What is paprika, what it is made from, how it is useful and suitable for, as well as how to replace it in dishes and how to make it yourself.


Paprika (in English – paprika) is one of the most popular spices in the world. It is well known and widely used on all continents, adding to a variety of dishes and sauces to improve taste and aroma.

What is paprika

This is the name of a red seasoning made from dried peppers. The spice is always sold in powder form. The scope of its application is very wide and is not limited to cooking.

History of spice

Another name by which this spice is known is bell pepper. However, the story of its origin is in no way connected with Bulgaria.

This spice was brought to Spain by Christopher Columbus upon his return after the discovery of America. It turned out that the indigenous peoples of the American continent used it abundantly in their national cuisine. For several centuries, the seasoning was even called “red Indian salt.”

Back in the 16th century, many spices were very expensive. For example, ground black pepper was a luxury available only to the rich. Paprika turned out to be quite cheap and therefore quickly gained popularity.

It began to be cultivated in many European countries, and Spain, Turkey and Hungary were especially successful in this.

Interestingly, it is from Hungary that most of the modern paprika on store shelves comes from. Therefore, you can sometimes hear it called Hungarian paprika seasoning.

What does it look like


Red seasoning always has a powdery appearance. But the structure may vary depending on the preparation technology – there is the finest paprika powder, and there are quite large flakes.

When prepared at home, the flakes can reach 1 cm in diameter. The spice may contain seeds and partitions, but this is very rare on sale.

This seasoning is always red, but the shade differs from rich red to the following:

  • brick;
  • orange;
  • hot pink;
  • burgundy;
  • yellowish.

As a rule, the lighter the shade, the spicier the spice (bright red does not contain any pungency at all and is sweet).

Taste and aroma

Paprika is a delicate seasoning with a subtle peppery aroma. Regardless of the variety, it smells almost the same. The taste, on the contrary, can be different – from sweet to spicy. We will tell you more about this diversity further.

But in most cases, it is sweet paprika that is used – a mild powder with a weakly expressed sweetish taste. It is very popular due to its unique properties and is added mainly for flavor (for example, like turmeric).

What are they made of?

bell pepper

The variety of tastes noted above is due to the peculiarities of its production. Paprika is made from different varieties of peppers belonging to the capsicum category (in English – bell pepper).

The taste properties are affected not only by the variety, but also by the specific composition of the spice. If you understand what paprika seasoning is made from, there are 3 options:

  • pepper pulp;
  • pulp and partitions;
  • pulp, membranes and seeds.

In any case, these are sweet red peppers. But the seeds of this plant are always pungent, so their addition to the seasoning significantly affects its taste.

Chemical composition and energy value

Doctors and nutritionists have long paid attention to what paprika consists of. And for good reason, because this pepper contains:

  • vitamin A (and in 6 grams – the average portion for adding to a dish – as much as 21% of the daily intake of this vitamin);
  • vitamins B2 (9%) and B6 (14%);
  • vitamin E (10%);
  • vitamins C (more than in citrus fruits), E, ​​K and PP;
  • beta-carotene and other antioxidants;
  • many trace elements (iron, potassium, manganese, copper, sodium, zinc);
  • alimentary fiber.

The calorie content of paprika is also noteworthy. There are only 6 calories in a teaspoon of seasoning, which makes it absolutely harmless for people on a diet. In addition to containing low calories, paprika is practically low-fat – 0.3 g per teaspoon.


There are several varieties in the wide range of seasonings made from bell peppers. It will be more convenient to compare them in a table.

Kind Color Taste
Noble Bright red (slightly darker than deli) Sweet
Semi-sweet Light red Sweetish, mildly spicy
Delicatessen Bright red Gently peppery, slightly bitter – it reveals the taste of the dish well without overpowering it
Tender Matte light red Spicy
Acute Yellowish orange Spicy and hot
Special Bright red Extremely soft, slightly sweet
Pink Light red Spicy, medium hot

In most countries of the world, the most popular variety is the noble one. This is what is added to most recipes, and the spicy types are of interest primarily to gourmets. Hungary stands apart, where hot, hot paprika is considered the property of the national cuisine and is called royal.

What is the difference between paprika and red pepper?

