I have to confess initial ignorance of paprika. I am one of those sad souls who’d used it only as a garnish for deviled eggs, thinking it added color and only a little bit of flavor. Then I learned about the spice’s strengths from two connoisseurs.

Carolyn Banfalvi, author of “Food Wine Budapest” (Little Bookroom, 2008), told me that Hungarians use tons of paprika in their cooking. They do it in “scoops rather than in the pinches,” she says.

Hungarian paprika comes from the areas of Szeged and Kalocsa, in the country’s southern part. It varies in color from deep reddish-brown to bright orange, in intensity from sweet to very hot, and in texture from finely ground to coarse, Banfalvi explained. Hungarians generally cook with sweet paprika, but they always keep a little container of hot paprika on the table so people can add their own heat.

Read more about paprika in my column here.

And then try this lovely recipe by Chef Jose Andres:


Smoked paprika flavors sofrito, a sauce that Andres says has launched a thousand recipes. The key to this one is the onion: It should be cooked enough to smell sweet. The sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. It’s adapted from Andres’ 2005 cookbook, “Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America.”
Catalan Tomato and Onion Sauce (Sofrito)

  • 10 ripe plum tomatoes or 5 large tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin oil
  • 4 small onions, chopped fine, or 2 large onions
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 2 to 3 bay leaves
  • Additional salt, to taste

Cut the tomatoes in half.

Place a grater over a large mixing bowl. Rub the cut side of the tomato into the grater until the flesh is grated. Discard skin. Strain the mixture. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the onions, sugar and salt. Cook uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onions are tender and light brown. (Add a tablespoon or two of water, as often as needed, to cook the onion evenly without burning.)

Add the reserved tomatoes, bay leaves and the paprika. Cook for 20 more minutes at medium heat. Add salt, to taste. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Makes about 2-1/2 cups.

GIVEAWAY —  The fantastic folks at Myspicesage.com have agreed to giveaway loads of paprika for  A Life of Spice readers. In fact, we will be giving away a collection of – Hungarian Paprika, Hot Hungarian Paprika, Smoked Spanish Paprika & Sweet Spanish Paprika to one lucky winner!

To win – leave a comment here AND tell your friends on FB or Twitter about this giveaway. Tell us why you like paprika and how you cook with it!

A winner will be picked on March 30th at 4:00 pm.

US and Canada only please.

The gorgeous photo of paprika was taken for this site by Some Rathore.

You may also like...


  1. Those were some interesting facts about paprika!!! I loved the recipe as well 🙂

  2. I just made goulash with Hungarian paprika and egg noodles for the first time the other day. Mmm. I’m going to try your recipe next.

  3. I use paprika quite a bit when I cook. I like to use it as substitute for cayenne or chili powder – often I’ll substitute 3/4 paprika and then use a smaller amount of the spicy stuff. That provides the pepper flavor without the heat. I do this in Indian cooking and Tex Mex cooking as well. I’m always running out, so I’d love to win!

  4. I cook with paprika often. Smoked paprika most of all. I can never have enough int he house.

  5. I use (Spicy) Smoked Spanish Paprika & Sweet Spanish Paprika…which in Spanish is called “Pimentón”. Here are some of the different dishes where I use this wonderful spice: Galician-style octopus, mashed potatoes with carrots, lentil soup, paella, fabada asturiana, braves potatoes (patatas bravas), and in fish (hake, cod or haddock) “pimentón” does its wonders. I’m getting hungry now, I’ll prepare “pisto” today for sure.

  6. I use paprika to make my curries more potent. I feel like the smoked hungarian adds a beautiful color and amazing flavor. can’t have enough!

  7. Paprika is a staple in my pantry. I use it on Filipino- Asian dishes with Spanish influence like Afritada, Menudo, Mechado, Cocido,Callos, Bacalao (cod fish), Paella or anything that is tomato-sauce based. My younger son, who enjoys cooking loves to sprinkle parika on deviled eggs or his favorite curry dish.

  8. I adore smoked paprika. It pairs with tomato so well. I can’t believe I was well into my 40s before I learned about it.

    Fun giveaway!

  9. I love that paprika is a staple in so many cultures!

    One of my favorite uses is rather simple – eggs baked in spinach, topped with a garlic-yogurt sauce, sprinkled with smoked paprika. It is delicious.

  10. I love paprika and will be needing a bunch of it when I make jambalaya this weekend in celebration of Mardi Gras! I would like to find some smoked paprika to use in my homemade vegan sausages to contribute to a real smoky flavor.

