Can I use paprika instead of curry powder?

In this brief article, we will answer the question “Can I use paprika instead of curry powder?”, with an in-depth analysis of what curry powder is. We will also share a few homemade curry powder recipes. 

Can I use paprika instead of curry powder?

No, you can not use paprika instead of curry powder. Curry powder is a complex blend of different spices. Paprika can be used as one of the ingredients of curry powder but it can not be used as curry powder.

The major global suppliers of medicinal plants, spices, and herbs are China, India, Canada, the U.S., and Germany, accounting for 60% of global export values, whereas, the U.S. and Germany, followed by China, Japan, and Singapore, are the major importers, accounting for 50% of global import values. Global imports of medicinal plants in 2016 had an average value of US$ 2.9 billion for 660,261 metric tons (MT) and exports were valued at US $ 3 billion for 537,149 MT (1).

Flavor of paprika can range from mild to sweet to hot. Smoked paprika can give a smoky touch to the curry powder’s flavor profile.

Paprika as a spice are considered dried and ground fruits of certain plant varieties of Capsicum annuum var. longum L. Paprika Capsicum comes originally from Central America. It got to Europe thanks to Spanish travelers and was one of the first crops brought from America to Europe. Today the growth of paprika is spread all over the world. Paprika fruits after the harvest undergo some technological treatments which lead to spice products in the kitchen used as a sweet paprika. Paprika is in cuisine mostly used for giving meals taste and color. Paprika is a good source of many sensory and nutritionally significant compounds, such as compounds forming color pigment (capsanthin, capsorubin, cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin etc.), flavor, pungent taste (capsaicin, dihydrocapsaicin), antioxidant properties (ascorbic acid, tocopherol, polyphenols) (4).

You can use paprika instead of cayenne pepper or hot chili pepper powder for a milder curry powder. You can also add it to yellow curry powder. It will not give a strong red color but it will definitely give a kick of heat to the curry powder. Other ingredients that you can add are coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, and herbs.

What is curry powder?

Curry powder is a complex mixture of 20 or more different spices and herbs. The main component of most curry powders is usually turmeric. Other ingredients that are sometimes used are ginger, garlic, cinnamon, paprika, saffron, nutmeg, tamarind, and cumin. It can range from mild to spicy.

Most recipes include coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and chili peppers. Depending on origin, additional condiments such as ginger, garlic, asafetida, fennel seed, caraway, cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, green cardamom, black cardamom, nutmeg, red pepper, and black pepper can also be added. Chemical studies conducted on some of these ingredients have led to the identification of metabolites such as curcumin, piperine, and capsaicin (2).

There is no fixed list of ingredients. Any blend can be made in different ratios of spices. This is why they differ in taste. Curry powders are also available in boxes in stores. They are ready made and differ in taste from brand to brand. A substantial number of biological studies have been carried out on metabolites isolated from curry powder ingredients, and interesting pharmacological activities have been found. This pharmacological diversity in the constituents of curry powder formulation might therefore make this spice a powerful food ingredient with respect to health benefits (2).

Similarly, in homemade powders, one can add more chillies to increase spiciness or alternatively, use less chillies if they like mild food. 

It is believed by many to be a staple of Indian cuisine when in fact, it is not. The concept of curry powder comes from the British. It is their take on Indian cuisine. 

Indian inspired curry powders are most famous. On the other hand, there are other curry powders from around the world which have distinct flavors and each of them are unique in their own way depending on the type of ingredients used to make them.

In Thai cuisine, curries are very famous. Red, yellow and green are the most famous curries. They get their names from the main ingredient used to make them which give them their distinct flavor and color.

For example, the main ingredients in Thai red curry are red chillies and paprika. Red chillies give the curry a vibrant  red color and also make it one of the most spiciest curries. Red curry paste also includes peppercorns and lime zest, and sometimes roasted and ground Indian spices such as coriander, cumin, and cloves. The main ingredient in yellow curry is turmeric, but it also contains garlic, chili and shows significant antioxidant and antibacterial as natural preservatives and functional food;  and the main ingredient in green curry is green chillies. Green curry also includes coriander, kaffir lime leaves, shallot and rinds, lemongrass, garlic, cumin, and nam pla. The dish has citrus undertones and can be mild or hot (3).

These curries are usually made with coconut milk to give them a nice and smooth texture. They can be eaten with meat and vegetables. They can be eaten with chicken or fish, and sometimes beef. The vegetables used are green, red and yellow bell peppers, onions, carrots, shallots, ginger, and garlic.

Homemade curry powder recipes

Whether you’re planning on preparing a small batch or going for the special Thai curry powder, we have both the recipes for you. Read below and follow the respective recipe for best results.

Small batch of homemade curry powder


  • Turmeric powder 1 tsp
  • Ground coriander seeds 1 tbsp
  • Ground black pepper ½ tsp
  • Cumin 1 ½ tsp
  • Chili powder ½ tsp
  • Ground ginger ½ tsp


  1. Mix all the spices together thoroughly in a small bowl.
  2. Use immediately to keep the flavor intact and fresh.
  3. Store it in an airtight container in a cool dry place.

Thai curry powder


  • Turmeric 1 tbsp
  • Coriander seeds 3 tbsp
  • Chili flakes 2 tsp
  • White pepper 1 tsp (powdered)
  • Ginger powder 2 tsp
  • Bay leaves 3
  • Cumin seeds 2 tbsp
  • Whole garlic cloves (crushed) 2


  1. Dry roast bay leaves, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds.
  2. Add all the other ingredients to the roasted seeds and leaves.
  3. Add the mixture in a blender and blend them thoroughly.
  4. Use immediately.
  5. Store them in an airtight container in a cool and dry place.

Other FAQs about Paprika that you may be interested in.

Can paprika go bad?

What can I substitute for paprika?

How to counteract too much paprika in food?


In this brief article, we answered the question “Can I use paprika instead of curry powder?”, with an in-depth analysis of what curry powder is. We also shared a few homemade curry powder recipes.


  1. Nguyen, Ly, Lam T. Duong, and Rao S. Mentreddy. The US import demand for spices and herbs by differentiated sources. J Appl Res Medic Arom Plants, 2019, 12, 13-20.
  2. Sandjo, Louis P., et al. Cytotoxicity, antiprotozoal, and anti‐inflammatory activities of eight curry powders and comparison of their UPLC‐ESI‐QTOF‐MS chemical profiles. J Sci Food Agri, 2019, 99, 2987-2997.
  3. Kanchanakunjara, Taddara, et al. Traditional curry pastes during Sukhothai to Ratthanakosin: The subjective experience of the past and present. Asian Cult Hist, 2015, 7, 175.
  4. Štursa, Václav, Pavel Diviš, and Jaromír Pořízka. Characteristics of Paprika samples of different geographical origin. Potraviny Stvo J Food Sci, 2018, 12, 254-261.

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