Paprika, I don't understand it

Lately I've noticed a lot of different recipes that call for paprika, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, or even smoked sweet paprika. I have tried doing some internet research and seem to have found that there are three different kinds- Hungarian, Spanish and whatever it is they normally sell as just paprika in the spice section in the grocery store. How do I tell the difference or know what is what? Overall it sounds like I should be using smoked paprika in a lot of recipes but I don't know what it is. Please help! :)

Miss Frizzle


Turbeville G. September 26, 2013
Oops, I forgot to finish my response. I do feel that regular paprika has some taste although mild and in too high concentration just tastes like annoying powder.
Turbeville G. September 26, 2013
I love smoked paprika, great on shrimp with herbs and lemon.
QueenSashy September 26, 2013
Dinner at ten, I cannot agree more!!! Good quality "normal" paprika adds very subtle fine flavor to your dish. It's not meant to explode into your face, but without really noticing it, it changes the dish.
amysarah September 26, 2013
Yes, brands like McCormick, etc. are just 'red' flavor powder. (Sort of like Kool-Aid is 'red' flavor, not actual cherry or whatever.)

I guess it depends on where you live, but I'm able to find decent Hungarian paprika (sweet and hot) at my regular supermarket. I've found good Spanish smoked paprika from time to time mixed in with the motley assortment of 'gourmet' food at Marshall's too.
Langston C. February 24, 2021
I wound up on this thread specifically because I have a big thing of McCormick Paprika that is basically flavorless and just ruins my goulash.

Voted the Best Reply!

dinner A. September 26, 2013
"Normal"/Hungarian paprika is absolutely a worthwhile spice, as long as it's fresh and reasonable quality. I use it frequently in many Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes. If you've experienced it as flavorless, you are probably using very old paprika (that old McCormicks tin you may have inherited from your grandma?) that may have been poor quality to begin with. While spice specialists like Penzey's, as mentioned above, would certainly sell good paprika, I buy mine in bulk at a local co-op. I would bet the nicer brands of bottles spices you can find at Whole Foods and the like are pretty good too.
I also like using pimenton, but for only partly overlapping purposes. It's pretty much always smoked (even the dulce) so you have to want the smoke flavor.
pierino September 26, 2013
Good on-line sources for Spanish pimenton include La Espanola, La Tienda and The Spanish Table. A bit more expensive than the supermarket "paprika" but worth it.
Miss F. September 26, 2013
Thank you all for this advice! And how annoying that the most useful type of paprika isn't sold in regular stores. Those poor, poor fools buying boring old powdered food coloring.
darksideofthespoon September 26, 2013
I agree. I have normal paprika (why?!) and some sweet spanish paprika. I love using the latter in cooking!
pierino September 26, 2013
There is a wide spectrum of "paprika". Technically the Spanish pimentons should not be included in it. Where is Lineaus when we need him? Paprika is the Hungarian version and unless you go to a really good spice shop like Penzey's the supermarket version is not much good for anything beyond adding color to deviled eggs. Spanish pimenton can be "dolce", "picante" or "ahumado". Piment d'Espelette which comes from the Basque region (actually on the French side of the frontier).
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 26, 2013
Hi Valerie! I agree with the regular ol' paprika (color to devil eggs?!?). Invest in some sweet and hot and you will be good to go, IMO.
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 26, 2013
This link may shed some light:
Miss F. September 26, 2013
Thank you sexylambchopx! This is perfect. It also sounds like regular old paprika is kind of worthless other than just adding some color to things.
Recommended by Food52