liquid smoke

Top 5 Substitutes For Liquid Smoke To Cook The Best BBQ and Meat Seasoning

Have you heard of liquid smoke? Some people swear by it when cooking meats and love the smoky flavor it adds when grilling or sautéing. However, others dislike the flavor and think it’s too synthetic.

What if your recipe calls for liquid smoke? If you don’t have any or can’t find any, then you may want to know what substitutes could help make your dish similar. And if the case is that you don’t like the taste, then some of these options could provide a better flavor that you will love. 

What Is Liquid Smoke?

Let’s start from the beginning. What is liquid smoke? 

Liquid smoke is a strong liquid food flavoring. This is a potent smoke flavor that is made from wood that has been placed under intense temperature, which causes the wood to smolder. It is then passed through condensers that liquify the smoke.

This flavoring adds the taste and smell of a smokehouse, without actually having to use any fire or wood. It is often used as an additive in actual smoking or grilling, but it can also be part of a common recipe for meat, poultry, or fish.

What Can I Replace Liquid Smoke With?

These are the substitutes for liquid smoke you should try:

#1. Spanish Smoked Paprika

This spice is made from dried peppers that have been burnt over an oak fire for at least two weeks. The pepper is the Spanish pimenton, which has two varieties, sweet or spicy. The spicy version can bring in a hot, smoky flavor to your meal, but it could be too hot for you. 

You can find Spanish smoked paprika in almost all grocery stores, or if not, try your specialty store. This spice is traditionally used in paella and tapas, but you can use it instead of liquid smoke in seasoning your meat.

To avoid the spiciness, try mixing about ¼ teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika with ¼ of spicy smoked paprika.

#2. Smoked Meats

This option may sound weird, but using pre-smoked meats can save you the trouble and give you the flavor you want.

These types of meats are usually cold cuts, like ham or turkey, but sometimes you can also find smoked fish, like salmon or trout. Smoked meats are usually in the cold cuts or delicatessen section of your supermarket. 

If your recipe calls for liquid smoke during the preparation steps, you can opt to buy these pre-smoked meats, and use them as per the package directions. However, keep in mind that this option is limited to the meats already available and you can’t experiment too much. 

#3. Chipotle Powder

This replacement is also a spice, commonly found in your local specialty store. Chipotle powder is made from ground jalapeno peppers that have been smoked over a fire for many hours. This powder can be on the spicy side, but it adds a smoky essence to your meals. 

Usually, you can only find red chipotle powder, which is made from red jalapenos. If you’re lucky, you may find brown chipotle powder made from green jalapenos.

Chipotle powder is a traditional spice in Southwestern cuisine, but it comes directly from Mexican food, such as tacos, Carne al adobo, or al pastor. 

#4. Hickory Smoke Powder

This rub is a mix of liquid smoke and other spices, such as black pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder.

This powder is often used as a meat tenderizer and marinade before barbecuing or grilling. You can find hickory smoke powder in the spice section of your grocery store, as it is very common everywhere. 

While it does contain liquid smoke, hickory smoke can taste like it as well as added chipotle and herbs, so the flavor varies a bit. All you have to do is place this powder in a bowl or plate and pass your meat over it, making sure it adheres to it for enhanced flavor when cooking. 

#5. Smoked Tea

Have you tried smoked tea before? We’re referring to Chinese black tea that has been smoked over pine fires. Because of this, the leaves are dry and black, and it packs a very smoky aroma and flavor. 

While you may have to go to a gourmet store or a Chinese tea house to find this substitute, it is a good item to have around for either drinking or cooking.

To use it, boil water and pour it over a handful of the leaves in a cup, let it sit for at least eight minutes, and pour the brewed tea over your meat during the cooking process.

What’s the Verdict?

It depends, as all these alternatives have their ups and downs. We recommend going with the flavor you like, as this can alter your product completely and it can be the end of your dish. For easiness, go with pre-smoked meats, and for experimenting, we recommend smoked paprika.


Is Worcestershire sauce the same as liquid smoke?

No. These two are completely different flavors and aromas. Worcestershire sauce is used as a marinade in cooking meat or making sauces, but the flavor is rather salty and even a bit acidic. Liquid smoke, on the other hand, is an ingredient used to add the flavor of smoke to meats before grilling or smoking them.

Is there a healthy liquid smoke?

Because this liquid is made from burning wood, it can result in added chemicals that may be carcinogenic, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). While the amount varies from brand to brand, we recommend you use liquid smoke sparingly and not in every meal you cook. 

Can I make my own liquid smoke?

Yes it’s possible to make your own liquid smoke but it will take a lot of time and materials as well. You’ll need a chimenea, or a smoker, or a grill, otherwise, it’ll be impossible to make this spice. The tip is to catch the smoky condensation.


Whether you don’t like the smell and taste, or you’re trying to avoid some chemicals, if you don’t have liquid smoke handy, it won’t be over. These alternatives work greatly with many types of meat and can be used in marinades or added in the cooking process.

Make sure you taste for spice level and flavor. Don’t be afraid to mix and match, as many of these can be used together!

liquid smoke substitute

*Photo by NatashaBreen/depositphotos

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