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The Best Smoked Paprika Substitutes: A Comprehensive Guide

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Who doesn’t like paprika? It’s one of our favorite spices.

Paprika is different from other spices; it has a unique smokiness and subtle spiciness. It’s one of the few spices that compliment almost all types of dishes, from zesty marinades to simmering stews.

However, to get the best flavor from this ruby-colored spice, you’ve got to understand how to use it.

To understand it, you need to explore the different varieties of paprika and their distinct characteristics.

Let’s get to the basics first before going into a detailed analysis of paprika.

How to find the best smoked paprika?

smoked paprika

Dried peppers are ground into a fine powder to make paprika. But, the process isn’t the same for all varieties of paprika. According to the type of pepper, the method may vary.

Remembering the different varieties of paprika itself is a tedious task, and you might want to skip this part.

However, this is the most exciting part of understanding paprika. It introduces us to the extensive range of the spice and the many options we can explore while cooking with paprika.

The best paprika comes from south Hungary while on the whole, the country produces six different varieties of the spice. You’ll find all kinds of paprika textures and flavors in Hungary.

For example, Különleges is delicate and slightly spicy whereas Eros is fiery and hot. It’s not surprising that Hungarian cuisine relies heavily on paprika since at least one variety of the spice features in every dish.

Hungary even has dishes named after paprika; ever heard of Chicken Paprikash?

Spain is another country where paprika is widely grown.

It is even called the ‘second heartland’ of paprika. However, for the Spanish, it’s not paprika but pimento. Interestingly, Spain offers a sweet variety of paprika as well, which is called Dulce. Dulce is not just the sweetest but the mildest variety of paprika in the country too.

Then there is the moderately spicy Agridulce, and the extremely spicy, the too-hot-to-handle type, variety called Picante.

There’s a difference between the way Hungarians and the Spanish make paprika. The Hungarians dry their peppers in the sun, whereas, the Spanish smoke them dry.

Usually, paprika is dried over oak in Spain, typically in the country’s La Vera region. It’s also the region that produces the largest supply of paprika in Spain. Due to the unique way of drying the peppers, Spanish paprika gets an incredibly intense flavor, which you may not find anywhere else.

Like Hungary, Spanish cuisine is also incomplete without the use of paprika. It’s part of virtually every meal from the aromatic paella to the heady salami and chorizo.

Paprika is probably one of the most versatile spices in the world as far as cooking is concerned.

The two main varieties commonly used in a majority of the dishes around the world include the mild and sweet paprika and smoky and spicy paprika.

You can start your exploration of paprika with these varieties initially as it’s your safest bet.

You can never go wrong with both of these. Once you’ve got the hold of the flavor, then the sky is the limit for you.

How To Cook With Smoked Paprika And Store It? 

Cooking With Paprika

Cooking with paprika is a tricky task though, as you can easily go overboard.

So, to prevent any undesirable situations here’s the checklist of the do’s and don’ts you need to check out before heading to the kitchen.

To unlock the natural paprika flavor, heat the spice carefully until it’s just slightly burnt. You can try cooking it with a little amount of olive oil and sauté gently over low heat for about a minute only.

You’ll not get paprika in any other form than the dried variety so, as a rule of thumb, you should find the freshest possible spice. If you store it wisely, such as in an airtight jar, it’ll retain its freshness for at least a year.

However, after a year or so it starts losing the aroma and becomes somewhat chalky.

Using Smoked Paprika

Cooking With Paprika

Remember that regarding spice levels, paprika won’t add that fiery hot flavor that you usually expect from dried chili flakes or cayenne pepper. Paprika has a slightly warming but subtle heat loaded with smokiness and a more complex profile.

So, be generous while using paprika. Most of the Hungarian recipes require at least one tablespoon of paprika to make the flavor stand out. You can try the baked paprika cheese recipe if you want to layer smoked paprika with soft cheese.

Or else, you can combine paprika and honey to create a fantastic barbecue marinade.

It’s an outstanding combination if you want to bring out the natural sweetness of paprika. Alternately, you can use paprika to season beans and pulses as it soaks up its flavor excellently.

The peppers used to make paprika are part of the nightshade family. Potatoes and tomatoes also belong to the same family of vegetables, which is why all three complement each other really well.

Patatas Bravas is one of the dishes that use these three ingredients, and it’s particularly tasty.

If you want to make something simple then sprinkle paprika onto scrambled egg or an omelet.  Paprika has this amazing quality of transforming even the most basic dishes into delicious delicacies.

Substituting Smoked Paprika… What Are Your Options?

