Here's What You Can Substitute For Paprika

No kitchen spice cabinet is complete without paprika. Even if you do not use this crimson-colored powder often, though you should, it always seems to be lurking on the shelf.

True paprika comes from a number of specific pepper types grown exclusively in Spain and Hungary (via The Spruce Eats), and is even the national spice of Hungary (via Pepper Scale). While only certain families of peppers are used to make paprika, there are three different variations on the market: sweet, smoked, and hot (via Cooking Light).

Sweet paprika is most often simply labeled as paprika, and it works best for garnishing dishes like deviled eggs. This type of paprika does not pack any heat, so it's a great go-to for most dishes. Smoky paprika is typically a Spanish style and does not add heat to dishes either, but a smoky, sweet pepper flavor similar to that of charred bell peppers. Its mild flavor is perfect for all kinds of dishes that need a subtle smokiness. Finally, hot paprika is a Hungarian style of paprika that is primarily used to add subtle heat rather than color to a dish (via Cooking Light).

The best alternatives to paprika

Should you find the paprika bottle empty, there are several alternative options you can use in place of the spice. Cayenne pepper is one of the best alternatives, though it is noticeably hotter than regular paprika. It adds the same great color to dishes, however (via Chili Pepper Madness). Use it sparingly and begin with just 1/2 teaspoon for each 1 teaspoon of paprika (via Taste Essence).

Ground chili powder is another good substitute that adds heat and color. It's not as hot as cayenne, but still plenty flavorful. Since it is not significantly hotter than paprika, use it in place of paprika in equal parts or 1 teaspoon chili powder for 1 teaspoon paprika.

If there's nothing else in the pantry, equal an measure of finely ground black pepper can also work as an alternative in a pinch. The mildly spicy pepper will add enough flavor and heat without overwhelming the dish, though the signature bright red color will be missing.