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Substitute for Paprika (10 Best Ingredients To Try).

We’ve got you covered if you want a substitute for paprika. Paprika is that brightly colored red spice in your pantry. It provides not only a delightful flavor but also a pretty color.

Below, you can find a list of the best paprika substitutes. They will work 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.

Yet, the flavor profile is much different. The bottled paprika on store shelves combines different dried and ground peppers.

This dried pepper condiment contains Vitamin C, capsaicin, and antioxidants.

Types Of Paprika

There are three popular versions of paprika powder. Each has a distinct taste that identifies them from the other kinds.

Sweet Paprika

Sometimes called mild paprika, this is the most common variety in the US. Sweet paprika adds a slightly sweet, earthy flavor to dishes.

This is best used in small doses. Otherwise, it can have a bitter taste to it.

It tastes mainly like peppers and does not have heat. For this reason, it is best to want a spicy flavor without your dish becoming hot.

Spicy Paprika

Spicy paprika is very similar to sweet paprika. The only difference is that it uses powdered hot chili peppers.

It is also sometimes called Hungarian paprika or hot paprika.

This has some heat that will become very noticeable in your dish. If a recipe calls for spicy paprika but you are not a fan of spicy food, use sweet paprika instead.

If your spice rack is out of spicy paprika, use sweet paprika and some cayenne powder to replace it.

Smoked Paprika

The process is different when it comes to smoked paprika. It is dried by being smoked over wood (usually oak) before being ground.

This type of paprika has a plain smoky flavor without the heat. Yet, there is a hot smoked paprika version if you prefer a combination of smoky and hot flavors.

Ways To Use Paprika

Paprika is most commonly used to season food. This is why you can usually find it included in marinades and rubs. It is also used to incorporate spice and color in spice blends.

You can also add paprika to add flavor to stews and sauces. Due to its color, it makes a great garnish and topping.

Paprika powder is also best for deviled eggs and can also be an ingredient in meat batter.

It is also used together with other spices in making a spice blend. For example, the popular Cajun spice has paprika as one of its main components.

Best Substitutes For Paprika

If your recipe calls for paprika and you don’t have it, no need to worry. You can use the following paprika substitutes in its place.

Here are 10 of the best substitutes for paprika:

1. Cayenne Pepper Powder

As mentioned above, cayenne pepper is related to paprika.

However, this spice rack staple uses spicier chilis than sweet paprika. Using this as a paprika substitute will allow you to achieve a similar red color in dishes. Still, expect a darker red instead of paprika’s bright red.

Of course, cayenne pepper will also add a good punch of heat. It works well with many dishes that typically include paprika – even in a potato salad.

If you’re looking for a sweet taste, combine cayenne pepper with sweeteners. A small amount of sugar or honey will result in sweeter dishes. The result is a flavor that is between sweet and hot paprika. If you plan to add a sweetener – don’t use the cayenne pepper combo as a garnish.

Use 1/3 teaspoon of cayenne pepper for every teaspoon of paprika your recipe calls for.

2. Black or White Pepper

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. You can use white pepper for a similar earthy flavor as paprika. Include a dash of liquid smoke to use these grounds peppers as smoked paprika substitutes.

Black or white pepper can be used in a 1:1 ratio. You can also use a combination of both if you prefer.

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 also add a tanginess, though it should still work well with most recipes.

This dried version retains the same flavor profile as fresh red bell peppers. Remember, though, that red bell peppers do not have any heat. If you need a spicy taste, use other swaps to replace paprika.

Powdered bell peppers are also one of the best homemade paprika substitutes. This is especially true if you have a dehydrator. Below you’ll find instructions on how to make your bell pepper powder.


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

Use 2 teaspoons of bell pepper powder for every teaspoon of paprika your recipe calls for.

4. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

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

These spicy red peppers offer a subtle sweetness and heat in most cases. Note that 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.

Use chili 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 chili flakes for every teaspoon of paprika.

5. Chili Powder

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

Regular chili powder has onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, sweet paprika, and oregano. This can replace smoked paprika, especially when combined with ancho chili powder.

Ancho powder provides a smoky flavor while keeping an earthy taste as paprika. With paprika included in the mix, you’ll get hints of the taste in your meal when using chili powder anyway.

You have to remember, though, that chili powders have intense heat. This might not be best if looking to replace sweet paprika.

Use 1 teaspoon of chili powder for every teaspoon of paprika called for in recipes.

