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Paprika facts for kids

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A small bowl of smoked Spanish paprika, called pimentón in Spanish
Food energy
(per 100 g serving)
282 kcal (1181 kJ)
Nutritional value
(per 100 g serving)
Protein 14 g
Fat 13 g
Carbohydrate 54 g

Paprika is a ground spice made from dried red fruits of the larger and sweeter varieties of the plant Capsicum annuum, called bell pepper or sweet pepper. The most common variety used for making paprika is tomato pepper, sometimes with the addition of more pungent varieties, called chili peppers, and cayenne pepper. In many languages, but not English, the word paprika also refers to the plant and the fruit from which the spice is made.

Paprika originates from Central America, in particular Central Mexico, where it has been cultivated for centuries. The peppers were subsequently introductions to the Old World, when paprika was later brought to Spain in the 16th century. The seasoning is also used to add color to many types of dishes, and is nowadays associated with cuisines as diverse as those of Argentinian, Spanish, Moroccan and Hungarian cuisine.

The trade in paprika expanded from the Iberian Peninsula to Africa and Asia, and ultimately reached Central Europe through the Balkans, then under Ottoman rule, which explains the Hungarian origin of the English term. In Spanish, paprika has been known as pimentón since the 16th century, when it became a typical ingredient in the cuisine of western Extremadura. Despite its presence in Central Europe since the beginning of Ottoman conquests, it did not become popular in Hungary until the late 19th century.

Paprika can range from mild to hot – the flavor also varies from country to country – but almost all plants grown produce the sweet variety. Sweet paprika is mostly composed of the pericarp, with more than half of the seeds removed, whereas hot paprika contains some seeds, stalks, placentas, and calyces. The red, orange or yellow color of paprika is due to its content of carotenoids.

History and etymology

1902-11-17, La Ilustración Artística, Abriendo el pimiento, Medina Vera
Opening the pepper, an illustration of Medina Vera.

Paprika originates from Central America, where it grows in the wild in Central Mexico, and has for centuries been cultivated by the peoples of Mexico. The peppers were later introduced to the Old World, when paprika was brought to Spain in the 16th century.

The plant used to make the Hungarian version of the spice was grown in 1569 by the Turks at Buda (now part of Budapest, the capital of Hungary). Central European paprika was hot until the 1920s, when a Szeged breeder found a plant that produced sweet fruit, which he grafted onto other plants.

The first recorded use of the word paprika in English is from 1896, although an earlier reference to Turkish paprika was published in 1831. The word derives from the Hungarian word paprika, a diminutive of the Serbo-Croatian word papar (Cyrillic: папар) meaning "pepper", which in turn came from the Latin piper or modern Greek piperi. Paprika and similar words, peperke, piperke, and paparka, are used in various Slavic languages in the Balkans for bell peppers.

Production and varieties

Paprika Vendor Budapest big hall
Hungarian paprika vendor in the Budapest Great Market Hall

Paprika is produced in various places including Argentina, Mexico, Hungary, Serbia, Spain, the Netherlands, China, and some regions of the United States.

Hungary is a major source of commonly-used paprika. It is available in different grades:

  • 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)
  • Semi-sweet (félédes) – a blend of mild and pungent paprikas; medium pungency
  • Strong (erős) – the hottest paprika (light brown in color)

Spanish paprika (pimentón) is available in three versions — mild (pimentón dulce), mildly spicy (pimentón agridulce) and spicy (pimentón picante). The most common Spanish paprika, Pimentón de la Vera, has a distinct smoky flavor and aroma, as it is dried by smoking, typically using oak wood. Pimentón de Murcia is not smoked, traditionally being dried in the sun or in kilns.



Paprika is used as an ingredient in numerous dishes throughout the world. It is principally used to season and color rices, stews, and soups, such as goulash, and in the preparation of sausages, mixed with meats and other spices. In the United States, paprika is frequently sprinkled raw on foods as a garnish, but the flavor is more effectively brought out by heating it in oil.

Hungarian national dishes incorporating paprika include gulyas (goulash), a meat stew, and paprikash (paprika gravy: a Hungarian recipe combining meat or chicken, broth, paprika, and sour cream). In Moroccan cuisine, paprika (tahmira) is usually augmented by the addition of a small amount of olive oil blended into it.

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