Liquid smoke has become a critical part of cooking for a lot of people, from adding fresh off-the-grill flavor to their favorite baked meals, or enhancing the flavor of a marinade or brine, it's a versatile tool for making food taste better.
However, with more people looking to replicate their favorite flavors on their own, or reaching for a bottle of liquid smoke only to realize it’s nearly empty, having some replacement options seems like a good idea.
Here are some of the best replacements for Liquid Smoke.
|Smoked Paprika||Sweet, slightly savory, mild smokey flavor, can be more pronounced smokey flavor when you add a lot of it.|
|Smoked Teas||Slightly astringent, highly smokey, great for marinades and brines, but harder to add to sauces or as a direct seasoning.|
|Chipotle Powder||Smokey, dry, slightly bitter, spicy, but not a ton of spice. More of a dry, tingly heat.|
|Smoked Salt||A good bit of smoke flavor along with the normal flavor of salt. May be slightly bitter. Also, the flavor depends on the kind of wood used for smoking.|
|Smoked Meats (Bacon, Etc)||Bacon and other smoked meats add a fair amount of smoke, but also their distinct meat flavors, and can be sweet, savory, or a little too rich in some cases.|
|Canned Chipotle Peppers||Rich, smooth, usually spicier than the powdered version, canned chipotle peppers have a lot of smoke to them, but also a lot of vinegar.|
|Burnt Bread Powder||Probably the closest replacement for liquid smoke, almost pure smoke flavor, but can be overpowering or add an unpleasant texture if you add too much.|
|Smoked Ham Hocks||Like bacon, smoked ham hocks work well to add both umami and smoke, though usually without the sweetness of bacon. Great for soups and stews.|
|Charcoal||Adds a good amount of smokey flavor. Added as an ingredient, also adds color and can affect medication, used to create smoke, can have a variety of flavors.|
|Lapsang Souchong||Sweet, smokey, and a bit piney as well.|
|Broiled Vegetables||Variable depending on the vegetable and cooking time, but always adds some smoke flavor.|
|A Smoke Gun||Pure smoke flavor, but some people may report a chemical taste as well.|
|Cooking Over A Fire Or Wood Grill||Natural smoke is informed both by the heat of the grill and the type of fuel you use. Wood chips are preferred.|
Why Would You Want To Substitute Liquid Smoke?
There are a lot of reasons to substitute liquid smoke.
Some people think that the taste of liquid smoke is a little too artificial or fake tasting, while other people are just looking for a quick substitute when they run out.
Like a lot of liquid seasonings recently, Liquid Smoke can also go out of stock when you need it, and switching brands or versions of Liquid Smoke can significantly change the flavor.
A lot of people are also looking for more natural ways to incorporate new flavors into their cooking, or need to avoid specific ingredients and additives in their favorite liquid seasonings like Liquid Smoke.
No matter what you’re reasons for wanting to substitute Liquid Smoke, there’s a good replacement for this important ingredient in this list.
The Best Liquid Smoke Substitutes And When To Use Them
Remember that not all Liquid Smoke replacements are created equal. Some have a stronger or weaker flavor, and all of them are going to work better in some recipes than others.
Speaking of smoke flavor, we have a collection of smoked pork belly recipes that work really well with some of these substitutes. Take a look for more inspiration on how to use liquid smoke or these replacements.
Smoked paprika is on of the most underrated spices in your spice cabinet. Made from red bell peppers, paprika offers a fantastic slightly sweet peppery flavor, with none of the heat that makes some people stay away from other pepper spices.
Smoked paprika is naturally more savory than sweet paprika, it’s darker, and it’s a more subtle flavor. If you want just a hint of smoke flavor, smoked paprika can do that. If you’re making something like goulash that can have a lot of paprika in it, you can add a lot more for a stronger smoke flavor.
Smoked teas are a powerful ingredient, especially in Asian cooking. The smokiness of these teas really comes through as a strong flavor, however, they also usually have other flavors mixed in. Additionally, tea is hard to add as a seasoning.
Instead, you’re going to add the tea to pasta water, marinades, or a brine for a roast to add the flavor you want. If you try and add them directly to a cooking meal, you’re more likely to get a bitter flavor and an odd texture.
So, while this offers powerful smoke flavor, it’s a less versatile ingredient.
Chipotle powder is a moderately smokey and moderately spicey option that works well in a lot of dishes. Just don’t underestimate the heat, especially in recipes that cook for a long time. That capsaicin spice builds over time.
