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9 Paprika Substitutes To Spice Up Your Meals

paprika substitute

Paprika is a ground spice that, depending on the variety used, can have a sweet, smoky, earthy flavor or be bitter and hot. This vibrant spice is made from a blend of various peppers like poblano, cayenne, hot chili, sweet peppers, and Aleppo peppers. It contains high levels of carotene, which gives it its bright orange-red hue.

Paprika is often used as a colorant, seasoning, and garnish for various dishes, making it quite essential in your pantry. So, what happens if your recipe calls for paprika and you’ve run out of it? You use these paprika substitutes to save the day!

#1. Aleppo Pepper

Aleppo Pepper

While Aleppo pepper isn’t very popular in many kitchens, it can be used to replace paprika quite well. This red-colored Middle Eastern spice has a slightly salty, earthy flavor. It is made from ripe Halaby peppers that are semi-dried, seeded, and grounded. You can use it to season meat, beans, salads, and dips in Middle Eastern cuisine.

When substituting Aleppo pepper for paprika, you should know that Aleppo pepper has moderate heat levels, somewhere between the spiciness of paprika and cayenne pepper. So, the amount you use will depend on your own preferences, heat tolerances, and the type of cuisine you’re making. Start with a tiny amount and then adjust to taste.

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1/2 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper (increase as needed).

#2. Ancho Chili Powder

Ancho Chili Powder

Ancho chile powder is a good paprika substitute since it has a similar flavor and color to paprika. Made from dried and roasted poblano peppers, ancho chili powder has a rich red color and a mildly sweet and smokey flavor.

While its mild heat is similar to that of paprika, ancho chili powder can give the meal a slight smokiness that can change its overall flavor profile. So be a little conservative when substituting it for paprika.

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1/2 teaspoon of ancho chile powder.

#3. Cajun Spice

Cajun Spice

Cajun spice, or Cajun seasoning, is made with a blend of salt, thyme, cayenne, garlic powder, oregano, black/white pepper, onion powder, and red pepper flakes. Some variants may also include smoked or regular paprika in the spice blend.

If you’re swapping out paprika for Cajun spice, remember that Cajun spice has a slight orange tinge that may not work too well with dishes that require a bright red color to shine. Cajun spice also has a savory flavor, and while it isn’t as fiery hot as paprika, it may be used as a substitute in practically any recipe that calls for regular or smoked paprika.

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of Cajun spice.

#4. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is often used as a substitute for paprika because of its brilliant color and high spice level. But its intense heat can easily be reduced by adding some cream or broth, depending on the recipe. You can even create a spice blend with equal parts cayenne pepper and ancho chili powder to lower the spice levels.

When substituting cayenne pepper for paprika, keep in mind that it has a higher heat level than paprika, so start with a little amount. You can then build the flavors up according to your spice tolerance and preference. You can also consider using a sweetener to mimic the subtle sweetness of paprika.

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1/3 or 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

#5. Chili Powder

Chili Powder

Chili powder — made from either red peppers or cayenne peppers — is typically a blend of chilis and other spices including cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika, ancho chili, cumin, onion powder, etc. It has a subtle sweetness and a touch of heat, making it one of the best spice blends to use in dishes that call for some color and a kick of flavor, such as deviled eggs and hummus.

Chili powder will differ significantly from paprika as paprika is a single-ingredient spice while chili powder is a multi-ingredient spice blend. And when you factor in differences in ingredient blends and spice proportions used by different manufacturers, you can expect chili powder to sport different flavor profiles ranging from earthy to mildly spicy and savory. So, when substituting, you may have to alter the other seasonings used in the recipe.

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of chili powder.

#6. Chipotle Powder

Chipotle Powder

Chipotle powder is created from smoke-dried jalapenos and is an excellent replacement for paprika in recipes that call for a more fiery Mexican flavor. Its flavor profile makes chipotle powder a terrific stand-in for barbecue sauces, grilling rubs, and just about any other recipe that asks for smoky heat.

Compared to paprika, chipotle powder has a darker red color that may change the look of your meal. It also has a smokey, earthy flavor that tends to offer higher heat levels than paprika. If you’re looking to add more sweetness to the dish than spice, you can substitute sweet paprika for chipotle powder to get the desired results.

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1/4 teaspoon of chipotle powder.

(Replace 1 teaspoon paprika with 1 teaspoon chipotle powder if you’re confident in your heat tolerances.)

#7. Hot Sauce

Hot Sauce

Chili-based condiments such as hot sauce, pepper sauce, and chili sauce are made using chili peppers combined with ingredients such as vinegar, oil, and water. Depending on which hot sauce you use, you can easily customize the flavor you need in any recipe.

Hot sauces make for a great substitute for paprika in dishes where heat, not color, is the priority.

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1 teaspoon of hot sauce.

#8. Smoked Paprika

Smoked Paprika

Smoked paprika, also known as Spanish paprika or pimento, is made by smoking and drying pepper over oak fires. This deep-red, full-bodied spice is available in different heat levels ranging from picante (hot) to agridulce (semi-hot) and dulce (mild).

Despite both paprika and smoked paprika made from peppers, smoked paprika has a distinctly smoky flavor that can sometimes be overpowering. Ideally, you should replace paprika with smoked paprika only if the dish calls for strong smoky flavors. In a pinch, you can still substitute smoked paprika for paprika in your dish, but it won’t share near likeness with the real deal.

1 teaspoon of paprika = 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika.

#9. Tomato Sauce

You won’t find a better substitute for the color of paprika than tomato sauce. Tomato sauce can add a lot of flavors and sweet tanginess to a wide variety of recipes while also providing some texture.

As it has a balance of sweetness, acidity, and umami flavors, it would be wise to note that tomato sauce will not replicate the flavor of paprika. In fact, it won’t even come close. You may, however, combine tomato sauce with a hint of chili powder or a dash of hot sauce to mimic the smoky, sweet flavor of paprika.

1 teaspoon paprika = 2 teaspoons tomato sauce + 1 teaspoon chili.