Paprika Substitute: 5 Alternative Spices You Can Use In Your Recipes

So, because the recipe called for you to add some paprika to your meal, you opened your spice cupboard. However, it is paprika-free.

What should you do at this point?

Fear not; it has happened to me before. How do you suppose I came to the conclusion that the finest paprika substitute in my kitchen?

What I’m trying to convey is that there is a method to finish your meal even if you run out of paprika, and if you want to continue reading, I’ll tell you all about it.

Paprika Substitute

paprika substitutes

If You Have Any Of These In Your Cabinet, Your Recipe Is Saved

I’ve noticed lots of people are somewhat oblivious to the many benefits of using paprika in their dishes. For most, paprika is nothing more than a red spice with not much of a flavor that you just sprinkle over deviled eggs or potato salad, which is a tremendous understatement.

Further Reading: Can You Save Potato Salad For Longer In Freezer?

It’s one of the most common spices in kitchens around the world – if you have salt and pepper in your spice rack, you probably have paprika, as well, even if you don’t use it very often.

However, this isn’t a paprika appreciation post – we’re all here to discuss substitutes.

So, what are you supposed to do if you realize mid-cooking you’re all out of paprika?

Here are some excellent alternatives I came up with over the years:

1. Ancho Chili Powder: Not Exactly A Kitchen Staple

With a flavor that’s very similar to that of paprika and a quite close heat level, Ancho powder is probably your best bet.

While it’s still chili powder in its essence, the difference between this one and the one I’ll be talking about later is that Ancho powder is a single-ingredient paprika substitute made entirely from dried sweet chilies.

However, I’m well aware that Ancho powder is not your typical spice – not everyone considers it a kitchen staple.

But you can follow my example:

  • What I like to do is buy some Ancho powder and keep it in my spice cabinet for emergency situations. That way, if something like this happens – I’m all out of paprika, but the recipe calls for it – I know it’s Ancho’s time to shine.

When used, it will give your dishes a specific smoky note, but if you ask me, that’s always a plus!

What goes with chili? Check our super bowl Sunday chili menu ideas.

2. Cayenne Pepper: A Complete Heat Boost

A little warning before I get into details:

Cayenne pepper is apparently not the perfect option for those of you that don’t enjoy spicy dishes.

However, as far as paprika replacements go, cayenne pepper should be one of your top choices.

Ranging from 30.000 to 50.000 SHU (as opposed to paprika, which doesn’t score more than 1,500 SHU), it’s pretty obvious you’ll be making a huge jump in heat levels here.

While I always encourage my boys to try dishes that vary in spiciness, it’s never my goal to overdo it, so I came up with a secret recipe to turn down the heat while still getting that distinct paprika flavor.

Instead of using an equal amount of cayenne pepper as I would paprika, I cut it in half.

To make up for it, I either add some sugar (it helps bring out the flavor), or I mix it in with an equal part of Ancho or chili powder.

3. Aleppo Pepper Powder: A Substitute From The Middle East

best paprika substitute

I don’t know if it’s just me being a foodie, but I like to keep my spice rack filled with spices, both standard ones, as well as those that are considered “hard to find.”

That’s how I discovered Aleppo powder could jump in as a paprika substitute – I wanted a more complex flavor, and on the spur of the moment, I grabbed Aleppo pepper instead of paprika.

And let me tell you something:

I was not disappointed. 🙂

Heat-wise, it’s somewhere between paprika and cayenne pepper. The flavor, however, is an entirely different story – it has a certain tomato-like tang, a bit of an earthy vibe, with some smokiness to it, as well.

All in all, a complex flavor, but it can work as a paprika substitute just fine. I’m pretty sure non-foodies won’t even be able to tell the difference.

Just make sure to take into account its coarse texture.

4. Chili Powder: A Well-Known Mix Of Ingredients

Chili powder is a well-known kitchen staple and a decent paprika substitute. Why wouldn’t it be?

Made from powdered hot chili peppers, it’s pretty close to paprika, but with one principal difference:

While paprika is a single-ingredient spice, switching to chili powder means you’re ultimately making a transition to a multi-ingredient one.

There’s one thing you should be careful about when using chili powder as a paprika substitute, though, and that’s the overall flavor of your dish. Here’s the thing:

  • If the original recipe requires paprika only as a means for adding color to the food (so, no more than a pinch), you can use chili powder instead, without giving it a second thought. However, if the recipe calls for paprika’s distinct flavor, chili powder may not be the greatest idea ever, solely because it’s cut with other strong-flavored spices, such as garlic powder and cumin.

You can give it a try, but I can’t guarantee you it won’t impact your dish with its earthy flavor.

Speaking Of All Things Spicy, Check Out My Canned Chili Recommendations

5. Bell Peppers: A DIY Paprika Substitute

If you’re running low on every spice I’ve mentioned above, you can try this homemade paprika substitute – all you need are some bell peppers. Just don’t tell me you’re all out of bell peppers, as well, because at this point, we’re pretty much running out of options.

All jokes aside, here’s how to make your DIY substitute:

  1. Take a couple of ripe bell peppers, remove the stems, and let your dehydrator do the rest. If you own one, that is. If not, you can just slice them up and put them in the oven at 120°F – just remember to use a baking sheet.
  2. Once they’re dry, all you need to do is grind them, and voila – you made a homemade paprika substitute!

So, What’s The Best Paprika Substitute?

All of the paprika substitutes mentioned above were, to some extent, a result of my fun, little kitchen experiments. I’ve said it plenty of times before, and I’ll say it again:

You won’t know if it works until you try it yourself.

So, don’t be afraid to experiment a bit now and then.

But before you opt for a particular paprika substitute, take a moment to consider why the recipe call for paprika in the first place. Is it just for the pop of red color, or is it for the taste?

Once you’ve figured out what the recipe requires, the process of choosing an adequate paprika substitute will be a piece of cake.

Which spice do you usually use as a replacement when you’re out of paprika?

Let me know in the comments – maybe I left something out.

Don’t judge; it happens to the best of us. 🙂

Also, check our Top 10 Substitutes for Green Chilies

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