Liquid smoke is a great ingredient to have when cooking meats, but also when trying to imitate the taste and smokiness of meat in vegetarian and vegan cooking.
Liquid smoke is made by condensing the smoke of wood, and when added to dishes or sauces, it adds a smokier flavor. Many people use it when they cannot use a smoker or a barbecue, or to add a smokier, meatier flavor.
Some alternatives are better used for some recipes. Let’s have a look at substitutes for liquid smoke.
Best Liquid Smoke Substitutes
You can usually buy liquid smoke in grocery stores or specialty shops. However, if you really need it and cannot find it, you can use the next substitutes to replicate its flavor.
1. Chipotle powder
This is a brilliant substitute for liquid smoke because it is a pantry staple. It is also very common in supermarkets. So, if you need a quick substitute, chipotle powder is the one.
The chipotle powder has a smokey taste that’s similar to liquid smoke because it is made from crushed and dried chili peppers smoked over a wood fire.
It is predominantly used in Mexican and South American cuisine, but has become more popular in cuisines around the world and adds a lot of flavors and a little bit of heat to dishes.
You can add this spice to anything in place of liquid smoke, such as meat, vegetables, and eggs. It will help replicate that smokey flavor that makes it feel like your food was cooked over a fire for a long period of time.
One thing to be careful of is that chipotle powder is spicier than liquid smoke. So, try to add about half the amount of chipotle powder than you would liquid smoke to ensure it doesn’t ruin the flavor of the dish.
2. The liquid from canned Chipotle peppers
This can be used as an alternative but only if the other alternatives in this list cannot be found.
Since the chipotle powder is a suitable substitute for liquid smoke, you can also utilize the liquid from canned chipotle peppers, which is usually an oil flavored with smoked chipotle peppers.
This liquid already has a smoky flavor from the peppers and can be added to a dish instead of liquid smoke to emulate that smokey flavor, and would not be as spicy as chipotle powder.
3. Smoke Machine
If you cannot find liquid smoke, the best substitute for it is a smoke machine, which will emulate the smoky flavor without having to add liquid smoke to any dish.
You can flavor essentially anything with a smoke machine, including meats, veggies, tofu, and even desserts to give it a different flavor.
A smoke machine enables you to add wood chips to the bag, and the machine then burns it and uses the smoke to flavor the food without needing liquid smoke. It is used by many chefs but can also be purchased for use at home, although it can be a little more difficult to find as you might need to order it online or go to a specialty food store.
Smoke machines can be pricey but you can look through a range of smoke machines and purchase a smaller, cheaper one for home use. They can be used in place of liquid smoke for any recipe, and are also great to make some show-stopping cocktails if you consider yourself a mixologist.
This is an easy way to make your food taste smoky and rich without needing liquid smoke at all. It’s also a fun experiment to try.
Charcoal is easily accessible and you can get it in bulk for your next barbecue. However, if you’re making a small portion, all you have to do is burn the price of charcoal, place it in a bowl once it becomes smoky and place the bowl over a large container that holds your food.
This can also be used for any recipe, whether it’s meat, veggies, or tofu, and is incredibly easy. You’ll get the smokey flavor you need with minimal effort.
You can also serve the dish with the bowl still on top. When you remove the bowl, it reveals the smoke and gives an incredible presentation. You can also use it for desserts or cocktails.
5. Wood chips
You can buy wood chips at any specialty food store or even at the supermarket, and you can use these in the same way as charcoal to get that smoky flavor without needing liquid smoke.
Just burn the chips, place them in a bowl and cover it with your food.
You can use different wood chips depending on what flavor you want. That is entirely up to you. It is an easy way to add that smoked flavor without the use of a smoker or liquid smoke.
6. Smoked paprika
Smoked paprika is another great substitute for liquid smoke because it is found in many pantries. It is easily available and you can use it for many recipes, so you can ensure that it will never go to waste.
It is also known as Spanish paprika or pimento, so you can search for those names as well.
Smoked paprika is said to have a smokey and rich flavor. The nice red color also helps to replace liquid smoke, which has a darker, more auburn color to it when added to food.
