Top 6 Paprika Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Finding the best paprika substitutes will help keep your meals properly spiced, even if you don’t keep your spice rack properly filled.

Paprika is a spice that is commonly associated with Spanish and Eastern European cuisine, but it actually originated in Mexico and was brought to Europe in the 16th century. It is made from dried and ground bell peppers, and sometimes has chili peppers added as well. It comes in several different varieties, depending on the peppers that are used to make it, such as sweet paprika, hot paprika or smoked paprika.

Paprika Substitutes

Paprika substitutes aren’t always perfect, as paprika is a unique spice that brings just as much in terms of color as it does in taste. If you find yourself out of it, the best paprika substitutes include cayenne pepper, Aleppo pepper, chili powder, tomato juice, pimenton de la Vera Picante, and chipotle among others.

Cayenne Pepper Powder

Cayenne pepper is a common seasoning that most people have in their cupboards already, and it is readily available at almost every grocery store. It is the first thing people reach for when they are replacing paprika, as it is the same bright red color. The thing to keep in mind is that cayenne peppers are much hotter than the red bell peppers that constitute paprika. Use less at first, and then flavor your dish to taste.

Chili Powder

Chili powder is a popular blend of ground chili peppers, cumin, garlic, and oregano. In most cases, those other seasonings will work in a dish calling for paprika. However, especially in Eastern European dishes like paprikash, the oregano and cumin will not be appropriate.

Tomato Juice

Tomato juice is often considered a good substitution for paprika’s fruitiness. Use half tomato juice and half chili powder to really replicate both the heat and sweetness of paprika.

Aleppo Pepper Powder

Aleppo pepper is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. It tastes similar to an ancho chile, with a moderate level of heat and a salty flavor. With citrus undertones of cumin, it will recreate some of the brightness of paprika, without any overwhelming heat.

Pimenton de la Vera Picante

This red spicy powder from Spain is also known as smoked Spanish paprika. It is made from wood fire-smoked chili peppers and is generally spicier than common paprika. Even so, it is essentially a type of paprika and should work in most recipes.

Chipotle Powder

Made from chipotle peppers that have a mild, sweet, and smoky heat, chipotle powder is a good substitute for any recipe calling for smoked paprika. It will provide the smoky undertone without adding too much heat to the dish, and you can add a pinch of cayenne if you want a spicier flavor.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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