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Perfecting Your Dishes: 5 BEST Substitutes for Paprika

Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about when it comes to paprika?

This unique spice, with its vibrant red hue, has been used in many recipes around the world thanks to its distinctive flavor.

If you are looking for a substitute that maintains the same unforgettable taste and color, take a look at this guide to find out how to use paprika and the five best substitutes.

With these options, you can add deliciousness to any meal without losing the undeniably unique flavor or appearance of traditional paprika.

What’s Paprika?

whats paprika

Paprika is a type of ground spice that is commonly used to give dishes a vibrant red color and unique flavor.

It’s made from a variety of peppers that are dried and ground into a fine powder.

Paprika can range from mild to spicy, with the spicier varieties tending to be more expensive.

While paprika is often used in Hungarian and other European dishes, it can also be found in many American recipes.

Paprika has many uses in the kitchen, from adding flavor to meats and vegetables to spicing up dips, light sauces and rice dishes.

It can also be used as a garnish on top of salads or soups for added visual appeal.

Its bold red color helps to lend brightness and vibrancy to any dish it’s added too.

The spice should be added at the very end of cooking time because heat tends to diminish its flavor quickly.

The intensity of paprika’s flavor depends largely on the pepper variety used in making it and the percentage of oil present within the powder – Hungarian paprikas tend to have more oil content than Spanish ones do, making them richer in flavor but with less color intensity than their Spanish counterparts.

Every brand will have slightly different characteristics so it’s important that you find one that best suits your needs.

The 5 BEST Substitutes for Paprika

Although paprika has a unique flavor and aroma that is hard to replicate, there are substitutions you can use in place of this versatile seasoning.

If you’re in a pinch or just don’t have paprika on hand, here are five of the best substitute options for paprika:

1 – Smoked Paprika

smoked paprika 1

Smoked paprika is made from peppers that have been smoked and then dried, usually over an open flame.

It has a smoky flavor and a deep red-brown color.

As the name implies, this variety packs a punch with its spicy pungency and smokiness, so adjust the quantity used when substituting for sweet paprika.

Also keep in mind that smoked paprika has a more intense flavor, so you may want to start by using less than the amount of sweet paprika required by your recipe.

Use it as an accent in steak rubs or sprinkle it over hummus and roasted vegetables for an extra kick of flavor.

2 – Ancho Chile Powder

ancho chile powder

Ancho chile powder is a popular substitute for paprika because of its similar flavor and color.

Ancho chiles are mild in flavor, so the resulting powder is mildly spicy but not overly so.

We recommend using ancho chile powder as a one-to-one replacement for paprika in your recipes.

It’s perfect for sprinkling into chili or tacos, or even adding to a pot of soup or stew to bring out the earthy flavors of your meal.

Although this pepper isn’t strictly Mexican in origin like paprika, it does share that slightly smoky and sweet flavor profile, making it a great alternative when used with other Latin American dishes such as enchiladas or burritos.

3 – Cayenne Pepper Powder

cayenne pepper powder

Cayenne pepper powder is a good substitute for paprika since it has the same vibrant red color, although it has a much stronger flavor.

Cayenne pepper is often used to impart a spicy kick to dishes.

If using cayenne as a substitute, you should be aware that it will add significantly more heat to the dish than paprika would.

Start by replacing only half of the amount of paprika called for with cayenne and add more as desired.

Alternatively, you can simply reduce the amount of cayenne used to create your desired level of heat in your dish.

Be sure to read labels carefully when shopping for cayenne pepper powder; some have other spices added which can alter the flavor profile significantly.

4 – Chili Powder

chili powder

Another reasonable substitute for paprika is chili powder.

This spice is a blend of several ground peppers, but its main component is cayenne pepper.

It can be used in place of paprika to add a spicy kick to dishes without overwhelming them.

When choosing a chili powder, make sure to check the ingredients list as many varieties contain other spices such as garlic and oregano.

While this will generally enhance the flavor of your dish, it’s always best to choose one that doesn’t contain any additional flavorings if you’re aiming for an authentic paprika taste.

The color of chili powder also varies depending on the variety of pepper used in it so bear this in mind when substituting.

5 – Chipotle Powder

chipotle powder 1

Chipotle powder, also known as smoked jalapeño powder, is made from ground chipotle peppers.

Chipotle peppers are commonly used in Mexican cuisine due to their smoky, slightly spicy flavor.

As a substitute for paprika, chipotle powder will add some smokiness along with a slight heat that regular paprika does not have.

For those looking for a spicier substitute for paprika, this may be the best option.

Just keep in mind that you’ll want to use less of it than you would use when using regular paprika as it can be quite spicy.


Regardless of the recipe, there are a variety of ingredients that can be used to substitute for paprika.

To give dishes with paprika an extra kick, use a combination of chili powder and cayenne pepper.

To keep dishes sweet and fragrant, alternate between nutmeg and ginger.

When looking for smoky overtones, try smoked paprika or chipotle powder.

Finally, when seeking a deeper flavor profile, the combination of garlic powder, onion powder, and turmeric should do the trick.

In conclusion, each one of these five substitutes will be able to give you a delicious dish with tastes that mimic that of traditional paprika — so feel free to experiment.

Whether you’re cooking up your next family meal or venturing into new experiences in Paprika-free cooking — always remember that there are options available if you are in need of an excellent alternative ingredient.

substitutes for paprika

The 5 BEST Substitutes for Paprika

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Substitutes


  • Smoked Paprika
  • Ancho Chile Powder
  • Cayenne Pepper Powder
  • Chili Powder
  • Chipotle Powder


  • Choose your preferred substitute from the list of options.
  • Organize all of your ingredients.
  • Use the proper substitute to cook your recipes.
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