What is Paprika? Everything to Know About the Spice
When you think of paprika, you might think of that gorgeous bright orange spice you put in your deviled eggs, soups, or casserole recipes to give them that pop of color. But paprika doesn’t just give your food a bright red color; it also adds a taste that is super bomb!
Today, we will cover everything you never wanted to know about our favorite spice, paprika. We will answer your burning questions like, Where does paprika even come from? Why is it called paprika? Who thought to create this spice? Why am I up reading about paprika at 4 am? Trust us, by the end of this article, you will be a proper paprika professional—try saying that three times fast!
What Is Paprika?
Paprika sometimes gets a bad rap for being the basic bitch of spices. It is in a lot of foods, and if you’ve only ever had one type of paprika, you may even think that it doesn’t have much of a flavor, but you would be wrong.
After all, paprika is in so many things, it must be so popular for a reason. If you think about it, Paprika is kind of the MVP of spices.
Ah paprika, this beautiful spice has a bright orangy-red color that will make any dish look like a million bucks.
In other words, it’s gorg! But paprika is so much more than its appearance. Paprika has a sweet pepper flavor that is the perfect addition to any dish looking or tasting a bit meh. With a little pop of that iconic paprika color, you can level up any dish with a tiny sprinkle.
Paprika is commonly used on potato salad, deviled eggs, spice rubs, pork, barbeque sauce, rice dishes, and a bunch of traditional European foods like chicken paprikash. This spice is used all over the world to give food that ooh la la factor.
Some paprikas even pack a tiny bit of spice, depending on what it was made from. Paprika can also have a smokey flavor. It’s serving so many different flavors while still looking as stunning as the red carpet itself.
Where Does Paprika Come From?
Okay, we get it. Paprika is delicious and gorgeous, but where the heck does paprika come from anyway? Hold your horses; we’re getting to that part right now.
Paprika is typically made by grinding up the dried pods of a sweet red bell pepper. In more sciency terms, this pepper is called capsicum annuum. In some European countries, the word paprika is also used to refer to fresh bell pepper as well.
Because paprika is made from bell peppers—both red and green—it is usually a pretty mild spice. However, sometimes paprika is made from hotter peppers and can pack quite a punch. In Hungarian cuisine, paprika is the number one spice.
The Hungarians even have different grades of paprika, from the spicy csípősmentes csemege, édesnemes, or erős to the mild and pungent rózsa and pikáns. The mildest, különleges, is described as having a "special quality," félédes is "semi-sweet" with medium pungency, and csípős csemege is classified as "pungent exquisite delicate." Hungarians understand that paprika has a variety of personalities and palates beyond just "sweet paprika" and "hot paprika" made with cayenne pepper, leading to this massive variety of strains and classifications.
Hungarians use it to flavor a ton of traditional dishes. This spice is also used in countless other cultural dishes all around the world. It’s like Friends; everyone in the world has heard of it.
Unlike chili pepper, which is made from a mix of different spices and herbs like garlic powder and cumin, paprika is made from specially-grown peppers.
Red paprika originally came from Southern Mexico, Central America, and the Antilles Islands, where it was historically known as pimentón. Smoked paprika was Pimentón de la Vera, or Pimentón ahumado picante. They used this spice in both their food and medicine. Paprika can be traced back as far as 7000 BCE to the land that is now modern-day Brazil and Bolivia.
Of course, once Christopher Columbus tried paprika for the first time, he claimed it as his personal discovery when he brought it back to the European mainland at the end of the 15th century during his trip to the new world.
When Christopher Columbus got back to Europe, he gave the paprika plants to the King and Queen of Spain. The King and Queen gave the seeds to the monasteries to cultivate, and once the plants sprouted up, they became a very popular house plant.
This trend spread from Spain to Hungary and then became known for its ground-up powdered spice form. The Paprika then made its way into both Hungarian and Spanish cuisine, where it would become a staple for hundreds of years to come.
Ever wonder what gives a Spanish paella that gorgeous orangy-red color? Yep. You guessed it. Paprika. This is just one of the many ways that paprika was incorporated into the iconic Spanish cuisine you know and love today.
Paprika Types From All Over The World
Since paprika was taken around the world, it has evolved in multiple ways. This is why some paprika are spicier than others.
Paprika is the national spice of Hungary. They take their paprika seriously and have, in turn, developed some of the best paprika in the world. In Hungary alone, there are eight different types of paprika that vary in color and spice level.
The long summer days and super dry climate make Hungary a great place to grow top-of-the-line paprika plants. The peppers are dried in the bright Hungarian sun and ground into a fine powder. Hungary’s most celebrated dish is goulash, a stew-like dish. The starring ingredient that gives this rich goulash its vibrant red color is none other than paprika.
In Spain, paprika is just as popular, but it is dried with a slightly different technique. Instead of being dried in the sun, the Spaniards smoke-dry their paprika in special drying sheds with an oak fire. The peppers are placed above the fire on grates, and once they are dehydrated, they are ground into a fine powder. This gives the Spanish paprika a distinctive smokey flavor that is so dang good.
How To Use Paprika
Ok, ok, so now you know the whole back story on paprika, but what about how to use it. There are a few different ways to use paprika.
You could always cook up a traditional paella or Hungarian goulash, but if you're not a natural chef, then you can also use paprika as a colorful and tasty garnish. Put it on top of your favorite potato salad, deviled eggs, or really anything that needs a little extra flavor and color pop.
Which type of paprika you use will depend on what you are flavoring. If you want to add some savory smokiness, then go for a smoked paprika. Smokey paprika goes great with barbeque, salsa, or hot sauces. If you are looking to add a little bit of spice, then opt for a more spicy variety of paprika to set your taste buds off with heat and flavor.
Is Paprika Good For You?
Paprika is also a great source of vitamin C, making it healthy as well as delicious. It also contains capsaicin and lutein, which have antioxidant properties that fight free radicals and can even alleviate gas. Capsaicin also contributes to other health benefits of paprika that can lead to a healthier lifestyle overall. Paprika also has vitamin A from its beta carotene, the antioxidant vitamin E, and even some vitamin B6. Long story short, paprika is the bomb dot com.
How To Spice Up Your Healthy Snack Game
Now that you have learned how to spice up your life with a sprinkle of paprika, you need to spice up your snack game—the healthy way.
Here at Outstanding Foods, we believe that you should be able to enjoy a tasty chip snack without pounding empty carbs and processed flavors. That’s why we’ve created Outstanding Puffs. These delicious puff chips are addictively delicious and are packed with healthy ingredients to make you feel one hundred.
There’s something about spicy chips that just keeps you wanting more and more until you reach the bottom of the bag. With these healthy puffs, you can eat the entire bag and not feel an ounce of guilt. Each bag has a whopping 21 grams of protein, so you can get your spicy on and keep on munchin’.
If you're not a fan of the spicy side of life, then you should try our Chill Ranch, White Chedda, or Pizza Party flavors for a healthy snack that makes other snack foods look like garbage in a bag. We’re not trying to brag, but these puffs are the best thing to happen to snack food in a long, long time.
Now that you are a full-blown Paprika Professional, it’s time for you to order some Take Out Puffs and go the heck to sleep. The days of staying up until 4 am reading paprika articles are over; what do you think this is pandemic 2020? Time to jump back into life with a tasty new snack by your side! Trust us. Once you try our puffs, you’ll never need to buy basic junk food chips ever again.