Discover 15+ great paprika substitute spices

Paprika substitute
You will find three types of paprika on the market — sweet, hot, and smoked paprika. Sweet paprika is sweet and subtly tarty. Hot paprika is peppery, while smoked paprika has a smoky flavor. Nutmeg, chili powder, and guajillo pepper powder are good substitutes for sweet paprika, hot paprika, and smoked paprika.

What does paprika taste like?

Paprika ranges in flavor from sweet to peppery to smoky, with heat levels ranging from zero and mild to hot. The flavor of paprika depends on the type you have. Having all the types on your spice rack for various dishes is a great way to add variety to your meals.

Depending on the type, paprika may be as earthy and smoky as cumin or as sweet and smoky as ancho chili powder. It may also be as hot and smoky as crushed red pepper flakes or as smoky and peppery as Cajun spice.

3 different types of paprika spices: sweet, hot, and smoked

There are three types of paprika spices
There are three types of paprika spices
Sweet paprikaMade with sweet peppers with no heatSweet, slightly tart and bitterIdeal for garnish or to add color to a dish
Hot paprikaMade with dried red hot peppers with mild to high heatCan range from sweet and mild to very hotIdeal to add flavor to chicken, and fish
Smoked paprikaMade using dried hot or sweet red chili peppersHas a range of heat levels and a rich heavy flavorIdeal to add flavor chorizo, chicken, and fish

Paprika is available in three different types: sweet paprika, hot paprika, and smoked paprika. 

Sweet paprika is the most common type and is made with sweet peppers with zero heat, meaning it isn’t spicy. It is different from regular paprika, a run-of-the-mill spice used to color food, since it lacks heat and taste.

The flavor profile of sweet paprika is pleasant fruitiness or sweetness with subtle hints of tartness and bitterness.

You can use sweet paprika as a garnish for deviled eggs or add color to meat rubs.

Hot paprika is made using dried red hot peppers with mild to high heat. It is celebrated as the most superior paprika, especially Hungarian paprika.

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You can use hot paprika to flavor chicken and fish. It’s also ideal as a complement to sweet paprika when you need to maintain sweetness while adding heat to a dish.

Also called smoked pimentòn or Spanish paprika, smoked paprika is made using dried hot or sweet red chili peppers smoked over an oak wood fire.

You can use smoked paprika to flavor chorizo, chicken, and fish.

The complete list of all paprika substitutes

Sweet paprika substitutesNutmeg
Cinnamon
Cloves
Ground ginger
Black pepper
Hot paprika substitutesSweet paprika
Cayenne pepper
Chili powder
Liquid hot sauce
Tomato sauce
Smoked paprika substitutesChipotle powder
Guajillo chili peppers
Mexican chili pepper

5 Top sweet paprika substitutes

Recipes calling for sweet paprika can use the following alternatives:

  1. Nutmeg
  2. Cinnamon
  3. Cloves
  4. Ground ginger
  5. Black pepper

1. Nutmeg

Nutmeg
Nutmeg

Nutmeg is a slightly sweet spice ideal for flavoring meats, sauces, potatoes, deviled eggs, and sausages. It has a warm, nutty taste with undertones of clove and pepper.

While the sweet taste matches that of sweet paprika, you’ll want to use nutmeg for the nutty flavor.

Use it sparingly to substitute sweet paprika. Keep in mind that excess nutmeg may make your dish bitter.

2. Cinnamon

Cinnamon
Cinnamon

Obtained from the bark of various Cinnamomum tree species, cinnamon has a warm, sweet flavor and is mainly used for its delicate fragrant aroma.

You can use cinnamon powder in curries, cereal dishes, desserts, cakes, fruit dishes, and cookies. It is common in Middle Eastern cuisine in lamb and chicken dishes.

Using cinnamon to replace sweet paprika won’t alter the sweetness part much, but your dish will have an enticing fragrant aroma.

Add about the same amount of cinnamon as the sweet paprika powder amount the recipe requires.

3. Cloves

Cloves
Cloves

Cloves are ideal for soups, stews, curries, sauces, baked goods, rice, and meats. They have a warm, slightly sweet flavor with strong hints of astringency, bitterness, heat, and sweetness.

