Paprika is the fourth-most consumed spice in the world and often is used in rubs and marinades. It’s a key ingredient in numerous cuisines, from Tandoori chicken to classic Hungarian goulash to Italian sausage.
Made from dried red fruits of the larger and sweeter varieties of the plant Caspicum annum, otherwise known as the bell pepper or sweet pepper, paprika does not possess any heat. It is often sold in a paprika spice blend, where it is combined with other peppers to deliver various levels of heat. That’s what one gets with Hungarian paprika, where dried ground sweet pepper is blended with cayenne or other mildly hot peppers.
Paprika peppers can be smoked with different woods prior to drying to add an extra layer of flavor. Smoking gives the sweet pepper a deeper, earthy flavor that contributes umami to meat and poultry dishes. Depending on the level used, it may be possible to reduce added salt.
While flavor is the primary reason spices are added to meat and poultry, with paprika, color is often a consideration. The hue depends on the mix of carotenoids in the pepper and ranges from red to orange to yellow. It can be labeled simply “natural color” or “spice” on the ingredient statement.