Liquid smoke, as the name implies, is smoke that has been condensed into a liquid form. It provides an authentic smokey, campfire flavor without the hassle of actually cooking over a campfire. You can use liquid smoke to add wonderful depth to a variety of dishes including meat, vegetables, and desserts and get that smokehouse charred flavor.
Recreating the distinct characteristics of liquid smoke can be challenging, but it can be done. These 7 liquid smoke substitutes can work as great replacements!
1. Smoked Paprika
Smoked paprika, or Spanish paprika, is made by smoking dried, crushed peppers using oak wood. The result is a spice that has a wonderfully rich and smokey flavor and a dark red color that can look beautiful in any savory recipe.
Thanks to similar flavor profiles, smoked paprika is an excellent stand-in for liquid smoke. Keep in mind that the heat level of smoked paprika can be mild, moderate, or high, so take care to ensure you pick the right variant for your recipe. We recommend starting with a small amount and adjusting to taste to ensure it doesn’t overpower your dish.
1 teaspoon of liquid smoke = 1/2 teaspoon of paprika.
2. Chipotle Powder
Made by slow-roasting crushed and dried jalapeno or chili peppers over a natural wood fire, chipotle powder can be a delectably earthy, smoky-flavored spice. It is commonly used in Mexican dishes and is also widely available in supermarkets, which makes it an excellent substitute in a variety of veggies and meat-based recipes.
When substituting chipotle powder for liquid smoke, you need to remember that chipotle powder packs a lot of heat compared to liquid smoke, which can change the flavor profile of your dish if used in excessive amounts. So, if you’re someone who’s into liquid smoke for its smoky flavor and not its spice levels, it would be best to use chipotle powder sparingly.
1 teaspoon of liquid smoke = 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder.
(Adjust according to your heat preference.)
3. Smoked Salt
Smoked salt is created by smoking regular salt for nearly14 days with one or more aromatic woods such as oak, alder, applewood, hickory, or mesquite. What kind of wood is used in this process determines what kind of deep, smoky flavor the smoked salt will have.
To use this aroma-rich spice as a substitute for the original ingredient, you can use it like regular salt to sprinkle over sweet or savory dishes to emulate the smokey flavor or even use it in your dry rub for meat-based dishes.
You can also use it to rim the cocktail glasses for a hint of smokiness and add it to sauces and garnishes. If using it in savory dishes, remember to skip the regular salt in the recipe as smoked salt is mostly just salt; you don’t want to make your dish too salty.
1 teaspoon of liquid smoke = 1 teaspoon of smoked salt.
(Adjust based on your recipe to reduce or increase the saltiness.)
4. Smoked Tea
Smoked tea, or lapsang souchong, is a Chinese black tea that is made with smoke-drying Camellia sinensis leaves over a pinewood fire. It produces a smoky, herbal flavor with a smoky aroma that is suitable for both meat-based and vegetarian recipes.
Smoked tea differs from other tea varieties in that it lacks a bitter taste, which also makes it an excellent substitute for liquid smoke, particularly in Asian recipes and soup-based stews.
When substituting smoked tea for liquid smoke, crush the tea leaves finely in a blender and combine with a spice blend to infuse herbal flavors into meat-based dishes. Alternatively, you can also pour boiling water over the leaves and leave for a few minutes to allow the robust flavors of the tea to develop. Then, strain the mixture and add it to liquid recipes such as stews and soups.
1 teaspoon of liquid smoke = 1 teaspoon of smoked tea.
Now, if you don’t want to risk adding or replacing any ingredients in your recipe, the following options might just let you achieve that perfect smokiness in your recipes.
5. Smoked Meats
If you don’t have liquid smoke, you can simply substitute it with smoked meats. They already have the smoked flavor and do not require the addition of additional ingredients to achieve the smokiness. The good news is that when you marinate the meat with other ingredients, the smoky flavors of the meat will penetrate the other ingredients and deliver a flavor boost to the dish.
Smoked meat can be used as a substitute in meat-based main dishes as well as stews, soups, and sides when you want to add a smoky flavor to the dish. Just keep in mind that this will change the fat and nutritional content of your dish. Of course, it will also not be a good substitute for those with vegetarian/vegan diets.
While these ingredients are effective stand-ins for liquid smoke, if you don’t have any of these in your pantry or just want to try something unique, we recommend switching up your cooking preparation to get that charred, smokey flavor.
Here are two alternative cooking methods that will perfectly replicate the flavor profile and distinct aroma of liquid smoke — charcoal and smoke gun.
Charcoal imparts a smoky flavor without influencing the overall flavor of the recipe. This versatile ingredient will work exemplary well in savory dishes as well as in cocktails and sweet desserts.
Follow these steps to use it as a substitute for liquid smoke:
- Burn a piece of charcoal on the stovetop over a flame.
- When it reaches the smoking point, use tongs to transfer it to a small bowl.
- Place this small bowl in the container containing the food you want to smoke.
- Close the container with a lid to allow the smoky flavor and aroma to develop and permeate the remaining ingredients.
And there you have it, a smoky-flavored recipe without the use of additional spices.
7. Smoke Gun
A smoke gun is an innovative tool that works by adding wood chips to a portable smoking gun. It then burns the wood, causing smoke to escape from the pipe. While this method does not infuse additional flavors into the dish, it is a versatile piece of equipment that adds flavor and aroma to food without using heat.
A smoke gun can help you recreate that delicious smoke-infused flavor of liquid smoke in your recipe without having to add or substitute any ingredients. Use it to flavor savory dishes like meat and vegetables or to enhance the appeal of sweet dishes like ice creams and puddings.