There’s a really cool recipe that has gotten you so excited that you want to try it right now. But, you can’t because it requires smoked paprika, and you don’t have it on your spice rack. You end up getting stressed for no good reason. There’s no need to get stressed about it at all!

Just like every other spice, there’s a replacement of paprika available too. 

It’s true that paprika has a distinct smoky flavor that’s not easy to replace.

However, it’s also a fact that paprika isn’t a staple spice. You can easily find the right substitute for paprika without compromising upon the flavors of the recipe. All you need to do is think smartly!

Paprika, known in Spain as Pimentón de la Vera, has a distinct, rich smoked chili pepper flavor. Even if you use it just a little bit, it can make the dish stand out. Barbecue marinades are virtually incomplete without paprika.

We can assume that paprika is a spice born for barbecue.

But let’s not forget that we can get the same smoky flavor from other spices too. Let’s check out some good smoked paprika substitutes.

The Best Smoked Paprika Substitute: Chipotle Powder

Chipotle Powder

Chipotle pepper powder has got paprika’s trademark smoky flavor and somewhat the same richness too. It’s probably the best substitute that you can get for replacing paprika in a recipe. It’s more readily available as well in most grocery stores’ spice racks.

Smoked, dried jalapeño peppers are ground into fine powder form to get chipotle powder. And, that’s how it gets the oh-so-important smoky punch and earthy tone.

The only issue is that you’ve got to use it carefully because it’s a teeny weenie bit more spicy than paprika. So, be prepared for some extra heat and choose your recipe ratios wisely. Smoked paprika is comparatively mild as it’s made from chili peppers while chipotle powder is hotter as it is made from medium heat jalapeño peppers.

Ideally, you should lower the amount of paprika required in a recipe if you are substituting it with chipotle powder. However, if you like to have spicy foods then feel free to experiment.

Adventurous Mixing: Paprika or Chili Powder with some Cumin or Liquid Smoke

Spices Smoked Paprika

You can take experimentation to a whole new level in your kitchen. It’s possible to create a smoked paprika mix without worrying about going overboard with the spiciness. To accomplish this, you’ll have to play the kitchen chemist. Get that beaker… oops… the mixing bowl out of the cabinet and make it useful.

There are many different options that you can try. Such as, you can choose either chili powder or paprika and mix it with cumin or liquid smoke.

Don’t make the mistake of using both the cumin and liquid smoke as it’ll ruin the taste with smokiness overload.

Preferably, you should start with a 2:1 ratio when measuring powders, i-e, two parts chili powder/paprika powder and one part cumin powder. If you’ve selected liquid smoke, don’t use more than two drops in the beginning. Just keep checking the flavor drop by drop.

It’s the perfect option if you don’t want to buy chipotle powder and need to get that smoky feel of paprika in your recipe. Both liquid smoke and cumin will give you an excellent smoky flavor, even better than the regular paprika and chili powder.

Cumin is the closest substitute to smoked paprika, and you cannot get the same effect from liquid smoke. Therefore, you should use liquid smoke if there isn’t any other choice.

Or else, you can prefer to use liquid smoke in heavier foods or when making stew, soup, or grill marinade.

It gives extraordinary barbecue flair to your dish with its remarkable hickory flavor.

Other Replacements of Smoked Paprika Powder

Cayenne pepper powder

Cayenne pepper powder is spicier than any other substitute mentioned above. However, cayenne pepper has a natural smoky flavor. On the Scoville scale, cayenne pepper has a rating of 30,000 to 50,000 SHU.

So, opt for this only if you love spicy food, and even then, measure only a third of the recommended smoked paprika in your recipe. You can always increase the quantity if you want to so be careful in the beginning.

Powdered Guajillo Pepper

Guajillo pepper is part of the Mexican hot peppers’ holy trinity and considered essential in rich mole sauces. Moreover, guajillo pepper has naturally got a slightly sweet and smoky flavor.

In powdered form, guajillo pepper turns out to be an excellent replacement for paprika, and milder than jalapeño.

Ancho Pepper Powder

Ancho pepper is another Mexican dried chili that serves as an excellent paprika replacement when ground into fine powder. Ancho peppers have become quite famous in the United States lately.

These are dried poblano peppers that have a milder than both jalapeño and guajillo peppers. But, it hasn’t got that outstanding smoky flavor as the abovementioned spices have. It’ll give you a little touch of smokiness, so, if you need a stronger smoky flavor, this isn’t your best bet. However, it’s much more commonly available than guajillo pepper powder.

You can find it in almost every grocery store or supermarket in powdered or dried form.

Have you had any experience with smoked paprika substitutes? Anything else you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below!

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