peppers up to make the spice.
The most common options include red bell peppers or chili peppers if you are looking for a little heat.
What Can You Use in Place of Sweet Paprika?
What Is Paprika Used for?
You can use paprika in almost any dish. Because this spice comes in a variety of flavors and strengths, it is a versatile ingredient.
Paprika is most often used in rice, as meat rubs, in curries, and for soups and stews.
Summing Things Up
Paprika is a delicious spice that can be hard to replicate. Luckily, we found some great paprika substitutes to get the job done without throwing off the flavor of your dish.