12 Best Paprika Substitutes

The best thing about cooking for yourself is getting to experiment with different flavors and try different things.

Contents show

Being able to mix up different combinations of spices and work out what makes the most delicious flavors is part of what makes cooking so fun and exciting.

However, if you are a beginner cook, or do not have access to many herbs and spices, the sheer variety of different ingredients needed for different recipes can be quite intimidating.

12 Best Paprika Substitutes

While there are some spices which are quite cheap, and getting them is not always too much effort, buying a whole collection can sometimes be quite a hefty investment!

But at the same time, it is always good to try out as many different spices as possible, this way you are able to try as many different flavor combinations as possible.

To help with this, some people try to not buy all spices and use different ones to substitute ones which they do not own or do not have access to.

Some spices are common and affordable in some countries, while in others they are rare and often overpriced. 

One spice which is common in a lot of recipes but not always easily available is paprika.

This spice is delicious and has a distinct flavor. Because of this it is not always the easiest spice to substitute, however there are options!

So whether you do not have access to paprika, or you have run out of your supply and need a replacement right now, this list should be able to help you out!

If you need a quick replacement for paprika, keep reading!

What Is Paprika?

Paprika is a ground spice which is popular and widely utilized in a variety of different dishes worldwide.

It is found in the plant Capsicum annum and is made by crushing up sweeter red peppers and then drying them.

There are multiple varieties of paprika which are all made in different ways, and while they are similar, they are all unique enough to have unique uses as well.

While you do not need to own every type of paprika, it is a good idea to work out which variety of paprika you like the best, so you can use this one in your cooking!

As well as adding flavor, it also adds a distinct color which is perfect for making dishes look more vibrant!

It also needs heat for it to release its flavors properly, so if you do not heat the dish, it is not very useful.

What Is Paprika Used For?

The more you use paprika, the more you will realize just how versatile it is and how it can work with almost all savory food if you like its flavor.

It is primarily used as a seasoning which goes well with savory hot dishes otherwise the flavor will not activate.

If you want to experiment, try adding this into meals you are cooking, or just smaller portions to see if you like the flavor it adds.

You will also find paprika as an inclusion in popular spice blends and rubs since this seasoning pairs very well with different types of meat.

It is also mixed into marinades, as well as sauces.

There are many traditional dishes from different cultures worldwide which use this seasoning, so keep an eye out for when you will need it!

Paprika Substitutes

1. Tomato Juice With Chili Powder

What Is This Substitute?

By simply using an equivalent measuring of tomato juice with a large pinch of chili powder (see also ‘5 Chili Powder Substitutes‘), you can actually quite closely recreate the taste of using paprika. This also has the same color of paprika too.

When Is This Substitute Best?

This is good in most situations needing paprika as it has a similar taste as well as smokiness. The tomato flavor is also pleasant too.

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

This ends up being a liquid or paste, which is of course different from paprika, so if you need a specific consistency, this is not the best choice.

2. Black Or White Pepper

What Is This Substitute?

Black pepper is one of the most common spices available, and white pepper is quite common as well.

While their flavor is not identical to paprika, it is quite similar, it just does not have the same distinct color.

When Is This Substitute Best?

If you do not have any alternatives, this is a common substitute which most people own already.

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

The color is the main detachment, and some recipes already as for pepper, as well as paprika so this could easily get too much.

3. Red Pepper Flakes

What Is This Substitute?

These pepper flakes have a lot of ingredients in common with paprika with similar peppers used, they are bulked with other ingredients, but they still have a similar flavor.

When Is This Substitute Best?

If you are okay with a slightly different taste but with the same overall notes, this is a great spice to try using.

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

The flavor is a bit different from paprika, so it is not identical.

4. Maras Pepper Flakes

What Is This Substitute?

These pepper flakes taste quite similar to paprika making it a good choice.

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

If you do not mind the more intense flavor they are a good choice.

5. Pimentón De La Vera Powder

What Is This Substitute?

This is a smoked paprika which is quite traditional and is used in lots of different recipes, some recipes will be better if you use this too.

