Fact Checked

How Do I Choose the Best Substitution for Paprika?

Brandon May
Brandon May

Paprika is a popular cooking spice made from dried bell peppers and chili peppers which have been ground into a fine powder suitable for cooking. If the spice is called for in a recipe but you don't have any available, using a substitution for paprika can be accomplished fairly easily, depending on other ingredients you have. Popular substitutions for this spice include tomato, for color and taste, as well as fresh cayenne or chili peppers. Powdered versions of these items can also be used in place of paprika; using less than called for or adding a tiny pinch of salt or sugar can lessen the spiciness of the peppers.

This spice is found in savory and sometimes spicy dishes, ones that are full of vibrant red color from either tomatoes or the spice itself. Since paprika is made from dried and powdered peppers, it is no surprise that the best substitutions include cayenne or chili pepper powders. Hot sauce is commonly used as substitution for paprika, as it is also commonly made from cayenne, chili, or bell peppers. Using a little of this condiment can go a long way at delivering a slightly spicy flavor to any dish, as well as a bright red color that paprika would normally bring.


Using these peppers straight can often result in a spicier dish than intended, making it necessary to decrease the amount of spices used. Salt may also be added to mask the spiciness that substitutions may give to the dish, as will a broth or heavy cream. When using cayenne pepper or chili pepper powders as a substitution for paprika, a little sweetener might also dampen the hotter effects of the spice. Paprika is slightly spicy, yet not as much as cayenne, so adding half a teaspoon (about 2.5 grams or ml) of sugar or honey to a dish may lessen the spiciness.

Paprika is used as a flavoring for corn on the cob.
Paprika is used as a flavoring for corn on the cob.

Another great substitution for paprika is fresh tomato or tomato sauce, as this lends its color as well as fresh taste to any dish. Adding a couple of dashes of chili powder or cayenne pepper powder can also help bring more flavor to the tomato. This will, in turn, help the tomato resemble paprika somewhat due to the complexities of the fruits, both fresh and dried, working together. Paprika is, after all, the combination of different fruits in the same family working together to create a unique taste in any dish.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


Has anyone here ever used jalapeno peppers as a paprika substitute? I think that just a touch of jalapeno might work.

I know that they are incredibly hot, but I've heard that you can take some of the heat out by removing the seeds. I am considering using just a small piece of chopped jalapeno in my soup instead of paprika.

My little sister is strange, and though she has no problem eating hot peppers, she hates paprika. If I add peppers to the soup instead, she might actually eat it.


@Oceana – That sounds like it would make a colorful mixture. You probably get the appearance of paprika, as well as the taste.

I need to try your recipe in my mashed potatoes. I have been putting paprika on them ever since my mother introduced me to it as a child. I love the slightly spicy kick that it gives the otherwise bland dish.

I bet your recipe would give my potatoes a very pretty color. It would have some texture to it, also, since I'm sure a food chopper leaves a few lumps.


I don't keep a lot of dried spices on hand, because I prefer using fresh vegetables. Whenever I make a recipe that calls for paprika, I use the actual peppers instead.

It only takes a small slice from each pepper to make enough to serve as a proper substitute. I take one small slice from red, orange, and green bell peppers and an even smaller slice from a chili pepper. Then, I grind them in the food chopper.

I pulse them until they are mushy. Then, I taste the mixture, and if it resembles paprika, I stir it into the pot.


I love the taste of paprika, so I generally keep it on hand. However, because I use it often, I sometimes run out and have to use paprika substitutes.

My go-to substitute is chili powder. Since it only takes a little of this in just about every recipe that calls for it, I don't have any problem keeping it in my spice rack.

It is definitely a powerful spice. Since I don't like things overly sweet, I add just a touch of honey instead of sugar to whatever I'm making. Honey is better for you than sugar, anyway.

I've never really associated tomatoes with paprika, so I don't see the need to add them to the dish. I'm not concerned about color, just taste.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Paprika.
    • Paprika is used as a flavoring for corn on the cob.
      By: Viktor
      Paprika is used as a flavoring for corn on the cob.