Spanish Paprika Fish Recipe

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.

Spanish Paprika Fish Recipe

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.

Hungarian Paprika

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.

Spanish Paprika

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.


  • 2 pounds white fish fillets, such as hake or sea bream
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • One tablespoon of olive oil for frying
  • 3 to 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 to 4 sprigs of flat-leaf (Italian) parsley 
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • One bay leaf
  • One tablespoon of Spanish paprika

Steps to Make it

  1. Spread the flour on a dinner plate and mix in the salt, or put the flour and salt in a large plastic food storage bag. Add the fish, and use the flour mixture to coat it.
  2. Fill a medium to the large, heavy-bottomed frying pan with olive oil to a depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch and heat it on medium. Add a small piece of bread to the oil to see if it is hot enough to fry. If it turns brown in one minute, the oil is hot enough (355 F). Brown both sides of the fish. Remove and set aside for later.
  3. Peel and cut the garlic cloves while the fish browns. Halve the lemon and squeeze the juice into a cup. Chop the parsley into small pieces.
  4. Pour the vinegar into a measuring cup, then add the Spanish paprika and stir. A clean frying pan needs a few tablespoons of olive oil. Use low heat. Mix in the garlic slices, bay leaf, paprika, and vinegar when the oil is hot. Pour in half of the lemon juice and try it out. Change the amount of salt and lemon juice to suit your taste.
  5. Put the fried fish in the pan and cook it for 10 minutes on medium-low heat with the sauce.
  6. Remove the fish from the pan and plate it carefully. Put some paprika sauce on the fish. Add chopped parsley to the top. Serve with white rice or potatoes you’ve cooked at home.

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.

Paprika vs. Chili Powder

  • Ground red chili powder is the spice most often mixed up with paprika. At first glance, the two look pretty much the same, and the only difference you might notice is a slight color tone. But what makes paprika and chili powder different is what they are made of.
  • Paprika powder is made from specific peppers that grow in Spain and Hungary, two of the countries that make paprika. On the other hand, ground chili powder is a mix of spices that includes ground chili pepper, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and even paprika.
  • The second thing that makes paprika and chili powder different is their taste. Paprika tastes sweet, while chili powder has a more earthy, spicy flavor.

What does it Taste Like?

Paprika can be mild, sweet, spicy, or smoked, depending on the type. How the red powders are made depends on how hot it is. Since the seeds and membranes are taken out, sweet or mild paprika doesn’t have any capsaicin, making chilies hot. Some seeds, placenta and capsaicin glands (or veins) are left on the pepper when dried and ground into powder to make spicy paprikas.

Smoked paprika obtains its flavor from being smoked over an oak fire. The spice can be mild and sweet, or it can be very hot. Domestic paprika tends to be mild, sweet, and like a vegetable. Some Spanish paprikas are dried by smoking, which gives them a taste of smoke. Some types, like the Hungarian, can have a strong (hot) smell.

Where to Buy Paprika?

Regular paprika is easy to find in the grocery store’s spice section, and it’s just labeled “paprika.” There may be Hungarian and Spanish paprika in well-stocked grocery stores. The Hungarian paprika will be marked as sweet or hot, and the Spanish paprika will be marked as sweet, hot, or smoked (or pimentón). You can find authentic Hungarian and Spanish versions in specialty grocery stores and spice shops, as well as online. If you can, buy paprika in a tin instead of a glass bottle, and check the label or expiration date since the flavor of paprika will fade over time.

What’s a Good Paprika Substitute?

So, the answer to the question “What is a good paprika substitute?” depends on what you’re making and how much paprika it needs.

If you only need a small amount, like half a teaspoon or less, you might be able to use chili powder instead, which is mostly paprika mixed with other spices like garlic, salt, cumin, and a little cayenne. It has a little more heat than plain paprika, but not too much. You could also use ancho chili powder, chipotle powder, or hot sauce with ground red peppers.

If the paprika is just being used as a garnish, chili powder will work just as well. You can use the same amount of substitute spice as paprika with these spices. You could also use a spice blend or a spice rub, which might have a lot of paprika. Cajun and Creole seasonings, for example, are mostly paprika along with garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne so you could use one instead of the other. Similarly, Old Bay seasoning is mainly celery salt and paprika. As in the previous examples, use a 1:1 ratio.

When the main purpose of the paprika is to add color to a dish, you could add a small amount of another red ingredient, such as a teaspoon of ketchup mixed with a pinch of chili powder, tomato sauce, finely pureed red peppers, tomato paste, or red beet powder. If you have bell pepper powder, use it in a 2:1 ratio since bell peppers are very sweet and don’t have the kick of sweet paprika. For traditional recipes that call for paprika, it’s best to use what the recipe says. The paprika is there for a reason, and its flavor and color are meant to give the dish an overall flavor profile and aspect that substitutions can’t add.

Cayenne pepper is up to 50 times hotter than sweet paprika, so a 1:1 swap wouldn’t work unless you want some heat. In this case, the straight swap would be 1/3 of a teaspoon of cayenne for one teaspoon of paprika. Make a decision based on what you know, and use detailed recipes that might suggest good substitutions.

How Hot is Paprika?

The Scoville Heat Scale is used to measure how hot a pepper is. It ranks the heat of pepper in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). All bell peppers register 0 SHU, which means they are not hot. Jalapeos are in the middle, measuring between 2,500 and 8,000 SHU. Habaneros and Scotch bonnets, on the other hand, are very hot, measuring between 100,000 and 350,000 SHU. Sweet paprika is a mild pepper between 500 and 1500 Scoville heat units. Some kinds of paprika are as hot as pure cayenne pepper, with heat levels between 30,000 and 50,000 heat units. So, if a recipe says to use hot paprika, you could use cayenne pepper instead.

All kinds of paprika should be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, like a spice drawer or the refrigerator. Light and heat will make the spice go bad, so keep it in a tin instead of a glass jar to keep it fresh. For the best results, use paprika within six months because it loses its flavor and potency over time.