Chances are, you have a small jar of paprika in your spice cabinet. Chances are even higher that you’ve asked yourself, what is paprika? We know that turmeric powder comes from grinding a root, and we know that ground cinnamon comes from a dried roll of cinnamon bark, but what does that bright red powdered paprika come from?

What Is Paprika?

In the most basic sense, paprika comes from a pepper. The name of the pepper it comes from is the Capsicum annuum. The Capsicum annuum family produces a variety of peppers, ranging from sweet bell peppers to hot chili peppers. Unsurprisingly, due to the lack of heat in paprika, this essential spice is made by grinding a dried sweet pepper into fine powder.

What Does Paprika Taste Like?

Paprika is earthy and faintly sweet. It’s a delightfully subtle way to add flavor to simple dishes or to make an already flavorful dish a bit more robust. As an example: You might be able to taste paprika if you simply sprinkle it over avocado toast or over-easy eggs, but you won’t be able to pick up the essence of it in a heaping bowl of chili, since the flavor is so subtle.

Paprika Varieties

There are three main varieties of paprika: regular, Spanish and Hungarian.

Regular paprika: Think of regular paprika as a sort of generic paprika. It can be made from a blend of peppers from various countries, and you’re most likely to find this kind in the spice aisle at your grocery store.
Spanish paprika: If you love smoky flavors, Spanish paprika is the spice for you. It’s made from a range of mild to hot peppers that have been smoked for added richness.
Hungarian paprika: This will come as no surprise to those of you who’ve been to Hungary and eaten their cuisine, but paprika is the national spice of the country! Hungarian paprika is not your average paprika—there are multiple blends that infuse different levels of heat for nuanced flavor. The flavors range from mild to pungent to sweet to hot.

What Is Paprika Used for?

Mostly, paprika is used for seasoning foods. A paprika dry rub is a fantastic way to season a steak or you can make hearty dishes like Hungarian goulash. Devlied eggs are often finished with a dusting of paprika as well.

When it’s not used for flavor, paprika can dye foods like eggs and add color to otherwise bland-looking dishes. Outside of food, the vibrant red powder can be used as a dye for fabrics.

What Is a Good Substitute for Paprika?

If you don’t have paprika in your spice cabinet, don’t worry! There are a couple of simple swaps you probably already have.

Paprika vs. Chili Powder

Although paprika is made from chili peppers, it differs from chili powder in that it is not spicy. Chili powder comprises various spices like cumin, garlic powder and other herbs in addition to chili peppers. It also has a tendency to have more of a spicy profile than paprika.

Paprika vs. Cayenne Pepper

Unlike chili powder, there is no blend of spices in cayenne pepper. This fiery red powder contains only dried cayenne peppers, and it is hot. Keep this in mind if you’re replacing cayenne pepper in place of paprika. Your dinner will have a kick!

The post What Is Paprika: Your Guide to The Spice Cabinet Staple appeared first on Taste of Home.