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.
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.