Smoked paprika is made by dried and crushed peppers being smoked over oak wood for a long time, so this really adds to the smokey flavor that liquid smoke would give you.
Soaked paprika has a slight kick to it, however, not as much as a chipotle powder. So, it’s a good replacement for liquid smoke.
As with any recipe, start off with fewer amounts of smoked paprika and add according to taste to ensure good results. You can use smoked paprika in savory dishes that require for liquid smoke, including meats, vegetables, and tofu.
7. Make your own liquid smoke
If you enjoy trying different recipes and food experiments, then this one’s for you. It will result in a powder instead of a liquid, but can definitely work.
All you have to do is place several slices of bread in the oven and grill for about 5 minutes on high heat, turning over frequently, until it has burnt all over. This will give that smokey flavor, so don’t be afraid to burn it a little.
Let the bread sit overnight until it has completely dried out and cooled. The next morning, break the bread into pieces and grind it until a powder forms.
This will not give you exactly the same smokey flavor, but will do a good job as a substitute and is a great way to use up old bread if you need to.
8. Smoked meats
Instead of buying liquid smoke, why not buy the meats already smoked so that the flavor is there from the beginning?
Butchers or supermarkets sell smoked meats that you can cook so that you can get that smoky flavor without needing to add anything else. If you marinate the meat with other ingredients, they will also take on that smokey flavor.
This doesn’t work for vegetarians and vegans unless you can find a smoked vegetarian or vegan protein which is rare. There are also some smoked meats that you can add to recipes that add to the flavor, such as smoked bacon or ham hock.
You can add these meets in stews, soups, or sides such as baked beans to give a smokier flavor, but keep in mind that these are not vegetarian alternatives.
If you’re a meat-eater, smoked meats are the way to go to substitute liquid smoke.
9. Smoked salt
This salt is another great alternative to liquid smoke and is a great addition to any dish, sweet or salty when sprinkled on top.
Smoked salt is made by smoking regular or often flaky scaly with aromatic woods, making a much deeper, smokier flavor to the salt.
You can add this salt to any dish in place of liquid smoke to emulate that smokey flavor, and it’s also a great spice to put on the table for people to sprinkle over their food.
It’s great to replace liquid smoke in any recipe. You can also use it to rim the glass of some cocktails for an added smokey flavor.
10. Smoked tea
This tea is another alternative for liquid smoke that works for any recipe, whether it be meat or vegetarian.
It is a Chinese black tea that is made by the leaves being dried over a pinewood fire, which results in a smoky, herbal taste. It is a great aromatic alternative to liquid smoke.
Smoked tea will also add more herbal flavors to your meat, and is especially good when cooking Asian recipes such as Peking duck, but can be used in all recipes.
When using this tea, make sure to crush the leaves up fine. Or pulverize them in a blender before adding them to your meat. You can use them as a rub or a seasoning.
How do you get a smoky flavor without liquid smoke?
As mentioned above, there are many ways to get a smoky flavor without liquid smoke.
The best ways are by using other charcoal or a smoke machine. However, chipotle powder and smoked paprika are also great substitutes for liquid smoke.
Just make sure to add less of the spices when making your dish and add more to taste to ensure the best results.
Is Worcestershire sauce the same as liquid smoke?
No, liquid smoke and Worcestershire sauce are not the same.
Worcestershire sauce is a lot sweeter and tangier. It is great to flavor meat but does not deliver any smokiness. If you need a substitute for Worcestershire sauce, you can use liquid smoke, but only a small amount.
You can use Worcestershire sauce alongside liquid smoke for extra flavoring.
Can you make your own liquid smoke?
Yes, you can make your own liquid smoke powder as mentioned above.
All you have to do is burn bread slices and leave them to dry overnight, then break them up and pulverize them into a fine powder.
This will help add that smokey flavor to any dish.
How do I substitute Chipotle powder for liquid smoke?
You can substitute chipotle powder but first starting off with about half of the amount, as it can be spicier and you don’t want to ruin the flavors of your dish. Taste as you go along and add more if needed.