  11. Mmm! The sofrito, I’m thinking, would be delicious on grilled pork or chicken! Up to now, I used paprika like you said, something without much flavor to sprinkle on a dish to add color to the presentation. I’ll have to revise that thinking!

    Keep up the great work! I love your cookbook and your column. You frequently challenge me to explore new flavors in my cooking.

  12. Since finding MySpiceSage on the Internet I have fallen in love with spices, especially smoked paprika. Smoked paprika add such a delicious flavors to my dishes, homemade chili being one of them. I now have types of paprika I keep in my cupboard at all times. I too thought it was something just to “give deciles eggs some color”. But now I know so much more.

  13. I discovered paprika a couple of years back. Of course, its not easily available here, but I find the flavour very interesting. Like Soma’s picture.

  14. I like to use paprika along with other spices when I saute onions and peppers and other vegetables to go in the mix with pasta, or beans and rice.

  15. I love paprika and it’s only been a few years since I discovered smoked paprika and now love that, too! I actually used a mixture of both in a goulash-type recipe recently and loved the combo. Yes, that’s a great photo of paprika and your Sofrito sauce also looks and sounds divine. I’m definitely trying that soon! Thanks, Monica!


  16. I never got Hot Paprika, always thought it was more of the color than the heat. I do use them straight in the oil and love the nice smoky flavor. Thanks for all the info Monica and really appreciate the mention. Thank you.

  17. Growing up, my experience with paprika was as a relatively flavorless color-booster for things like deviled eggs. Now, as a vegetarian for over 20 years, I often add some pimentón to recipes that call for bacon. And I will be making that sofrito next week!
    (Following @mbhide and now @myspicesage on Twitter and tweeted: http://twitter.com/#!/saladgoddess/status/44209135524392960

  18. My favorite use for paprika is to whip up some chicken paprikash with leftover chicken, onions, and bell pepper. Pretty wonderful over some buttered egg noodles!

  19. i like to use a little of the paprika in a seafood soup with a tomato and saffron broth… squid, mussels, scallop, cockles,bass..i typically make an aioli to go with this(at times with a hint of paprika), and the seafood is cooked in its own natural broth and some sofrito. ohhhhh.

  20. I’ve definitely come to love paprika over the years! It’s amazing how many different varieties there are!

  21. After traveling to Hungary when I was a child, I realized what good paprika was like, as well. Unfortunately, good paprika is hard to find where I live. Some of the stuff in the store is flavored with artificial smoke flavoring, gross!

  22. I’ve been eating, am eating and will be eating paprika! thank you for interesting insights on this simple yet gourmet spice!

  23. Paprika has become my go to spice lately especially the smoked Spanish variety. I love the deep smoky flavor that it gives to food. My favorite pairing lately is roasted vegetables. So delicious!

  24. I love, love, love paprika. As a Puerto Rican, I use it a lot in my cooking. It just bumps up the flavor factor when used on just about everything from spanish rice, to stews, meats, chorizo, everything you can think of. I also like the fact that I can also use it for lots of other ethnic cuisines, i.e. Hungarian goulash, Indian etc. I just can’t live without it!!

  25. Sweet paprika and hot paprika are both great, but my absolute favorite is bittersweet smoked paprika, available online from spice stores including the Spanish Table. Just a pinch adds an elusive smokey, complex flavor to stews, soups, stir-fry. A little bit sprinkled on a hard-boiled or deviled egg is a revelation.

  26. I recently started using smoked parika and I am now a forever fan:) Next will be sweet parika!

  27. I use Paprika for colour 🙁 Another sad soul! But I have been happy with the results 🙂

    Soma, it’s a beautiful pic!

  28. I am a huge fan of smoked Spanish paprika. I also use Hungarian paprika, which is actually an important spice in several Polish dishes.

  29. I absolutely adore smoked spanish paprika. I think it may be one of my fav spices of all time.

  30. As a Hungarian, I must say that Hungarian paprika is the best!!! Nice article…I have Carolyn’s book and she is sharing the secret all good Hungarian cooks know–definitely scoops of paprika!! Chicken paprikas is a great dish that uses a good amount of paprika–I have trained many of my friends to make it and all ages seem to love it.

  31. I love smoked paprika! I put it in everything I can think of 🙂

  32. Great information as always. I love to cook with spices!!!

  33. laviza shariff (eclectic gourmet)

    gorgeous color…I am sure the flavor is terrific!
    nice giveaway!

  34. I am totally in love with paprika…will post this on my FB page!

  35. So happy you all chose to leave comments!!! The winner is Kerry Dexter!

    Kerry – Please email me asap so we can get you your paprika.

    My big thanks to myspicesage,com!!

    THANKS all.

    Tomorrow – we do cardamom!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.