Hot red pepper looks almost like ground paprika. Visually, these seasonings are very difficult to distinguish.

But the differences in taste are very big. Red pepper powder is made from tropical varieties known collectively as chilies. These are long, rather thin fruits that have nothing in common with bell peppers.

All varieties of chili are many times hotter than the hottest type of Bulgarian.

You can also tell the difference by smell. But sniffing hot red pepper is not recommended, because it irritates the mucous membranes (at a minimum, it causes sneezing).

Smoked paprika

Smoked paprika

The smoked variety of the spice stands out. This seasoning is made from regular pepper, but the technology is different. If for a simple seasoning the pepper is only dried and crushed, then for a smoked one it is first dried, then smoked, and only then ground into powder.

As a rule, oak logs are used for smoking, and the procedure takes about 2 weeks. Therefore, smoked spice in stores is a little more expensive than regular spice.

Where to add

The most popular is the smoked sweet variety, but both spicy and semi-sweet varieties are available. All retain a strong smoky flavor that goes well with potatoes, rice and dishes cooked over an open fire.

This seasoning is part of the famous chorizo ​​sausage, one of the national delicacies of Spain. But in our country I often use it by adding it to sauce for country-style potatoes.

They eat it with everything and wherever they add it: marinades, sauces, dressings, hot dishes, meat, chicken, turkey, grilled vegetables, homemade sausages.

It can be used almost anywhere where the taste of smokedness would not be unnecessary, especially if you love it. Salty lard with sweet smoked paprika is especially interesting.

Benefits and possible harm

Above we have already mentioned the chemical composition of bell pepper. From this impressive list it is easy to understand that the benefits of dried paprika are simply enormous. And here are the benefits of paprika:

  • thanks to the abundance of vitamins, it increases protection against viruses and pathogenic bacteria;
  • normalizes the functioning of the nervous and cardiovascular systems;
  • reduces the risk of thrombosis, heart attack and stroke;
  • slows down the aging of the body;
  • regulates the functioning of the immune system;
  • improves the condition of skin, nails and hair;
  • has a beneficial effect on the state of the reproductive system;
  • reduces the amount of “bad” cholesterol;
  • strengthens bone and cartilage tissue.

The beneficial properties of paprika are not limited to this. Many microelements in the seasoning provide great benefits for the body.

Of course, you cannot rely only on the properties of paprika – health care should always be comprehensive. But if you add this healthy pepper to your diet, your body will definitely be grateful.

However, you need to remember that in addition to the medicinal properties of paprika, there are also harmful ones. The contraindications of paprika are not too significant, but there are situations when the use of this spice is prohibited:

  • for stomach diseases (gastritis with high acidity, peptic ulcer, acute and chronic pancreatitis);
  • in the acute phase of hypertension;
  • for gastrointestinal disorders;
  • for some heart diseases (consultation with a doctor is appropriate here);
  • if you are allergic to paprika;
  • in case of individual intolerance.

In addition, no matter how tempting the beneficial properties of paprika may be, it should not be added to the food of children under 3 years of age. The benefits and harms of paprika go hand in hand, and each person himself is able to understand whether it is safe for him to use this seasoning.

Use in cooking

Country-style potatoes with paprika

Paprika is a universal seasoning that can be added to most dishes. Next we will look specifically at what paprika is used for. But every cook is free to choose which dishes the seasoning is suitable for.

For example, a resident of Hungary eats on average 500 g of this spice per year, and it is easy to imagine that it is present in almost every homemade dish.

If you don’t want to experiment and doubt which dishes paprika is suitable for, you should just try it with meat. It’s a win-win combination of where to add paprika.

Where is paprika added?

When choosing which dishes paprika is suitable for, you should consider first of all:

  • meat dishes (especially pork and chicken);
  • any grilled food;
  • soups;
  • side dishes (especially pasta, pilaf, risotto);
  • dressings and sauces for vegetable salads;
  • any smoked dishes (spice is added at the beginning of smoking or at the end, as an external coating);
  • marinades for chicken and meat.

In the national cuisine of many countries, there are other options for using seasoning. Sometimes even completely unexpected ones. Thus, the neutral taste of a mild spice is combined with mashed potatoes and cottage cheese.

