Paprika

schwebender Paprika

Mildly fruity paprika is used to flavor soups, sauces and meat dishes. It’s hard to believe from its success that paprika was originally introduced into European cuisine as a substitute for pepper.

Paprikapflanze mit Frucht

Paprika as a Spice

Paprika does not have much of an aroma and its flavor ranges from mild and fruity to burning hot depending on the type. Hungarian paprika acquires its typical flavor and distinctive color during the traditional drying process. The prized essential oils are released during the subsequent grinding process. The general rule of thumb for powdered paprika is “the redder it is, the milder it is”: If the powder contains lots of particularly hot seeds, it takes on a matt browny-red color. It is so important to Austrian cuisine that the locals use the word “paprizieren”, which literally means “to spice with paprika.”

aufeinander liegende PaprikaAufschneiden eines Paprikas

Usage

Paprika has a high sugar content, so it burns quickly when fried and becomes bitter. To prevent this from happening, sprinkle the paprika powder into the fat while it’s still hot or into the roux and remove the pan from the heat. The paprika should then be deglazed with liquid, meat or potatoes. The powder should be stored in a dark place in a tightly sealed container, as otherwise it will quickly lose its color and flavor. Paprika has a slight thickening effect and helps to make soups and sauces wonderfully spicy and thick, as well as giving them a fabulous red color. As well as goulash, fish and meat dishes, paprika is a particularly good spice for flavoring spicy and mild stews.

Tip!

The flavors and colors of paprika powder are mainly released added to hot fat — sprinkling the powder on dishes after they have been cooked will have little effect.

Paprikapflanze mit Früchten
Ursprungsgebiet von Paprika auf der Weltkarte: Mexico

The Plant

The pepper plant belongs to the same genus as chili. There are thousands of different varieties of pepper, which vary in terms of shape, size, color and—most importantly—how spicy they are. Like chili, the spice in pepper is found in the white dividing walls. Paprika is thought to have originally come to Europe from Colombia or India and was initially used as a cheaper alternative to pepper. Today, the fruit is grown mainly in Spain, Serbia, Israel, Central and South America and China. However, foodies agree that the best paprika comes from Hungary.

Factbox

Scientific Name
Capsicum annuum
Family
Nightshade family (Solanaceae)
Other Names
Capsicum, peperoni, red pepper/pimento, Spanish/Turkish pepper
Origin
Mexico, Colombia