Last Updated on October 29, 2022 by Toya
Here are 13 easy ways to substitute for paprika in any recipe. Many of the substitutes listed here can be found in your spice cabinet.
Paprika is a vibrant red-orange condiment made by grinding dried ripe red peppers such as cayenne peppers, paprika peppers, bell peppers, Poblano peppers, Aleppo peppers, etc into a powder.
Nowadays, paprika seems to be used in pretty much every recipe. I certainly add it to many of my own recipes! But what happens when you’ve run out or you can’t find it in your grocery store?
I’ve listed 13 easy ways to swap out paprika in a pinch. Whether you need a substitute for regular paprika, smoked paprika, or hot paprika, you will find something that works here.
What are the best substitutes for paprika?
- Smoked paprika
- Ancho chili powder
- Chili powder
- Tomato powder
- Homemade sweet paprika (with dried sweet red peppers)
- Chipotle powder
- Tomato paste + liquid smoke
- Regular paprika + cumin
- Crushed Aleppo peppers
- Cayenne pepper powder
- Regular paprika + cayenne pepper
- Chile de Arbol powder
- Red pepper flakes
- Black pepper
Each is discussed further below.
Substitutes for paprika
Regular paprika, Sweet paprika, or (aka Paprika) – Is made mainly using red bell peppers or other varieties of sweet red peppers. Regular paprika is commonly referred to as paprika and has a very mild and sweet flavor with no heat.
The top substitute for paprika is smoked paprika. It will add that extra smoky quality, but most recipes will actually benefit from this smokiness. Smoked paprika can be mild, bittersweet, or hot depending on the chiles used to make it, so read the labels and try to use sweet (or dulce) smoked paprika to replace regular paprika.
Ancho chili powder
The best substitute for regular paprika is ancho chili powder. This type of chili powder is made from ground dried poblano chile peppers which have a deep red color and a mild, fruity, sweet flavor with notes of smokiness.
Since ancho chili powder is mildly sweet and red, it is an excellent paprika substitute in recipes like salsa, enchiladas, soups, stews, eggs, etc where a nice mild flavor, a slight touch of heat, and a red color are required for the recipe.
For a recipe that calls for 1 teaspoon of paprika, substitute with ¾ of a teaspoon of ancho chili powder.
Chili powder can also work as a replacement for paprika but only as a last resort. Chili powder has a different flavor since it’s made with a combination of dried chile peppers as well as spices. Therefore, it is only worth mentioning because it is able to add a nice red color to your food.
Tomato powder, which is made from dehydrated tomatoes is another good sub for regular paprika. It has a fruity tomato flavor and is perfect for adding a nice rich red color to your food.
I sometimes use tomato powder as an alternative to paprika in soups and stews.
Homemade sweet paprika (with dried sweet red peppers)
If you have the time, make your own sweet paprika powder. You will need about ½ a pound of sweet red peppers like poblano chiles or red bell peppers.
Slice these peppers thinly, removing the core then place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven at the lowest heat setting for 1-2 hours, with the oven door cracked open so the moisture escapes.
Once the sliced red pepper has dried, grind them with a coffee grinder and use them in any recipe that calls for paprika at a 1:1 substitute ratio.
Substitutes for smoked paprika
Smoked paprika or Spanish Smoked Paprika – Is made from ripe, dried chile peppers that have been smoked over oak fires and then ground into a fine powder. Depending on the peppers used to make them, smoked paprika can be either mild or hot.
Chipotle powder can easily stand in for smoked paprika. Chipotle powder is made from ground ripened, dried smoked jalapeños and has a nice smoky flavor that can substitute smoked paprika in any recipe.
Chipotle powder has a deep, burgundy-brown color while smoked paprika is burnt orange, but when added to certain recipes they both will add a nice rich color.
Chipotle powder is great for stews, soups, eggs, vegetables, dry rubs, meats, seafood, etc.
Something else to consider.
