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Culinary Uses for Paprika

by Megan Shoop ; Updated September 28, 2017

Paprika comes from dried peppers.

Paprika image by Heiner Witthake from Fotolia.com

Paprika is an orange spice that ranges in flavor from smoky and sweet to very spicy. This range of flavors comes from how paprika is made. Dried capsicum peppers are ground into fine orange powder and the flavor of the peppers produces the flavor of the paprika. Today, producers carefully choose the kinds of peppers they want to make the wide range of paprika flavors. This diversity in flavors allows cooks to use paprika in many kinds of dishes and produce many different flavors. Many people enjoy cooking with paprika because it adds a splash of color to cuisine as well as flavor.

Hungarian Cuisine

Hungarian cuisine uses more paprika than other cultures and produces the widest range of flavors. Hungarian goulash is a dished centered around the flavor and color of paprika. The other ingredients are simple, just beef and onions. Everything is stirred together into a thick stew with plenty of paprika added to make this dish flavorful, spicy and visually pleasing.

Chicken papirkash also uses tons of paprika to bring out the flavor of the chicken and other ingredients. Papirkash is a light but zesty dish consisting of chicken and paprika, of course, but also onions, sour cream, flour, salt and oil. Everything is slow-cooked together to produce a thick, creamy meal.

Mediterranean Cuisine

The Spanish and Portuguese only have three flavors of paprika compared to Hungary’s six. Though these three flavors are sweeter than Hungary’s varieties, some say they have a fuller and stronger flavor also.

Natives to Spain, Portugal and Turkey use paprika in a variety of dishes from Spanish chorizo to soups and casseroles. Chorizo is a type of Spanish sausage made from garlic, peppers (usually paprika) and either veal or goat. All three cultures also use a great deal of paprika on meats, especially milder ones like veal, chicken and fish.

Paprika Across Countries

Paprika has crossed the ocean to appear in many kitchens in North America. While it is still used for many traditional dishes, those that cook at home have found many other uses for it as well. Some like to toss some in egg recipes to give the eggs color and flavor while others prefer to use it in dry rubs for grilled meats like ribs, turkey and fish. It also goes well in hamburger mixes to give the beef a kick and a little extra flavor, especially if they are cooked over an open flame to complement paprika’s smoky undertones.

Paprika is perhaps most popular in tomato-based sauces like pasta sauce. In fact, heating a little tomato sauce with some paprika and garlic makes an inexpensive tasty sauce. You can also toss some into chili for extra flavor without too much heat.

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