Depending on your birthday and how much TV your parents let you watch, your first introduction to paprika may have been through the Nick Jr. Blue indices. Born to Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper (so glad she kept her name), this baby spice was the youngest member of the Blue indices household until the birth of his brother Cinnamon.
If you haven’t watched Blue indices, your first encounter with paprika was probably on a devil’s egg. In fact, until I was 20, these were the only two places I encountered the brick red spice. I took a lot of my first cooking clues from my grandmother, a woman who relied heavily on butter and bacon grease, and whose spice rack was filled with salt, pepper, salt and pepper. garlic and a pill bottle filled with saccharin tablets. But paprika is more than the final touch of devil’s eggs. Rusty red powder contains multitudes (of peppers) and can taste sweet, smoky, or downright pungent, depending on where it comes from and the peppers it is made from.
The three main types of paprika
Paprika is made from a blend of dried and ground red peppers including, but not limited to, cayenne, Aleppo, poblano, and sweet peppers. Paprika can be categorized by flavor, region, or a mixture of the two. If you buy paprika from a grocery store in the United States, you will most likely find three main types of paprika: sweet, smoky, and tangy, but you might also stumble upon Hungarian paprika (a subject that can get very complex in nuance) and the Spanish paprika (pimenton).
Sweet paprika is the most common. It’s the stuff you’ll find on devil’s eggs and potato salad, and has a sweet, fruity flavor, slightly spicy and bitter, without noticeable heat. You can use a fair amount of it without overpowering the other flavors in a dish, and it adds a nice red tint to whatever you throw it into. It’s good in goulash, and it’s good in meat stews.
Zesty paprika is just that – paprika that has been made with spicy peppers. It’s not as hot as pure cayenne pepper, but it can pack a punch, especially if, like me, you grew up eating the devil egg variety. Use it when you want some fruity, tangy heat. I like it on grilled shrimp and sprinkled in creamy dips.
Smoked paprika is also what does it look like : It’s made with peppers dried and smoked on oak, and it’s a good ingredient to use if you want to give your food a smoky flavor without smoking a thing. It is often referred to as ‘Spanish paprika’ or ‘pimenton’, but real pimenton is made using traditional techniques from parts of Spain. Not all smoked paprika is Spanish, and not all Spanish paprika is smoked – you can buy Hungarian smoked paprika, for example, or Spanish paprika that has been sun-dried or oven-dried. On the heat side, smoked paprika can be mild (pimentón dulce), medium (pimentón agridulce) or spicy (pimentón picante).
And the Hungarian paprika?
Paprika is the national spice of Hungary, and they take it seriously. A quick glance at the Wikipedia page on paprika tells us that there are eight different grades of Hungarian paprika, including “Edésnemes (noble sweet)”, “csípős csemege, pikáns (tangy and delicate)” and “erős ( strong) ”. If you live in the United States, he’s unlikely that you will be able to collect all eight. Most Hungarian paprika sold in the United States.S. is Édesnemes, which is rich and sweet, without much heat. If you are looking for a high quality all purpose paprika, Hungarian candy is the way to go.
How to use each type of paprika
I could list a whole bunch of dishes to make with sweet, smoky and tangy paprika, but I prefer a less didactic approach. While each type of paprika has its traditional uses, there is no law that says you can’t choose to go wild and use smoked paprika in a recipe that calls for sweetness, or sprinkle hot paprika on your apple salad. Earth. I always have Hungarian Sweet Agridulce and Pimentón on hand and use them interchangeably, depending on my mood. (The smoked substance is exceptional on devil’s eggs.)