Paprika Substitute: The Ultimate List

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Your spice rack is probably well acquainted with that beautifully bold red color spice, paprika. The commonly used spice comes from finely ground sweet pepper pods from the Capsicum annuum plant (1). Keep reading to find out what to do when you need a paprika substitute. 

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Paprika Benefits

Paprika benefits are much more than just a final garnish on deviled eggs. It can boldly impact the color and bring a unique flavor to many recipes. The vibrant red pigment is indicative of its carotenoids, which can lower you risk of chronic disease (2).

Types Of Paprika

This lovely spice is sometimes called Paprika, Paprika Powder, or by its more specific names.

Even if you are a novel cook, your spice cabinet could have several types of paprika.

  • Smoked Paprika is made from smoked peppers dried over oak wood fires and turned into a pepper powder (3).
  • Hot Paprika comes from grinding dry, hot picante peppers (4); it brings a higher heat level than regular paprika.
  • Spanish Paprika comes from smoke-dried peppers that are ground down with stone wheels during an ultra-slow process (5).

Paprika Substitute List 

We could talk more about how awesome paprika is in cooking, but what do you do if you’ve run out of paprika and your recipe calls for some? 

You can still add an original taste to distinguish your dish using paprika substitutes. Maybe you only need paprika as a final garnish, or for a touch of color and there are other options for that too. 

If you’ve simply run out of paprika or looking for a little variety, check out this list of paprika alternatives. More information on each of these is below.

  • Ancho Chili Powder
  • Chili Powder 
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Pepper Powder
  • Aleppo Pepper Powder
  • Chipotle powder
  • Sumac
  • Saffron
  • Achiote Powder
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Red Curry Powder
  • Coriander
  • Black pepper
  • White pepper powder
  • Pink Peppercorn
  • Crushed Red Pepper

Ancho Chili Powder

When ripe poblano peppers are dried, they become known as ancho chilies.

Ancho chilies are sweet chilies with a mid-level heat, earthy notes, and smoky flavor (6).

Its smoky flavor qualifies it to be a smoked paprika substitute.

It contains capsaicin, which may benefit weight loss through appetite suppression (6).

Chili Powder

This red powder can be easily mistaken for paprika if you ignore the label.

Chili powder is made from ancho chili peppers but usually includes other spices like paprika, cumin, or even garlic (7). The combination of spices gives more flavor complexity compared to paprika.

This powder will bring more heat than regular paprika because of the ancho chili peppers (7).

Cayenne Pepper 

Cayenne pepper is similar to paprika in color but is a bit more orange compared to paprika’s dark red color. That doesn’t change the fact that it can work as a garnish and can be used for color in a recipe like paprika.

It is made from ground dried cayenne chilies that pack a moderate level of heat–bringing a fiery taste to your dish (8). Cayenne powder is definitely hotter than paprika, so we recommend using a smaller amount of cayenne powder than the usual amount of paprika.

 It is said to have benefits in treating pain and weight loss (8).

Pepper Powder

Pepper powder is also known as bell pepper powder — it wouldn’t take long to guess its source. Green, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are dried and ground into this powder with zero heat level (9).

It’s very similar to paprika and is described as sweet and fruity (9).

This spice is Vitamin C rich and is a great paprika substitute.

Aleppo Pepper Powder

Aleppo pepper is a red spice from Syria that’s derived from Aleppo peppers (10). It brings a mild level of heat, earthy flavor, and some acidity to its taste (10).

Popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, this spice is found in a flaked form, so consider that when substituting for paprika in a recipe (10).

Chipotle powder

Chipotle powder comes from dried and smoked jalapeno peppers (11).

It is a good substitute for smoked paprika because of its rich smoky flavor, but its brown color doesn’t compare to paprika (11). Because it comes from peppers like paprika, it can be a natural substitute.

Sumac

Sumac berries are grown on wild bushes in regions of the Meditteranean and Middle east (12).

Sumac spice has a deep burgundy color making it a good option for color in a recipe. Fruity and tart flavors describe sumac spice (12). It is antioxidant-rich and possesses omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin C (12).

Saffron

Saffron is an expensive and versatile spice that is popular in the Middle East (13). Saffron comes from the crocus flower plant. Compared with paprika, saffron is more orange-red; and the more intense the red means, the higher the quality (14). Its complex flavor profile is described as “bitter” and “slightly metallic” (13). Crocin and crocetin are compounds found in saffron, making it sought after in Alzheimer’s treatment research (13).

Achiote Powder

Achiote powder is another not so common spice that is derived from ground annatto seeds (15). Annatto seeds are bright red-orange. Its flavor profile boasts nutty, peppery, and earthy notes (15).In small amounts, it can be useful as a paprika substitute if your recipe is needing a similar color without adding a particular flavor (15). The nutrition of annatto seeds includes calcium and Vitamin E (15).