Chipotle powder can range from 2000- 7000 Scoville heat units. While smoked paprika’s heat depends on the brand you use. Some brands use mild-tasting red peppers, while others use red peppers that are as high as 33,000 Scoville heat units.
This means that chipotle powder is a good sub only if you’re trying to replace a sweet (dulce) or semi-spicy smoked paprika. If you’re trying to replace a hot (Picante) smoked paprika, the heat level of chipotle powder will not be adequate.
Tomato paste + liquid smoke
Have some tomato paste and liquid smoke on hand? This combination can make a great smoked paprika replacement for wet recipes like casseroles, soups, sauces, chili, and stews where texture won’t be a problem. The tomato paste adds a sweet, mild flavor and vibrant red color to the recipe, while the liquid smoke will add a smoky quality.
For every teaspoon of smoked paprika powder needed, replace it with 3/4 of a teaspoon of tomato paste for color and ¼ of a teaspoon of liquid smoke for smokiness.
Regular paprika + cumin
Another simple substitute for smoked paprika is a combination of regular paprika and cumin.
Regular paprika will add the flavor and color of smoked paprika to the recipe, while cumin will add a smoky flavor.
For every teaspoon of smoked paprika, replace it with ¾ teaspoon of regular paprika and ¼ teaspoon of cumin.
Substitutes for hot Hungarian paprika
Hot paprika (or Hot Hungarian paprika) – Is made with hot paprika peppers and is bright red in color, hot, robust, and has a beautiful warm aroma.
Crushed Aleppo peppers
If you can get your hands on crushed Aleppo peppers, they will work as an alternative to paprika. Crushed Aleppo peppers are mild, tangy, fruity, and almost sweet with just a little heat.
Since crushed Aleppo peppers are turned into flakes, it will change the texture of certain recipes. Otherwise, use it for dry rubs, soups, etc.
If you can’t find hot paprika, but you can get your hands on cayenne pepper, it can work in some recipes. Cayenne pepper powder is extremely hot compared to hot Hungarian paprika, so start by adding less then adjust based on your taste.
If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of hot Hungarian paprika, replace it with ¼ of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
Regular paprika + cayenne pepper
You can mix regular paprika and cayenne pepper together to make a suitable hot paprika substitute. This mixture will add the flavor of paprika, plus a little heat to your recipe.
Use ¾ teaspoon of paprika combined with ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper for every teaspoon of hot paprika you want to replace.
Chile de Arbol powder
If you happen to have chile de Arbol powder, this is a great hot paprika replacement. Because chile de Arbol powder is less spicy than cayenne pepper powder, you have the freedom to use a little more if you want to use it as a sub for hot paprika.
For example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of hot paprika, replace it with ½ a teaspoon of chile de Arbol powder.
Red pepper flakes
Since red pepper flakes aren’t a powder, they will change both the texture and appearance of your recipe. However, red pepper flakes will offer a pungent taste and spicy kick that can work in recipes like sauces, soups, and more.
Also, if you have a coffee grinder, grind the pepper flakes so you make some homemade red pepper flakes powder.
Finally, if you have some black pepper on hand, use it to as a replacement for hot paprika in dry rubs, marinades, veggies, salad dressing, etc. As a substitute, black pepper will not add that bright red color to your recipe, and it is the least fitting hot paprika alternative in this list.
Recipes that use paprika
FAQs about substituting paprika
What is a good substitute for paprika in fried chicken?
Some great paprika substitutes in fried chicken are smoked paprika or ancho chili powder.
What is a good substitute for paprika in dry rub?
A good substitute for paprika in dry rub is ancho chili powder.
Can I use cajun instead of paprika?
Cajun seasoning contains more paprika in the mixture, but there are many other seasonings and spices that change its taste completely, therefore it is not a great paprika replacement.
Can I use cumin instead of paprika?
Cumin is not similar to paprika in terms of taste. It is a nutty warm, peppery, and smoky spice. Therefore, on its own, cumin cannot effectively replace paprika.