Paprika is a common spice in sweet and savory dishes, like soups, stews, main dishes, side dishes, and desserts. You might find it in many recipes because it gives sweet and savory dishes a nice kick and a pretty red color. So what should you do when you run out and need more? There are many options, and choosing one depends on how much heat you can handle and what overall flavor you want.
What is Paprika?
Paprika is a spice that is used all over the world and can be found in almost every spice cabinet. It is made from sweet and hot dried peppers from the Capsicum annum family. This striking, crimson-red powder can be used in many different ways. It can be used to season food, decorate food, or add color to a recipe. Even eggs and fabric can be colored with it. Most paprika comes from Spain and Hungary and can be sweet, spicy, or smokey. The taste depends on what kind of pepper is used, where it comes from, and how it is cooked.
A paprika spice is made by grinding dried red peppers into a powder. Paprika is made from different kinds of red peppers, depending on what kind it is. It tastes sweet, spicy, earthy, and a little bit fruity. There are different heat levels, from very mild to pretty hot, which is less common. Good paprika should have a strong smell that you can smell when you open the jar. After six months, you should throw it away because it will lose its potency.
Red peppers were first grown in North America, but in the 1500s, they were brought to Europe, starting in Spain and Portugal. They spread through the spice trade to North Africa, Central Europe, and Asia. From the Mediterranean to North Africa, Africa, and the Middle East, paprika is now a must-have in every kitchen. It is still a staple in Spain, where it is called pimentón and is a key ingredient in paella, and in Hungary, it is used in many traditional dishes like goulash, paprikash, and stuffed cabbage.
Varieties of Paprika
Paprika can taste and look very different depending on where it was made. Spain and Hungary are the most well-known places that make paprika, but peppers from California, South America, and other places can also be used to make the most basic kind.
Regular (or Sweet) Paprika
This is the version you’ll find in the spice aisle of most grocery stores. It has a very mild taste, with a sweet flavor and a small amount of heat. This generic paprika is best sprinkled on a finished dish, like deviled eggs, or used in a rib spice rub to add color to grilled meat.
Most people know that Hungarian paprika is a spice that tastes sweet or mild. But there are eight different grades of paprika in Hungary:
- Special or különleges is very bright red and has no heat at all.
- Félédes is half sweet and half spicy.
- Csípősmentes csemege is delicate and mild.
- Csemege paprika is similar to csípősmentes csemege but more pungent.
- Csípős csemege is delicate yet hotter than csemege.
- Rózsa or rose paprika has a mild taste and sometimes has more of an orange-red hue.
- Edesnemes has a slight heat and is the most commonly exported Hungarian paprika.
- Erős is the most intense or hottest of the Hungarian paprikas. This paprika has a brownish tone compared to the natural redness of the other grads.
In Spain, the word for paprika is pimentón. There are many kinds of Spanish paprika on the market, like the sweet dulce, the spicy Picante, the sweet and spicy agridulce, and the famous smoked pimentón. The smokey taste comes from drying the peppers over open fires.
Spanish Paprika Fish Recipe
Spanish cooks often use hake or sea bream for frying because it is plentiful and available everywhere in Spain. However, any solid white fish or even salmon can be used for this recipe. Fry the fish, then prepare a simple sauce of Spanish paprika, vinegar, and lemon juice. The paprika in the sauce makes this a very colorful and aromatic dish and a good main course, especially for Lent. This is a simple fish recipe, perfect for beginner cooks and those new to Spanish cuisine, and it requires only basic cooking equipment and ingredients.
How do I Use Spanish Paprika?
Try it in a stew made with chicken, pork, or beef. Paprika is a mild spice that adds color and sweetness to food. You can find it in barbecue sauce, ready-made rubs and marinades, Italian sausage, potato casseroles, cream sauces, and egg dishes, among other things. We love it so much that we even put it on mac and cheese.
Most of the spices that would give the dish a bright red color, like chili powder, chipotle chili pepper, or red cayenne pepper, are much hotter than paprika and would change the dish a lot. Use a light touch and go for it if you want more heat. If you want to add a little color, smoked paprika is a mild, sweet, smoky substitute that will do the trick.