What is smoked paprika?
One of Spain’s greatest exports, smoked paprika or pimentón ahumado is made of sweet peppers much like sweet paprika but goes through an entirely different drying process. The fresh peppers are slowly smoked over burning wood, traditionally oak, which imparts the complex and distinctive smoky flavour that we love so much. The smoked peppers are then ground into a fine dark red powder.
What does smoked paprika taste like?
Smoked paprika unsurprisingly tastes smoky! The sweet peppers bring a fruity, peppery character which is elevated by the rich smokiness from the smouldering oak. These flavours combine to give smoked paprika an earthier character than sweet paprika. Much like with sweet paprika, the peppers used for smoked paprika can vary. This is why you might see sweet smoked paprika or spicy smoked paprika.
What is smoked paprika used for?
Smoked paprika’s rich flavour makes it an exceptionally versatile spice, the smoky notes it brings to a dish can provide a mellow warmth which helps balance other flavours. The taste of smoked paprika is evocative of many of Spain’s best loved recipes and ingredients, it’s essential in flavouring chorizo, paella and many more. We love throwing some smoked paprika into a stew or soup to give it a smoky kick, a little goes a long way so don’t go overboard.
Smoked paprika is especially effective in rubs and marinades for vegetables and meat, bringing a smoky flavour without the need to smoke the ingredients yourself. Smoked paprika is commonly found in spice blends like BBQ rubs and Cajun seasoning for this reason. It pairs especially well with potatoes and eggs, try sprinkling a little smoked paprika on your eggs in the morning.
Smoked paprika recipes
Here’s a couple of recipes to get you started.
Names and Origins
The word paprika comes from the Hungarian word for pepper. The Spanish word pimentón has origins in the Latin word for “pigment” which makes sense given the use of paprika as a dye or pigment throughout history.
Paprika first appeared in Europe after the introduction of peppers to the old world following the Columbian exchange in the early 16th century.
Today many of the peppers which are used in paprika production are imported from outside of Spain or sourced from multiple farms. This means that it is often difficult to ensure consistency of flavour as everything from soil quality to ambient temperature will affect the flavour of the peppers.