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Spanish Paprika

Spanish Paprika
© Denzil Green

Paprika is a bright red dried spice made from ground sweet red peppers, mostly of Hungarian-developed varieties.

The pepper plants grow up to 60 cm (2 feet) tall and produce green or yellow pods as "fruit" which turn red as they ripen. After being harvested, they are left out in the sun to dry, or factory dried. They are smaller, longer and more pointed than regular peppers and can be very hot by European standards (though not by Mexican.)

Most of the heat is in the core and the seeds. In 1859, a process was created to remove the core and the seeds (wimps), allowing just the pepper flesh to be retained and be ground for the spice. When the core and seeds are removed, the peppers are washed, cut up, and cooked quickly under pressure. The pepper pulp is then removed from the cooking process, dried and then into powder.

Fresh paprika does have taste and some mild heat to it. Many people in North America grew up considering paprika to be something used to just add visual interest to a dish, with sprinkles of red powder, rather than any taste. That is because their parents had tins or bottles of paprika so old that all taste had long since gone, leaving the spice just as coloured dust, essentially.

The red flecks that you sometimes see in Miracle Whip are Paprika.

Hungarian Paprika is considered better than Spanish. Hungarian Paprika tends to be a brighter red. The main growing areas are Kalocsa and Szeged in the south of Hungary.

Cooking Tips

Hungarian Paprika

Hungarian Paprika
© Denzil Green

Use Paprika as a garnish on potato salad, devilled eggs -- any kind of pale food.

Paprika contains small amounts of natural sugar (about 6%) from the pepper it was made from. If heating Paprika on its own in a frying pan, such as when starting a curry, etc, heat it for no more than a few seconds or the sugar can turn bitter.

History Notes

The Turks acquired Paprika plants via South American and Spanish trade.

They brought Paprika pepper plants to Hungary in the 1500s and 1600s, to be used as a medicine.

The peppers were treated in this way, and as a garden ornamental, in Hungary until about the 1820s, by which time Paprika had become so popular in Hungarian kitchens that it displaced use of previously popular spices such as black pepper and ginger.

In Hungary, to reduce the piquancy of the taste, the veins and seeds of the peppers (which is where the pungency would be) were removed after the harvesting of the peppers, at first by hand, and then later in a roller-frame machine process developed by János and Balázs Pálffy in 1859. [1]

The Kotányi paprika mills were founded by Janos Kotányi in Szeged in 1881.

In the 1930s, Jenő Horváth working with Ernő Obermayer at Pepper Research Institute of Kalocsa developed sweet strains of peppers with no heat in the veins or seeds; these strains are widely used by Hungarian growers today. [2] The veins and seeds don't need to be removed.

In the 1950s, Hungary produced 25% of the world's paprika; as of 2010, that was down to 6%.

In the 1950s and 1960s in North American kitchens, paprika was considered quite adventuresome for its heat. It has long since been replaced by Mexican spices in the category.


Apple, R.W., Jr. Where Paprika Is Measured In Pounds, Not Pinches. New York Times. 28 April 1999.

[1] Bálint Sándor: A szögedi nemzet. A szegedi nagytáj népélete. Második rész (A Móra Ferenc Múzeum Évkönyve) 1976-1977/2

[2] The Homepage of Hungarian Museums. Hungarian Red Pepper Museum (Kalocsa). Retrieved July 2010 from: http://www.muzeumok.hu/museum/index_en.php?ID=119


Marash Peppers; Paprika Butter; Paprika; Pimentón de la Vera

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Also called:

Hungarian Pepper; Capsicum tetragonum (Scientific Name); Paprica, Pimenta de Espanha (Portuguese); Deghi mirch (Indian)


Oulton, Randal. "Paprika." CooksInfo.com. Published 01 April 2001; revised 14 September 2013. Web. Accessed 06/21/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/paprika>.

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