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This article is about the spice. For other uses, see Paprika (disambiguation).
A small bowl of smoked Spanish pimentón

Paprika /pəˈprikə/ or British:/ˈpæprɪkə/ is a spice made from air-dried fruits of the chili pepper Capsicum annuum. Although paprika is often associated with Hungarian cuisine, the chilies from which it is made are native to the New World and later introduced to the Old World. Originating in central Mexico, it was brought to Spain in the 16th century. The seasoning is also used to add color and flavor to many types of dishes.

The trade in paprika expanded from Iberia to Africa and Asia,[1] and ultimately reached Central Europe through the Balkans, then under Ottoman rule, which explains the Hungarian origin of the English term. In Spanish, paprika has been known as pimentón since the 16th century, when it became a typical ingredient of western Extremadura.[2] Despite its presence in Central Europe since the beginning of Ottoman conquests, it did not become popular in Hungary until the late 19th century.[3]

Paprika can range from mild to hot – the flavor also varies from country to country – but almost all plants grown produce the sweet variety.[4] Sweet paprika is mostly composed of the pericarp, with more than half of the seeds removed, whereas hot paprika contains some seeds, stalks, placentas, and calyces.[2] The color of paprika is primarily due to zeaxanthin.

History and etymology[edit]

The various shapes and colors of the Capsicum fruit used to prepare paprika

The plant that makes the Hungarian version of the spice was grown in 1529 by the Turks at Buda[5] (now part of the capital of Hungary: Budapest). Central European paprika was hot until the 1920s when a Szeged breeder found one plant that produced sweet fruit, then grafted it onto other plants.[4]

The first recorded use of the word paprika in English is from 1896,[5] although an earlier reference to Turkish paprika was published in 1831.[6] The word derives from the Hungarian word paprika, a diminutive of the Serbo-Croatian word papar meaning "pepper",[7] which in turn came from the Latin piper or modern Greek piperi.[5] Paprika and similar words, peperke, piperke, and paparka, are used in various Slavic languages in the Balkans for bell peppers.[2] The exact word "paprika" entered a large number of languages, probably via German.[8] European languages use a similar if not identical word: Italian, Polish, Bulgarian, Hebrew, and Japanese all use a variant of paprika.[8]

Production and varieties[edit]

Red peppers in Cachi, Argentina are air-dried before being processed into powder
Paprika pepper farmer in Tanzania

Paprika is produced in various places including Hungary, Serbia, Spain, the Netherlands, China, and some regions of the United States.[9]

Hungary is a major source of commonly-used paprika in America.[citation needed] It is available in different grades:

  • Noble sweet (Édesnemes) – slightly pungent (the most commonly exported paprika; bright red)
  • Special quality (különleges) – the mildest (very sweet with a deep bright red color)
  • Delicate (csípősmentes csemege) – a mild paprika with a rich flavor (color from light to dark red)
  • Exquisite delicate (csemegepaprika) – similar to delicate, but more pungent
  • Pungent exquisite delicate (csípős csemege, pikáns) – an even more pungent version of delicate
  • Rose (rózsa) – with a strong aroma and mild pungency (pale red in color)
  • Half-sweet (félédes) – a blend of mild and pungent paprikas; medium pungency
  • Strong (erős) – the hottest paprika (light brown in color)[10]
  • "The Hungarian varieties are more robust and considered superior. The Spanish varieties are sweeter and milder. Most tables in Hungary are set with salt and hot paprika (not black pepper) shakers. One particular variety, the 'rose', known for its sweet aroma and brilliant color, is prized above all others. Hungarian agricultural authorities fiercely guard their plants and seeds and twice as much acreage is devoted to peppers as any other crop."[11]
  • "Due to the favourable climate and geographical conditions, Hungarian paprika has a bright red colour and a distinctive rich flavour that allowed Hungary to become one of the leading paprika producers in the world ... Kalocsa and Szeged in the southern part of Hungary are the heart of paprika production in Hungary. These regions have the highest amount of sunny hours a year and paprika plants need lots of sunshine to get ripe and sweet."[12]

Spanish paprika (pimentón) is available in three versions — mild (pimentón dulce), moderately spicy (pimentón agridulce), and very spicy (pimentón picante). Some Spanish paprika, like pimentón de la Vera, has a distinct smoky flavor and aroma as it is dried by smoking, typically using oak wood.[13]

The Netherlands is a major production and distribution source of paprika as well, especially grown in greenhouses,[citation needed] while China is the world's biggest exporter of sweet paprika for use as a coloring agent as of 2016.

