If a recipe calls for "paprika", what type should I use? Does it mean Hungarian, Spanish, California? Also, what type, Hot, Bittersweet, Sweet?

  • 4
    What recipe? If we knew what you were making it would be easier to suggest something appropriate. Defaulting to generic paprika is probably fine, but depending on what the recipe is, and assuming you have a variety of paprikas to choose from, there may be one variety or another that is better suited...
    – J...
    Jan 17, 2017 at 3:59

4 Answers 4


If the recipe is just asking for "Paprika", they want generic paprika labeled as such. Like this:

McCormick Paprika Spice Islands Paprika

According to the McCormick website, this is "sweet" paprika.

The dried, ground pods of Capsicum annuum L., a sweet red pepper.

Similarly, the Spice Islands site calls it sweet

Vividly red in color, paprika is made from ground Capsicum chili peppers. Although, it doesn’t pack the punch you’d expect from a chili. Instead, it has a sweet flavor and a delicate aroma that can vary from fruity to sharp.

You certainly do not want "smoked". Both of these companies sell this specifically.

McCormick Smoked PaprikaSpice Islands Smoked paprika

  • 2
    Note that smoked paprika is really great in situations where you want a bacon flavor (think macaroni or shells and cheese with breadcrumbs and smoked paprika).
    – oldtechaa
    Jan 17, 2017 at 4:02
  • 1
    I'm not sure if the mentions of "sweet" there are actually the same sense of the word as sweet paprika - the explicitly labeled sweet paprika I've had seemed sweeter than generic. (It's also usually more flavorful though, so might not be a fair comparison.)
    – Cascabel
    Jan 17, 2017 at 4:47
  • Theres is not a single paprika labeled pepper in my city, all are named "[insert brabd]'s Sweet/mild/spicy/very hot Pepper Powder / pepper / smoked pepper powder/ smoked pepper". It shouldn't be assumed that the word paprika is used.
    – CptEric
    Jan 17, 2017 at 10:54
  • @CptEric If it doesn't use the word paprika, it's probably something else... There's hundreds of varieties of peppers.
    – Catija
    Jan 17, 2017 at 14:09
  • it's paprika. we just happen to been calling it "big pepper" since we discovered it. google pimentón.
    – CptEric
    Jan 17, 2017 at 14:11

In the US, generic paprika is probably closest to bittersweet - not sweet and definitely not hot, just a middle of the road not-too-assertive variety. Recipes aren't likely to be too picky about the exact type, so in the end, you can get away with whatever you personally like.


It depends.

There are six different types. Hot, Hungarian, Plain, Smoked, Spanish, Sweet. The recipe you are following and your intended outcome will drive the decision on which to choose.

Paprika releases its flavor with heat but burns easily. So mix it in with liquid, and make sure it gets hot.

Sprinkled onto a cold dish (like deviled eggs), it remains quite bland. Add it to browned hamburger meat, and you're halfway to taco heaven.

  • I don't think the link you give is attempting to specifically classify all paprika as one of only six types - the listing in the first sentence is simply an intro listing various terms one might encounter. Indeed, the article goes on to talk about "Hungarian sweet paprika" and the sweet/hot/smoked varieties of Spanish paprika.
    – R.M.
    Jan 17, 2017 at 17:06

When a recipe tells about Paprika, it generally means, "whatever" paprika you want.

There are two usages of paprika, colour, and taste.

If you just want colour, use a sweet one, even a cheap one, it will have no taste but gives a nice colour.

However, if you want a real taste, use real Hungarian paprika, there is a serious difference.

The Hungarian paprika comes in different flavor as well qualities depending on its origin in Hungary.

Here is an excerpt from wikipedia:

  • Noble sweet (Édesnemes) – slightly pungent (the most commonly exported paprika; bright red)
  • Special quality (különleges) – the mildest (very sweet with a deep bright red color)
  • Delicate (csípősmentes csemege) – a mild paprika with a rich flavor (color from light to dark red)
  • Exquisite delicate (csemegepaprika) – similar to delicate, but more pungent
  • Pungent exquisite delicate (csípős csemege, pikáns) – an even more pungent version of delicate
  • Rose (rózsa) – with a strong aroma and mild pungency (pale red in color)
  • Half-sweet (félédes) – a blend of mild and pungent paprikas; medium pungency
  • Strong (erős) – the hottest paprika (light brown in color)

The most common are Szeged and Kalocsa.

Do not even try to make Gulyasleves without a true and quality hungarian paprika it won't have any tastes at all.

Oh, and never make burn your paprika by throwing it directly on fire, it will become bitter.

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