paprika substitute

Finding The Ideal Paprika Substitute

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What to Do When You Run Out of Paprika – Finding the ideal Paprika Substitute

Spices represent a vital consideration of cooking, only because they’re responsible for aromas and flavors. A proper mixture of spices can turn the most boring meal into the tastiest dish in the world. Paprika is one of the most common spices out there. It tends to release its flavor and color only when heated.

Paprika Substitute Options

Therefore, it is often used for color when just sprinkled on top. When used before cooking, it also lends its flavor. But what happens when you run out of it? Fortunately, you don’t have to despair. Finding a good paprika substitute is not so hard. In fact, you might have it in the cupboard!

See also: Paprika vs. Smoked Paprika

Cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper is one of the hottest and spiciest things out there. When you buy cayenne chili pepper, chances are you buy 100% chili powder. It’s quite popular in the right proportions though. However, it’s much stronger than paprika, so you’ll have to adjust accordingly. For one tablespoon of paprika, you should use 1/3 tablespoon of ground cayenne pepper. If it’s still too spicy, feel free to add a little cream or salt to reduce its hotness.

Chili powder

Chili powder can also be found as hot chili pepper. It makes a good paprika substitute due to the similarities in flavor. It’s usually prepared from cayenne peppers or red peppers. The good news is it’s not as spicy as cayenne pepper, but it will still have a negative impact over your dish if you exaggerate. The substitution ratio should be kept at maximum 1:1 – one tablespoon of chili powder for one tablespoon of paprika. Start with a lower quantity and season later if you need more.

Cajun spice

Cajun spice is literally a combination of hot things – cayenne, white and black peppers. Once mixed together, the spice borrows small characteristics from all the ingredients. One thing is for sure though – it’s spicy. Normally, you should use it as a paprika substitute at an even ratio 1:1. However, different manufacturers use the ingredients in different proportions. In order to prevent mistakes, start with a lower ratio and increase gradually.

Hot sauce

There are more hot sauces out there that you can use when you run out of paprika. Hot sauces may include pepper sauces or chili sauces too. Some sauces are just advertised as hot sauces, so you have to check the ingredients. Most of them include chili peppers, as well as vinegar and oil. Given their diversity, they can be spicier or milder than paprika. Normally, a traditional 1:1 substitution rate should work wonders on your dish.

Tomato juice and chili powder

Tomato juice and chili powder make an easy and accessible paprika substitute because most people already have these ingredients. If you care about the looks, you’re on the right path – colors stay the same. As for the taste, it will be different – irrelevant, as long as the meal tastes good.

See also: Tomato Puree Substitute

Aleppo pepper

The Aleppo pepper is popular in the Middle Eastern cuisine, but you can still find it around occidental grocery stores. It shares the same color with paprika, while its spiciness is somewhere between paprika and cayenne pepper. The exchange ratio should be considerate – half a tablespoon of aleppo pepper for one tablespoon of paprika. You can increase it later on, based on your preferences.

Black pepper

Black pepper is a top paprika substitute due to its availability. It may not have the stingy taste of paprika, but it will still provide a good spicy texture to your food. Both black and white pepper can replace paprika. If there’s one thing you’ll sacrifice, that’s the reddish nuance of paprika. Use pepper at a general 1:1 ratio.

Bell peppers

How about making your own paprika? Get a few ripened bell peppers and get rid of their stems. Keep them in a dehydrator and use them when they’re brittle. You can also dehydrate sliced peppers in your oven. Once you’re done taking the moisture out, grind the peppers in a cotton bag and there you go – ready to use!


In conclusion, despite its popularity, paprika is not irreplaceable. A little education and some of the spices in your pantry can work wonders.

See also: Pepperoncini vs. Banana Pepper