Alternatives for Liquid Smoke

By Linda Marie

Foodies, vegetarians, vegans, and barbecue aficionados all exchange thoughts about liquid smoke. While some believe this product is a wonderful natural creation, others believe it has a somewhat overwhelming, chemical taste. Foodies are passionate about ingredients. Both vegetarians and vegans want added flavor, yet are open to substitutions. Avid barbecue aficionados feel it is cheating to add liquid smoke to their carefully-guarded barbecue recipes. Where there is smoke, there is fire. This old adage accounts for the most viable alternatives for liquid smoke.

close-up of assorted dry herbs and spices
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Herbs and spices

Spanish Smoked Paprika

Organic Gourmet Hot Ground Spices
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Peppers are dried over oak burning fires for several weeks to create this spice. Often found in Mediterranean recipes, you will find two different versions to suit your palate. Pimenton de la Vera Dulce has a sweet smoky flavor. Pimenton de la Vera Picante has a hot smoky flavor. Vegetarian beans are wonderful with Pimenton de la Vera Dulce. Barbecue gets an extra kick with Pimenton de la Vera Picante. Look for it in gourmet and specialty shops or find it on line.

Chipotle Powder

Chipotle powder
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Chipotle powder

Ground jalapeno peppers are slow smoked over a natural wood fire for this taste sensation. Chipotle powder is a staple in Mexican cuisine and has been enjoying increased popularity in the United States, especially in the southwest. There are two varieties: morita chipotle powder, which is made with red jalapenos, and brown chipotle powder, which is made with green jalapenos and is considerably more expensive. It is often hard to find if you are not south of the border.

Smoke Tea

Green tea
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Smoke tea

If you are a tea drinker, this is one you will either love or hate. Known as Lapsang Souchong or Russian Caravan, this black Chinese tea inherits its smoky aroma and flavor by 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

Barbecue Preparation
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Hickory smoke powder

This rub has been suggested as a substitute for liquid smoke. However, it does contain liquid smoke. If you object to the overall flavor of liquid smoke, hickory smoke powder will not please your palate.

Recipe Substitutions

Smoked salmon
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Smoked salmon

Smoked fish, ham hock, smoked chicken, and smoked turkey are another direction to take when it comes to substituting for liquid smoke. Fish markets and upscale meat markets are good sources for smoked ingredients. If a recipe calls for fresh salmon and liquid smoke, use smoked salmon. Baked beans can take on a smoky flavor with a smoked ham hock.