When Is This Substitute Best?

In any situation where a smoked paprika would work, this is arguably the best choice.

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

If you do not want smoked do not use this.

6. Cajun Spice

What Is This Substitute?

One of the main ingredients in Cajun spice is paprika, so while it is much more varied with other spices mixed in, it ends up have a similar flavor because of the paprika.

When Is This Substitute Best?

If you are fine with the other flavors, this is a good choice.

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

If you do not want the other flavors from the spice mix, do not use this.

7. Bell Peppers

What Is This Substitute?

While not a spice, using red bell peppers can add a similar taste.

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

You will need to make up for the lack of smokiness.

8. Hot Sauce

What Is This Substitute?

There are many varieties of hot sauce and a lot of them will use the same type of peppers that paprika does, try and find one with the same smoky and pepper flavor which paprika has.

When Is This Substitute Best?

If you do not mind a little heat, this is a good choice.

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

The main difference is the increased spice level and being a sauce instead of powder.

9. Chipotle Powder

What Is This Substitute?

This is another spice mix which sometimes uses paprika as well.

It has a smoked flavor like paprika which is what makes it such a good substitute choice.

When Is This Substitute Best?

If you want to try a slightly different flavor profile, this is a good spice mix to use.

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

The flavor profile is much more distinct and more intense than paprika.

10. Chili Powder

What Is This Substitute?

Chili powder is obviously hotter than paprika, and is sometimes a mix which could taste quite similar to paprika.

When Is This Substitute Best?

If you do not mind extra heat this is a good choice!

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

The heat level is a lot more intense than paprika.

11. Aleppo Chili Powder

What Is This Substitute?

This type of chili powder is quite similar to paprika and is one of the best types for substituting paprika.

When Is This Substitute Best?

If you have access this is a great choice.

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

The spice level is sometimes too intense for a paprika intense.

12. Cayenne Pepper

What Is This Substitute?

This has a similar flavor profile to paprika, just with a more intense flavor.

When Is This Substitute Best?

With the more intense flavor you will need to use less when substituting.

How Is This Substitute Different From Paprika?

The flavor is more intense, so you will need to take this into account.


Hopefully this guide has given you the options you need to be able to properly substitute paprika if you do not have access to it!

While these substitutions will all work as substitutes for paprika in certain situations, they will not all work in every situation.

Paprika has a very specific taste, so some of these substitutions will encapsulate different elements of the paprika’s taste better than others.

When substituting for paprika, keep in mind what part of paprika’s flavor the recipe is trying to use, and then choose a substitute that recreates this well!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Use Cumin Instead Of Paprika?

Cumin can be used instead of paprika, however, this is not a perfect recreation of paprika’s flavor, and it will be more hot as well.

Cumin also does not have the same vibrant color which paprika has, so if you are looking for the same color as paprika, you may want to add another flavorless coloring to make up for this. 

Cumin’s flavor is described best as a less smoky version of paprika, more so if you are substituting for a smoked paprika.

Cumin is generally a more earthy flavor than paprika. However, it does have the same sweetness which paprika has which is what makes it a good substitute. 

Cumin tends to have a stronger taste and concentration than paprika does, so if you are substituting it, make sure to use half as much cumin, so you do not overpower your dish with a cumin taste.

If you want it to taste a little closer to paprika, some people mix in some cayenne pepper, this also helps with the color to look closer to paprika.

Overall cumin is a good substitute for paprika, but the flavor will be different but not in a bad way so do not worry about this.

Can You Use Turmeric Instead Of Paprika?

Turmeric can be a substitute for paprika, but it is not as fitting as the inclusions which are on this list.

Similarly to cumin, turmeric does not have the same smokiness which paprika has, so you might want to add something else to make up for this.

Turmeric lends a more bitter and earthy flavor which will lend your dish a more unique flavor, but not identical to using paprika.

If you want the flavor and appearance to be closer to paprika, you can use the same technique as with the cumin by mixing in cayenne pepper (see also ‘6 Cayenne Pepper Substitutes You Should Try‘). 

