One of the most well-known spices in the world, paprika is a mainstay in spice cabinets across the globe. Among cooks, paprika is known just as much for the vibrant red color it imparts as for its bright, fruity, and sometimes spicy or smoky flavor. It is versatile enough to play a role in countless seasonings and spice blends as well as be a go-to topping for potato salad and deviled eggs.
What is Paprika Made Of?
A member of the Capsicum annuum pepper species (along with cousins cayenne, bell, jalapeño, and more), paprika is made from grinding the pods of various kinds of dried peppers. The variety of pepper used and how it is processed affects its color and flavor, ranging from bright red to deep brown, and spanning sweet, hot, and smoked – and just about everywhere in between.
Originally cultivated in Central Mexico in the sixteenth century, paprika was brought to Spain and eventually around the world. Today, a paprika’s identity is often defined by one of two countries at the forefront of paprika production, Spain and Hungary, where it is an iconic staple of both countries’ culture and cuisine.
In Hungary, paprika is considered the national spice and stars in its most beloved dishes, including goulash (beef and vegetable stew) and chicken paprikash (chicken slow-cooked in a paprika cream sauce). There are eight types of Hungarian paprika, all of which have some degree of rich, sweet red pepper flavor, but range in potency and heat.
In Spain, paprika is known as pimentón. Spanish paprika is usually considered less intense than its Hungarian counterpart and is also sold in several varieties, including sweet, hot, and smoked. Smoked paprika is made from drying peppers over an open fire, which imparts a deeper, smoky flavor, and is famously used in making Spanish chorizo (sausage) and paella (rice cooked with saffron and regional ingredients).
Paprika is packed with nutrients and natural pepper compounds including vitamins A, B6, potassium, and beta-carotene.
Picking the Perfect Paprika Type
Use this information as a foundation, along with a few helpful tips.
- We believe the best learning is by trying and tasting. Try out different varieties to discover which paprika types work best for a particular dish or use… it likely won’t be the same one every time!
- Adverse to spicy foods? Give Hot Paprika a chance! Even the hottest paprika is considerably more mild than an average chili pepper.
- When cooking with paprika, gently heating it in fat (oil, butter, lard, ghee) will most effectively bring out its flavor.
At The Spice and Tea Exchange®, we offer a variety of different types of paprika products and blends to explore and enjoy. Whether to season, flavor, color, or garnish, we can’t wait to see how you use our different varieties of paprikas! Share them with us on Instagram @spiceandtea.
Spanish paprika is considered by many to have a smooth flavor that blends best in Mexican and Latin dishes. Try the sweet or hot variety in any basic recipe using paprika including (but not limited to): deviled eggs, potato casseroles, roasted chicken, chili, and more.
Smoked Paprikas (Spain)
Our Spanish smoked paprikas are made from drying peppers over an open fire, which imparts a deeper, smoky flavor. Try as a dry rub for meat and vegetables or on avocado toast.
Hungarian for pepper, this robust paprika is used in traditional dishes such as chicken paprikash, goulash, paprikás krumpli (pan-fried potatoes), zsíros kenyér (fatty bread), and more. It is commonly sautéed with onions as the base of many Hungarian stews.