So, you can get a lot of smokey flavor from good chipotle powder, but you can also accidentally overpower your dish with too much heat.
Chipotle also works well on the grill. If you’re looking for more grill recipes, we have you covered.
Smoked salt has become a favorite ingredient of grill masters thanks to its ability to enhance the flavor of meats and vegetables, adding smokiness without really adding much other flavor besides the salt.
It should be used as a replacement for the other salt in your recipe as well as a liquid smoke replacement but is one of the best options for getting smoke without really changing the flavor of your recipe.
The biggest challenges are that you need to plan on using it early enough in cooking to replace your other salt ingredients. Also, long cooking times can sometimes hide the smoke flavor from smoked salt rather than bringing it out. Acidic dishes in particular tend to hide the smoke flavor rather than bringing it forward.
Smoked Meats (Bacon, Etc)
Smoked meats are an easy option to get a smoked flavor in your food, though your guests might identify the meaty flavor rather than the smokey flavor.
Bacon is a good option since you can choose sweeter or more savory bacon depending on the recipe. However, when and how you cook the bacon or other smoked meat makes a big difference. You can actually get more smoke flavor from bacon grease a lot of the time than the bacon itself.
If you want smoke, you should also cook the bacon fully, to crispy texture and dark brown color.
If you don’t want to add a lot of bacon or grease to your recipe, adding a few bacon bits just before serving will give you some smoke flavor without as much bacon flavor.
Canned Chipotle Peppers
Canned chipotle peppers often give you more of the pepper flavor and a more complex flavor than using the dried peppers alone or using powder. However, they also often have more heat and more vinegar, so you’ll need to account for those differences in your recipe.
You can chop them up for a chunky vegetable addition, or blend them into a puree to add to soups and sauces.
Burnt Bread Powder
You can actually make your own liquid smoke with burnt bread powder and flavorless alcohol or vinegar. However, that’s a lot of effort to recreate a liquid seasoning, and it takes time for the alcohol or vinegar to fully infuse.
Rather than taking all that time, in a pinch, you can also just burn some bread (in an oven usually works best) and use the burnt powder to add the flavor you want.
Just be careful to taste as you add and not add too much. Remember, in this case, the smoke flavors get stronger with cooking time, not weaker.
Smoked Ham Hocks
Smoked ham hocks are another smoked meat option that can add a ton of smoke flavor to your favorite dishes. They work particularly well in stews, barbecue, and as an addition to pulled pork recipes.
They’re also more savory than bacon, which can make them a better option for some recipes.
Charcoal is often used as a flavorless coloring, but it can also add some smoke flavor when added to foods. Just be aware that charcoal can mess with medications when eaten, so you shouldn’t eat much of this if you take regular medication.
Alternatively, you can heat a piece of natural charcoal, don’t use quick light it will have a strong chemical and gunpowder taste. Add the charcoal to thick soups or sauces very briefly, and then take it back out. That will scorch some ingredients and add some smoke flavor.
Charcoal doesn’t usually produce much smoke, so cooking in a pot over charcoal won’t add smoke flavor. But cooking meat or veg directly over charcoal does add a smoke flavor, but a more subtle one.
Lapsang Souchong is a smoked Korean tea that is often used in Korean cooking. It's a great option for adding a smoke and pine flavor but can be an acquired taste. This option can also be harder to find in grocery stores.
Rather than adding artificial smoke flavor, one option is to broil vegetables till they have real scorched skins, and then add those to your recipe. The broiling process will add some real smokey flavor, and you can broil longer to get a stronger smoke flavor.
A Smoke Gun
Of course, if you have a high-tech kitchen, you can also get a smoke gun. These are used to apply smoke to food directly, just before you serve. They can give you a smoke flavor even in dishes that are served cold or foods you can't normally smoke. However, they can be difficult to use and judge until you get used to them.
Cooking Over A Fire Or Wood Grill
Of course, if you want a real smoke flavor you can also change how you cook. Cooking in a wood grill or over an open flame naturally adds smoke to your meals.
Not sure what grill to get? We have a fantastic article discussing the differences between a wood pellet and a wood charcoal grill, and both are perfect for adding smoke flavor.
Smoke is one of the most beloved flavors in a lot of savory dishes, and can be a difficult flavor to achieve. But, with these Liquid Smoke substitutes, you have a lot more options for smoke flavor and a lot more versatility in the kitchen!