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The 9 Best Substitutes For Liquid Smoke

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A bottle of liquid smoke next to meat

Liquid smoke is a seasoning that can be used to impart smoky flavor into fish, meat, vegetables, and desserts. In the kitchen, it is an efficient way to replace traditional wood smoking methods which require a smokehouse and can take hours to get the same result. If you’ve run out of liquid smoke or you don’t consider it a healthy ingredient, it doesn’t mean you can’t finish a recipe that calls for it. We have compiled a list of some excellent liquid smoke substitutes which work surprisingly well. Keep reading to find out which option is the best for your dish.

What can I use to replace liquid smoke?

The best option for replacing liquid smoke is to invest in a smoking gun as this provides a pure smoke flavor. Other options are smoked paprika, chipotle powder, charcoal, smoked salt, smoked meat, or smoked tea. In a pinch, you could try the liquid from canned chipotle peppers. For those with a little extra time, check out our recipe further down the page for making your own smoky spice mix.

Liquid smoke substitute infographic1. Smoke gun

Do you want to serve up delicious smoke-infused food without other flavors being added? A smoke gun will add delicious flavor to meat, vegetables, ice cream, puddings, and even chocolate. This innovative piece of equipment allows you to add wood chips to the gun; it then burns it, causing smoke to pipe out the other end. Previously a popular appliance for creative chefs, they are becoming much more common at home.

There are a selection of smoke guns on the market that all do a great job in the kitchen. Our favorite has to be the Breville BSM600SILUSC Smoking Gun [paid link] that is a light, easy to use tool for adding smoke flavor and aroma to food without using heat. This is also the perfect appliance for any mixologist serious about upping their game. 

Smoking Gun and ribs
The Breville smoking gun adds delicious flavor to any food or drink.

2. Smoked paprika

Smoked paprika, also known as Spanish paprika or pimenton, is an excellent option for replacing liquid smoke. This spice has a rich, smoky flavor and is a vibrant red shade. The peppers are smoked and dried for several weeks over fires fueled by oak wood.

Replace a teaspoon of liquid smoke with 1/2 teaspoon of paprika. This will provide a subtle smoky undertone without overpowering the dish. Keep in mind that smoked paprika can range in heat from mild through to very hot. There is no wrong or right answer as to which variety you should use. Whether you want additional heat or not will come down to personal preference.

3. Chipotle powder

Chipotle powder is a spice that is made by grinding jalapeno peppers and then smoking them slowly over a wood fire. Although this ingredient is revered in Mexican cuisine it has grown in popularity around the world. Chipotle powder is much-loved for its ability to add a delicious earthy, smoky flavor to meat, salsa, chili, and eggs.

To use chipotle powder in place of liquid smoke you’ll only need half a teaspoon to replace a teaspoon of the original ingredient. It’s okay to use extra, but remember that chipotle is considerably spicier than liquid smoke, so it won’t be suitable for people that don’t like hot foods.

4. Charcoal

Making food smoky is easier than most think. Take a piece of charcoal and burn it over the flame on a stovetop (hob). Once it gets to the stage of smoking, transfer it to a small bowl using tongs and then place that bowl inside a larger container that holds the food you want to smoke. Finally, cover with a lid or wrap everything in a plastic bag and allow the delicious smoky taste and aroma to work its way into the other ingredients.

Use charcoal if you want to add a smoky taste to food without adding any additional taste that comes from using a spice substitute. Like the smoking gun, this is a versatile replacement because you can also use it to add smoky flavor to cocktails and sweet desserts like ice cream, puddings, and pies. Adding paprika to your next dessert may not work so well!

5. Smoked salt

As the name suggests, smoked salt is an aromatic spice that is made by smoking regular salt with one or more bark-free woods for up to two weeks. The salt can be sprinkled over vegetables, sweet desserts, or used as a dry rub for chicken, fish, or steak. Smoked salt can carry a range of flavors that will vary depending on the type of wood used. Some of the popular fuels include mesquite, alder, hickory, oak, or applewood.

If you decide to use this option in your cooking then remember that it is mostly salt. You’ll want to cut out the regular salt that the recipe calls for, otherwise, it may become unpleasantly salty.

6. Smoked meats

Although not the most versatile substitute on this list, smoked meats can sometimes be used effectively. For example, if a recipe for homemade baked beans calls for liquid smoke then you could simply add smoked bacon or ham hock.

Other smoked meats commonly found in the supermarket include smoked fish, turkey, and chicken. If you choose to use one of these meats then keep in mind that it will increase the fat content in your dish and will also impart extra flavors that may not always be suitable for the meal.

7. Smoked tea

Smoked tea, also known as lapsang souchong, is a type of Chinese black tea that is made by smoke-drying the tea leaves over a pinewood fire. The result is a distinctive smoky pine taste that is accompanied by a strong smoky aroma. Smoke tea differs from other varieties due to its lack of bitterness and is good for rubbing on meat or infusing into liquid dishes like stew or soup.

To use smoke tea as a replacement for liquid smoke, steep the leaves in boiling water for a few minutes, allowing the flavors to infuse. Then add the liquid to the other ingredients. As a meat rub, grind the dried leaves into a fine powder and mix with the other spices before applying to the meat.

8. Canned chipotle peppers

Chipotle peppers that are conveniently canned or jarred will usually be preserved in a liquid or sauce that has a smoky essence. You’ll need to check the label as not all brands have the smoky taste that is needed. This sauce is all that’s required to create a smoke-flavored meal with some bonus spicy heat.

9. Make your own

You may be surprised to know that overcooked bread can be used in place of liquid smoke. Follow this simple recipe to make your own smoky, nutty dust that you can add to spice mixes or sprinkle over sauces, desserts, vegetables, and meat.


  • 2 oz. yeast-risen bread


  1. Place slices of bread onto a lined baking tray and grill, turning occasionally. Cook the bread for 5 minutes or until it has evenly burnt all over.
  2. Allow the bread to sit out on the bench overnight until it has dried out completely.
  3. Break the slices of bread up into small pieces and add them to a spice grinder in batches. Process until a fine powder forms.

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Summing up

Liquid smoke, such as Colgin liquid, is a convenient way to add a smoky flavor to your food without using equipment like a smoker or barbecue. If you don’t have any in the pantry at home or your are concerned about the health implications of using it then you’ll need an alternative. Your best option is to use a smoking gun which you’ll find in well-stocked appliance stores or online. For those that aren’t likely to get much use out of this extra kitchen tool, search for smoked paprika, chipotle powder, burnt charcoal, smoked salt, smoked meat, or smoked tea. They will all add a smoky element to your meal, but keep in mind most of these options will add additional flavors to your food.

What is your favorite dish that has a smoky taste to it? Please let us know in the comments below.