Open one of the kitchen cabinets of serious home chefs, and you will get to see lots of bottled items with different colored contents which are labeled and neatly organized.
Those, my dear friend, are spices.
And if you love cooking, as much as I do, you know that spices are an essential part of any cooking process, simply because they add aroma and flavor to the dish we are making. Combining the right spices will transform even the blandest dish into the most mouth-watering, lip-smacking delicacies ever made.
Paprika is one of those must-have spices that gives boring dishes a little bit of red sunshine.
But, what do you do if one day, you tried a delicious-looking dinner recipe you found online, and in the middle of cooking, the recipe asks you to put a dash of paprika for it to be perfect?
Turn off the heat and throw the dish or maybe sit in the corner of your kitchen and be frustrated until the end of the day?
No can do, my friend!
The best thing you can do is look for the best paprika substitute that you might be lying around in your spice cabinet.
What is Paprika?
Paprika is one of those spices that adds a significantly rich flavor and bright color to the food. This spice is created by grinding the dried pods of pepper plants such as chili peppers and bell peppers belonging to the Capsicum annuum species. These tropical plants are native to South America and also grows well in cooler climates. Most commercial paprikas come from Hungary, California, South America, and Spain.
Depending on the peppers used, paprika comes in different colors, from deep red to bright orange-red. The former being the sweetest and the latter being the hottest one.
Paprika releases its flavor and color when heated. In general, paprika is used to add color to dishes and enhance a dish’s overall appearance. However, it does little in altering their taste.
Paprika spice is usually used for garnishing purposes and is sprinkled on salads, hors d’oeuvre, and classic devil eggs for color.
7 Handy Paprika Substitute to Save Your Recipe
1. Ancho Chili Powder: Your Best Bet
With flavors similar to paprika and almost the same heat level, Ancho Chili Powder is your best bet for a paprika substitute.
This powder type is made of sweet dried chili that offers a rich and mild fruity flavor, plus earthy notes similar to paprika.
In case you are replacing Spanish smoked paprika, then you can have the smoked chili pepper. It may not be as smoky as paprika, but you can always add a bit more if you are rubbing it on meat.
The problem is, Ancho powder is not your typical spice, meaning there is a good chance that you do not also have it in your spice cabinet. If you got curious enough and bought it one time, you are lucky during paprika emergencies. If not, you do not need to worry since other more common spices can substitute paprika.
2. Aleppo Pepper Powder: An Alternative From The Middle East
You can never go as to the Mediterranean as you can with Aleppo pepper powders. This spice comes from Syria and is popular for its earthy flavors and bright acidity. It offers a mild heat that is not very spicy but would linger around in your mouth. It has a bright red appearance sold as powder or flakes and is a great paprika substitute since it has a smoky hint.
If you wish to use Aleppo pepper as a paprika substitute, a half to one teaspoon of Aleppo pepper powder can replace a teaspoon of paprika.
3. Cayenne Pepper For A Heat Boost
Although they tend to be stronger and hotter, cayenne pepper is the Capsicum cousin of the paprika peppers. A third or half of a teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper is more than enough to replace a teaspoon of paprika.
If you want to accompany or counteract the strong spicy flavor of cayenne pepper, you might want to use something sweet such as honey or sugar. Cayenne pepper is best used as a paprika substitute in recipes that use heavy broth or cream. This should help lessen the powerful spiciness of cayenne.
4. Chili Powder: Well-Known Kitchen Staple
Chili powder is a decent paprika substitute and is a typical and most common kitchen spice today.
Made from hot chili peppers, this spice is quite similar to paprika with a single principal difference:
Although paprika is known to be a single-ingredient spice, chili powder is making a transition to a multi-ingredient one.
When you use chili powder as a substitute for paprika, there is one thing you need to be careful about:
The overall flavor of the dish.
Here’s what you should know:
If the original paprika recipe only requires paprika to add color to the food (no more than a pinch), then you can use chili powder as a substitute.
However, if it needs the distinct flavors of paprika, then chili powder might not be your best bet since it has a strong flavor.
You can still give it a try, of course, but I cannot guarantee you that it will not have an impact on your dish with its earthy flavor.
5. Pimento De La Vera: The Spanish Version
The Spanish version of paprika, the Pimenton de La Vera is a brick-red, smoky powder. This spice has 3 levels of spiciness: very spicy (pimentón picante), moderately spicy (pimentón agridulce) and mild (pimentón dulce).
If you have a Pimenton de La Vera in your spice rack, then you can use a teaspoon of it as a replacement for a teaspoon of paprika to brighten a bowl of nuts, meat dish yogurt, potatoes, briskets, and lamb stews. Accordingly, you can adjust the amount you are using to the kind of pimento you have or to level your tolerance of spiciness.
6. Bell Peppers: Your DIY Paprika Substitute
Bell peppers are the sweetest, biggest, and most colorful peppers in the Capsicum annuum species. With bell peppers at your disposal, you can create homemade paprika, which can be sunrise-orange or bright red. You can heat the peppers in the oven at 120 degrees, or you might need a dehydrator.
Because bell peppers are the mildest among peppers, your DIY paprika will have a milder yet fragrant and more distinct flavor.
With bell peppers, you can use two teaspoons as a replacement for a teaspoon of paprika.
7. Tomato Juice With Chili Powder Or Flakes
The last substitute I want to show you is a combination of 2 ingredients— tomato juice for coloring and chili powder or flakes for taste.
If you do not need the flavor of paprika and only need its bright red color, then tomato juice is your top choice for a paprika color substitute.
Now, if you wish to add the spicy kick of paprika, then a pinch of chili powder or flake of any chili you desire can be added to your tomato sauce.
In this case, a teaspoon of tomato juice with a dash of chili powder is enough for a teaspoon of paprika.
Whether you choose to make your tomato juice or get a can from the supermarket, you can make any paprika recipes as ruby as it can be with the tomato’s redness.
Coloring It Up!
All of the paprika substitutes I have mentioned work great in giving a ruby-like appearance and distinct flavor to any dish.
But before you choose a particular paprika substitute, you need to take a moment and consider why the recipe needs paprika. Is it for the pop of red color or the taste?
Once you have figured it out, choosing the right paprika substitute will be a piece of cake.
Do you have any questions? Maybe a spice that you usually use as a paprika substitute that I forgot to mention?
Please, feel free to fire up the comment section below and share your ideas!
Until then, happy coloring and dashing!