Paprika, Pimenton, Smoky, Sweet, help, I’m confused!?!

I didn’t grow up with paprika.  I am Italian, so I never saw it make an appearance except when sprinkled on Deviled Eggs, which I was told was done “for color” but that paprika had no flavor.  This was probably true, because at the time, the only paprika I ever saw was sitting in my mom’s spice cabinet for decades and therefore void of all flavor.  But that didn’t matter, because it was used “for color.”

I continued to ignore this spice, even as I got older and became a very interested and adventurous home cook.  It wasn’t until Rachael used this product one day when we were shooting some web videos:

Pimenton de la Vera, which from what I can tell is named so similar to how wines are authenticated, ensuring that where it says it is from (La Vera) and the style in which it is produced is accurate.  Rachael tends to use the smoked variety, but you can find sweet, hot or bittersweet as well.  The smoked kind really blew me away when I first tried it that I started adding it to everything from soups to mac and cheese to breaded chicken and I finally even made my first Paella.

It’s so good and like nothing I ever had before, especially not in this category.  The process is simple but careful.  Peppers of all varieties are dried or smoked and dried and then slowly ground to a powder.  It’s such a beautiful seasoning that I am addicted and constantly trying new ways to use it.  However, it should be noted that this is a strong essence and does not go with every dish as it could overpower other flavors.

Here are some great websites to purchase Spanish Pimenton:

Hot Paella

La Tienda

So what is Paprika then?

Paprika is really the same thing in concept-dried and ground peppers, but it is generally produced in Hungary.  The two products couldn’t be more different in taste.  Interestingly, both pimenton and paprika, whatever you want to call it, came from Christopher Columbus-he brought it back from the Americas and delivered it to Spain.  From there it traveled all over and found its popular growing home in Hungary and Spain.  Peppers need a hot and dry climate to grow.  Each country has established its own types of peppers to grow and its own ways of grinding, drying and smoking.

Otto’s is a good site for buying Hungarian Paprika

Hungarian paprika is usually categorized as sweet or hot.  I use it for one of my favorite dishes, Chicken Paprikash, which I actually made here using Cornish Hens:

Paprika is also used in the famous Hungarian dish, Goulash.

I figured out that my mother was not actually incorrect when she said that paprika was added to Deviled Eggs for color.  Paprika or Pimenton does not release its flavors until it is heated.  You should therefore heat the paprika in oil when cooking instead of sprinkling it on at the end as you would a condiment.

There are so many ways to experiment with this spice and that’s exactly what you have to do-experiment.  It is like a wine or a cheese-you will find your favorite brands and figure out which flavors do well in which dishes.  This is one spice that could make all the difference in a dish.

Rosemary Maggiore is our Last Minute Lady. A single mom of two kids plus a full time job (she runs this website!) keep her busy and usually pushing things to the last minute. Somehow she manages to keep her cool and her sanity while she enjoys good food, wine, friends and most importantly, family.

For more Ro, see:

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