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Different Types of Paprika

Let’s talk about a popular kitchen staple and the different types of paprika you need level up your kitchen game. All paprika comes from dried and ground red chili peppers from the capsicum annuum family. The difference between sweet, hot, and smoked paprika depends on the variety of red chili used to make the spice – let’s get into it.

Paprika on a spoon with it spilled on the surface.
Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska

What is Paprika?

Paprika is a powdered spice that comes from ground red peppers. It’s a popular ground spice used to flavor recipes like eggs, meat, poultry, stew, fish, soup, vegetables, rice, and creamy sauces. While you can reach for generic paprika at the grocery store, you should know about the different types of paprika and how to use them.

Different Types of Paprika

While paprika is a widely-used spice, many don’t realize there are several distinct types, each with a unique flavor profile and culinary use. Maybe you’re trying a recipe that calls for a particular kind of paprika, and you’re wondering, what are the differences in paprika? Similar to our recipes using garam masala, here’s a brief overview of some of the different types of paprika and how to use them:

1. Sweet Paprika

When recipes call for paprika, they’re likely referring to sweet paprika. It is labeled as ‘paprika’ in grocery stores. Recipes often use the mild version of the spice to garnish dishes like our deviled eggs without vinegar, butter bean hummus, and healthy potato salad. Home cooks also use the spice blend to add vibrant color to meals like grilled tandoori chicken without completely altering the flavor.

Moroccan Shakshuka
Flavorful Moroccan shakshuka combines poached eggs with hearty, spiced tomato sauce. The simple meal served at any time of the day, though I prefer it for breakfast or brunch. 
Moroccan Shakshuka garnished with fresh mint.

2. Hot Paprika

Hot paprika also called spicy or piquant paprika, is made from hot chili peppers, such as cayenne or jalapeño. It adds a fiery kick to dishes and is often used to bring the heat.

Thick cuts of tender beef simmer to perfection in a rich and flavorful gravy infused with traditional hot and sweet paprika and peppery caraway – finish our rindsgulasch recipe with butter-infused egg noodles or mashed potatoes for the ultimate comfort meal.
Rindsgulasch in a dutch oven.

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3. Smoked Paprika

Dry and smoke red peppers and you end up with smoked paprika. Smoked paprika uses sweet and spicy red peppers, but if it’s not labeled hot or spicy, you can safely assume it contains smoked sweet peppers. Add the smoky flavor to recipes like roasted jerk chicken without smoking or cooking them over an open flame.

Peruvian Chicken
Golden-skin pollo a la brasa or Peruvian chicken marinates in vinegar and traditional spices before roasting in the oven. The spatchcocked chicken is broken down and served with our spicy serrano crema.
Peruvian Chicken
A single serving of our Peruvian roasted chicken served with serrano crema and salad.
Air Fryer Sausage Patties
Evenly browned and cooked to perfection, our hand-mixed sausage patties feature ground turkey, fresh garlic, olive oil, and warm spices. And because they cook in the air fryer, you don’t have to worry about all the mess and splatter of stovetop cooking. 
Air Fryer Sausage Patties
Sausage patties on a plate.

4. Hungarian Paprika

Hungary is a source of paprika all over the world. Hungarian paprika, in particular, is one of the main ingredients for some of the country’s most popular meals, including paprikash and Hungarian Goulash. It’s used like salt and pepper here in the States. The spice comes in eight grades, each with its flavor profile and heat level.

Austrian Goulash in the Instant Pot
Austrian goulash features boneless short ribs cooked Viennese-style in a paprika-spiced gravy until the meat is fork-tender. The recipe uses an Instant Pot and traditional ingredients to infuse the dish with rich flavor, making it the ultimate comfort meal. 
Austrian Goulash in the Instant Pot
A single serving of Austrian beef stew over buttery egg noodles.

5. Spanish Paprika (Pimentón)

Pimentón is a type of smoked paprika in Spain. It comes in three varieties: dulce (sweet), agrodolce (bittersweet or mild), and Picante (hot). Pimentón de la vera is a chili used to make paprika in Spain; they are dried and smoked over burning oak wood, as is tradition. Spanish paprika flavors meals like paella and chorizo.

Spanish Chicken Bake
Hearty Spanish chicken bake is easy to prepare and versatile. All the comforting, earthy flavors of Spain come together in this healthy one-pot meal.
Spanish Chicken Bake
Spanish Chicken Bake on a plate showcasing the chicken and all the veggies.
Vegetable Paella with Halloumi
Vegetable paella with halloumi features a medley of vibrant vegetables cooked together with traditional Spanish rice and a blend of flavorful spices.
Vegetable Paella with Halloumi
A skillet brimming with paella with a spoon in it.
Two kinds of paprika on two spoons.
Photo Credit: Karolina Grabowska

Paprika Substitutes

If you don’t have paprika on hand, here are some suggestions for what to use when you’re in a pinch. When a recipe calls for hot paprika, cayenne, red pepper flakes, or Aleppo powder will do the trick. If you need a smokier replacement, try red chili powder, chipotle powder, or ancho chili powder. Kashmiri chili powder is a popular Indian spice you can use rather than sweet paprika.

How Can I Use Paprika


Store paprika in a cool, dry place inside an airtight container. Spices lose their freshness over time, so use paprika within six months for best results.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many types of paprika are there?

There are several types of paprika, each with its own distinct flavor and heat level: sweet, smoked, and hot.

Is paprika spicy?

Paprika comes in three main types sweet, mild, and spicy. It’s safe to assume that, unless otherwise stated, the paprika you find in the store will be sweet rather than spicy.

Where does paprika come from?

Made from drying peppers and grinding them into a powder, many global cuisines use paprika to flavor their dishes. The most frequently used pepper variety to make paprika is Capsicum Annuum, a pepper cultivated in Central and Southern Mexico. Thanks to trade routes, paprika is a beloved ingredient in kitchens worldwide.

Recipes Using Different Types of Paprika:

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