Paprika Vs. Smoked Paprika

By Fred Decker

Paprika is a close cousin to both cayenne powder and the crushed chilies you sprinkle over your pizza. All three are made by drying peppers and then crushing or grinding them, so they can be used as a spice. Paprika is made from sweet, flavorful peppers that range from no heat at all to moderately hot. Most versions are simply dried before processing, but the peppers can also be smoked for a more intense flavor.

red ground paprika spice in wooden scoop
credit: OlgaMiltsova/iStock/Getty Images
Paprika in a wooden scoop.

A Rosy Glow

Hungary and Spain are the major paprika producers, and the spice figures largely in the signature foods of both countries. Gourmet grocery or spice shops carry a range of paprikas from each nation; some sweet and fruity, and others with a more pungent, bitter, or even hot edge. It's typically added to a pan along with aromatics such as onions and garlic, when they're already translucent and ready to use. A few moments in the hot fat brings out paprika's full flavor, before the remaining ingredients are added.

Smoking or Non-Smoking

Paprika's sweet, fruity pungency complements most meats and vegetables, and low-key ingredients such as potatoes and chicken showcase its flavor especially well. Smoked paprika's greater intensity works well in more robust dishes. It's often used in spice rubs to give meats a barbecue-like savor, but it also lends a rich flavor to soups and stews. It's especially effective with rich pork, heavily seasoned sausages or strong-tasting game meats.