Spices are an important part of cooking mainly because they add flavor and aroma. A combination of spices can turn something boring and bland to the most delicious meal you have ever tasted.
Smoked paprika is a very popular spice which adds a characteristic bright color and richness to any food. It is made by grinding dried pods of pepper plants like bell or chili peppers.
Does your recipe tell you to use smoked paprika but there’s none left in your pantry? Or are you simply looking for a hotter alternative to spice things up a bit? Finding a substitute for smoked paprika is easy -- actually, you may not need to look further than your pantry for great paprika substitutes.
Note: The substitutes below come in many heat levels. You should consider your options according to your personal and those you wish to serve the dish to’s preferences.
Origins and History of Paprika
Actually, some people believe that paprika originated in Spain, but its origins trace to Mexico because the peppers originally used in making the spice grew only in this region. Although we use this as a spice or flavoring, it is also actually used for medicinal purposes.
When the Spanish bought the paprika market in the 16th century, it was first used as a decorative plant before it was used as a spice.
When the spaniards realized that it can be used as a spice, the simple paprika became more complexed and the unique and flavoursome Spanish varieties began to develop.
Did you know the word “paprika” is Hungarian in nature? The Hungarian paprika, the most popular paprika variety, traces its origins to Turkey. The peppers used for making Hungarian paprika were first taken from this area before it was cultivated in Hungary.
Paprika was also popular because of its brilliant red color. Paprika was used as a food coloring back in the early days. Even to this day, China imports paprika as a colorant.
Many recipes will encourage you to use paprika as a garnish to add color to the dish.
Varieties Of Paprika
There are many varieties of paprika. This includes:
11 Substitutes for Smoked Paprika
The most common and easiest to find substitute for smoked paprika is tomato. Tomatoes give a reddish color, similar to smoked paprika. It also resembles the texture of smoked paprika.
However, it apparently doesn't resemble its taste -- it’s a lot milder than smoked paprika.
You may use tomato juice or sauce if you don’t have fresh ones on hand. They are great for soup or stew recipes that require smoked paprika.
2. Aleppo Chili Powder
Aleppo chili powder may be hard to find; you can only find Aleppo peppers in Syria. It’s a popular spice in many Middle Eastern cuisines.
Grilled artichokes with Aleppo pepper and parmesan and yogurt-marinated chicken kebabs with Aleppo pepper are just few of popular dishes that use this spice.
It’s flavor has a bright acidity with a strong earthy finish at the back of the tongue. Its heat is mild but lingers for a while. Its color is the same as smoked paprika, Lastly, it’s typically sold as flakes, not powder.
3. Cayenne Powder
Cayenne powder is made from a variety of pepper that is called Guyanese. It’s widely used in Latin American and Asian Cuisines such as honey cayenne marinated fish tacos and cayenne truffles (yes, it’s chocolate!).
Cayenne pepper adds a moderate level of heat and its color is reminiscent of smoked paprika.
But use this spice with caution because the scoville scale (function of capsaicin concentration) of this spice ranges from 15,000 to 50,000 which is quite high.
4. Ancho Chili Powder
You may associate Ancho powder with generic chili powder, but the difference between the two is, Ancho chili powder is entirely made from sweet fried chilies unlike the generic chili powder which comes from red or cayenne peppers.
It has the same flavor as smoked paprika but gives a earthy, rich and mild fruity flavor to any dish.
There is not much heat to this spice so you may use another alternative if you prefer a spicy outcome. Also, its color is darker than smoked paprika.
5. Red Pepper Flakes
Red pepper flakes are made from crushed dried hot red peppers. Its flavor is spicy, smoky and hot almost similar to smoked paprika.
Its heat level ranges from mild to spicy, depending on how it was made.
Some red pepper flakes are hotter than smoked paprika so use it to your liking.
6. Chipotle Powder
Chipotle powder is made from dried and ground Chipotle peppers. It’s a great alternative to smoked paprika because it also has a hot and smoky flavor similar to it. You may also use this spice if your dish calls for a sweeter paprika flavor.
7. Pimenton de La Vera
This spice is smoky, brick-red in color, and comes in three levels of spiciness that scope from slightly sweet to bitter hot. This spice is perfect to liven up lamb stews, briskets, potatoes, yoghurt, meat dishes, or toasted nuts.
8. Black Pepper
Is your dish lacking spice? A teaspoon of black pepper will do the trick for you!
Black or white pepper is a good alternative for smoked paprika. Although, you won’t get the reddish hue of paprika with this alternative.
9. Hot Sauce
Hot sauce or any other spicy sauce, prepared from chili peppers and other ingredients like vinegar, oil, water, and even alcohol, are good alternatives for smoked paprika in any recipe. If you want the taste to be more dominant than the color, hot sauce will do the job for you.
10. Cajun Spice
Cajun spice is a mixture of cayenne, black and white pepper.
Cajun spice is not that spicy, but can used as an effective substitute for smoked paprika.
This spice is usually found in southern recipes in New Orleans, USA.
11. Chili Powder
Chili powder is powdered hot chili pepper, usually made from red peppers or cayenne peppers.
One of the most recommended substitute for smoked paprika, this spice is very flavorful and has little to no stinging heat that will leave your mouth sore for after consumption.
Smoked Paprika releases its color and flavor upon contact with heat. It’s mainly used to add color to dishes.
It improves the overall appearance of the dish, but does not alter the taste that much. It’s often used as a garnish in hors d’oeuvre (starter dishes) and salads for color.
I hope this article helped you in looking for the best substitutes for smoked paprika. Personally, I love using hot sauce and red pepper flakes because I love my food spicy.
You may also choose any other alternative listed above according to your preference, the spiciness you want to achieve, and the color you want the dish to emit.
Did you find this article useful? What smoked paprika substitute/s have you tried and loved? Feel free to comment below! Don’t forget to share this post. Take care folks!