Wondermom » Recipes » Substitutions » Best Substitutes For Liquid Smoke

Best Substitutes For Liquid Smoke

Disclosure: This post may include affiliate links. As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Liquid smoke is a familiar ingredient to those who love highlighting a smoky flavor in their dishes.

This ingredient can be hard to find, so here’s a list of several things you can Substitute For Liquid Smoke. Never miss out on the smokiness, even without a grill, ever again! 

closeup of a hand holding a bottle of liquid smoke
Jump to:

What is liquid smoke? 

Made by collecting the smoke from burning wood and then condensing it into a liquid substance, liquid smoke is an ingredient used to impart a smoky flavor to recipes without needing a wood fire.

This smoky wonder was invented in 1895 by Ernest Wright in Kansas by collecting the smoke of hickory wood into a condenser. Although Wright’s very first customers of liquid smoke were farmers preparing smoked meats, nowadays, it’s used by everyone to add that smoky goodness to their food!

Reasons You Might Need A Substitute

Smoked meats with vegetables.


On top of not being exactly easy to find in grocery aisles, liquid smoke is often sold in small bottles. So, it’s pretty easy to run out of this seasoning fast if you cook regularly. Luckily, by knowing easy-to-find liquid smoke substitutes, you can still add smoky flavor to your food anytime, anywhere. 

Budget Cuts

Liquid smoke is relatively more expensive than other ingredients. So, if you want to cut down on your grocery expenses, it’s going to be lighter on your wallet to opt for an excellent substitute for liquid smoke. 

Add Variety To Your Dishes

If you’re the type who wants smoke flavor in your food, you’ve probably tried every brand of liquid smoke there is. But let’s face it, most liquid smoke varieties bring an almost-identical flavor highlight to your dish.

By choosing liquid smoke substitutes, on the other hand, you’ll have fun unlocking new variants of smoky taste and aroma.

Common Substitutes For Liquid Smoke

Chipotle Powder

If you want a replacement for liquid smoke that brings a rich aroma and that familiar smokiness, chipotle powder is your best bet. 

A spoonful of chipotle powder.

This alternative is made from smoked and dried jalapeno peppers crushed into a fine powder. So, in addition to adding a smoky flavor, Chipotle powder is also a suitable substitute for liquid smoke if you’re looking for a spicy kick!

However, unlike liquid smoke, chipotle powder is a dry ingredient. So, you may want to avoid using it if the dish needs a liquid base, such as marinades or sauces.

Smoked Paprika

Also known as Spanish paprika, smoked paprika is an excellent substitute made from dried and smoked red pepper. This alternative offers three different flavors (sweet, bittersweet, and spicy), giving you plenty of options on what flavor profile you want.

Smoked paprika on a wooden spoon.

Apart from getting a rich, smoky flavor, another advantage of using smoked paprika is that it has a vibrant red hue. So, it’s perfect for recipes that need popping colors, like soups and paella!

Keep in mind, though, this substitute is more concentrated than liquid smoke. Hence, it’s best to just use ½ teaspoon of paprika to replace one tablespoon of liquid smoke.

Smoked Salt

Smoked salt is just regular salt exposed to the smoke of wood to infuse a smoky flavor. Similar to liquid smoke, this replacement can be used as a seasoning in virtually any recipe. 

Smoked salt in a wooden bowl.

But based on experience, this alternative is most suitable when the dish calls for a salty flavor on top of smokiness.

Just keep in mind that the smoky taste brought by smoked salt is milder than the original ingredient. Moreover, your dish may be too salty if you use too much of this alternative. 

Smoked Tea (Lapsang Souchong)

Smoked tea is a Chinese variant of black tea that originated from the Wuyi Mountains. These smoked tea leaves add a smoky aroma, just like liquid smoke, making them perfect for adding a smoky undertone flavor to foods like meat marinades or sauce in dishes!

Smoked tea on a brown plate.

Heads up, though, smoked tea delivers a different flavor profile and contains caffeine. That said, you may want to consider using other options if you have guests sensitive to caffeine or don’t want a tea flavor.

