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Paprika Substitutes

Posted by Tiny House Digital on
Paprika Substitutes

Spices enhance a dish by adding flavour, colour, and aroma. Paprika is one of the more popular spices - adding beautiful hues and peppery taste without the heat. But what happens when your recipe calls for paprika, and you don’t have it on hand? Or, what spice do you reach for if you want a slight variation to paprika? We’ll investigate our top picks for paprika substitutes. Read on to pick the best fit for your food. 

What is Paprika? 

Before we get to paprika substitutes, let’s talk a bit about paprika spice. Paprika is one of the most used spices around. It is made by grinding dry bell or chili pepper pods. As a spice, it enhances the colour and overall appearance of your meal while providing several health benefits. Dieticians and nutritionists recommend paprika because of its vibrant red pigmentation, which contains carotenoids, which can significantly lower the risk of cardiac disease. 

Types of Paprika 

Determining what paprika substitute to use will depend on the type of paprika you’re trying to replace. Some of the more popular paprika types are: 

  • Hot Paprika: This comes from grinding hot, dried Picante pepper. The heat level from hot paprika is usually higher than regular paprika. 
  • Spanish Paprika: Spanish paprika is made from smoked, dried peppers that are ground with stone wheels. 
  • Smoked Paprika: This type of paprika comes from smoked, dried peppers, which have been passed over oak wood fires and ground into pepper powder.  

Paprika Substitutes 

If you’ve run out of paprika, or you want something a little different this time, check out our list of paprika substitutes.

Berbere Spice

Berbere spice is our top pick for paprika substitutes. Berbere spice is a traditional spice that is native to Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. Although it is still widely popular among native Ethiopians, its use is growing in popularity around the globe. It is used in many different dishes, especially Ethiopia’s National dish, Doro Wat. 

Berbere spice is often a fiery medley of spices. Whole spices toasted, and ground typically makes the best berbere blends.

Chili Powder

Chili powder is a red powder that can be mistaken for paprika if you fail to check the label. It is made from grinding and drying ancho chili peppers. Often, however, it includes other spices like paprika itself, cumin, or garlic. The unique combination of spices in chili powder gives it more flavour and complexity compared to paprika. Chili powder is an excellent paprika substitute as it will bring more heat than paprika due to the presence of ancho chili pepper. 

Cayenne Pepper 

Cayenne pepper is another paprika substitute if you’re looking to bring the heat. It is slightly orange compared to paprika.

Cayenne pepper is made from ground dried cayenne chilli, which contains a moderate level of heat — just enough to provide a fiery taste to your meals. While using cayenne powder as a paprika substitute, it is important to use a small quantity as the former is often hotter than paprika. Cayenne powder also has benefits in treating weight loss and pain.

Pepper Powder

Also known as bell pepper powder, this spice comes from green, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers. These bell peppers are dried and ground into a powder with virtually zero heat. This spice is sweet, fruity, and can serve as an excellent paprika substitute. Pepper powder is rich in Vitamin C, flavonoids, and some beneficial alkaloids. 

Aleppo Pepper Powder

As the name implies, this spice finds its origin in Aleppo, Syria. It is a red spice that is made by grinding and drying Aleppo peppers. It offers a mild level of earthy flavour and heat, with some acidity to its taste. This spice is usually found in flaked form and is very popular in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Chipotle Powder 

Chipotle powder is made from dried and smoked Jalapeño peppers. It is a great alternative for smoked paprika due to its rich smoky flavour. However, chipotle powder’s brown appearance makes it visually different from paprika. If you are particularly interested in the rich redness of paprika, you may want to look for a different spice. 


Sumac spice is from sumac berries grown in wild bushes in the Mediterranean and the Middle East regions. Unlike paprika, sumac spice has a fruity and tart flavour. Its deep burgundy colour makes it a great spice to add colour. It has antioxidant properties due to its rich Vitamin C content and protects against heart disease due to Omega 3 fatty acids.


Saffron is a versatile but expensive spice that works perfectly well in place of paprika. Like many other spices on this list, saffron is popular in the Middle East.

Saffron is obtained from the Crocus flower plant by drying its seeds. Saffron has a more orange-red appearance than paprika, making it an excellent substitute for paprika as a colouring agent in meals. Its flavour profile is bitter and slightly metallic, containing crocin and crocetin. These compounds help treat Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases of the central nervous system.

Achiote Powder 

This spice is typically less familiar and is obtained from dried, ground Annatto seeds. Annatto seeds — and achiote powder — have a bright red-orange colour, making them suitable when adding colour. Its dominant flavour is nutty, earthy and peppery, which is great for food. Annatto seeds contain calcium and Vitamin E, making achiote powder great for your health. 


Turmeric is a herbaceous perennial plant related to ginger. It is a spice that has anti-inflammatory and anti-pain functions. Turmeric is known for its orange-yellow colour, which was used as a dye for several centuries. Tumeric can describe its flavour as earthy, slightly gingery, bitter, and pungent.

Red Curry Powder 

Red curry powder is an Indian spice level made of several spices such as turmeric, cumin, and saffron. Red curry powder is not usually as vibrant red as paprika. Paprika and red curry powder have vastly different flavour profiles, and some red curry powders can be spicy.

Final Thoughts 

Tweaking things up in your recipe can be a great thing. Now that you have these paprika alternatives in mind consider their different colour and flavour profiles when creating your next dish.

Written by Chidera Anushiem

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