What you do need to watch out for when using turmeric (see also ‘5 Perfect Turmeric Substitutes‘) is that it will impact the color of what you are cooking greatly, so watch out for staining too!

Can You Make Paprika Yourself?

Compared to some other spices, paprika is not the most difficult spice to recreate if you want a project or to challenge yourself!

If you have access to capsicum peppers, as well as red chili peppers (see also ‘The 5 Most Ideal Substitutes For Bird’s Eye Chili‘) to add a kick of heat, you should be able to make paprika. You can also use red bell peppers too, but this is good for a mild version.

If you want to make a single jar of paprika, you will need to use somewhere between 10 to 15 peppers depending on the size and type of the peppers which you are using.

The longest part of this process is drying out peppers which can take up to a year, but if you have access to a dehydrator you can do this significantly quicker.

If you want to make your paprika smoked, you will need to dry out the peppers which you are using in a smoker, and for the best results you will want to use oak wood!

Once you can ensure that your peppers are completely dried out, you will need to break them into small pieces, this is so they will be able to fit into a grinder or food processor depending on which you have access to.

If you are using chili peppers for heat, you can choose how many seeds you want to use, but be sparing as this can sometimes make the paprika too hot to handle.

Once the peppers are all ground and are a fine powder you will have your own homemade version of paprika.

There are particular methods to make this last as long as possible, but make sure that you are storing it in a dry and cool place away from direct sunlight.

Can Red Chili Powder Be Used Instead Of Paprika?

This is a great substitute for paprika as it has a quite similar flavor profile as well as a similar color.

The main difference this will impact is the heat level which is a lot more spicy with red chili powder.

You will also not get the same smokiness you get from paprika, so you may have to compensate for this.

How Does Paprika Taste?

There is a variety of different types of paprika from sweet to mild to spicy to smoked, and these all have a unique flavor, however they all have the same smoky flavor which can be quite aromatic and hot.

The flavor will not be activated until it is exposed to heat, so you will not just be able to taste the powder to get an idea of what the taste is like.

If you are worried about not liking paprika, it is included in a lot of food which you probably already like, so it is likely that you have already tasted it.

What Recipes Is Paprika Used In?

 For any dish which is better with seasoning, paprika can be used.

If you want to liven up your dish with a mellow sweetness and subtle smokiness, paprika is the perfect addition.

It works particularly well in sauces so if you want a way to make them better, this is a perfect solution!

You can also use paprika as seasoning for a marinade or a dry rub mix.

If you want to make any of your food more interesting, a simple way to do so is to add paprika.

Is Paprika Spicy?

Since you can get a variety of different types of paprika, some can be more spicy than others.

If you are sensitive to spice you can seek out paprika which is specifically labelled as mild, and if you want more spice, you can find this as well!

At default, paprika tends to have a little heat, but it is by no means super spicy, and if you are only using a small amount, you will likely not feel much spice at all unless you are using a particularly hot version.

Is Paprika Healthy?

Paprika is not an unhealthy spice to use and generally speaking has no negative effects if you eat it regularly.

It does have health benefits like its antioxidant properties which can be very beneficial to the consumer’s health.

There have also been studies done on the health benefits of the pepper which paprika tends to be made from, and it is also shown to help with obesity issues as well as pain relief.

12 Best Paprika Substitutes

12 Best Paprika Substitutes

Recipe by Jenna

Are you working on a recipe which needs paprika, and you have just realized you do not have any? This guide will give you 12 of the best substitutions to use!

Course: Substitutes
5 from 1 vote


  • Tomato Juice With Chili Powder

  • Black Or White Pepper

  • Red Pepper Flakes

  • Maras Pepper Flakes

  • Pimentón De La Vera Powder

  • Cajun Spice

  • Bell Peppers

  • Chipotle Powder

  • Chili Powder

  • Aleppo Chili Powder

  • Cayenne Pepper


  • Decided on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy
Follow Me
Latest posts by Jenna (see all)