Three Reasons Paprika Should Be Your 'New' Favorite Spice
with Samuel Garrett
california paprika hungarian paprika paprika recipes smoked paprika spanish paprika
Over the past couple of weeks, I asked some non-foodie friends about their opinion of paprika and what, if anything, they knew about it. The optimistic food nerd part of me had high hopes for the prospective answers. The responses I received were less than satisfying…
“It comes from peppers, right?”
“You use it to make your food red.”
“I think I’ve seen it in potato salad before.”
“It’s that red stuff on top of deviled eggs, but it doesn’t taste like anything.”
“I don’t know what it is exactly, but I know I have some that’s been sitting in my spice cabinet for years.”
If you could’ve seen the look on my face when I received those opinions about paprika! I was crushed, but also excited about the opportunity to share my paprika experiences with my non-foodie friends. I couldn’t believe what they were missing! Paprika—especially fresh paprika—possesses unmatched flavor in the kitchen and too many home cooks aren’t aware of this. Well, I’m here to help. Let’s fix this, shall we?
PART 1: Why paprika should be your 'new' favorite spice
Here are three reasons why paprika should be your ‘new’ favorite spice (if it’s not already):
1. Paprika offers huge flavor potential
Often overlooked and underappreciated, few know the true flavor potential of fresh paprika. Paprika is made by grinding dried red (fully matured) peppers into a fine powder. These red peppers include various kinds of Capsicum annuum peppers. Bell peppers and numerous other peppers are a part of this pepper family. The peppers can range from little to no heat, like a bell pepper, to quite hot, like cayenne or serrano. Depending on the varieties of the red peppers used and the region the pepper comes from, the flavor profile and color of paprika will vary.
Since paprika is included in so many spice blends, it is frequently overlooked as a spice that can be used on its own. Many home chefs don’t realize what true paprika flavor is all about because they have never truly had a vibrant, flavorful paprika. Paprika can range from mild to hot, smoked or unsmoked, or can carry an earthy flavor or be noticeably sweet, all depending on the region the paprika comes from. I wish I could jump through this computer screen right now and have you taste what truly fresh paprika tastes like—it might literally change your cooking life forever.
2. Paprika has versatility for so many dishes
Paprika is often used in both Mexican and European dishes. While heavily used in European cuisine, paprika was born in central Mexico. Most notably used in Hungarian cuisine, families will keep shakers of salt and hot paprika, instead of black pepper, on their dinner tables. Paprikash is one of the most well-known dishes that highlight the flavor and color of paprika. For a traditional use of Hungarian paprika, try our classic Beef Paprikash (Hungarian Goulash) recipe. Hungarian paprika can also add sweet flavor and gorgeous color to Mediterranean-inspired dishes like our Smoked Serrano Hummus recipe. For Latin-inspired uses of paprika, try our Smoky Gazpacho recipe; Smoked Sweet Spanish Paprika adds a subtle smoky flavor and enhances the tomato-red color of this popular cold soup. The same smoky paprika adds depth to Spicy Chili Cheese Popcorn and Stovetop Mac‘n Cheese, too.
On its own, your favorite paprika in a homemade pasta sauce, or any tomato-based sauce, can provide great flavor and color. Any type of paprika works wonders as a dry rub for grilled meats like steaks, chicken, or fish. Paprika can also transform freshly ground hamburger meat. Give it a try!
3. Paprika is an important base for many spice blends
For those who create their own rubs and seasonings, paprika is an essential building block for a well-rounded and flavorful spice blend. If you use a lot of our Savory Spice seasonings, you may be surprised to discover that paprika is a star in so many of them across almost all categories of cuisine. Hungarian Paprika shines in both Tan-Tan Moroccan Seasoning and Family Style Fajita Seasoning, two very different but equally delicious blends. Homestead Seasoning features Hungarian paprika as its base spice to create a well-balanced, all-purpose blend for proteins and vegetables. In fact, paprika-spiked Homestead Seasoning is perfect for classic dishes like homemade sausage, burgers, or Sloppy Joes. California paprika plays a major role in our Cajun Style Blackening Seasoning, providing the base for the blackening flavor popular in American cuisine. Paprika is prominent in many of our BBQ blends as well, including customer favorites like Black Hills BBQ Seasoning, Platte River Rib Rub, and Red Rocks Hickory Smoke Seasoning. It also shines in more exotic spice blends like Tandoori Seasoning, Zanizibar Curry Powder, and Shichimi Togarashi. The possibilities for paprika in a spice blend are only limited by the imagination.
PART 2: So many varieties of paprika to explore
Savory Spice carries six varieties of paprika. I highly recommend exploring each one to find your favorite flavor. Who knows, you might love them all!
We carry a Kulonleges paprika, which bears the name Csemege (meaning exquisite delicacy) and is one of the highest grades available. Our Hungarian paprika is rusty-reddish in color and has a fragrant sweet pepper odor. The flavor is sweet and slightly fruity with very mild heat, similar to fresh bell peppers. This is the flavor and variety that is most familiar to many Americans. It has a lingering warmth that makes it a great addition to many dishes and ideal for use in all-purpose seasonings. For heat lovers, we created our signature Hungarian Sweet & Spicy Paprika with a blend of sweet Hungarian paprika and spicy cayenne pepper.
Our California paprika comes from a hybrid pepper indigenous to California. It has a vibrant red color and a bold scent. The flavor is a bit sweet but packs a punch, with a more noticeable heat and a slight bitterness when compared with Hungarian paprika. There is a lingering, slightly peppery aftertaste as well. The bold color and flavor make California paprika perfect for use in Southwestern dishes and seasonings like chili powder. It’s also a great paprika for creating your own barbeque rub or sauce.
Spain has a rich history with paprika, as the Spanish were among the first to dry and grind mild chiles into the powder that became known as pimenton, or paprika. Spanish paprika has a deep red color and sweet, rich scent. The flavor is sweet and mild, with a barely perceptible heat. The flavor finishes clean with a slightly sweet aftertaste. A must-have for traditional Spanish cuisine, it’s the perfect addition to classics like Romesco sauce.
Also known as Pimenton de la Vera dulce, the peppers used to make this paprika are slowly smoked over oak before being ground, imparting a rich smokiness. The color is a deep red and the fragrance is deliciously smoky. While you can still taste the sweet, mild flavor of the paprika, the smoky flavor is dominant. The smoke flavor lingers with a slightly bitter aftertaste. This paprika is perfect for adding a smoky flavor to a variety of dishes and can be used to impart that distinctive flavor when smoking isn’t an option.Try adding it to barbecue sauces, stir it into baked beans, or sprinkle it over roasted potatoes.
This paprika is a reddish-brown color with a smoky and slightly sharp scent. There’s a slight sweetness immediately but that quickly gives way to a burning heat. The smoky taste stays noticeable throughout, so that smoke and spice are continually melding into a unique, hot flavor. The flavors of this paprika are similar to chorizo and could easily be used to replicate that rich, spicy flavor in vegetarian dishes. It’s also the perfect spice for anyone who always wants a bit more heat with an interesting flavor and is willing to stray from staples like cayenne.
Also called Espelette pepper, this specialty paprika is produced only in southwestern France. Chiles are hung to dry and then ground into a coarse powder. The ground chile flakes in this paprika can range from crimson to golden, giving it an overall orangeish tint. It has a spicy, bold, and slightly fruity scent and flavor, with a lingering warmth. This more elusive paprika shines in simple preparations, as a garnish, and when used at the end of the cooking process.
Do you have a favorite recipe using paprika? Submit your paprika recipes to our test kitchen so we can share them with our Savory Spice friends and family.