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Best Substitute for Paprika (11 Alternatives)

Paprika is a spice that I always keep in my pantry to add a unique flavor to my dishes, such as Spanish paella, Hungarian goulash, and deviled eggs. With so many varieties to choose from, I never have a problem when it comes to needing a quick splash of spice in my homemade sauces and dishes. 

However, there are times when I need to find a substitute for paprika. Whether I run out of it or need to make a dish for someone who can’t tolerate it, I always look for the best alternatives. Whatever type you seek, whether in terms of preference or availability, there’ll be an paprika substitute for you.

🤷 What is Paprika?

Paprika is a spice made from ground sweet red peppers. It’s originally from Central and South America but is now produced in many countries worldwide, including Spain, Hungary, and the United States. This spice can come in different varieties, including sweet, hot, smoked, and Hungarian, with sweet paprika being the most commonly used type made from mild red peppers.

🧑‍🍳 How to make paprika

To make paprika, start by selecting ripe red bell peppers. Slice the peppers into thin strips and remove the seeds and membranes. Then, dry the strips in a low oven or dehydrator until they are brittle. Finally, grind them into a fine powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

📌 What is Paprika Used For

  • Seasoning meat: It’s commonly used to season meat dishes, such as goulash, chicken paprikash, and sausages. It can be used as a rub or added to the marinade for the meat.
  • Flavoring soups and stews: Paprika is often used to flavor soups and stews, such as Hungarian goulash soup, Spanish seafood stew, and Moroccan harira soup.
  • Garnishing dishes: This spice can be used as a garnish to add color and flavor to a variety of dishes, such as deviled eggs, potato salad, and hummus.
  • Seasoning vegetables: It’s a fantastic seasoning for roasted or grilled vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. It adds a sweet and smoky flavor to the dish.
  • Making sauces and dips: Paprika is also used to make a variety of sauces and dips, such as romesco sauce, aioli, pimento cheese, and various spicy chicken sauce recipes.
A bowl of delicious tuna salad with smoked paprika.

💡 Best Paprika Substitute

Black Peppercorns

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of cracked black peppercorns

Black peppercorns are a delicious, easy-to-use swap for paprika made from the dried fruit of the Piper nigrum plant. You won’t have a problem with texture as they come in different forms like whole peppercorns, ground pepper, and even in oil or vinegar infusions. The origin, how they’re processed, and the freshness will also affect heat and certain aspects of taste, so make sure you pick one that suits your palate.

Cayenne Pepper

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1/2 teaspoon of crushed cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper is a fiery option made from dried and ground cayenne peppers. It’s often used to season meats, vegetables, soups, stews, and even desserts, but you can swap it out for paprika in any recipe. It does pack more heat than paprika, so you’ll just want to add a splash of it when substituting it. If you can’t find any or want a milder spice, you can use some cayenne pepper substitutes

Bell Peppers

1 teaspoon of paprika = 2 teaspoons of bell pepper powder

Bell peppers are a popular, colorful, and nutritious ingredient that can come in green, red, yellow, and orange and have a slightly sweet, tangy taste and a crisp texture. These bell-shaped peppers are low in calories and high in vitamin C, making them a healthy choice for anyone looking to add more nutrients to their diet.  

They are also great for stuffing and can be filled with rice, meat, or cheese for a delicious and healthy meal. They can even be used in dips, salsas, and flavorful sauces to add flavor and texture without overpowering other ingredients. 

Chili Powder

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of chili powder

Chili powder is a popular spice blend made from spices like ground chili peppers, cumin, garlic, and others, and is commonly used in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. They can also add depth of flavor to dishes like roasted vegetables, marinades, and even chocolate desserts.

Let’s talk about some differences now. Paprika is commonly used in Hungarian cuisine to add color and flavor to stews and chicken paprikash, while chili powder is a staple ingredient in Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes like enchiladas and tacos, providing heat and flavor.

Cajun Spice

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of cajun spice

Cajun spice is a blend of spices from Louisiana, USA, and is widely used in Cajun and Creole cuisine. The blend typically includes spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder, which combine to create a bold and spicy flavor. 

It can season various dishes, including seafood, meat, and vegetables. It’s also commonly used in dishes like jambalaya, gumbo, and blackened fish and can also be used as a dry rub for meats before grilling or baking.

The amount of cayenne pepper used in this spice can vary, which affects the spiciness of the blend. If you’re sensitive to heat, it’s best to use less cajun spice or choose a milder variety. Though, it can be combined with other spices to create unique and delicious flavor profiles.

