Paprika Substitutes – For Sweet, Smoked, And Hot Paprika

Paprika is a versatile spice that comes in varying tastes like earthy, sweet, smoky, or fiery hot, depending on the particular variety used. The spice is popularly used in several dishes and seasoning blends. What to do when you have a recipe that calls for paprika and there’s none in your spice rack?  Or you may be interested to try something hotter or milder than this spice.

Choosing a suitable paprika substitute, in either case, is simple.  The alternative ingredients discussed here, you may already have in the kitchen spice rack

Best Paprika Substitutes

Some of the possible alternatives to paprika in general are:

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.

Substitutes For Sweet Paprika

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

Substitutes For Smoked Paprika

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 of 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.

Substitutes For Hot Paprika

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.

Paprika Pepper


Are paprika and chili flakes the same?

Chili flakes, also known as red pepper flakes are nothing but crushed dried pepper. It’s a condiment consisting of cayenne-type peppers, usually, peppers within the range of 30,000 – 50,000 Scoville Heat Units. Chili flakes are earthy and hotter in flavor as opposed to the smoky and sweet flavors of paprika.

Is paprika and cayenne pepper the same?

The cayenne pepper spice is solely made of cayenne/red pepper whereas paprika is a mixture of diverse peppers. Most types of paprika have pimento and cayenne as the base ingredient and have a complex flavor.

Can I substitute red pepper flakes for paprika?

Red pepper flakes are a good alternative to hot or smoked paprika. They are spicy and most varieties have a smoky flavor as well. However, red pepper flakes differ from paprika in color and texture.

Which is better paprika or cayenne pepper?

Usually, cayenne or red pepper is hotter than most types of paprika. The ground cayenne pepper is more consistent in flavor for it contains only one type of pepper. Paprika is a mixture of chilies that come in varying flavors like hot, smoky, sweet, or earthy. Whether to go with paprika or cayenne pepper depends on your taste preferences.

Can you substitute paprika for cumin?

Cumin isn’t a chili pepper but has a warming flavor with a nutty element. It works particularly well with chili flakes and they bolster the natural spicy flavor and add to your dish a rich earthy tone. In the absence of paprika, cumin can produce a somewhat similar heat in your savory dishes but lacks the smoky and sweet elements of paprika.

Are paprika and bell peppers the same?

In some languages, the word paprika refers to all peppers in common, including bell pepper. Bell peppers are sweet but totally lack the heat and smoke-like flavor of paprika which is usually a complex mixture of medium hot chilies.