You can expect your meal to feel hotter than it would have with sweet paprika and to have an astringent touch manifested as slight drying in the mouth.

4. Ground ginger

Ground ginger
Ground ginger

Ground ginger works well in curries, sauces, tagines, spice rubs, and marinades. It has a warm, slightly peppery flavor with hints of lemon, earthiness, and sweetness.

Use 1/2 a teaspoon of ginger powder for 1 teaspoon of paprika.

5. Black pepper

Black pepper
Black pepper

You can use black pepper instead of sweet paprika to flavor and add spice to stir-fries, meats, salad dressings, scrambled eggs, fish, soups, and vegetables.

Black pepper has a woody, earthy, piney taste and mild heat, courtesy of piperine rather than the capsaicin found in hot peppers of the genus Capsicum. Of all the other sweet paprika substitutes, black pepper is the only one that adds a touch of woodiness.

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Use black pepper sparingly as a sweet paprika alternative — there may be side effects if you exceed 1-2 teaspoons daily.

5 Best hot paprika substitutes

Depending on the dish you are making, you can replace hot paprika with the following spices:

  1. Sweet paprika
  2. Cayenne pepper
  3. Chili Powder
  4. Liquid hot sauce
  5. Tomato sauce

1. Sweet paprika

Sweet paprika
Sweet paprika

Since it has zero heat, sweet paprika is an ideal substitute for hot paprika in recipes where the dish color is more relevant than its heat level.

You can drizzle sweet paprika over eggs Benedict or deviled eggs. It also enhances the color of spice rubs.

Adding sweet paprika as an alternative means forgoing the hot, peppery flavor of hot paprika for a sweet, slightly bitter, and tart flavor.

To replace hot paprika with sweet paprika, start with 1/2 a teaspoon of sweet paprika and keep adding to achieve a uniform color, depending on the volume of the dish.

2. Cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper

Cayenne peppers have a neutral peppery taste that closely matches hot paprika’s spicy, peppery flavor, but they are hotter.

You can replace hot paprika with Cayenne pepper powder in soups, stews, dry rubs for meat and poultry, and spicy marinades. The powder works well as a garnish for hummus, pizza, popcorn, eggs, and sandwiches.

The ideal substitution ratio is 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of Cayenne pepper powder for 1 teaspoon of hot paprika. You’ll want to watch for the heat!

If you add excess Cayenne powder, you can tone down the heat and pepperiness by adding sugar, honey, salt, broth, or cream.

3. Chili Powder

Chili powder
Chili powder

Chili powder is a generic spice blend featuring oregano, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and hot peppers like Cayenne, ancho, and jalapeno.

With its red color and heat greater than hot paprika, it is ideal for chili, curries, deviled eggs, empanadas, hummus, and huevos rancheros.

Replacing hot paprika with chili powder means forgoing the hot peppery taste for an earthy flavor.

To use chili powder as an alternative, start with 1/2 a teaspoon of it for 1 teaspoon of hot paprika and keep adding to suit your preference.

4. Liquid hot sauce

Liquid hot sauce
Liquid hot sauce

The bright side of liquid hot sauce is that any type goes well with nearly every dish and can substitute hot paprika.

Hot sauces are preferred for their flavor rather than color. From picante sauce and bravas sauce to guajillo sauce and the ever-famous Tabasco sauce, there are plenty of flavor profiles to choose from.

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For example, guajillo sauce will make your dish sweet, tangy, smoky, and earthy.

You can use 1 teaspoon of liquid hot sauce to replace 1 teaspoon of hot paprika.

5. Tomato sauce

Tomato sauce
Tomato sauce

If heat isn’t a concern when selecting a hot paprika substitute, you can use tomato sauce. It has zero heat but is the same color as hot paprika.

Beef, chicken, pork, pasta, and sandwiches go well with a tomato sauce when you want a sweet and acidic flavor profile rather than spiciness and pepperiness.

Use 2 teaspoons of tomato sauce for every teaspoon of hot paprika recommended in the recipe.

