Nothing beats that homemade smoke flavor, but sometimes pulling out the smoker for a twelve or sixteen-hour stretch is impractical. When you don’t have time to slow smoke your meat, liquid smoke is a great fast way to add smoke flavor to food. But even that is sometimes too much to ask of our kitchen pantries! Keep our chart handy to choose the best liquid smoke substitute for your recipe.
Finding a liquid smoke alternative is as easy as looking over our chart with a summary of information including how to substitute for 1 tsp liquid smoke. Below the chart, you can read more details about each possible liquid smoke replacement to find out if it’s the right choice for the job.
Choosing the Best Substitute for Liquid Smoke
Consider each possible liquid smoke substitute by asking how the smoke is used in your recipe. Each different substitute comes with its own flavor profile and you need to consider how that will match the flavor profile of your recipe.
|Liquid Smoke Substitute||How to substitute for |
1 tsp Liquid Smoke
|Smoked Paprika||½ tsp Spanish Paprika||Paprika flavor||Dry rub, soups, sauces, stews, or marinades|
|Smoke Gun||5-6 Minutes||Wood-smoke flavor||Cooked or cooking food|
|Chipotle Powder||¼ – ½ teaspoon||Spicy smoke. Adds heat||Dry rub, soups, sauces, stews, or marinades|
|Beer||1 cup or can||Smokey sweet||Soups, sauces, stews, or marinades|
|Smoked Meat||1 cup diced||The meat of choice||Soups, sauces, stews, or marinades|
|Smoked Salt||1 tsp Salt||Salty smoke||Dry rub, soups, sauces, stews, or marinades|
|Canned Chipotle Peppers||¼ – ½ tsp liquid||Spicy smoke. Adds heat||Soups, sauces, stews, marinades|
|Charcoal||20-30 Minutes||Neutral flavor||Cooked or cooking food|
|Smoked Tea||1 teaspoon dry.||Tea flavor. Piney||Dry rub, soups, sauces, stews, marinades|
|Hickory Smoke Powder||¼ – ½ tsp||Hickory Smoke Flavor.||Dry rub, soups, sauces, stews, or marinades|
|Wood Chips||20-30 Minutes||Wood Flavor of Choice||Cooked or cooking food|
|DIY Liquid Smoke||1 tsp||Liquid Smoke Wood of Choice||Add to meat recipes, soups, sauces, stews, or marinades|
There is a good chance you already have this tasty spice also known as Spanish paprika in your spice cabinet, especially if you’ve cooked many Kitchen Laughter recipes such as these smoked chicken thighs.
Since the spice has a built-in smoke flavor it’s a great way to add that smoky vibe to your dish of choice. The most intense effect will be gained if you can find pimenton de la Vera, but other Spanish smoked paprika will also get the job done well.
Remember that paprika comes with its own flavor profile. Make sure the addition of this subtle spice won’t throw off your dish. You can choose mild, medium, or hot smoked paprika, depending on your preference.
If you already have a smoke infuser gathering dust in the closet, it’s time to put it to good use! A few wood chips, a smoke gun, and a little bit of time and you have smoke-infused food.
Plan to place your food inside a closed container with an opening large enough for the smoke nozzle to fit inside. You can use plastic wrap if necessary. The longer you leave the food sealed up with the smoke, the stronger the smoke flavor. Plan to use the tool for at least 5-6 minutes to get the flavor into your dish.
Another great spice, this one has a lot more heat than paprika but a similar flavor profile. It also has built-in smokiness from the ground chipotle peppers.
Use chipotle powder in your dry rub, soup or stew when you don’t mind the added heat and want the smoke.
Pick the right beer, and the smoky flavor of the alcohol will carry itself over into the dish as we did in the Guinness Brisket Baked Beans. Porters and stouts such as the Guinness are an excellent choice. You can also purchase smoked beers.
Use beer as part of a marinade or use it as part of a BBQ sauce for your meat.
If you can add a little smoked bacon or smoked sausage to your recipe, it can add smoked flavor. The more meat you use, the more smoked flavor you will get. Any smoked meat will work. If you have leftover smoked brisket or other smoked meats don’t let that go to waste. Chop it up or grind it and freeze it to use in future soups like this brisket chili, stews, sauces or dips.
This is a great way to infuse soup, stews, or sauces such as marinara sauce with smokey goodness.
I always seem to have leftovers in the freezer and try to use those as much as possible.
