Paprika Substitutes – Swaps For Sweet, Smoked, And Hot Paprika

paprika substitutes

What is Paprika?

Paprika is a ground spice made from a blend of dried peppers in the Capsicum annuum family. It includes common peppers like cayenne peppers, chili peppers, Aleppo pepper, poblano pepper, and others.

This versatile and zesty red spice varies in flavor, heat levels, and color according to the kind of peppers used in your paprika.

Before we get to paprika substitutes, let’s take an overview of its flavor, uses, and types of paprika.

What does paprika taste like?

The flavor of paprika differs according to the type of peppers and their origin.  Most varieties of them are hot and spicy, and a few of them have a predominant note of fiery hot peppers. Others are sweet with no heat.

The spiciness of paprika depends on the flavorful carotenoids present in the fresh peppers that go into the making of the powder.

How is paprika used in cooking? 

Paprika is a ubiquitous item invariably found in every kitchen across the world. Its common uses in cooking include:

  • season dishes,
  • garnish foods,
  • add a hot or sweet flavor to dishes,
  • add color to recipes.

Peppers go well with a wide variety of savory dishes such as meat, eggs, poultry, fish, stew, soup, creamy sauces, steamed vegetables, rice, and more.

Preferably, paprika is added towards the end of the cooking process because overheat can diminish both the flavor and color.

Types of paprika

There are 3 different types of paprika and all the verities have significant differences in flavor and color. Very often when a recipe calls for hot or smoked paprika, most home chefs end up sprinkling in the regular stuff instead.

Sweet paprika: Also labeled as Hungarian paprika, is the most commonly used paprika; made from bright, sweet red peppers that don’t have much heat and spiciness.

Hot paprika: Made with extra-spicy red peppers, hot paprika is, of course, very hot and spicy; cayenne or other ground chilies go into its making.

Smoked paprika: Red peppers are dried and smoked over an oak fire to make smoked paprika. It’s a Spanish version of paprika that can be made from both sweet and hot pepper varieties.

Best Paprika Substitutes

Some of the possible alternatives to paprika in general are:

  • cayenne pepper
  • chili powder
  • chili flakes
  • ancho powder
  • guajillo powder
  • chile de Arbol powder
  • Aleppo powder
  • Cajun spice
  • hot sauce
  • black pepper
  • bell peppers
  • chipotle powder
  • red pepper flakes.

Substitutes for paprika differ according to their types; sweet, hot, or smoked. For example, Carolina reaper won’t be an appropriate substitute for sweet paprika.  To be more specific, now let’s see what you can substitute for each type of paprika.

Sweet Paprika Substitute

Sweet paprika is mostly used for its vibrant color and as a garnish over salads and few other dishes.

Smoked paprika is the best substitute for sweet paprika. It has a mild flavor with too little heat. Of course, your recipe will have a smoky flavor from smoked paprika, for most people it’s a delightful taste.

Leave Out: As a second option, you can simply ignore sweet paprika in your recipe if you don’t have it. None will actually notice the absence of sweet paprika in recipes that have many other flavors and spices.

Smoked Paprika Substitute

The smoky flavor is what makes smoked paprika central to some recipes. You can add the smoky flavor to your recipes even without it.

Liquid smoke: It’s a wonderful alternative to smoked paprika that can add a smoky flavor to your dish. Use ½ a teaspoon of liquid smoke to substitute 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika.

Cumin + sweet paprika: Another appropriate replacement for smoked paprika is using a blend of cumin and sweet paprika. In place of 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika use 2/3 teaspoon of regular paprika plus 1/3 teaspoon cumin.

Other alternatives: You may also use other possible replacements for smoked paprika such as:

  • chipotle chili powder
  • smoked sea salt
  • tomato powder/paste
  • sumac.

Hot Paprika Substitutes

A good alternative to hot paprika should have a moderate capsicum heat and the earthy sweetness of regular paprika. Here are a few good hot paprika substitutes for your recipes:

Cayenne plus sweet paprika: Hungarian paprika provides the flavor and color, and cayenne renders a moderate fiery kick of heat to your dish. use 2/3 teaspoon sweet paprika plus 1/3 teaspoon cayenne in place of 1 teaspoon hot paprika.

Cayenne powder: If you don’t have regular paprika on hand, simply use cayenne powder as a replacement for it. Start using about ½ teaspoon of cayenne in place of 1 teaspoon of hot paprika, add if required add more near to the end of cooking.

Gochugaru: It’s the Korean red pepper flakes that look similar to hot paprika and have a moderate heat level as well. Swap out hot paprika with Gochugaru in measure for measure.

Sambal oelek: This is a chili pepper paste that has similar color and flavor to hot paprika except for a different consistency. Use it instead of hot paprika in dishes that tolerate the moisture of sambal oelek.