In our series focused on building your superfood pantry with spices, we’ve delved into the unique qualities of cumin, cinnamon and turmeric. Now, it’s paprika’s turn! Paprika is a mainstay in most spice cabinets, but is rarely used as more than a dash of color on top of a dish like deviled eggs. Sadly, paprika is often limited to the supporting role in American cuisine and not the lead. The color is unmistakable, and so is the flavor. Unfortunately, like most processed products, conventional paprika is lacking in complexity and is extremely limited. Is there really that much to learn about paprika? How do you use it anyway? Read below to find out.
Not all paprika is created equal
“Paprika” is a blanket term for a spice made up of dried and ground peppers from the species Capsicum annuum. Among this species of plants are many different peppers and chilies that range from sweet to spicy and everywhere in between. This variety of flavor in the chilies and peppers themselves will lend a hint as to why paprika from different countries and manufacturers have different flavors. To add additional body, producers sometimes smoke the ingredients used before grinding them into a powder. Paprika comes from many different countries, and you can expect a unique flavor from specifically labeled varieties like Hungarian and Spanish paprika. Once you ditch your conventional store bought paprika and discover the huge range of unique flavors, you may get pretty excited.
As you start to clear out processed foods from you home, remind yourself to keep the same principles in mind with spices. Purity is best! Be sure to buy quality spices from producers who avoid additives. If possible, try and find not only organic but sun-dried paprika, to be sure that as much of the naturally occurring nutrients as possible are preserved in the spice.
A nutrition powerhouse with a beautiful color
Paprika’s vibrant red color indicates that it is a good source of vitamin A. It is also quite popular for being a rich source of vitamin C. It is said to contain 9 times more vitamin C than a tomato by weight! Like all peppers, paprika can help with circulation and to regulate blood pressure and has a healthy dose of antioxidants as well. It also helps with the production of saliva in your mouth, which is an integral process of healthy digestion.
Paprika in Hungary
Paprika is the national spice in Hungary, so it rarely takes a supportive role in dishes. It is sold by the pound at many markets and creates vibrant flavors in a variety of Hungarian cuisine. From a more traditional beef stew called goulash, to a traditional chicken dish called paprikash, paprika is as common in Hungarian cuisine as salt is in American cuisine. Vegetarian? Adapt the recipe to make it vegetarian by swapping the chicken for mushrooms. Keep in mind that there are many varieties of Hungarian paprika ranging from sweet to spicy. The most commonly sold variety in the US is the sweeter variety.
Sold! So how do I use Paprika?
Paprika is an extremely versatile spice, especially if you decide to stock your cabinet with a handful of different varieties like Hungarian (typically stronger), Spanish (typically more mild) and smoked paprika. If you do decide to go the route of smoked paprika, keep in mind that just a touch of it really goes a long way. It is great for those who like heat, but can’t handle the heat of cayenne pepper. Use it in Mexican, creole, Hungarian, Spanish and Tex-Mex cuisine. You can also use smoked paprika in other salmon or chicken dishes, and in chili, stews, and soups. And of course, don’t forget to use it to top off your deviled eggs.
A favorite way to use paprika (and take advantage of the other spices we’ve visited in this series) is to make your own spice blends. We believe that homemade is best because not only is your recipe customizable, you also get the hugely important added benefit of being in total control of the ingredients. Do you best to add paprika near the end of your cooking to maintain flavor and nutritional benefits.
When storing paprika, try to reuse small tinted glass jars to protect from the light. It is best to keep all spices in a cool, dark place and replace them every 6 months to ensure sweetness. This is a wonderful opportunity to buy small quantities of fresh spices to ensure the best quality.
Looking for other superfoods to pair with your paprika? Check out the Nutiva Store.
What are some of your favorite ways to use paprika? Do you have a favorite variety? Let us know in the comments below!