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Best Liquid Smoke Substitutes

Lisa Price
Last Updated on
by Lisa Price

Liquid smoke may seem like an irreplaceable ingredient because of its uniqueness, but we have found several alternatives that get the job done.

Some of the best liquid smoke substitute we’ve tried include smoked paprika, charcoal, smoked salt, chipotle powder, smoked tea, and hickory smoke powder.

A smoke gun also works well, and it is the most versatile since it doesn’t infuse other flavors into your dish. You can use it to spice up your meat, puddings, vegetables, and ice creams. It’s easy to use as all you need is to add wood chips into the gun, and when the wood burns, it produces smoke out of the pipe.

Liquid smoke is a concentrated liquified smoke that gives your food a smokey flavor. All the ash and tar are removed during the liquefaction process, leaving the liquid smoke pure and harmless to your health. It infuses a smoky taste to various dishes, including:

  • Pork
  • Fish
  • Ham
  • Chicken
  • Pies
  • Steak and beef
  • Cocktails
  • Desserts
  • Vegetable dishes

Picking a liquid smoke alternative depends largely on how you want to use the ingredient. If you want to enhance meat with a smoky rub, a spice is best, while when adding to a drink or soup, you will want a liquid substitute.

Our top 5 substitutes give you a variety of options for any recipe.

1. Smoked Paprika

Smoked paprika is a good liquid smoke substitute

Also known as Spanish paprika, smoked paprika consists of peppers crushed into a fine powder after being dried and smoked over an oak fire over a long period. The process gives the paprika a wonderful fragrance and enhances its rich red color.

Paprika gives you a subtle smoky taste that is similar to liquid smoke without overpowering your dish. To use the spice as a liquid smoke substitute, you should replace one teaspoon of liquid smoke with ½ teaspoon of paprika. You can choose between mild, moderate, and hot paprika, depending on your personal preference.

Smoked paprika is a versatile spice that deserves a spot in your spice cabinet. You can use it with several recipes, with the most delicious being:

  • Smoked paprika chicken
  • Grilled potatoes with paprika and rosemary
  • Grilled maple bacon with paprika

2. Charcoal

Charcoal can also serve as a good substitute for liquid smoke

Charcoal is one of the best liquid smoke alternatives as it is readily available and easy to use. It’s also the best choice when you want to impart smokiness to your dish without influencing the overall taste.

Using charcoal to add smokiness to your dish is just a few simple steps.

  1. Prepare your dish in a large bowl.
  2. Burn a piece of charcoal over a stove flame.
  3. When the charcoal reaches the smoking stage, use a pair of tongs to transfer it into a small bowl.
  4. Place the small bowl in the large bowl containing the dish you want to smoke.
  5. Place a lid on the large bowl and then wrap it with a plastic bag to allow the smoke to penetrate through the other ingredients.

You can use charcoal smoke on various dishes to get a delicious smoky taste without adding any spice or flavors, but it does better with recipes with added fat as they absorb the smoky flavor better. Such dishes include:

  • Roasted broccoli florets with parmesan
  • Roasted potatoes with duck fat
  • Roasted turnips with coconut oil
  • Leftover mac and cheese or fried rice

3. Chipotle Powder

Chipotle Powder
Chipotle Powder

Chipotle powder is a chili powder with a mildly spicy heat that comes from smoked and dried jalapeno peppers. It’s the best liquid smoke alternative when you want an earthy, smoky flavor in your dish. This alternative also adds a deep and complex heat that is not stronger than your dish.

To substitute the liquid smoke using chipotle powder, replace one tablespoon of liquid smoke with a half tablespoon of the powder. However, you can adjust the heat level according to your preference.

The chipotle powder is most suitable for Mexican dishes. You can use it as a replacement in the following recipes:

  • Tortilla soup with pinto beans
  • Loaded avocado quesadillas
  • Beer-braised beef short ribs
  • Cauliflower chipotle tacos with mango lime salsa
  • Texas BBQ dry rub

Can’t find chipotle powder? See recommended chipotle powder substitute.

