8 Substitutes for Smoked Paprika That Will Amaze You

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We all have come across smoked paprika in two or more of our kitchen experiments. Its bittersweet, smoky and spicy flavors definitely give any dish a good lift. While it is easy for us, to find smoked paprika at our local grocers, there are days when we seem to run out of it. And when a recipe calls for smoked paprika or Spanish pimenton and we don’t have any, we are at our wits end trying to figure out what to do.

First, we need to understand what smoked paprika really is. It comes in different varieties, some of which are on the sweeter side, while some are on the spicy, bitter-sweet range. Paprika is a spice made up of different types of dried chili peppers, blended together. Sweet, smoked or Hungarian, one thing is for sure, you can use this spice blend to give color, smokiness, spiciness, and umami to all sorts of meat and vegetable-based dishes.

Paprika is widely used in stews, soups, chili, paella and roasts, just like in this recipe from Taste.com. So when you run out of the spice or you simply want to know what you can use as a substitute for smoked paprika.

#1. Chipotle Pepper Powder: Not Just for Your Tacos and Burritos

Chipotle peppers are relatively hotter than the types of peppers used to make smoked paprika. This means that you need to use this with complete caution. This unique blend can add more than just spice to your dish, but will also give it a really deep color and just the right smokiness to your stews and soups.

To use chipotle powder as a very good substitute for smoked paprika,, be sure use to use 1/3 tsp for every whole teaspoon of paprika. This recipe from Food Network if you want to make a great spice rub for your next barbecue. For a great chili, try this one from My Recipes, which makes use of smoked chipotle in adobo sauce.

#2 Gochugaru: Adds Spiciness to Your Dish, the Korean Way

Gochugaru or Kochukaru, also known as Korean hot pepper flakes is Asia’s version of a great blend of spicy red peppers. They’re dried with their seeds removed to keep their deep, bright red hue when grounded. The texture is rougher and flakier than the traditional paprika or chili powder. But if you want to add a tinge of sweetness and a whole load of spice and color in your dish, then this is a great substitute that you can use.

For the perfect vegetarian side dish, other than kimchi, this cucumber salad from “Ktchn” is a great dish to make. Want something meaty? Try this Korean Spicy Braised Chicken recipe from Maangchi.

#3 Cayenne Pepper Powder: Works Best with Cumin

Cayenne pepper is not just loved for its spice and taste, but also because of its medicinal and weight loss properties. In terms of cooking, it’s used to add an intense amount of heat to any dish. Also referred to as Guinea spice, it ‘s made of dried chili peppers or bird pepper, ground into a really fine powder.

When using its powdered form, a little really does make a huge difference. And if you will be using it as a substitute for smoked paprika, you need to mix it with a little bit of cumin to get that bittersweet taste. For a recipe that calls for 1 tsp of paprika, use 2/3 tsp of cayenne plus 1/3 tsp of cumin. BBC has a great recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala which you can also try with vegetables for a vegetarian version. Make your own homemade hot sauce or use it for various meatball preparations too! This recipe from Kitchen Stewardship will help you flavor your hot wings, steaks, burgers and any dish that needs a little razzle-dazzle.

#4 Powdered Guajillo: Mexican Spice Royalty

Guajillos are one of the most commonly used peppers in Mexico. This kind of pepper is really spicy but it offers the tangy flavor of cranberries, the smoky aroma of paprika and the sweetness of tomatoes. These qualities make it a great sub for smoked paprika, for sure.

Dried and ground, guajillo powder works well with soups, sauces, rubs, and stews. Try this brilliant pork recipe from Epicurious.com. For the perfect spicy salsa, Bon Appetit offers the best cooking tips where you can use different sorts of tomatoes and chili powders.

#5 California Chili Powder: West Side Represent!

California chili powder is not just a great replacement for smoked paprika for its bold flavors and dark red color, it is also used in place of ground guajillos. Ground and dried Anaheim peppers make up this type of powdered chili; it can complement the flavors of Mexican, Asian, Indian and any southern dish.

Use it with cumin, oregano, and garlic powder to give your dish a smoky aroma with just the right amount of bitterness. Make the best sausages, steak rub or vegetable seasoning with this recipe from Recipe 4 Living. Give your fruit salads a refreshingly spicy take by trying out this amazing treat from Minimalist Baker.

#6 Ancho Chile Powder: The King of Mexican Peppers

Ancho chili is one of the best substitutes for smoked paprika because of its milder spice level and intense smoky flavor. This dark reddish-brown chili powder is wildly used in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines. It can give your dish a really dark hue, so you can mix it with some California chili to lighten it up and add more heat.

Serve the best steak with this recipe from My Recipes. For a bolder and really comforting dish, try this Beef with Ancho, mole and Cumin Stew from Epicurious.

#7 Garam Masala: A Wonderful Marriage of Spices

Garam Masala is a very powerful and versatile blend of spices usually used in South Asian and Mediterranean dishes. This blend is commonly made up of cumin, coriander seeds, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, bay leaves, mace and some even use dried chilies. The spices are ground together and used in curries, rubs or as the perfect seasoning for your falafel, tandoori and stews.

Garam masala’s bold and smoky flavors are different from paprika, but it is a great replacement if you want to give your dish more flare. Try this Indian recipe from Food.com for a flavorful family meal. Use garam masala to cook a really healthy vegan or vegetarian dish, just like this soup from A Beautiful Plate.

#8 Sichuan Chili Flakes: For the Best Stir-Fries in the World

Sichuan or Szechuan pepper powder is a combination of dried Asian chili and Szechuan peppercorns. These are ground up into a course meal and used to season most Asian stir-fries, soups and noodle dishes. While these flakes are not much used on their own, these are good replacements for smoked paprika if you want a really spicy dish.

Sichuan pepper flakes are often used to make a delicious chili oil often used as a condiment or a seasoning for various Asian dishes Try this chili oil recipe from The Woks of Life that you can use as a condiment or dipping sauce for your favorite Asian dumplings, fried pork or shrimps. Food Network has just the right recipe that you are looking for! Here is their take on the crowd pleasing Spicy Sichuan Stir-Fry.

​I have tried to mix and match these chili powders and found out that some of them really work well together. So do not be afraid to put your palate to the test and start experimenting in the kitchen.

​It is true that nothing will surpass the taste that smoked paprika can give your food, but it still pays to know what you can use in place of it. These suggested substitutes are great for emergency purposes and for bringing life to even the dullest recipes.

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