Paprika Substitute: Best Substitutes for Smoked and Sweet Paprika

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When it comes to adding a smoky flavor and vibrant color to your dishes, paprika is often the go-to spice. But what happens when you run out of this national spice of Hungary? Or maybe you’re cooking for someone with a paprika allergy?

Fear not, as we have compiled a list of the best paprika substitutes to save the day! With different varieties to choose from, these replacements can mimic the sweet flavor, heat level, or deep red color that regular paprika provides. The next time your spice cabinet runs out of this common spice, turn to these suitable substitutes.

Assortment of different types of paprika substitutes in small bowls

Ancho Chili Powder: A Smoky Paprika Substitute

If you’re after the smoky flavor of Spanish smoked paprika, ancho chili powder is your best bet. Made from dried and ground poblano peppers, ancho powder provides mild heat and an earthy flavor, much like paprika. It’s a perfect substitute and can be used in equal amounts to replace the amount of paprika in your recipe.

A jar of ancho chili powder next to fresh poblano peppers

Cayenne Pepper Powder: A Spicy Paprika Substitute

For recipes that call for spicy paprika or hot paprika, cayenne pepper powder is an excellent substitute. Boasting a higher heat level, it can add a touch of heat to your dishes. Use a small amount of cayenne powder in place of paprika, as its heat is more potent. A good substitution ratio is a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper for each teaspoon of paprika.

Cayenne pepper powder in a small bowl with a spoon

Chipotle Powder: Another Smoky Substitute

Chipotle powder, made from smoked and dried jalapeño peppers, is another great substitute for smoked paprika. It has an earthy flavor and a heat level that’s slightly milder than cayenne, but more intense than regular paprika. Use it in spice rubs and dishes that require a smoky flavor.

Chipotle powder displayed in a small spice jar

Bell Pepper Powder: A Sweet Paprika Substitute

If you’re looking for a substitute for sweet paprika or Hungarian sweet paprika, bell pepper powder is an excellent choice. Made from dried and ground red bell peppers, it offers a similar color and sweet taste without any heat. Bell pepper powder is a great alternative for those who want to avoid the spice, but still enjoy the sweet and vibrant flavor profile of paprika.

Bell pepper powder in a wooden spoon on a table

Tomato Powder: A Colorful Paprika Substitute

Tomato powder, made from dehydrated and ground tomatoes, can replicate the bright red color of paprika. While it won’t provide any heat, it will add a mild taste and a deep red color, making it a good substitute in recipes where paprika is used for coloring rather than flavor. You can also use tomato paste or tomato sauce diluted with a bit of water if you don’t have tomato powder on hand.

Cajun Spice: A Hot and Flavorful Substitute

Cajun spice is a spice blend that often includes paprika, along with other spices like black pepper, white pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. If your recipe calls for a hot paprika substitute, Cajun spice can be a great option. Keep in mind that the flavor profile will be more complex, and the heat level a bit higher.

Cajun spice blend in a ceramic bowl

Aleppo Pepper: A Middle Eastern Substitute

Native to the Middle East, Aleppo pepper is a popular spice that’s milder than cayenne but richer in flavor. As a paprika substitute, Aleppo chili powder can add a moderate heat level and a unique spice flavor to your dishes. It’s perfect for dishes like potato salad or dishes that require a kick, but not too much heat.

aleppo pepper substitute for paprika

Make Your Own Paprika

If you have red peppers at your local grocery store, you can make your own paprika. Simply dehydrate the peppers, then grind them into a fine powder. This way, you can control the heat level and flavor profile of your homemade spice. Whether you use sweet red bell peppers, spicy chili peppers, or smoky chipotle peppers, you’ll have a unique and fresh paprika substitute.


Running out of paprika doesn’t mean your recipe is doomed. With these best paprika substitutes, you can mimic the spice’s unique characteristics, from its sweet flavor and smoky undertones to its vibrant color. So the next time you need a paprika substitute, reach for one of these alternatives and let your taste buds decide which one is the best match!

Have a look at our other ingredient substitution recommendations.

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