Spices are essential to adding flavor to any kind of dish. Having a knowledge of spices will make any cooking experience, whether a make-mom-dinner kids craft or an all out Iron Chef meal plan, one that will impress whoever your judges are. Paprika is one of those spices that stands on the same pillar as something as universally useful as salt. It is a powdered spice made from ground pepper pods, usually red. The type of pepper pod it is ground from determines its flavor and even the vibrancy of the red color paprika is known for. It can be used in many different types of dishes, because, as many people do not know, these flavors are defined in three ways: Sweet paprika, hot paprika, and smoked paprika.

Sweet Paprika

deviled eggs, egg, paprika
Mikayla Woolwine

Sweet paprika is the most common type of paprika. It has a bright red color. It is most commonly labeled as just "paprika" on a bottle, while the other two types are distinguishable. It has a sweet pepper flavor without much heat, so it can be added as a subtle hint of flavor to deviled eggs, as an undertone of spice to a meat rub, or even as just a garnish of color to something like potato salad. This is the ideal type of paprika to use if a recipe does not specify what type of paprika to use; however, its unique and balancing flavor works great in dishes like roasted aubergine with paprika yogurt dressing, homemade hummus, and the ultimate pulled pork.

Hot Paprika

chicken, meat, pork, sauce, beef, barbecue, vegetable
Emily Robinson

Hot paprika is all about about the spice, and comes in real handy for homemade dishes. It adds a kick of peppery flavor to dishes like stews and chicken, so it's not recommended that it be substituted for sweet paprika or smoked paprika. However, cayenne pepper can be added to a dish that calls for hot paprika if all you have is regular or sweet paprika on hand. Hot paprika is actually of Hungarian origin, and works great in goulash recipes and chicken recipes. In fact, you can even recreate Chick-Fil-A nuggets at home with this wonderfully flavorful spice.

Smoked Paprika

tacos, vegetable, chili, salsa, corn
Katherine Baker

Like sweet paprika, this type of paprika does not hold much heat, however it does hold a rich, smokey flavor. It is of Spanish origin, made from peppers that are smoked and dried over fires. Just add it to your homemade taco seasoning and you'll have people thinking they've come right from Spain. Because the flavor doesn't hold that much heat but is still distinguishable, it works great with sauces, like smokey aioli sauce. Smoked paprika is a great compliment to tasty dishes like roasted sweet potato tacos, rainbow succotash, and even as a key ingredient in preparing your own black bean burgers

Spice it Up

With a new understanding of paprika, you can now spice up any dish with sophisticated varieties of flavors that paprika has to offer. Turn up the heat with hot paprika, cool it down and add some subtlety with sweet paprika, or tingle your taste buds with the smokey bite of smoked paprika. Even though each paprika is different, the reaction of delight at the first bite of each one is the same.