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A Guide to Paprika and Its 3 Different Types

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I was rifling through recipes on our site when I noticed something: All the recipes that involved paprika were inconsistent. No, no, I’m not trying to say there’s some massive flaw with our site; what I’m trying to say is that some recipes called for sweet paprika, others for hot, and still others for smoked. Do you mean to tell me there’s more than one paprika?!

As it turns out, yes, yes there are actually three main types of paprika: sweet, smoked, and hot. Wow! Who knew? Apparently, not me. Obviously, my interest was piqued, so I talked to Emma, our food writer and recipe developer. Turns out, she has pretty strong opinions on paprika and, unsurprisingly, had a good amount to say. I asked her to help me explain the differences and whether or not it mattered what a recipe called for:

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They totally matter! Imagine sweet versus smoked is a griddled versus grilled hamburger. And for sweet versus hot, ketchup versus hot sauce. I like to ask my recipe what it’s trying to accomplish, then go from there. My grandma makes these family-famous, crispy, roasted potatoes with tons of paprika. For a dish like that—or, say, paprikash—all hot or all smoked would be overpowering. So, a mix would be perfect. But if it’s just a lil’ pinch—maybe in a Mornay for mac and cheese—using all hot or smoked would be fine.

Hmmm, good to know. It seemed I was only on the beginning of my path to understanding paprika. To further acquaint myself, I rounded up some of the paprika recipes on our site and divided them by the type of spice they required. Some call for a mix of one, two, or three (!), while others are all about consistency. Regardless, all this talk has got me craving that warm and fiery flavor. Maybe a chicken paprikash is in store for me tonight....

Sweet

This is your basic, baseline, go-to paprika. It’s not overwhelming in any direction and lends itself well to a variety of recipes. It has a sweet (obviously), peppery flavor without bringing any intense heat. Sprinkle it over deviled eggs or potato salads or use it in any of these recipes:

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Roasted Dates & Honey Wings
Roasted Dates & Honey Wings
Ruth's Brisket

Ruth's Brisket by Marian

Flamin' Cajun Shrimp

Flamin' Cajun Shrimp by fiveandspice

Smoked

Also called Spanish paprika or pimenton, smoked paprika is made from peppers that are smoked, dried, and then ground into powder. This spice brings to any dish an earthy complexity that tastes like...well, smoke. But only in the best way. You can also find smoked paprika in mild, medium, or hot varieties.

Roasted Yam & Collard Green Enchiladas
Roasted Yam & Collard Green Enchiladas
Chicken and Green Olive Paella

Chicken and Green Olive Paella by Jennifer Clair

Spicy, Smoky Vegan "Chorizo" Dip

Spicy, Smoky Vegan "Chorizo" Dip by Izy Hossack

Tilapia with Smoked Paprika Butter and Broccoli in Foil Packets

Tilapia with Smoked Paprika Butter and Broccoli in Foil P... by EmilyC

Fried Mushrooms with Smoked Paprika Remoulade

Fried Mushrooms with Smoked Paprika Remoulade by EmilyC

Gnocchi with Smoked Paprika Brown Butter and Pecans
Gnocchi with Smoked Paprika Brown Butter and Pecans

Hot

Now this one here is the one you may have also heard referred to as Hungarian paprika. It’s that star of goulash that you can’t get enough of. This version of paprika has a kick and brings with it a piquant, peppery flavor.

Roasted Delicata Squash Stuffed with Autumn Farro

Roasted Delicata Squash Stuffed with Autumn Farro by danielle majeika | the perp...

Paprika Pork Chop

Paprika Pork Chop by lkshanken

Cauliflower Paprikash

Cauliflower Paprikash by Emma Laperruque

Kristen Kish's Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Kristen Kish's Stuffed Cabbage Rolls by Food52

Which of the three paprikas is your favorite? Tell us all about it in the comments below!

Tags: Spanish, Paprika, Spice, Spicy