If you’ve never tried using smoked salt before, you are in a real treat. The thing is – you don’t want to add too much salt to a recipe, so while it is possible to get a subtle smoke flavor from this ingredient, it is difficult to go bold.
To use smoked salt, try it as a one-for-one replacement for the salt in your recipe.
Canned Chipotle Peppers
Chipotle peppers are smoked, so when they are canned the flavor carries over into the liquid in the can as well. Either the peppers themselves or the adobo sauce in the can may be an excellent substitute for liquid smoke as long as you don’t mind adding a little heat to your dish.
Use ¼ to ½ teaspoon of the adobo liquid in the can in your recipe for smoked flavor without too much heat. If you love heat, adjust the amount accordingly. You can also use the chopped peppers in some recipes. You can see in this grilled chipotle-lime chicken thighs we used both the liquid and the chopped peppers in the quick grill recipe.
Get the piece of charcoal from your grill smoking from either your grill flame or a gas cooktop. Once it is smoking away, place it in a pan with the food you want to get smoky. Cover it with a lid or wrap it up with a cover of some kind to trap the smoke inside. It will be subtle but can be effective.
Plan to use smoking charcoal for at least 20 – 30 minutes to get the flavor into your dish.
This form of tea is literally smoked to enhance the flavor and is quite a nice substitute for liquid smoke if you can find it at your local stores.
Smoked tea has a pine-flavored smoke and aroma. Use it in dry rubs, soups, stews, sauces, or marinades to get smoky goodness into your food. For liquid applications such as soups or marinades, you may want to brew tea first and then add it as a liquid.
Lapsang Souchong is my favorite. It has the best balance of smokiness.
Hickory Smoke Powder
Perhaps one of the best liquid smoke substitutes, the hickory smoke powder is used as a seasoning when added to recipes. It’s perfect to add to a soup, a sauce, a marinade, or a dry rub. You can also mix it with salt and pepper and add it as a seasoning as you grill.
This powder should be used very sparingly as it is very strong. Use ¼ to ½ teaspoon in your dry rub and adjust to taste on your second or third usage.
If you have fire-safe containers, light a few woodchips and cover both your wood chips and the food you want to infuse with smokiness with a large metal bowl.
Plan to use smoking wood chips for at least 20 – 30 minutes to get the flavor into your dish.
DIY Liquid Smoke
When all else fails, make your own liquid smoke and substitute it one-for-one for store-bought in any recipe.
Best Way to Use
The ideal way to use each of these liquid smoke replacements will depend upon your recipe. If you are making a soup, stew, sauce, or marinade you can add a dry replacement like you would seasoning as you build the flavors. You can also add a liquid replacement as the recipe simmers. If you are making a dry rub, add the dry seasoning directly to the rub before putting it on the meat.
There are several manufacturers of liquid smoke, and it is best to keep a bottle on hand for those recipes that need it.
You’ll find Stubbs, Wright’s, Colgin Cellars, and Lazy Kettle are the most common brands out there. Your local grocery store will have them with the spices, or you can order them online.
No. Cumin is not even in the top ten liquid smoke substitutes by any stretch. If you are looking for a dried spice to use in place of liquid smoke, try smoked paprika, chipotle powder, smoked chili powder, or hickory smoke powder – all of which can be used in a dry rub on your meat to give it a subtle smoke flavor.
Worcestershire sauce is a fermented form of fish sauce made from anchovies. The best substitute for Worcestershire sauce is not liquid smoke, but another fish sauce or steak sauce containing anchovies.
You have so many choices! Whether you make your own DIY Liquid smoke or choose one of the other options such as hickory smoke powder, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, liquid from canned chipotle peppers, wood chips, charcoal, a smoke machine, smoked salt, smoked meat, smoked tea, or even beer, you can find the perfect liquid smoke substitute when you look at the chart we provided in this post. Bookmark it to find it later!
You can use hickory smoke powder, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, liquid from canned chipotle peppers, wood chips, charcoal, a smoke machine, smoked salt, smoked meat, smoked tea, or even beer.
While many people worry about the carcinogens in liquid smoke, the fact is pyrogallol-like polyphenols are probably not nearly as dangerous in liquid smoke as they might seem. In addition, liquid smoke is usually used in very small amounts in any recipe so the amount consumed is far below the recommended daily maximum for these substances (PLPs). It is unlikely that liquid smoke is a health risk, but you should always consult your own physician for medical advice.