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What is Paprika?

Paprika is a very common spice powder made out of ground red peppers. The peppers are grown worldwide, particularly in North America, South America, and Europe. There are lots of different varieties, depending on what part of the world the spice comes from. It has both a great flavor and an amazing color, so it’s often used to give foods a golden-red tint.

Paprika in a wooden bowl set on a dark wooden background.

There aren’t many spices that I use as frequently as paprika. It’s a delicious and versatile ingredient, and it’s used in many cuisines. As Macedonians, we use peppers and paprika in almost every dish, so I find myself pulling a jar of it all the time. But even though it’s a commonly used spice, many home cooks aren’t sure what it is or how to use it. So here’s everything you need to know about this fantastic spice, plus 20 of my favorite recipes that use paprika.

What is Paprika Made Of? 

This delicious spice is made from a species of red pepper called Capsicum annuum. It’s a popular pepper that has many varieties, including jalapeños, lots of chilis, and bell peppers. It is made by growing and harvesting these peppers, which are then dried. After being dried, the peppers are ground into a very fine powder. It’s the same process that creates chili powder or cayenne powder, just with a different variety of red pepper. (Source)

What Does it Taste Like?

Paprika comes in several varieties, each with subtle taste differences while sharing a common sweet and earthy flavor profile. Typically, paprika is mildly sweet, but certain types can be notably sweeter. In terms of spiciness, most paprika varieties are mild, though some can be quite spicy. Additionally, some paprikas have a distinct smoky taste. Generally, paprika is known for its flavor rather than heat, and even the spicier varieties are less intense compared to traditional pepper powders.

Sweet Paprika vs. Smoked Paprika

The most common types of paprika are sweet and smoked. Sweet paprika is the most common version of this spice, and if a recipe doesn’t specify what type of paprika to use, this is the variety you should choose. The flavor is very mild so you can use a ton of it in your cooking.

Smoked paprika is made by roasting peppers over a fire during the drying process. The peppers take on an amazing flavor that is reminiscent of bonfires, so it’s an essential ingredient in recipes that have smoky flavors. It’s a super common addition to spice rubs for meats because it tastes so much like barbecue.

While less common than sweet and smoked, hot paprika is also a fairly common variety of this ground spice. It uses spicier peppers, and you can use it in place of sweet paprika if you want to add a kick to your recipes.

Up close photo of ground paprika in a glass bowl, with a wooden spoon stirring through it.

What Is a Good Substitute For Paprika? 

If you don’t have any paprika on hand, I recommend using tomato powder for sweet paprika. You can also use a mild chili powder or a small amount of a spicier chili powder. For smoked paprika, the best substitute is chipotle powder. It’s a little bit spicier, but it has the same unique smoky flavor. You can also use spicy ground pepper, such as cayenne, ancho, guajillo, or chili powder. You would also use those spices if you want to replace hot paprika in a recipe.

Can You Make Paprika? 

Technically, yes, although it’s labor-intensive. It takes quite a while to make, and ground paprika is a very affordable ingredient, so the only reason to make it is if it sounds like a fun project to try out.

To make this spice, you need peppers, which you can buy or grow. Boldog and almas peppers are the most common for making this seasoning and will give you the trademark earthy, sweet flavor. Once the peppers are fully grown, you’ll need to hang them up to air dry in a hot, dry, and shady place. When fully dried, add them to a spice grinder and blend until you have a fine powder, then store it in an airtight container. 

20 Easy Paprika Recipes to Try

Now it’s time to get to cooking! These 20 recipes use Paprika – I think you’ll love them all.

Chicken Paprikash on a Plate Over Pasta with a Gold Fork

Chicken Paprikash

As the name would suggest, this recipe has a ton of paprika flavor. The paprika is used to season the chicken, which is served on top of a rich tomato and garlic pasta. The flavors in this recipe just work so well together.
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Lemon Paprika Chicken - Marinated in a lemon and paprika mixture with garlic and thyme, these incredible chicken thighs are quick and easy to make, and they are perfect for a weeknight meal. Get the recipe on diethood.com

Lemon Paprika Chicken Thighs

Lemon and paprika is one of my favorite flavor combinations. This recipe uses a ton of paprika, and both lemon zest and juice. The result is chicken thighs that are bursting with flavor, while also being very juicy and tender.
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Easy taco soup in a bowl with a lime wedge, jalapeño, and cilantro on top.

Chicken Taco Soup

One of my favorite ways to use paprika is in soup. It adds so much flavor to this tex-mex dish, which also has garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder. The sweetness of the paprika really works well with this spicy soup.
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overhead shot of a bowl with jerk chicken and pasta with chopped parsley on top, and a fork set on the right side of the bowl.

Rasta Pasta (Caribbean Jerk Chicken Pasta)

Jerk chicken is one of my favorite foods in the world, and paprika is a vital part of jerk seasoning. This unique take on jerk chicken mixes the juicy, spicy meat with creamy penne pasta.
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A skillet of chicken thighs in sauce, with fresh herbs and lemon on the work surface.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Tagine is one of the most hearty, earthy, and savory foods you’ll ever eat. Paprika is the primary spice in this recipe, but it also has cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, ginger, and coriander. The result is a tangy, spicy, and warm seasoning blend that goes perfectly with the chicken, chickpeas, and dried apricots.
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French seafood soup in a bowl.

Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse is the perfect meal to make if you need a fancy date night dish. This fancy French stew has bold but refined flavors, and somehow only takes 30 minutes to make! The paprika is a critical part of the rich, fragrant broth.
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overhead photo of roasted spatchcock chicken, brussel sprouts, and radishes in a black cast iron skillet

Roasted Spatchcock Chicken with Vegetables

Spatchcocking a chicken feels like a life hack. It makes your chicken so much juicier and more tender, while also cooking a lot more quickly. What’s not to love? Paprika is a necessary part of almost any spice rub for meats, and it goes perfectly with this chicken.
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Hibachi chicken, yum yum sauce, sauteed veggies and fried rice with a fork holding a bite full of food

Hibachi Chicken with Yum Yum Sauce

No, you don’t need to go out to eat to have amazing hibachi chicken. In fact this recipe only takes 45 minutes to make, and that includes rice, vegetables, and the star of the show: yum yum sauce. The paprika is used in the sauce, where it’s mixed with ketchup, mayo, garlic, vinegar, and sugar to create dipping sauce that you won’t be able to stop eating.
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cutting into oven fried chicken breasts and holding one part of the chicken with a fork

Oven Fried Chicken Breasts

It’s hard to mess with the classics. Chicken breasts cooked in the oven are a common dinner for a reason, and this is one of my favorite recipes for them. The secret is the breading, which is made out of corn flakes, dried herbs, and paprika. How good does that sound?
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Close up-photo of Instant Pot Sticky Chicken Thighs garnished with sesame seeds and cilantro.

Instant Pot Sticky Chicken Thighs

Paprika and black pepper are the only ingredients used to season this juicy chicken. Then it’s covered in an incredible sticky sauce that’s sweet, spicy, and a little bit tangy. This recipe is seriously addictive!
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overhead picture of cooked steak topped with a pat of butter

Air Fryer Steak

Paprika isn’t just for chicken! It also can be used as part of an amazing steak rub. This is a simple rub that’s made out of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried herbs, salt, and pepper. But sometimes simple is perfect, and it’s the ideal rub to use on this air fryer steak.
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side view of grilled steak kabobs topped with guacamole

Juicy Steak Kabobs

This is the perfect recipe for a hot summer day. Sirloin steak cubes, grilled with onions and bell peppers, then served with guacamole? What’s not to love? The meat is seasoned with a trio of dried peppers: paprika, chili, and cayenne. The flavor is so intense, and perfect for grill day.
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top view of cooked pork tenderloin on a dark background

Instant Pot Garlic Pork Tenderloin

Cooking pork in the Instant Pot is the perfect way to make sure it’s not overcooked, and stays amazingly juicy. It also imparts so much flavor into the meat, even though the recipe only takes 40 minutes to make. The paprika is used to season the meat, which is coated in a garlic, maple syrup, soy sauce, and mustard sauce.
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Tilapia fish fillets served with potato wedges and tartar sauce.

Sheet Pan Fish and Chips

No, you don’t need a deep frier to make fish and chips! This is a healthy version of a classic recipe, and it’s just as delicious. Paprika is a must any time you make seasoned fries, but it’s also used in the spice rub on the fish.
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turkey burger with cheese, avocado, and a slice of red onion, set in between sesame seed buns

Juicy Turkey Burgers

I think turkey burgers are one of the most underrated foods. People think they’re just a healthy alternative to beef burgers, but they’re incredibly flavorful. Or at least they are if you have a good recipe! That’s exactly what this recipe is, and it uses paprika and Worcestershire sauce to add extra savory flavor to the meat.
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grilled shrimp, peppers, and onions, on skewers

Juicy Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

This is another perfect summer recipe. What could be better than standing outside in the sun, grilling up spicy, garlicky shrimp skewers with bell pepper and onion? Paprika goes perfectly with the mild flavor of shrimp, and also helps give this recipe an amazing color.
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close up shot of crab artichoke dip served in a round dish, and a large serving spoon placed in the dip.

Crab Artichoke Dip

Paprika goes perfectly with seafood, because it doesn’t overpower the delicate flavors. And it also pairs so well with other flavors used to season seafood, like the bay leaf, oregano, parsley, and lemon juice in this recipe. This dip, which also has parmesan cheese and a lot of garlic and scallions, is so well balanced, and exploding with flavor.
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overhead shot of marinated halved yellow and red small potatoes in a baking dish

Lemon Garlic Oven Roasted Potatoes

You should almost always put paprika on your potatoes. It’s just a match made in heaven. Paprika goes perfectly with the mild, earthy flavor of potatoes, and it gives them a gorgeous color. And when you add lemon juice, lemon zest, dried herbs, and garlic? Well, that’s a pretty fantastic way to make potatoes.
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Homemade Jamaican Jerk Seasoning | www.diethood.com | A spicy, sweet, tangy and hot seasoning for chicken, pork and grilled meat.

Homemade Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

There are a lot of different ingredients that you absolutely need to use in jerk seasoning, and paprika is one of them. The sweet and earthy flavors from paprika are necessary this this spice rub, which also features cayenne, crushed red peppers, allspice, cinnamon, and tons of other spices.
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Homemade Fajitas Seasoning Mix | www.diethood.com | Spicy, salty, perfectly flavored Fajitas Seasoning Mix made at home with spices that you already have in your spice rack!

Homemade Fajitas Seasoning Mix

I put paprika in pretty much every spice blend. It’s an absolute necessity in fajita seasoning, as it not only adds important flavors, but colors the meat and veggies. This spice blend is so simple, yet perfect: it’s just paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper.

If you’re looking for more flavorful and easy meals, check out my recipe finder. You’ll be able to find recipes for all types of meals and cuisines there.

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