The word "paprika" is a generic term for a spice made from ground dried red peppers. The variety (or varieties) of peppers used to make the paprika and how those peppers are treated determine whether the paprika is labeled sweet, smoked, or hot.
What’s the Difference Between Sweet Paprika, Smoked Paprika, and Hot Paprika?
Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter
Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!
Sweet paprika (sometimes called "Hungarian paprika" or simply "paprika") is the most common of the three types. It is typically made from a combination of mild red peppers that have been air-dried by the sun or by machine. Sweet paprika contributes a deep scarlet hue to recipes, as well as fruity, earthy flavor. In our recipes, when we call for just “paprika,” you should use sweet paprika. Paprika loses its nuanced flavor with age, so we recommend replacing it every six months or so.
Chicken PaprikashPaprika gets its time in the spotlight in this rich, comforting dish.
Smoked paprika, a specialty of Spain, is produced by drying peppers (either sweet or hot) over smoldering oak embers. Since smoked paprika has a deep, musky flavor all its own, we do not recommend using it for all paprika applications; it is best used to season grilled meats or to add a smoky aroma to boldly flavored dishes.
Paprika PotatoesIt takes more than a sprinkle of spice to make paprika potatoes. We put the pop back into this promising side.
Hot paprika, most often used in chilis, curries, or stews, can be made from any number of hot peppers. It can range from slightly spicy to punishingly assertive, and it shouldn't be substituted for sweet paprika in cooking. On the other hand, sweet paprika can be substituted for hot by simply adding cayenne pepper to boost the burn.