Paprika is one of those spices found in almost every kitchen, because it adds subtle flavours and vivid colour to so many dishes. It’s made by grinding up the dried red fruits of sweet bell peppers; specifically, “tomato peppers”.

Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll discover three distinct types of paprika, each suited to different types of dishes. Herbal practitioners credit the spice with several health benefits, too. Here’s what would-be paprika aficionados need to know:

3 Varieties To Try

Most store-bought paprika is sweet paprika. It provides an earthy sweet-pepper flavour without the bite of its relative, the chilli pepper. It’s made from the same mild peppers first brought back by Spaniards from the New World in the 1500s.

Cultivation spread rapidly through Europe, and the Turks introduced the plant to Hungary. Hungarians take their paprika seriously; it’s the national spice, and a vital ingredient of goulash. Hungary now divides paprika, selectively cultivated for centuries to produce diverse strains, into eight different grades. Some have a capsaicin content to rival their chilli cousins, and they are used to make hot paprika.

Smoked paprika, which substitutes sun-drying for smoking the peppers over oak fires before they are ground, was invented in Spain. Now a technique used worldwide, it produces paprika with a smoky sweetness. If hot Hungarian peppers are used, cooks can get the best of both worlds: smoked hot paprika powder.

Cooking Ideas With Paprika

Commercial paprika is almost always sweet paprika, so investigate health food stores, speciality spice shops or local artisanal producers if you want hot or smoked paprika. You can cheat in recipes calling for hot paprika by adding some cayenne pepper to sweet paprika, but there is no substitute that mimics smoked paprika flavours.

If you do hunt down hot paprika, smoked paprika, or smoked hot paprika, make sure to try them on devilled eggs, mixed into hummus, or in a buttermilk marinade for fried chicken, both of which are great for snacking on when playing online Bingo NZ. They add complex, spicy flavours to the milder base.

All three types of paprika are excellent additions to meatballs, spice rubs for meat, and seasonings for popcorn, mixed nuts or corn on the cob. If you want flavour without heat, you can replace chilli powder in many recipes with smoked sweet paprika.

Paprika burns easily, so never dry-roast or fry it with other spices in a pan. Use it in dishes with plenty of moisture, and add it towards the end of cooking, or it can turn bitter.

Paprika And Your Health

Paprika contains Vitamins A, E and B6; it’s also a source of iron. It’s rich in antioxidants, which are known to fight free-radical damage; paprika’s arsenal includes beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and capsanthin.

Health benefits attributed to the spice include lower cholesterol, anti-inflammatory properties that treat arthritis, nerve damage or gastrointestinal problems, boosted iron levels to fight anaemia, improved vision and blood-sugar stability, and reduced risk of cancer.

Take note, however, none of these claims are tested, accepted medical science. Paprika is undeniably a tasty, healthy spice, but it is not a proven medication. You should always consult a registered health practitioner for expert advice on treating specific medical conditions.

Anna Jones
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