Paprika is a particularly popular spice in Spain, and is also used in Asian, North African, and especially Hungarian cuisine. It is made either from the seeds of certain peppers that are dried and then ground, or from the dried fruit itself. Paprika has a lovely reddish orange color, a pungent, slightly bitter, hot and sharp flavor. It can be used to enhance the flavor of dishes and also to color it red. This coloring of choice is used to enliven dishes served with rice.
Hungarian-style paprika is made only using the edible layer of the fruit, while “royal” paprika is made using the stems (stalks), seeds, and fruit. The most renowned paprika comes from Hungary. There are paprika varieties that are more or less intense (sweet, semi-sweet or medium-hot, and hot).
Be careful to cook paprika gently to avoid caramelization. Ideally, it is heated with onion and lard, which allows for it to develop all of its aroma.
Paprika is an ingredient of many Hungarian dishes (goulash) and is suited to French dishes. It is delicious when used with meat (beef, pork, or chicken) and fish, and particularly crustaceans (shrimp/prawns, lobster), stews and ratatouille, and risotto. It combines very well with goat cheeses.
Paprika is found in small jars or packets. They should be closed tightly to prevent loss of flavor. Store paprika away from light, heat, and moisture in an airtight container.
While it higher in calories and carbohydrates than other hot pepper varieties, paprika makes up for it with a good dose of vitamin C and potassium. It contains capsaicin, which stimulates gastric secretions and protects the heart.
Paprika is known as pimentón in Spain. Pimentón de la Vera enjoys Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status and is a very mild paprika (3 on the Scoville scale). It is smoked with oak wood, which gives it a slight chorizo flavor.