What is a good substitute for sweet paprika?

Few spices boast the vibrant color and distinct flavor of sweet paprika. Its mild and slightly sweet taste, along with its eye-catching appearance, made it a place in many kitchens around the globe. But what if you run out of it? Is there a good substitute for sweet paprika?

I am about to show you the best substitute for sweet paprika. Let’s find out!

What’s sweet paprika?

Sweet paprika, regular paprika, or Hungarian sweet paprika, is a spice made from sweet red bell peppers. It is made by drying and grounding the peppers into a fine powder.

This spice has a vibrant red color and a sweet, mild flavor, and it isn’t spicy by any means. Instead, sweet paprika offers a gentle sweetness with a subtle hint of bitterness. It has a warm and earthy taste and is slightly fruity.

There are at least six types of paprikas, of which sweet paprika is one. You can find Hot Paprika, smoked Paprika, Hungarian Paprika, and Spanish Paprika or pimento.

The main difference is the kind of pepper they used and the region they came from. However, they do vary in taste and spiciness. But, in essence, they are all paprika.

In case you have any of those varieties at home, you can use them instead of sweet paprika.

Best substitute for sweet paprika

1. Chilli Powder

a good substitute for sweet paprika if you like spicy

If you tolerate good levels of spiciness, then you can substitute sweet paprika for chili powder. Since chili powder has a similar color to paprika, you will be able to duplicate the vibrant red using chili. After all, chili is the Mexican name for peppers. And the production process for chili is the same as the sweet paprika.

I always mistake them, and it is not funny because you can’t use the same amount of chili to replace sweet paprika.

So if you will use chili powder instead of paprika, make sure you reduce the proportions of chili powder. If your recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of sweet paprika, use 1 tablespoon of chili powder.

2. Red bell pepper.

red bell peppers fresh, use instead of paprika.

You can use red bell pepper instead of sweet paprika in some recipes. Needless to say, you’ll need to make a few adjustments to ensure you achieve a similar flavor.

To use red pepper to substitute sweet paprika, Puree the roasted red bell peppers in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add a small amount of water or olive oil to achieve the desired consistency.

Then pour the pureed peppers into a frying pan and reduce to obtain a paste-like consistency. You can omit this if you’re cooking a sauce, soup, or any liquid recipe that you will have to concentrate on anyway.

For less watery applications, you should reduce the pureed red bell peppers.

If the recipe allows, you can also use fresh red bell peppers. Make sure to finely chop the red bell peppers. and sauté them in oil until they are softened. Use them in the recipe as you would with paprika. Remember to adjust the quantity to your preference.

3. Canned roasted Red bell pepper

rosted red papper a good substitute for sweet paprika

If you have on hand Canned roasted Red bell pepper, they will make a good substitute for sweet paprika. Besides, they will add even more tasty notes to your dish.

The roasting process of the peppers intensifies the flavor while keeping the vibrant red pigment. After all, the sweet paprika primary function is to add color because its taste, per se, is relatively mild.

To use canned roasted Red bell pepper to replace sweet paprika, cut the pepper into small pieces or pure it. Use at least a cup of them instead of sweet paprika, and add more if needed it.

4. Concentrated Tomato paste

Although tomato paste and sweet paprika don’t share the same flavor profile, you can replace sweet paprika with tomato paste in some recipes.

Be mindful of how much tomato paste you use since it will give your dish a strong flavor. Therefore your final results will be different from those with sweet paprika. But if you like tomatoes, you should be ok. I do it all the time, both ways. I have learned to replace tomato paste with sweet paprika and vice versa.

The colour of your dish will be the same using tomato paste. Start with a small amount, such as 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of tomato paste, and adjust to taste.

5. Chipotle powder

a flavorfull chipotle pepper

Use Chipotle powder as a substitute for paprika in some dishes. However, note that the flavors will be different. Chipotle powder is made from smoked and dried jalapeño peppers, adding a distinct smoky and spicy flavor profile.

Chipotle powder has a fantastic smoky and spicy kick that will enhance your recipe 100 times. Provided, of course, you are ok with the spiciness of Chipotle.

To substitute smoked paprika with chipotle powder, use a 1:1/2 ratio. For each tablespoon of paprika, use 1/2 tablespoon of chipotle powder and go from there. Add more if you need to.

6. Cayenne pepper powder

a spicy substitute for paprika

Cayenne pepper can substitute for paprika. However, be mindful of its fiery spiciness levels.

When substituting cayenne pepper powder for sweet paprika, start with a small amount and gradually add more, tasting as you go, to control the heat level.

You could add ingredients like milk or vinegar to balance the spiciness and create a more well-rounded flavor.

7. Ancho pepper powder

Ancho pepper powder is a good substitute for paprika, especially if you want a milder, smoky flavor. This powder is dried and smoked poblano peppers with a deep, rich taste. They are generally mild and typically lower on the Scoville scale compared to other chili powders.

It has a deep, reddish-brown color, similar to some varieties of paprika. Therefore, it will provide a visually appealing hue to your dishes. However, the color intensity varies depending on the brand and quality of the powder.

To use Ancho pepper powder instead of paprika, start with a similar quantity and adjust to taste.

Food colorant to replace sweet paprika.

The following substitutes for sweet paprika will lack the flavor of the spice, but your food will be gorgeous. I would use a food colorant to replace paprika rather than a super spicy substitute.

In case you worry about whether it is healthy or not, there are organic food coloring products that are made out of fruits and vegetables. However, if you have it in your pantry, you won’t have a problem using it anyway.

Let’s check them out.

8. Annatto Powder

Annato fruits

Annatto powder is a natural food colorant made from the seeds of the achiote tree. It imparts a vibrant reddish-orange color that perfectly simulates sweet paprika.

My grandma had an achiote tree at home, which she used to dye her food. I remember her chicken and rice were delicious; OM! She never used sweet paprika, only Annatto seeds.

If you have Annatto powder, use it like sweet paprika. However, if you have the seeds like my grandma, fry them in a small amount of oil. Then use the dyed oil as sweet paprika. Make sure your recipe will allow for the oil; if not, use another substitute.

9. Beet Powder

Beet powder is another good substitute for sweet paprika. If you have it, use it. However, use it in moderation, as it can add an earthy flavor to the dish.

You can even use fresh beets, depending on the recipe. If it is a soup or a sauce, try a small piece of beet the size of a dice and check the results—taste before adding more so you are comfortable with the taste.

10. Red Food Coloring

I always have red food coloring for cakes, cookies, and even playdough at home. However, its application goes beyond baking or playing. You can also use it as a substitute for paprika.

Pour a couple of drops of food coloring into your recipe and see how it turns out. Add more as it suits you.


All in all, there are plenty of alternatives for paprika. So next time you run out of sweet paprika, don’t panic. Check your pantry, and you will find the solution right in front of your eyes.

Remember that cooking is a creative process, and what may seem outrageous can turn your dish into your best recipe ever. Be bold and dare to try new alternatives, whether for paprika this time or oregano tomorrow.

See you next time.

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