6. Tomato Juice + Chili Powder

While this might seem odd, 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, including Vitamin A, K, and C, 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.


  • For a thicker version, use tomato sauce instead of tomato juice.
  • If you do not have chili powder, chili flakes or ancho powder will also work.
  • For a Mexican flavor, replace chili powder with taco seasoning.

7. Hot Sauce

The hot sauce works as a good substitute for 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 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 extra tang due because of this. You’ll encounter a distinct chili flavor regardless of which hot sauce you choose.

The hot sauce works well in most recipes. It can be part of a marinade, sauce, or soup. You can 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 your recipe calls for.

8. Aleppo Chili Powder

Like cayenne peppers, Aleppo peppers also come from Capsicum annuum. Naturally, there are many similarities between paprika and Aleppo pepper powder. For this reason, it makes an excellent paprika substitute.

It is the same color. Yet, like other chili peppers, Aleppo chili pepper has much more heat than paprika.

If your recipe calls for sweet paprika, this might not be the best paprika substitute. However, this will work pretty well in dishes that need spicy paprika.

Use 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo chili powder for one teaspoon of paprika called for in recipes.


  • If you cannot find Aleppo pepper powder, you can use Aleppo pepper flakes instead.

9. Chipotle Powder

Chipotle peppers are dried and smoked jalapenos. Once ground, they become chipotle powder.

Because it has a smoky flavor, this popular spice is also one of the best paprika substitutes. This is especially true when replacing smoked paprika.

Remember that this alternative packs more heat than paprika.

Because of this, use only 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder to replace a teaspoon of paprika.

10. Chili Sauce

Yet another one of the best paprika substitutes is chili sauce. It shares the same color and has some heat as well. Some versions might have a sweet flavor, but almost all kinds have a kick of heat.

The biggest difference is that it comes in liquid form. This will not work for sprinkling purposes like a paprika powder would.

This is perfect, though, for adding to stews. You can also combine this with other spices in sauces.

Follow a 1:1 ratio when using this as a paprika substitute.

How To Choose The Best Paprika Substitute

It would be best to look at several factors when choosing a good paprika substitute. Doing this will ensure you get the best results while not sacrificing the flavor of your dish.

1. Watch the heat.

Depending on the type, the heat level of paprika varies. Because of this, you should also be mindful of the alternative you choose.

For instance, to replace sweet paprika, avoid using hot sauce. Opt for black or white pepper instead.

If you want an alternative to hot paprika, go for Aleppo powder or hot sauce. A teaspoon of cayenne pepper will also do the trick.

The heat level is also important when it comes to feeding children. Most kids are not fans of spicy food, so use the mildest substitute available. Ground white pepper is a good option in this case.

2. Take note of the form.

Paprika comes in powder form, so some recipes that call for it will need the same form.

If you want to sprinkle, use ground black pepper, chipotle powder, or red pepper flakes.

On the other hand, if you are making a stew or a spicy sauce, go for liquids.

3. Consider the color.

Some dishes include paprika for its pretty red hue. If you are making one of those, choose swaps with the same color.

You can use white or black peppers if color is not a problem.

4. Pay attention to smokiness.

Smoked paprika is usually called for in recipes because of its smoky flavor. If this is the case, choose alternatives that have similar characteristics.

That said, chipotle powder makes the best smoked paprika or Hungarian paprika replacement.

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.


You can easily find a good substitute for paprika at home. When in doubt, opt for bell pepper powder as a substitute. It has the closest flavor profile and coloring. Better yet, make your own paprika powder.

Trying one paprika substitute is worthwhile, even if you have paprika in your kitchen. 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 an equally delicious meal.

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paprika spice in small white dish

Paprika Substitute

Natalia-Flavorful Home
We’ve got you covered if you want a substitute for paprika. Here is a list of the best paprika substitutes. They will work if you can’t find this subtle spice in your cabinets.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course substitutes
Cuisine American


  • Cayenne Pepper Powder
  • Black Pepper
  • Bell Pepper Powder
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Chili Powder
  • Tomato Juice + Chili Powder
  • Hot Sauce
  • Aleppo Chili Powder
  • Chipotle Powder
  • Chili Sauce


  • Select the best paprika substitute that works for your needs.


It would be best to look at several factors when choosing a good paprika substitute. Doing this will ensure you get the best results while not sacrificing the flavor of your dish.
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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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