What's the difference between Hungarian, Spanish paprika?

Jim Hillibish

Hungarian paprika is the American standard, but Spanish paprika is worth searching for in ethnic-gourmet groceries.

Hungary gets all the credit for the spice, although paprika was developed in Spain. There’s a big difference in flavor.

Spanish, called pimenton ahumado, starts with Nora peppers slow smoked over an oak fire, then ground to a powder. Most other paprikas are sun- or kiln-dried.

The Spanish is more spicy and flavorful. It’s a favorite in paella, with fish or eggs and on french fries. It’s a staple in sausage including chorizo. A 4-ounce tin costs about $5 at gourmet shops and comes in sweet and hot varieties.

Paprika in America is usually the generic ground red sweet pepper. It’s generally used as a coloring powder and not for flavoring.

The spice has more of a life than that. Imported, it supports a variety of flavors:

Spanish Pimenton: Comes in mild, moderately spicy and very spicy. Regular is sweet and smoked.

Hungarian: Special Quality is sweet and very mild, Delicate is mild and rich, Exquisite Delicate is more pungent, Rose is strong with mild punguency and Noble Sweet, the most common export, is very mild and slightly pungent, the least flavorful of all.

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