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