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Substitute for Paprika

Paprika is that brightly colored red spice in your pantry that you love to add on top of deviled eggs and to many other dishes. It provides not only a delightful flavor but also a pretty color. Below you can find a tasty substitute for paprika if you can’t find this subtle spice in your cabinets.

two white small bowls filled with bright orange paprika spice

What is Paprika?

Paprika is a spice created from capsicum annuum. This is the same plant that cayenne pepper is derived from. However, the flavor profile is much different. Multiple pepper types are combined, dried, and ground to produce the bottled paprika you see on store shelves. 

There are multiple types of paprika, with the most common one in the states being a sweeter version. It adds an earthy flavor to dishes and is best used in small doses. Otherwise, it can have a bitter taste to it. 

Other versions of paprika include a spicy version and smoked paprika. Spicy paprika is very similar to sweet paprika, except it uses a combination of powdered hot chili peppers. Smoked paprika, on the other hand, is produced differently. It is dried by being smoked over wood (usually oak) before being ground. Each has its specific use.

Best Substitute For Paprika

1. Cayenne Pepper Powder

As mentioned above, cayenne pepper is related to paprika. However, it uses spicier chilis than sweet paprika. Using this as a paprika substitute will allow you to achieve a similar red color in dishes. However, expect a darker red instead of the bright red that paprika offers.

Of course, it will also add a good punch of heat. It works well with many dishes that would typically include paprika – even deviled eggs and potato salad. 

If you’re looking for a sweeter taste, you can add a small amount of sugar, honey, or a similar sweetener to dishes. The result is a flavor that is between sweet and hot paprika. As a note, if you plan to add a sweetener – don’t use the combo as a garnish. 

Use 1/3 teaspoon of cayenne pepper for every teaspoon of paprika in the recipe.

2. Black/White Pepper

While black and white pepper won’t create that nice red color for your meals. Though, it will add some flavor and slight heat to your dish. It’s also a great alternative as it’s a kitchen staple for most people. You probably already have it in a cupboard or on your countertop.

There is a difference in flavor between black and white pepper. Black pepper and white pepper are pulled from the same plant. However, black pepper is harvested as an unripe berry, and white pepper is harvested as a ripe berry.

Use black pepper if you’re craving a spicier flavor. White pepper can be used for a similar earthy flavor as paprika. Use these pepper options as smoked paprika substitutes by including a dash of liquid smoke.

Black and white pepper can be used in a 1:1 ratio instead of paprika. 

3. Bell Pepper Powder

If you can find bell pepper powder at the store, opt for this option. Red bell pepper powder will provide sweetness to your dishes. It will add a tanginess as well, though it should still work well with most recipes. 

Imagine the fresh red bell pepper flavor – this is a dried version that retains that exact flavor profile. It’s also quite easy to make at home, especially if you have a dehydrator. Below you’ll find instructions on how to make your bell pepper powder.


  1. You’ll want to slice your bell peppers thinly, ensuring to remove the stem and seeds. 
  2. Add them to your dehydrator until they are dry and “crisp.” 
  3. Grab your grinder (a coffee grinder will work as well) and process until you get the desired consistency. 

Double the amount of bell pepper powder when used instead of paprika. 

4. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

If you usually use hot paprika instead of sweet paprika, you’ll love red pepper flakes as a substitute. Although it’s not a powder, you can still add it to dishes for heat and flavor. 

These flakes do offer a subtle sweetness along with heat in most cases. Though you’ll find different brands of red pepper flakes provide different flavor notes. Some may have a fruity flavor, and some may have more heat. 

These flakes are derived from the same plant species as cayenne pepper and paprika; this accounts for the similarities in flavor and color. 

Aim to use red pepper flakes in cooked dishes as the heat will spread more evenly (think soups, stews, and sauces). You can use this as a garnish, though you’ll get pockets of spice since it’s in a flake form.

Use 1/3 teaspoon of red pepper flakes for every teaspoon of paprika.

5. Chili Powder

You might think of chili powder as a single ingredient. However, it’s a combination of spices and comes in many varieties. 

The most common spices used in chili powder are onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, sweet paprika, and oregano. Chili powder is the best-smoked paprika substitute, especially if you use an ancho chili powder. 

Ancho powder provides a smoky flavor with the remaining ingredients like cumin, keeping a similar earthy taste as paprika. Of course, with paprika included in the mix, you’ll get hints of the taste in your meal when using chili powder anyway.

You can use this as a 1:1 substitute for paprika.

6. Tomato Juice + Chili Powder

While this might seem like an odd combination, it will provide both the color and a similar flavor as paprika. Adding in tomato juice is what creates a red color in dishes. It also adds a sweetness like that of sweet paprika.

It also boasts nutritional value – it provides many vitamins like A, K, C, and fiber, protein, and minerals. Plus, it’s low in calories. Use this combination for cooked dishes that have a sauce, broth, or some form of liquid. 

To use this as an alternative, use a 1:1 ratio for the tomato juice plus a sprinkle of chili powder.

7. Hot Sauce

The hot sauce works as an alternative to paprika as well. It helps in adding flavor to your meal like paprika normally would. Depending on the hot sauce used, you’ll get a different taste and perhaps even a different color in your meal. Try using Sriracha for a sweeter flavor and red color.

Otherwise, any hot sauce will work. You’ll find many hot sauces to have vinegar in them. Expect there to be an additional tang due to this inclusion. Regardless of which hot sauce is chosen, you’ll encounter a chili flavor as most include chilies as an ingredient.

The hot sauce works well in most recipes – as part of a marinade or sauce, in soup, you can even add a dash of it on top of deviled eggs for a pop of spiciness. 

Use one teaspoon of hot sauce for every teaspoon of paprika.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of flavor is paprika?

Standard (sweet) paprika provides a delicious, sweet flavor with earthy notes. Some describe the taste as peppery or even fruity.

Does paprika add flavor or just color?

Paprika adds both flavor and color to dishes. It has a more subtle flavor when used as a topping on cooked food. However, if you’re cooking it in your recipe, you’ll be able to taste it more.

Can I use cumin instead of paprika?

Yes, cumin is an excellent alternative to paprika. The flavor will be different as cumin has a much stronger flavor. You’ll also find, it will create a different color as it presents as a yellow-brown spice.


What if you have all of the substitutes mentioned at home? When in doubt, opt for bell pepper powder as a substitute. It has the closest flavor profile and coloring. 

Even if you have paprika in your kitchen, it’s worthwhile to try the above paprika substitutes. You may find a spice that you prefer in your dish instead. Or even a new, exciting spice combination. Each of the above alternatives will provide you with a delicious tasting meal.

Recipes With paprika

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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