As of September 15, 2016, McCormick's "paprika" used peppers grown in the United States and its "smoked paprika" was imported from Spain.[14]


Hungarian paprika vendor in the Budapest Great Market Hall
Packaged ground and whole dried paprika for sale at a Belgrade marketplace in Serbia


Paprika is used as an ingredient in a broad variety of dishes throughout the world. It is principally used to season and color rices, stews, and soups, such as goulash, and in the preparation of sausages, mixed with meats and other spices. In the United States, paprika is frequently sprinkled raw on foods as a garnish, but the flavor is more effectively pronounced by heating it in oil.[15]

Hungarian paprika is often specified in recipes because it is unique. It is bright red and said to be sweeter than the same paprika grown in other soils and climates. Other paprika types have unique properties, so it is important to use the type of paprika specified, unless it is used in small quantities. In paprikash (paprika gravy: a combination of broth, paprika, and sour cream), paprika is used by the tablespoonful. In such instances, Hungarian paprika is preferred.

In Moroccan cuisine, paprika (tahmira) is usually augmented by the addition of a small amount of olive oil blended into it.


According to information published by the United States Department of Agriculture, the nutritional content of 1 tbsp (6.8 g) of paprika shows it to have a lot of vitamins, minerals, and fiber:[16]

  • Calories: 19
  • Fat: 0.88 g
  • Carbohydrates: 3.67 g
  • Fiber: 2.4 g
  • Protein: 0.96 g


Paprika can also be used for coloring with henna to bring a reddish tint to hair. Paprika powder can be added to henna powder when prepared at home. Chinese sweet paprika is predominantly used as a natural, mild-flavored coloring agent. Chinese paprika is sold in industry priced according to its coloring strength, known as ASTA after the American Spice Trade Association.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums - Google Books. Retrieved on September 20, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums, pp. 5 and 73
  3. ^ The Glutton's Glossary: A Dictionary of Food and Drink Terms, p. 205
  4. ^ a b Paprika: A Spicy Memoir from Hungary, p. 202
  5. ^ a b c "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  6. ^ Lieber F (1831). Encyclopedia Americana, p. 476. Oxford University. 
  7. ^ A Magyar Nyelv Történeti-Etimológiai Szótára (Historical-Etymological Dictionary of the Hungarian Language) (1976, Budapest, Akadémiai Kiadó), 3:93. "paprika 1748... Szerb-horvát eredetű ... Ez a szb.-hv. pàpar 'bors' ..." (paprika 1748 ... Serbo-Croatian originally ... This is the Serbo-Croatian pàpar 'pepper' ... [followed by an explanation of the Hungarian suffix -ka]).
  8. ^ a b Katzer, Gernot (May 27, 2008). "Paprika (Capsicum annuum L.)". Retrieved December 1, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Paprika — Food Facts". Food Reference. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  10. ^ Tom (October 31, 2008). "Grades of Paprika | The Spice House Blog". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  11. ^ Chefs Corner | Red Cat Restaurants | New York City. Red Cat Restaurants. Retrieved on September 20, 2013.
  12. ^ Hungarian Paprika-Facts, History & Recipes. Retrieved on September 20, 2013.
  13. ^ "Spanish Paprika — Pimentón". March 2, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  14. ^ Primary source. Telephone call with McCormick & Co. customer line.
  15. ^ Hyde, Brenda. "Classic Spice Blends: Paprika". Retrieved November 4, 2011. 
  16. ^ NDL/FNIC Food Composition Database Home Page. Retrieved on September 20, 2013.
  17. ^ Orient Resources (May 20, 2016). "Grades of Paprika | The Spice Trade Blog". Retrieved July 4, 2016. 

External links[edit]