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What Is Paprika? How Do You Cook With It and Use It?

Updated on November 7, 2017
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Paprika is made of ground bell peppers. It may or may not also include ground chili peppers.

What Is Paprika?

In many languages, especially those of European descent, the word "paprika" refers to bell peppers themselves. However, in many languages, "paprika" is also a spice! The spice is made by grinding up bell peppers and/or chili peppers. It can be made exclusively of bell peppers, but it is often a combination of bell peppers and chilis. That's why it's important to read the label when purchasing it. Paprika's heat can range from mild (not very spicy) to hot (very spicy). And as such, the seasoning adds both color and flavor to dishes.

Sweet peppers, yet another name for bell peppers, are plump, bell-shaped vegetables featuring either three or four lobes. A general rule of thumb, those with three lobes on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating raw, on salads, in sandwiches, or as crunchy snacks. Those with four lobes tend to be firmer and better suited for cooking. Many cooks (myself included) do not bother to look.

Red, yellow, and green are most common bell pepper types, and their color is often a reflection of their maturity. Green ones are the least ripe. Red ones are fully ripe. Bells are available throughout the year, but their peak season is from August to September.

Fun fact: Zoo flamingos' diets are supplemented with paprika so that they stay brilliantly pink.

How Do I Use and Cook With Paprika?

The Spice's Notable Perks

  • Lots of Vitamin C: Paprika is unusually high in vitamin C. The peppers used for to create it often contain six to nine times as much vitamin C as tomatoes by weight. High heat destroys the peppers' vitamins. For optimum nutrition, grow and dry your own in the sun.
  • Promotes Well-Being: As an antibacterial agent and stimulant, paprika can help normalize blood pressure, improve circulation, and increase the production of saliva and stomach acids, which aids digestion.

Using Paprika in the Kitchen:

  • Add a Pop of Color: Paprika's rich coloring enhances the visual appeal of food. This spice makes a great garnish. Use it to top macaroni, chicken, or soup. A light dash of paprika also makes deviled eggs and potato salad more appealing. It adds color and interest without overwhelming the dish's flavor.
  • Spanish Vs. Hungarian Paprika: Know that when a recipe calls for Hungarian paprika, you'll need to find a mild, sweet variety, preferably an imported version that's actually from Hungary. Spanish paprika tastes different and tends to be much spicier.
  • Savor the Flavor: Paprika goes well with just about any savory food, including eggs, meat, poultry, stew, wild game, fish, shellfish, soup, boiled and steamed vegetables, rice, and creamy sauces. For most recipes, the paprika is added near the end of the cooking process, since heat diminishes both the color and flavor.
  • Batter Up: When preparing a batter for fried chicken, in addition to salt and black pepper, I reach for paprika. The dark red specks make for an interesting and colorful end result.

Storage: Paprika should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, preferably the refrigerator. You'll want to protect it from light. Use it or replace it within six months for the best flavor.

Buyer beware: This spice is available in mild and hot versions. Read the ingredients closely to know what you're getting.

A Brief History of Bell Peppers

Bell peppers likely originated in Mexico. They are a member of the nightshade family, which also includes potatoes and tomatoes. Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing the chili to Europe. Aristocrats originally cultivated capsicum (yet another name for peppers) as ornamental plants until cooks eventually the vegetable's culinary value. By the 1560s, these peppers had reached the Balkans where they were called "peperke" or "paparka." The peppers soon migrated to Hungary, now renowned for its paprika. Goulash, anyone?

It wasn't until the mid-1900s that paprika stepped into the limelight of Western kitchens. Spain, South America, Mediterranean regions, India, and California joined Hungary as major paprika producers. It's used as a coloring agent in foods and cosmetics. Its inclusion in foods fed to zoo flamingos help them keep their pink plumage bright and beautiful.

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    • beta5909 profile image

      beta5909 16 months ago

      You're one of the few articles to rank in search for how to use paprika when preparing chicken. I don't know why google assumes that every one is looking for chicken recipes when asked a direct question. I already had a baked chicken recipe but wanted to know the benefits of adding of paprika. Now, thanks to your article, I know.

      Thanks so much. Great hub.

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 4 years ago from A small southern town

      You are so very welcome, toknowinfo..........

      apologize for taking so long to respond......have been ill.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 4 years ago

      You taught me so much more about paprika than I ever knew. Thanks for the great tips. I occasionally season with paprika, but thanks to a few more tips I learned here, I am eager to experiment more. Well done hub!

    • profile image

      asome 5 years ago

      i thinks its cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      erika 5 years ago

      thanks really helped with my daughters research paper

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 6 years ago from A small southern town

      Becky Puetz..........

