What Can I Use Instead of Smoked Paprika?

What should you use instead of smoked paprika in your upcoming dish? There are actually quite a few different options you can choose from.

Smoke paprika is a common ingredient found in many recipes. So when you run out, you need to have a handy list of backups to refer to.

Luckily for you, we have ten of the best substitutes for smoke paprika out there. 

Let’s take a look.

What is Smoked Paprika?

Smoke paprika, also known as Spanish paprika, originates in Spain. There you would dry and smoke red peppers before crushing them into a fine powder. This process wasn’t quick, as peppers were left to smoke over oak for up to 15 days. (*)

Smoked paprika is similar to regular paprika in color and has a sweet, spicy taste. But it has a unique flavor profile all its own.

You will find hints of smokey, woodsy, and earthy flavors in your food. It will give your dish a nice flavor without having to smoke the entire meal.

Because smoked paprika is such a versatile and flavorful spice, many people tend to have it on hand. Yet, when you find yourself running low, or even worse, you’re out, you need options.

The Top Ten Substitutes For Smoked Paprika

We decided to compile a list of 10 ingredients for you to choose from that can replace smoked paprika. Which one will you use?

1. Red Pepper Flakes for Added Heat

Like smoked paprika, red pepper flakes come from red chili peppers. But instead of smoking the pepper and grinding it into powder, you dehydrate and crush it.

Red pepper flakes are a bit spicier than smoked paprika and don’t offer the same woodsy flavor. Nevertheless, this is an excellent alternative when you are in a bind.

You can use red pepper flakes when stirring up a pot of stew, as a meat rub, or to heat a cool potato salad.

Pro Tip: Use ½ tsp of red pepper flakes for every 1 tsp of SP.

Learn more: Red Pepper Flakes Substitutes

2. Liquid Smoke for a Similar Smokey Taste

An ingredient you probably would never consider is liquid smoke. This is a fabulous alternative to smoked paprika because it offers a similar smoky flavor profile. This ingredient is the result of a distilled byproduct after the wood is burned. 

Remember that this option will not give you that beautiful red tint on your plate. But if all you need is that earthy smoke taste, it will do just fine. Various flavors are available depending on the brand you like. And the taste you are searching for.

Liquid smoke is a potent product, so you should never add too much.

  • Pro Tip: Use ½ teaspoon of liquid smoke for one teaspoon of SP.

3. Cumin for an Earthy Flavor

Cumin powder will not give you a vibrant red hue or a peppery taste. That said, it will offer a similar earthy, woodsy flavor like smoked paprika.

Cumin powder will not be ideal for all types of recipes since the taste isn’t exactly spot on. But it can still be a great substitute in various situations. 

Grab your cumin from the cupboard when cooking rice, taco mix, and other Mexican-style cuisines. You will notice that this ingredient brings all the others together. And enhances the different flavor profiles.

Pro Tip: Use ½ teaspoon of cumin for one teaspoon of cumin.

4. Regular Paprika (Of Course)

It almost sounds too obvious, right? If you run out of smoked paprika, why wouldn’t you go straight for its original version? 

Regular paprika is quite similar to smoked.  Yet the two come from very different processes. Whereas smoked paprika comes from leaving chili peppers over a smoker, regular paprika is from dried crushed peppers.

Both of these options will work in any recipe, swapping out one for the other. You will get the same red tones that make every dish stand out. And you will get that sweet, fruity taste with a hint of heat.

If the recipe in front of you doesn’t rely on the smokey flavor, regular paprika will be your best bet.

Pro Tip: Use one teaspoon of regular paprika for one teaspoon of SP.

Learn more: Top Paprika Substitutes (#7 YOU MIGHT HAVE NOW)

5. Cajun Seasoning Takes it to a Whole New Level

You can’t go wrong with cajun seasoning. This product is chock-full of spices with various flavors that mix well together. 

You can use cajun seasoning in place of smoked paprika for most recipes. This spice mixture already has plenty of smoked paprika in it. However, you should keep in mind it also has other spices in it as well.

When using cajun seasoning as a smoked paprika replacement, read the label. You don’t want to double up on the spices that are already in it, for example. If your recipe calls for black pepper, check the seasoning label to see how much is in there first. 

Another tip to keep in your back pocket is that cajun season loves paprika. So a little bit of this spice goes a long way.

Pro Tip: Use one teaspoon of cajun spice for one teaspoon of SP.

6. Tomato Paste (Wait, What?)

Okay, bear with us for a moment. Even though tomatoes are not smokey, nor are they spicy, they can provide a nice flavor and zing to your dish.

Tomatoes are acidic, which works in your favor. It emphasizes the flavor of other ingredients. They also offer a nice sweet undertone that can mimic that of paprika. 

If you decide to go with tomato paste, remember that it is a whole different consistency. Instead of a powdery, dry spice, it is full of liquid. The texture alone could ruin some recipes.

However, like paprika, tomatoes can give your plate a vibrant look. This is thanks to their bright red coloring.

Use one tablespoon of tomato paste to one tablespoon of SP.

Learn more: 6 Great Tomato Paste Substitutes When You’re In a Pinch

7. Cayenne Pepper Will Bring Out the Heat

If you want a spice that provides a similar look to smoked paprika, cayenne pepper will do the trick. This ingredient is bright red and comes with a similarly bold flavor.

Smoked paprika has a small spicy element to it but isn’t overly hot. On the other hand, cayenne pepper will bring out the heat in every dish.  Even though these two options seem to contrast with one another, they can also help each other out.

A good quality of cayenne pepper is that it has a smokey essence, like smoked paprika. Thus, making this an excellent substitute for rubs, sauces, roasting vegetables, or flavoring rice.

Pro Tip: Use ⅓ teaspoon of cayenne pepper to one teaspoon of SP.

8. Chili Powder for Chilis and Bean Dishes

Chili powder comes from pulverized chili peppers that are reduced to dust.  This powder can come all by itself or be mixed with various spices.

Chili powder can replace smoked paprika in chili or other various bean dishes. It will provide a nice smokey flavor with a hint of heat. 

If your recipe requires a nice red hue, chili powder can provide it. You will get a similar look and taste to your meal when using this option. 

Pro Tip: Use one teaspoon of chili powder to one teaspoon of smoked paprika.

9. Smoked Sea Salt (Yep, that’s a Thing)

If you need a quick smoked paprika substitute that will offer the same smokey taste, smoked sea salt is a fantastic option.

Even though you won’t get the exact same flavor, you will get a nice hint of smoke. Keep in mind most recipes will call for salt as well as smoked paprika. So, if you use smoked sea salt as your alternative, you will need to cancel out the additional salt.

Interestingly enough, smoked sea salt also sports a light red hue. This can give your dish a look much like paprika.

Pro Tip: Use one teaspoon of smoked sea salt to one teaspoon of SP.

10. Chili Sauce for Delicious Dips

Smoked paprika is a popular ingredient in many dips. If you run low, you can always use chili sauce in its place.

Chili sauce can work perfectly in recipes for salsa, sauces, or soups. Although it is a sauce and not a dry ingredient, it can still work wonders.

Keep in mind this option isn’t smokey at all. If you need the smokey taste that comes with smoked paprika, pick one of our other suggested options.

Pro Tip: Use one tablespoon of chili sauce for one teaspoon of sp.


Here are some common questions often asked about this spice.

What Can I Use Instead of Smoked Paprika?

Find out what you can use as a tasty substitute for smoked paprika with this guide. Learn about the most popular alternatives and why they make great replacements.
Prep Time14 minutes
Active Time13 minutes

Up Next: Your Top Guide For All Food Ingredients Substitutions!

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