Let’s start off by answering the question, what even is paprika? Well, paprika is typically used as a spice and originates from Capsicum annuum pods, which is a pepper shrub indigenious to Mexico, Central and South America, and the West Indies. Paprika can either take on a red, brown, copper, or orange color, depending upon the type of pepper used.
It has an incredibly pungent flavor upon heating, which ranges from sweet, smokey, or hot. Paprika purchased in most grocery stores is neutral in flavor, appearing to be almost tasteless. It is used primarily to add color to dishes or is used as a garnish for many popular dishes, such as deviled eggs.
For individuals who are wanting to utilize the color and rich flavor of high-end paprika in their dishes, but cannot afford the cost of gourmet, flavorful paprika, choosing certain alternatives might just be the best option!
The best replacements for paprika are cayenne pepper, chili powder, chili flakes, ancho powder, guajillo powder, chile de arbol powder, Aleppo powder, black pepper powder, cajun spice, red bell peppers, chipotle powder, and hot sauce.
1. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper is a finely ground powder, prepared from the seeds and pods of varying chiles. It is made from the ripened fruits of Capsicum minimum or Capsicum baccatum and varies from red to yellow before becoming a powder and red or brown once in powder form.
Cayenne pepper powder can vary in hotness, depending upon if the seeds are utilized as well. It has a hot, pungent, and biting flavor, but it is not as powerful as hotter chilies. When cooking with cayenne pepper, it can be used as a spice during the cooking process or it can be used as a condiment for foods such as oysters, sardines, smoked salmon, scallops, lobster, and crayfish.
It goes great over soups and hors d’oeuvres and it can be beaten with eggs and egg dishes, such as omelettes and souffles. It pairs well with roasted, grilled, or stewed meats and adds great flavor to stews, casseroles, curry dishes, and sauces, including barbecue and cheese.
2. Chili Powder
Chili powder is dried and finely ground chili peppers, which typically includes the use of one or more varieties of the pepper. It also contains other ingredients, such as oregano, paprika, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.
While it is most commonly used in Southwestern and Mexican-style cooking, it has become popular in many other cultural dishes. Chili powder mixes can vary wildly, ranging from mild in flavor to incredibly spicy.
It is one of the main ingredients in chili con carne and is used to season eggs, chili, cheese dishes, stews, sausage, pork and beans, and is added to season lobster, crab, mussels, clams, oysters, shrimp, crawfish, and other types of shellfish.
3. Chili Flakes
Chili flakes are typically made from one type of chili pepper and are used to strengthen and express the chili’s distinct flavor. The most common chili flakes sold on the market are from chipotle chili peppers.
Chile flakes are uniform in color, for the seeds are removed, reducing the heat. The age of the chili will affect the heat factor; the younger the chili, the hotter the flake, whereas the older the chili, the more tame the heat.
Chili flakes are typically used in Mexican, South and Central American, and Tex-Mex dishes and should be used moderately, for too much will make the dish too hot. These flakes can be used as a condiment on pizza, can be added to marinades, dressings, and stir fries, curry dishes, stews.
4. Ancho Chili Powder
Ancho chili powder comes from air drying and finely grinding ancho chili peppers. Ancho chilis are dark and smokey in color and have a deep and rich flavor, ranging from mild to medium in heat. Their flavor can be considered sweet, almost raisin like.
This chili powder is most commonly used in authentic Mexican cuisine, due to its Mexican and Central American origin. It is an excellent choice for individuals who prefer a more mild taste.
You can use ancho chili powder to sprinkle atop pastas, baked potatoes and vegetables, soups, pizza, popcorn, and you can use it to season poultry and Mexican dishes, such as tamales and chorizo.
5. Guajillo Powder
Guajillo chili powder comes from dried and ground guajillo chili peppers and it is the second most popular chili consumed in Mexico. They are complex in flavor, adding mild heat, yet bringing about a subtle fruity taste.
They also have smoky, tangy, rich, and warm undertones and are red-brown in color. Guajillo peppers are used in salsas, enchilada sauces, various other Mexican dishes, and as a rub for meats.
6. Chile de Arbol Powder
Chile de arbol is a thin and small potent chili pepper that is incredibly hot, with a scoville unit between 15,000 and 30,000. They originate from Mexico and turn from green to bright red as
they mature. It has a smoky and grassy flavor and are bold in taste. Though they originate from Mexico, they are used in many Thai curries. They are also used in salsas, pickling brines, Tex-Mex chili, and hot sauces.
7. Aleppo Powder
Aleppo chili peppers, also known as Halaby peppers, which originally come from Syria and Turkey, are sun-dried, seeded, and crushed up, before being ground into a fine powder.
This pepper has a balanced and medium heat profile and has a sweet, rich, and smoky taste, which can be perceived as being earthy and warm. It is used in roast chicken marinades, used in rubs for vegetables, used in salad dressings, and is used as a condiment for various Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes.
8. Black Pepper
Black pepper comes from peppercorns, apart of the Piperaceae family. It is native to India, but grows in Vietnam, Brazil, China, Sri Lanka, and many other tropical islands and countries.
They come from unripe peppercorns that have been dried and cooked. Black pepper has a sharp and pungent aroma and its flavor is woody and piney. It is known as the king of all spices, being a staple of every American’s cabinet and table.
Black pepper can be used as a condiment or can be used to add depth and flavor to almost any dish and is particularly popular when making dry rubs for meat. It also assists with alleviating symptoms associated with respiratory disorders, coughs, and the common cold.
9. Cajun Spice
Cajun spice is a mix of herbs and spices and typically includes salt, garlic powder, paprika, ground black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, dried oregano, dried thyme, and red pepper flakes. It comes from Cajun cooking, which is known for being spicy, rich, and flavorful.
This spice mix also brings in flavors and tastes from African and Native American cooking styles. Cajun spice is best used for seafood dishes including crawfish, catfish, crab, oysters, shrimp, and lobster. It is also used in gumbo, certain creamy pasta dishes, and used on vegetables, such as okra and collard greens.
10. Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers come from the Capsicum annuum family and are classified as berries, even though they are typically thought of as a vegetable. They have a sweet flavor and are less pungent than any other pepper.
Upon cooking, the sweetness is heightened and the true richness can be experienced. Red bell peppers are used in sauces, chilis, as a side, in salads, as a garnish, and in dressings. They are also used in marinades and dips.
11. Chipotle Powder
Chipotle peppers are smoked and dried jalapenos of the Morita variety. These jalapenos are green, but turn red during the fall, and are harvested then. Chipotle pepper powder is primarily manufactured in Chihuahua, Mexico, though they are also processed in the United States and throughout Mexico.
Chipotle peppers are considered to be medium hot and have a smokey and earthy flavor. Chipotle powder is used when making adobo, soups, stews, sauces, and many other Tex-Mex and Mexican dishes. It’s an excellent substitute for smoked paprika.
12. Hot Sauce
Hot sauce is made up of chili peppers and a liquid base, that usually involves vinegar, tomatoes, salt, sugar, herbs, spices, and black pepper. Hot sauce can be used as a dip, as marinades, glazes, and can be added to many other dishes. Hot sauce can add immense flavor and heat to any dish of your choosing.
There you have it. You can simply use one of the items we mentioned, or a combination of 2-3 ingredients for your dishes.