      My workload has been heavy, pulling me away from HubPages, much to my regret.

      It is SO encouraging to see a new reader!

      Thank you for coming by and commenting. I truly appreciate it.

    • Becky Puetz profile image

      Becky 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      I never knew that paprika had so many good health benefits. I use it occasionally, but intend to incorporate more into my recipes from here on. Thank you for this awesome hub.

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Lady_E

      Thank you for letting me know

      that my hubs are of use. It delights

      me to hear that people are learning

      something from them.

      It is also good to hear from

      a new reader.

      That makes you pretty important

      to me today!

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 7 years ago from London, UK

      I never use it because I didn't know what benefits it had. Now, thanks to you, I do...

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Thank you, Gisell2323 for being here.

      Your gorgeous smile just radiates!!

      Do try it, it is pretty, and 'perks'

      up the chicken without being overpowering.

    • giselle2323 profile image

      giselle2323 7 years ago from Peterborough, Ontario

      Paprika and fried chicken sounds exciting! I just may try it. Thank you for your article.

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      nextstopjupiter,

      It has been a while!

      Good to see you again.

      Thank you for coming by

      and commenting.~~

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      M.A. Hook,

      Thanks for your vote of confidence.

      Don't wait to eat only when I hub!

      Thanks for coming by.

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Thesailor,

      Nice to meet you.

      Thanks for your input.

      Glad you like the hub.

    • nextstopjupiter profile image

      nextstopjupiter 7 years ago from here, there and everywhere

      Thank you for this hub, a useful information for everyone who likes to cook.

    • CYBERSUPE profile image

      CYBERSUPE 7 years ago from MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.

      Most informative onegoodwoman and interesting as well. We use paprika but I was unaware of the storage advice. Many Thanks.

      Joe

    • M. A. Hook profile image

      M. A. Hook 7 years ago

      Thanks for giving the path from the shelf to the stove. You made it sound so simple. If you'll keep Hubbing about spices and herbs, I'll start cooking again...

    • thesailor profile image

      thesailor 7 years ago from Seven Seas

      Paprika is a good taste enhancer, especially chicken meat. I used to add it as additional spice for roast pork chop, too! Thanks, onegoodwoman. :D

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      Yeah, I've been cooking for probably 40 years. I shop too, I have friends who hate it but I like buying the stuff that I'm going to be cooking. I make all kinds of things and my son Justin also is a fine cook, we both learned from his mother but neither of us can touch her. You're quite welcome, you write useful and interesting hubs. See ya! Tom

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Justom,

      I guess it is only fair that

      you get the chance to thrash

      me....how could I have not mentioned

      stuffed bell peppers?

      Are you usually the family cook?

      Or do you have just a few dishes

      you prepare?

      Don't worry about the typos, I didn't

      even notice them.

      Thanks for coming by and reading

      my hubs ~

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      Sorry I'm not typing too well today but??? Tom

    • justom profile image

      justom 7 years ago from 41042

      Another useful hub! I use hot Hungarian and smoked Paprika that I buy fresh from a stand at the old market. I love it on fried potatoes. As for the bell peppers I use any kind but the ones (and grew them this year) but I like the 4 nub ones for stuffing just because they stand up easier in the pan. Nice job, as usual! Peace!! Tom

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Hi Prairieprincess,

      It is good to see you again.

      Cayenne come from a red, hot,

      chilli pepper. They are related

      to the bells and the jalapeno.

      Thanks for your input ~~

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 7 years ago from Canada

      Interesting ... I did not know that about paprika. How is it similar to cayenne pepper, do you know? Very nicely written article with good information. thanks!

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      NcBler,

      Rest assured, I am learning too!

      That is one thing I like about

      doing HP, a little research

      stretches me as well.

      Thanks for coming by, your visit

      is appreciated.

    • NCBIer profile image

      NCBIer 7 years ago

      I had no idea paprika had so many beneficial qualities. I thought it was just something to add visual appeal, which shows you what kind of cook I am... but I am definitely learning to be a better one. Thank you for the information!

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Creativeone59,

      Thanks for your support.

      The kitchen is not only the

      heart of my home, it is the

      'control center'. Every issue

      is resolved in the kitchen.

    • onegoodwoman profile image
      Author

      onegoodwoman 7 years ago from A small southern town

      Vladimir,

      Good food is made better by the spices.

      Thanks for reading my hubs. I appreciate you.....

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 7 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you onegoodwomen, no kitchen shouldn't be without it, great and awesome hub. Thank you for sharing. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • Vladimir Uhri profile image

      Vladimir Uhri 7 years ago from HubPages, FB

      I appreciate an information since I am cooking by myself.