Dried paprika is known for complementing the flavor and aromatic bouquet without interrupting any shades. A dish with paprika becomes richer and more aromatic, but does not lose its original taste. Therefore, you can add paprika to almost anything.

And of course, the famous goulash is simply forbidden to cook without it!

What spices does it go with?

Ground paprika itself does not have a distinct taste, so it is usually combined with other seasonings. Paprika spice interacts well with:

  • curry (both seasonings are simply mixed);
  • Cajun spice mixture (many people prefer to cook it with paprika, although it is not included in the required list of ingredients);
  • thyme;
  • dried garlic;
  • oregano;
  • nutmeg.

There are only 2 products with which this seasoning cannot be combined. These are onions (fresh only) and cilantro. Their combination with bell pepper gives an unpleasant aftertaste.

How to replace paprika in a recipe

If you don’t have the seasoning at home, or if it is contraindicated for health reasons, you can find substitutes. There are 2 main options here:

  • sweet paprika can be replaced with dried tomatoes in powder form;
  • hot paprika – replace with another pepper (chili, cayenne or white) and add honey or sugar to reduce the heat and restore the sweetish tint of the seasoning.

We also, without knowing it, often replace paprika with tomato sauce and paste. Of course, the tastes are completely different, but the color is imitated perfectly.

Other Applications

Like many spices, this spice is often used in folk medicine. It is included in recipes for:

  • treatment and prevention of colds and ARVI;
  • anemia treatment;
  • improved appetite;
  • stimulating digestion;
  • prevention of early baldness.

Powdered spice is also used as a natural dye for various fabrics and craft soaps. In the food industry it is not used as a dye, since there are more affordable analogues – beets and carrots. Except that before Easter, many people use it to paint holiday eggs.

How to select and store

Dried paprika is available in every store, and usually there are several brands on the shelf at once. To choose between them, it is worth looking at the composition.

The original paprika seasoning does not contain any flavorings or dyes, because the color and aroma of good pepper are quite rich in themselves. If there are foreign additives, it means that cheap, low-quality pepper was used.

It is worth noting that GOST allows manufacturers to add to the seasoning not only the fruits of the plant, but also the amniotic parts, and even the stems.

Unscrupulous brands take advantage of this loophole to cheaply increase production volumes. And good brands, knowing this, often (but not always) mark on the packaging that only fruits were used in production.

There is nothing special about the storage conditions for the spice. Need to:

  • pour from the bag into a container with an airtight lid;
  • place in a cool, dark place (for example, a kitchen cabinet away from the stove).

Ideally, you should use opaque containers to store any aromatic spices. Therefore, metal jars are better than glass jars.

How to make paprika at home

Few people decide to make paprika themselves, because the seasoning is sold almost everywhere and is cheap. But some people manage to prepare a spice at home, the aroma of which is much higher than that of store-bought counterparts.

The procedure here is very simple:

  1. Peel the bell pepper from the amniotic parts (everything that is green).
  2. If desired, remove partitions and seeds. With them, the seasoning will be slightly spicy, and without them, it will be purely sweet.
  3. Cut each pod into 4-6 slices. This is optional, but it will dry out the pepper faster.
  4. Place on a horizontal surface.
  5. Dry in the sun or in the oven until the pepper is easy to crumble with your fingers.
  6. Grind using a mortar and pestle, blender or coffee grinder.

To imitate the taste of smoking, you can use a home smoker. Any smoking device and even an oven will do, you just need to use wood chips.

But you need to smoke before grinding and first ensure that the pepper is completely dry, and only then grind it into powder. For a more accurate recipe, see the video above.

How to grow peppers for paprika

Paprika peppers are grown under the same conditions as any other pepper. He needs:

  • open area with sunlight;
  • air- and water-permeable soil;
  • air temperature – from 13°C to 35°C (ideally from 18°C ​​to 25°C, but the plant is quite unpretentious);
  • regular watering (but after the fruits appear there should not be too much moisture).

You can plant peppers in open ground after the frost season has ended. In the climatic conditions of the middle zone, this is the second half of May.

But you can plant them in the greenhouse earlier. If the soil is very poor, then 1-2 times per growing cycle you need to feed the pepper with mineral fertilizers.

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