Foodies, vegetarians, vegans and barbecue aficionados all have their opinions about liquid smoke. To some, it's an awesome pantry staple for adding savory flavor to food, while others believe it has an overwhelming, chemical taste. Some barbecue snobs feel that adding liquid smoke to their carefully guarded recipes is cheating. If you want to achieve a smoky flavor without liquid smoke, here are some alternatives.
Spanish Smoked Paprika
This spice is created by drying peppers over oak burning fires for several weeks. Often found in Mediterranean cuisine, there are two different versions to suit your palate: Pimenton de la Vera, Dulce has a sweet smoky flavor, and Pimenton de la Vera, Picante has a hot smoky flavor. Use the former for vegetarian beans and the latter to give an extra kick to barbecue. Both are available in gourmet and specialty groceries.
Made by grinding jalapeno peppers and slow-smoking them over a natural wood fire, chipotle powder is a staple in Mexican cuisine and has become popular in the United States, especially in the Southwest. There are two varieties: morita chipotle powder made with red jalapenos, and brown chipotle powder made with green jalapenos. Brown is considerably more expensive and often hard to find outside of Mexico.
If you're a tea drinker, this is one you'll either love or hate. Also known as lapsang souchong or Russian Caravan, this Chinese black tea gets its smoky aroma and flavor from being dried over pine fires. To use it as a liquid smoke alternative, pour boiling water over smoke tea leaves and let the tea steep for five to seven minutes; use the brewed tea in place of liquid smoke.
Hickory Smoke Powder
This rub has been suggested as a substitute for liquid smoke, but it does contain liquid smoke. If you're not a fan of the overall flavor of liquid smoke, hickory smoke powder isn't for you.
Smoked fish, ham hock, smoked chicken and smoked turkey are another direction to take when you want to substitute for liquid smoke. If a recipe calls for fresh salmon and liquid smoke, use smoked salmon. Infuse baked beans with a smoky flavor by adding smoked ham hock.
Experiment with any of these options to find your favorite. It might vary from dish to dish, but that's part of the fun of cooking.