Hot Sauce

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of hot sauce

Hot sauce is a well-known condiment widely used to add a convenient dash of spicy flavor to any dish. It’s made from chili peppers, vinegar, and spices and comes in different heat levels, ranging from mild to extremely hot.  

It can also be used in many ways, such as enhancing the taste of foods like eggs, tacos, and pizza, or as a marinade or dipping sauce for chicken wings or fries.

Considering its level of spiciness can vary, adjust the amount used accordingly. You can even mix it with other ingredients to create a unique and delicious flavor combination that can be either spicy or mild. 

Tomato Juice

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of tomato juice and a large pinch of chili powder

Tomato juice is another superb substitute for paprika in some recipes, providing a similar red color and a slightly sweet flavor. However, it lacks the smoky flavor that paprika provides. 

The juice is most commonly consumed as a beverage, but it can also be used in cooking to add flavor and moisture to dishes like stews, soups, and tomatoey sauces.

On top of its culinary uses, tomato juice is a nutrient-dense beverage that’s rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, and lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that may help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Drinking tomato juice regularly may also help improve digestion and lower inflammation in the body.  

Aleppo Chili Powder

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of aleppo chili powder

Aleppo chili powder originated from Aleppo, Syria, and is commonly used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. It’s made from dried Aleppo peppers, which provide a fruity and slightly tangy flavor with moderate heat. This powder can be used in meats, vegetables, and sauces to add tangy, delicious kick.

But be sure to keep its heat level in check, as assuming it’s a mild powder can lead to adding more than you should. Although it may be milder than other chili powders, like cayenne or chipotle, it still adds a pleasant warmth that enhances the flavor of dishes.

Chipotle Powder

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder

Chipotle powder is a wonderful alternative to paprika, thanks to its smoky taste and slightly higher spice level. Made from smoked and dried jalapeno peppers, it has a distinctive flavor that adds a rustic complexity to dishes. 

With a moderate level of spiciness, chipotle powder is an excellent choice for those looking for a touch of heat without overpowering their food. This spice level means it can be used in various dishes, including chili, stews, and roasted meats, as well as to add a smoky kick to dips and sauces.

In addition to its delicious taste, chipotle powder also has some nutritional benefits. It’s a good source of vitamin A, which is important for maintaining healthy skin and eyesight. Vitamin A also supports a healthy immune system and helps with bone growth. 

Chipotle powder even contains antioxidants that can help protect against cell damage and reduce inflammation in the body. 

Smoked Paprika

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika

Smoked paprika is a great spice, as it’s a smokier version of paprika made from smoked and dried red peppers. It’s a popular ingredient in Spanish cuisine that’s perfect for seasoning meats like chicken, beef, and pork and can also add depth of flavor to vegetarian dishes like roasted vegetables. 

Let’s not forget to mention it has potential health benefits, as it’s a good source of antioxidants, which can help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. 

Smoked paprika also contains vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin E, and iron. These nutrients are essential for maintaining healthy vision, skin, and immune systems, as well as preventing anemia. 

Ancho Chile Powder

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1/2 teaspoon of ancho chile powder

Ancho chile powder is a flavorful alternative to paprika made from dried and ground ancho chile peppers and is commonly used in Mexican cuisine. 

It’s just perfect for seasoning meats such as chicken, beef, and pork and can also add a distinctive flavor to vegetarian dishes like roasted vegetables or black bean soup.
Adding to its delicious flavor, ancho chile powder is also a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. These nutrients are essential for maintaining healthy vision, skin, immune system, heart, and blood pressure.

FAQs

What does paprika taste like?

Paprika has a slightly sweet and earthy flavor with a mild spiciness. The flavor can vary depending on the type of pepper used to make the paprika powder. Some types of paprika can have a smoky or fruity flavor as well.

Where does paprika come from?

Paprika is native to Central and South America, but it’s now produced in many countries around the world. Hungary is particularly known for its paprika production, and Hungarian paprika is often considered to be of high quality.

What is a good alternative to paprika for a dry rub seasoning?

If you are looking for a good alternative to paprika for a dry rub seasoning, you might consider using chili powder, cayenne pepper, or smoked paprika. These spices can provide a similar flavor and spiciness to paprika and can be used in similar quantities.

However, keep in mind that the flavor of your dry rub will be different depending on the spices you use, so feel free to experiment with different combinations until you find the one that works best for you.

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