If you still want your dish to pack some heat, consider combining tomato sauce with hot sauce or chili powder. Use 1 teaspoon of tomato juice and 1/2 a teaspoon of chili powder.

3 Ultimate smoked paprika substitutes

You can replace smoked paprika with the following spices:

  1. Chipotle powder
  2. Guajillo chili peppers
  3. Mexican chili pepper

1. Chipotle powder

Chipotle peppers
Chipotle peppers

Chipotle powder is made from ground chipotle peppers. It has a sweet, fruity taste with notes of bitterness, earthiness, smokiness, and chocolatines.

Chipotle chili powder goes well with spicy mayonnaise, casseroles, stews, soups, chipotle navidenōs, and chicken, beef, shrimp, and pork marinades.

Use 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder for 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika.

2. Guajillo chili peppers

Guajillo chili peppers
Guajillo chili peppers

Also called chile cascabel anchos in Guanajuato, guajillo chili peppers are dried mirasol peppers. They are used to make guajillo sauce and guajillo pepper powder.

Guajillos are mild-heat peppers with a fruity, subtly tangy, slightly smoky, and a little earthy flavor with hints of berries and green tea.

You can use guajillo peppers to spice tamales dough, seafood, and marinades for chicken and pork used in tacos, tamales, and burritos.

Use 1/4 to 1 teaspoon of guajillo chili powder for 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika.

3. Mexican chili peppers

Mexican chili peppers
Mexican chili peppers

Mexican chili peppers is an umbrella term for several peppers that come from Mexico, such as serrano, Mulato (dried ripe poblanos), pasilla (dried chilaca), ancho (dried poblano), chiltepin, jalapenos, and hatch peppers.

Specifically, the term refers to the holy trinity of Mexican peppers, which includes ancho, Mulato, and pasilla peppers. The mix sometimes contains guajillo peppers.

The flavor profile will depend on the Mexican chili pepper you use, but you can be sure you’ll replicate the smoky flavor of smoked paprika.

Mexican chili peppers are ideal for dishes like huevos a la Mexicana (serrano), jalapeno poppers, Chile Rellenos (hatch peppers), and chicken mole enchiladas (anchos).

Always start with a small amount of your preferred Mexican chili pepper because some are hotter. Add more to achieve the desired heat level.

3 Non-spicy substitutes for paprika

Looking for non-spicy paprika substitutes? You can try the following three alternatives:

CuminSmoky, earthy flavor, for curries and enchiladas
Ground dried bell peppersMildly sweet flavor with hints of citrusy flavor, used for hummus, light salads, red pepper soups, and pasta
Onion powderSweet, almost-roasted flavor, ideal for casseroles, stews, marinades, salad dressings, vegetables, creamy dips, and rubs

How can I make paprika spice at home?

If you have grown your own sweet peppers or hot red peppers, you can make paprika spice at home. Alternatively, you can buy the peppers from a grocery store, supermarket, or farmers’ market.

Below are easy steps to follow to make homemade paprika:

  1. Remove the pepper caps and stems.
  2. Dry your paprika peppers naturally in the sun or a dehydrator. To dry in the sun, hang the peppers in a dry, well-ventilated place away from direct sunlight to dry after several weeks. This method won’t be your best bet because of molding issues caused by excess humidity.
  3. Alternatively, dry them in a dehydrator after washing and cutting them into thin strips—seeded or deseeded. Dehydrate at 135°F for at least 12 hours.
  4. Grind the dried peppers into paprika using a spice grinder, bullet blender, food processor, or coffee grinder.
  5. Strain the big bits using a mesh strainer and regrind them.
  6. Store your finely ground paprika in an air-tight and watertight glass jar. You might want to throw in a few beans to absorb moisture and keep your paprika intact.

Alex Maina

Since discovering how well spices transform a dish from bland to enjoyable in seconds, Alex became sold on using spices to better three of his major passions—gardening, cooking, and writing. When he is not tending to his spice crops, you'll find him trying a new recipe, writing for the Spice Gourmand, or serving a second helping of his spicy food!

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