Liquid smoke gives dishes a distinctively smoky, grilled flavour. It is useful for meats that you must cook indoors, or on a gas grill. Liquid smoke also works well in stews and sauces, giving them a warm, fire-cooked flavour. Many vegetarians and vegans use liquid smoke in place of bacon in their recipes. Whether you are looking for an alternative to liquid smoke, or simply don't have any in the house, several creative substitutes exist to give your food that roasted flavour.
Paprika is one of the smokiest of the spices you can use in place of liquid smoke. Pour some paprika into a saucepan and place it on the stove over a medium-low heat. Toast the paprika slightly to bring out the flavour. Add the paprika to any dish that calls for liquid smoke. Cumin, used in a lot of Mexican dishes, also has a smoky, earthy flavour. Toast cumin and add it to your dish. Smoked salt is another alternative to liquid smoke. Eliminate or decrease the amount of salt you add to your dish if you use smoked salt to avoid over-seasoning the food. Consider "hot" spices which will give your meal a kick. Use them in moderation so as not to overpower your dish with heat. Chipotle powder, chilli powder and chilli seasonings can be added to most dishes. Toast them first to open their flavours. Lapsang souchong tea, although not a spice, imparts a smoky flavour. Brew a cup or pot of it and taste it before adding it to your meal to check the depth and intensity of flavour. Once you are comfortable with the flavour, add a bag to a stew or soup to incorporate the flavours directly into the meal.
Peppers can also be a vessel to add smoky flavour to a meal. Choose the pepper that best suits your dish. Jalapeño and chilli peppers will bring heat to a meal, while bell peppers have a sweet flavour. Place your peppers on a baking tray and roast in a hot oven (204 to 260 degrees C) until they blister and char. Slice the peppers and incorporate them into your meal. Chipotle peppers would work well for this as well.
If you are looking for a distinctively hickory flavour, and don't mind some artificial infusions, look for products on the grocery shelf or your pantry with "hickory flavor." Barbecue-flavour chips sometimes have a smoky flavour. Barbecue sauces also have hickory options. Use the sauce to marinade your meats or vegetarian options, or include it in your sauces.