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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 and delicious spice in my dish. 

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. Some of the best substitutes for paprika are smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, black peppercorns, bell peppers, and many others. 

Whatever type you seek, whether in terms of preference or availability, there’ll be an alternative for paprika on this list that matches what you’ll need. But before we get into some substitutes, let’s first look at what this spice is.

What is Paprika?

Paprika is a spice made from ground sweet red peppers and commonly used in dishes to add a deliciously spicy and rich flavor. 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. The hot paprika variant gets its iconic spice from spicy red peppers and is used to add heat to dishes.

What Type of Cuisine Is It Mostly Used in?

Paprika is a spice widely used in Hungarian, Spanish, and Portuguese cuisine. It’s also an essential ingredient in dishes like Goulash, Chorizo, and Paella and other cuisines like Indian, Moroccan, and Middle Eastern.

In Indian cuisine, paprika is used as a substitute for Kashmiri chili powder, known for its vibrant red color and mild heat. It’s also used in tandoori chicken, chicken tikka masala, and biryani.

Moving over to Moroccan cuisine, the spice is used in spice blends like Ras el Hanout, a mix of up to 30 different spices. It’s also used in dishes like tagines, which are slow-cooked stews typically made with meat, vegetables, and spices.

In Middle Eastern cuisine, paprika is used in dishes like shakshuka, which is a breakfast dish made with eggs, tomatoes, and spices. The Middle East also uses it in spice blends like za’atar, which is a mix of dried herbs, sesame seeds, and spices.

Best Paprika Substitute

Black Peppercorns

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of cracked black peppercorns

Black peppercorns are a delicious, versatile ingredient made from the dried fruit of the Piper nigrum plant that can be used in sweet and savory dishes. These peppercorns have a pungent aroma and are used in various forms, including whole peppercorns, ground pepper, and even in oil or vinegar infusions.

Their heat level can also vary depending on their origin and how they are processed. For example, Tellicherry peppercorns, which are grown in India, are known for their robust flavor and mild heat. Meanwhile, Malabar peppercorns, also from India, are known for their strong, pungent flavor and high heat level. 

You should also take note that freshly ground black peppercorns will have a stronger flavor and aroma than pre-ground peppercorns, as the essential oils that give pepper its flavor begin to dissipate once the pepper is ground.

Cayenne Pepper

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

Cayenne pepper is a fiery spice made from dried and ground cayenne peppers and is a popular ingredient in many cuisines. It’s often used to season meats, vegetables, soups, stews, and even desserts. 

Though this pepper is spicier than paprika. This means you’ll need to use it sparingly, or you might risk overpowering the dish with too much heat. These peppers can still, however, be a great addition to dishes that require a bit of spice, such as chili, stews, and roasted vegetables, or as marinades or rubs for meat.

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 snacks like 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.

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