Chilli, red pepper flakes and paprika - difference?

Hello there,

what is the difference between chilli, red pepper flakes and paprika? In a recipe there is for instance 1 tbsp chilli powder, 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes and 1 tbsp paprika, isnt that all the same? I take it "paprika" is sweet unlike the other two that are hot, right? But what about the difference between those two? What IS chilli powder? Is it a blend of more spices?

I am unable to google up any answers.

Thank you

  • Posted by: Renoise
  • February 3, 2017


Renoise February 3, 2017
Thank you for all that info!

creamtea: Didnt know about the seeds, they are supposed to be more hot which explains why the flakes are usually beyond my ability to eat :-) General chilli is the way to go for me then.

Smaug: Mexican ones are then a no-no for me I guess but it would not be possible to get my hands on them here (central Europe) anyway. Good to know I can substitute them without a blush.

amysarah: This is am all new world of paprika to me :-) I like the colors and noticed various colors also vary in price, but have not been able to tell much difference taste-wise even raw, let alone cooked. I believe you there are many more colors and types in Hungary. We get only the green/white ones here (cheapest), green, red and yellow (most pricy).
Nancy February 5, 2017
Renoise, there are two items with similar names and I wonder if you're thinking of one or both.
Amysarah was talking about the varieties in Hungarian paprika, which is yes made from peppers, and sold in dry powdered format.
You (in your latest post) seem to be talk about raw fresh Hungarian peppers of various colors, green, white, red, yellow...some of which don't have much or any heat.
So, two foods, maybe even derived from same or similar raw ingredient, but not the same.
Renoise February 5, 2017
Nancy you are right, that was more like a little sideway conversation. I really meant the various powders, especially the chilli one as sometimes its considered a blend of several spices while sometimes its referred to only as a single spice.
Smaug February 5, 2017
It's not really a matter of being considered different- chili powder is a spice mix (usually assorted chiles, cumin, oregano, often allspice and/or cinnamon, and wayyy too much powdered onion/garlic, which makes it very easy to distinguish by scent. Products labeled with varietals- eg "Ancho chile powder" (the most common) will be pure powdered chiles. If in doubt, check the ingredients. As to spelling,many people feel that chile should be for the peppers and chili for the dish, but they are used so inconsistently that it's pretty hopeless to maintain that distinction.
Renoise February 6, 2017
Exactly, the inconsistence is pretty confusing for someone new to that. As I said, I strive for only mild heat while following the recipes around the internet, which, when the recipe commands two tablespoons of chilli powder to one teaspon of paprika, can get rather difficult to achive. So I needed to know what exactly am I to buy and use to fullfill the instructions yet not have a flamethrower fuel on my plate :-)
Smaug February 6, 2017
Much more than with other spices, heat is an individual matter, since a tolerance develops- the effect is fundamentally different on people with tolerance and those without. For example, a Yucatan native may experience only a pleasant sensation from a handful of raw Habanero, which to me would be totally inedible. Your best bet is to stick to a range that is from comfortable up to one that makes you think about it a little bit; this will get you closer to what the recipe writer probably intended than simply using the same amount.
amysarah February 3, 2017
Doesn't sound like Paprika is your focus, but just to mention that there are actually 8 types of Hungarian paprika, with varying degrees of pungency/fruitiness and heat. And variation between makers too, my Hungarian grandmother - who was very particular about her Paprika - would add. (Smoked paprika is Spanish - Pimenton de la Vera.) American supermarket paprika (e.g., McCormick, etc.) adds little more than color, though Szeged is pretty widely available now, sweet or hot - while pretty mild, it has more true paprika flavor.
Smaug February 3, 2017
"Chili powder", as others have pointed out is out of the equation. Powdered chilis are actually available in a wide selection of varieties; paprika (and equivalents such as Spanish Pimenton) are derived from many different peppers, generally mild to warmish types, but not a huge variation in flavors. As a generality, the Mexican chilis, which have been bred for millenia, have far more depth and variation of flavors than peppers from anywhere else and should be considered separately. Other than some heavily-paprikaed dishes, things like pepper flakes and paprikas, while differing, won't make huge differences in made dishes and can be substituted successfully- you will want to consider heat, and of course smoked types need to be considered separately.
Renoise February 3, 2017
Thank you for the explanations, guys! So it is mostly a matter of the SKU and chilli is not one spice, but a proprietary blend, I see. I found several recipes (taco seasonings..) that include all three and as I am not into too hot a taste, I was wondering how to follow the recipe and make it less spicy. Bought a small packet labelled "Chilli powder" now and it seems to contain only chilli peppers, so its probably an unstable term anyway. Will alter the ratios in favor of paprika then,
Thanks again :)
creamtea February 3, 2017
Yes, you can get some chili powders that are from a single variety and would be labeled as such, such as Ancho (slight heat) or Chipotle (heat+smoke), but generic chili powder is generally mixed with other spices and is usually not very hot. Red pepper flakes include the seeds and therefore usually are hotter.
C S. February 3, 2017
To reinforce what Nancy says, all three of these products are made from dried forms of the capsicum family. Red pepper flakes are going to be from a spicy pepper that has been dried and crushed, chile powder is also a dried, spicy pepper which has been finely ground, and then mixed with cumin, probably garlic and maybe oregano. The paprika is going to be milder and as Nancy says may or may not be smoked. If you don't have all of these on hand you could play around with what you have depending on the flavor profile you want. If it is just spicy heat you want use the red pepper flakes, if you want more complex flavor add some of the other spices. If you have the time and inclination play around with different combinations in different dishes and figure out what you enjoy.
Nancy February 3, 2017
Paprika is from a mild pepper, and can be made sweet smokey hot or regular (not labelled).
Red pepper flakes are usually from a pepper with a little more heat.
Chili powder usually has cumin & a variety of other spices added in.
Use 1, 2 or 3 depending on what you have/like.
Also look up the Scoville scale to learn more.
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