Paprika Substitutes: Sweet, Smoked, Hot Types Included

Paprika comes in varying tastes, like earthy, sweet, smoky, or fiery hot, depending on the particular variety used. Paprika is made from the dried, ground, ripened pods of low-heat varieties of the Capsicum annum species.

This common 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 in trying something hotter or milder than this spice.

Choosing a good paprika substitute, in either case, is simple. The alternative ingredients discussed here are ones you may already have in your kitchen spice rack.

How do they make paprika? Regular paprika is made from ground sweet pepper pods into a bright red powder.  This chili powder is a blend of different peppers and a few spices. Depending on the variety of peppers that go into its making, the flavor can be anything from sweet and mild to bitter and hot.

Best Paprika Substitutes

When you’ve run out of paprika, the possible alternatives for adding spice to your dish in general are:

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

Substitutes for paprika differ according to their types; they are 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 one of the most used varieties for its vibrant color and as a garnish over salads and a few other dishes. It’s a low-heat version with a slightly sweet taste.

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 the sweet, mild paprika powder in your recipe if you don’t have it. No one 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 a smoky flavor to your recipes even without it.

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

Cumin Plus sweet paprika: Another appropriate replacement for smoke-dried paprika is using a blend of these two ingredients. In place of 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, use 2/3 teaspoon of regular paprika plus 1/3 teaspoon of cumin. Some prefer to use garlic powder instead of cumin.

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

  • chipotle chili powder.
  • smoked sea salt,
  • tomato paste or powder
  • sumac.

Substitutes for Hot Paprika

A good alternative to hot paprika should have 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 flavor and color, and cayenne adds 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 by using about ½ teaspoon of cayenne in place of 1 teaspoon of hot paprika. Add more if required, near 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 a 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.


Frequently Asked Questions

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 or red pepper, whereas paprika is a mixture of diverse peppers. Most types of paprika have pimento and cayenne as the base ingredients 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 because it contains only one type of pepper. Paprika is a mixture of chilies that come in varying flavors like hot, smoky, sweet, or earthy. If you love to have something hotter than paprika, then cayenne pepper powder is a good option.

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 peppers. 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.

What can I use instead of paprika in deviled eggs?

The other alternatives to garnishing your deviled eggs include ancho powder, chili powder, tomato juice, crushed black peppercorns, or Aleppo pepper powder.

Final Thoughts

Homemade paprika with handpicked chili peppers of your choice is the ultimate spice mix to replace paprika. It may also include other spices like cumin, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Overall, some of the best substitutes for paprika are Aleppo chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, chipotle powder, ancho chili powder, or guajillo chili powder.