4. Smoked Tea

Smoked tea
Smoked Tea

Also known as lapsang souchong, smoked tea is a Chinese spice made from sinesis leaves. When used as a liquid smoke alternative, it gives your dish a smoky pine flavor with a smoky aroma. The leaves are dried by smoking them using pinewood; that’s why smoked tea gives your food a distinct pine flavor. Unlike other black teas, lapsang souchong is less bitter, making it suitable for infusing soup-based stews.

To substitute liquid smoke with smoked tea, you need to steep the tea in hot water. Pour one or two heaped teaspoons in a half cup of hot water and let it simmer for about five minutes. You can let the leaves simmer longer if you want a more robust flavor. Once you’re satisfied, strain the leaves and add the liquid to your broth. Use the same amount of smoked tea as the liquid smoke you are replacing.

If you want to use the smoked tea as a meat rub, crush it into a fine powder and mix it with your other spices.

This liquid smoke alternative works best in dishes such as:

  • Beef and noodles in smoked tea infused stew
  • Smoky tomato soup seasoned with smoked tea
  • Lentil soup
  • Tea smoked roast chicken

5. Smoked Salt

 Smoked Salt
Smoked Salt

Smoked salt is the most readily available substitute for liquid smoke as it is common salt smoked using a barkless wood of your choice. For example, you can use applewood, which gives the salt a nice mild smoky flavor, leaving the salt to smoke for two weeks. Other woods to use are oak, alder, and hickory. The type of wood used determines the kind of flavor smoked salt will give your dish.

Since smoked salt comes from regular salt, you should use it the same way you use ordinary salt. You can use it on:

  • Steak before grilling
  • As a savory to your sweet by grinding it over buttered popcorn
  • Potatoes and pasta
  • Sprinkle on dessert
  • Sprinkling on vegetables before roasting
  • Sauces and garnishes

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Liquid Smoke Safe?

Liquid smoke is made by capturing and condensing smoke, filtering to remove impurities, and bottling it. The product is, therefore, safe to use.

However, some manufacturers make artificial liquid smoke which can be harmful. To ensure you’re buying a safe product, check the ingredients. Avoid buying liquid smoke that has ingredients other than smoke flavor and water.

How Do You Add a Smoky Flavor to a Dish?

There are many ways to bring the grilled flavor to your dish without a BBQ. One such method is using liquid smoke, or one of its substitutes, as a rub, marinade, or simply an ingredient in your dish.

Can You Use Liquid Smoke Directly on Your Meat?

You should brush liquid smoke on your meat to add a smoky flavor. Since it’s concentrated, you should only use at most a quarter teaspoon on your dish. You should also consider diluting it with vinegar to avoid overpowering the other spices. However, in the end, it comes down to personal preference.

Can You Use Liquid Smoke on Vegan Recipes?

You can use liquid smoke to add a smoky, savory flavor to your vegan dishes, just as you would in meat dishes. You can brush it on plant-based burgers and grilled veggies.

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have Liquid Smoke?

There are several liquid smoke alternatives. If you run out of it in the middle of your cooking, you can try one of the liquid smoke alternatives such as smoked paprika, charcoal, chipotle powder, smoked tea, and smoked salt.

Must I Have a Smoker to Use Liquid Smoke?

You don’t necessarily need to have a smoker when using liquid smoke. The liquid smoke is a way to give your food a smoky flavor without needing to use a smoker.

Do I Need to Refrigerate Liquid Smoke?

There’s no need to refrigerate liquid smoke. Since its only ingredients are water and natural concentrated smoke, it has a low pH level. Hence, it contains a lot of antimicrobial properties that prevent it from spoiling quickly.

Final Thoughts

Liquid smoke provides an economical and ecological way to get a smoky flavor in your food compared to the traditional methods. However, if you run short of liquid smoke in your spice cabinet, the above liquid smoke alternatives will help you achieve the same smoke taste and flavor.

A smoke gun is the best option as it is readily available in your neighborhood appliance stores and online stores.

If you’re not open to use the smoke gun, consider having smoked paprika, smoked tea, smoked salt, chipotle powder, and charcoal in your spice cabinet. All these options add a smoky flavor to your food without a hassle.

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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