Smoked Meat

Smoked meat is one of the best substitutes for liquid smoke since you can already use this as the protein for the recipe. It’s made by smoking any type of meat, like fish or pork, over a wood fire until it’s fully cooked.

Smoked meat on a wooden board with knife and skewer fork on the side.

Using smoked meat directly is perfect when it’s the main highlight of the dish. However, smoked meat will be significantly pricier than the other liquid smoke substitutes. So, I recommend trying the other alternatives if you want something more budget-friendly.  

Chipotle Peppers

Chipotle peppers are a convenient alternative since many groceries usually sell them already canned and ready to use.

Chipotle Peppers on a small plate with can on the side.

Just a teaspoon of the liquid from canned chipotle peppers is enough to give your dish the heat! Of course, you can also add chopped peppers to the mix, but make sure you taste your food as you cook to avoid overwhelming your recipe with spiciness.

Chipotle peppers are perfect liquid smoke substitutes for Mexican dishes that need a smoky, spicy highlight.

Smoke Gun

Also called a food smoker or smoke machine, a smoke gun adds a smoky flavor to food by burning wood chips, charcoal, or sawdust. It’s one of the best substitutes for liquid smoke if you cook with smoky flavor regularly but don’t have enough space for a huge grill.

A chef holding the smoke gun in the kitchen.

Just like liquid smoke, a smoke gun will give you that smoky taste you’re looking for with the added advantage of control over how much smoke you can add! 

However, keep in mind that you can’t use a smoke gun in a closed room due to the risks of inhaling the smoke produced by the gun. Consider using other alternatives if your cooking space is not suited for this.

Homemade Alternatives To Liquid Smoke

Smoked Bacon or Ham Hock

If you have a grill, cooking your own smoked bacon or ham hock is a fun way to spend the weekend. When smoked, these pork ingredients will offer the same smoky taste as liquid smoke. 

Smoked bacon on a wooden board with skewer fork on the side.

Keep in mind, though, that bacon is faster to cook, while ham hocks need extra time to be smoked for it to be tender and cooked. 

Burnt Bread 

This ingredient is an underrated substitute if you need something in a pinch and can’t go grocery shopping. It’ll add a smoky and nutty undertone when mixed with your dish. 

Burnt bread on a white plate.

Just burn some toasted bread over a grill or broiler, leave it overnight to dry, then grind it into a powder! There you have it, a liquid smoke substitute with only one ingredient!

Charred Vegetables

Adding vegetables can give a healthy twist to your dish without sacrificing the smoky taste. Just get whatever vegetables you have on hand and roast them! Make sure that you get an even char on the outside.

Grilled vegetables on a grill pan.

Another method is to fry your veggies in a pan until they’re slightly burnt. Once cooked, just add the vegetables to your recipe and admire that smoky ingredient with a healthy twist.

Tips For Using Liquid Smoke Substitutes in Recipes

Start With Small Amounts

When using alternatives in place of liquid smoke, especially spicy ones such as chipotle powder or smoked paprika, add small amounts at first. Test the taste of the food regularly so you can gauge if you need to add in more or if you’re already satisfied with the smokiness.

Use Complementary Ingredients

Enhance your dish’s flavor profile by using other ingredients that pair with these substitutes. I recommend using caramelized onions, roasted garlic, and herbs such as thyme and rosemary to give complexity to the flavor.

Consider Cooking Time And Method

All of these liquid smoke substitutes have varied cooking times and methods. If you’re on a tight schedule, you may want to use smoked paprika or chipotle powder, which could be mixed in immediately. 

However, if time is not a problem for you, feel free to explore the other alternatives and cook at your own pace. What matters is you get that smoky deliciousness in the end.

Retain That Smoky Goodness

Liquid smoke is one of the most tasty seasonings you can use for BBQ dishes and more! Fortunately, it’s also easy to find substitutes for liquid smoke at the grocery store or ones that you can make at home!

Baked chicken with vegetables on a serving plate, Fork, knife and spices on the side.

You’ll never skip a recipe again just because you don’t have liquid smoke on hand. Just pick which alternative above suits your dish the most, and get ready to unlock a new path in your cooking journey!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.