Turmeric

Turmeric comes from a herbaceous perennial plant that’s related to ginger (16).

The anti-inflammatory spice is known for its vibrant orange-yellow color which historically was used as a dye (17). Its flavor can be described as earthy, slightly gingery, bitter, and pungent (17).

Cumin

Cumin is grown worldwide today and comes from the dried seeds of the Suminum cyminum herb (18). If you’ve ever opened up cumin spice, you’ve noticed its aroma right away. The savory zero heat spice brings warm earthy flavors to a variety of foods, including Tex-Mex cuisine. Cumin is rich in B vitamins (18).

Red Curry Powder

Red curry powder is essential in Indian cuisine and is made up of a blend of spices like cumin and turmeric (19). Red curry powder is not as red as paprika. It’s made from red chili peppers, which are responsible for its reddish color (19). Paprika and red curry powder have vastly different flavor profiles, and some red curry powders can be spicy.

Coriander

Coriander comes from grinding the dried seeds of cilantro, which is native to many regions such as Asia and Europe (20). The coriander’s flavor profile is different from cilantro leaves and paprika because of its warm, citrusy, earthy, and buttery notes (20). It’s nowhere near as beautiful in color as paprika, but like paprika, it won’t overwhelm your dish either. Coriander promotes a healthy gut and liver (20).

Black pepper 

The Piper nigrum plant produces berries known as peppercorns (21). The peppercorns turn dark when they are dried in the sun explaining black pepper’s color (21). The flavor profile of black pepper is described as floral and fruity (21). When used as a paprika substitute, be aware that you may have visible black specks in your dish.

White pepper powder

Even though white pepper comes from the same plant as black pepper, it is said to be spicier by food industry experts (21). After the peppercorns are dried, the dark outer layer is removed, thus producing white pepper powder when ground (21).

Pink Peppercorn 

Pink peppercorn may sound like the middle sibling of the black and white peppercorn family; however, there is no relation here. Pink peppercorn comes from two types of trees in South America (22). Cranberry red in color, pink peppercorn is known to bring a higher heat level than paprika (22). Like a juniper berry, it has a distinctive sweet piney taste that you won’t find with paprika (22). Pink peppercorn is antiviral and anti-inflammatory (22).

Crushed Red Pepper

Crushed red pepper is found in flake form and contains seeds (23). It brings heat to your dish due to its use of a medley of peppers, including jalapenos, serranos, and chili peppers (23).

It has a mild pungency with a slight sweet capsicum flavor (23). Red pepper flakes contain fiber (23).

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Smoked Paprika Substitute

As described above, some spices have a smoky flavor and are better as a smoked paprika substitute. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Ancho Chili Powder
  • Chipotle powder

Color or Garnish Substitute

If you’re looking for something to substitute paprika for color or a garnish, try-garnish/color purposes, you can finely chop red cabbage, carrots, beets, or red peppers. 

Paprika Allergy

If you have a known or suspected allergy to paprika (or sensitivity to paprika or paprika intolerance), avoiding paprika should be a top priority. It is possible that you may have an adverse food reaction to foods in the same food family as paprika. 

Paprika Food Family

Paprika is part of the Potato Food Family, also known as the Solanaceae food family. The following foods are in the same food family as Paprika:

  • Eggplant
  • Potato
  • Tobacco
  • Tomato
  • Peppers: 
    • Bell Peppers
    • Cayenne Peppers
    • Chili Peppers
    • Green Peppers
    • Hot Peppers
    • Paprika
    • Pimento
    • Red Peppers
    • Yellow Peppers

If you are looking for a paprika substitute and can not eat paprika, it is probably best to avoid substitutes that are made from any type of pepper (24).

Help For Paprika Allergy

If you know or suspect that you can’t eat paprika due to an allergy, sensitivity, or other intolerance, help is available. 

In case of severe symptoms or difficulty breathing, seek urgent medical attention. 

We recommend working with an Allergist, Registered Dietitian, or Certified Leap Therapist to identify which foods are safest for you and which foods you should avoid.

Bottom Line

Substituting spices in your recipe can undoubtedly shake things up. You have these options to choose from, taking into account the various colors, textures, and flavor profiles that come with each spice. Even if you are a novice chef, running out of paprika could be the very thing that grows your culinary creativity and adds a brand new twist to a traditional recipe.

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Author

  • Lisa Hugh is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Leap Therapist. She has a Masters of Science in Healthcare Administration. As a a Food Sensitivity Expert, her passion is helping people with complex medical and nutrition needs find food and groceries that are safe and enjoyable. Lisa enjoys helping clients in her private practice.

  • Gabrielle McPherson is a Registered Dietitian and Freelance Writer. Gabrielle has a masters degree in Clinical Nutrition and a bachelors degree in Dietetics. She has worked extensively with pediatrics and works as a freelance health and nutrition writer.

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