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  • The Chopping Blog

Pep Up your Cooking with Smoked Paprika

Posted by Ron on May 30, 2014

A student recently asked me whether smoked paprika was actually smoked with wood. I was fairly certain that it was, and decided to explore this subject for my first blog for The Chopping Block.

Paprika is part of the group of sweet peppers that originated in the New World brought to Spain by Columbus after visiting the Caribbean/Americas. There were also no potatoes, tomatoes, many squashes, sweet potatoes, and many other vegetables and fruits in Europe, but that is a blog for another day.

Paprika is made from a wide variety of peppers called Capsicum Annuum. They have a wide range of heat expressions from very mild to moderately hot. Capsanthin is the active ingredient of these peppers which gives paprika its bright red color and falls in the carotenoid category. Carotenoids are known to be a great source of antioxidants and provide benefits for your eye and heart health.

In Hungary, paprika is considered the national spice and it is found in many of their dishes, especially goulash. In Spain, paprika is found in many of its individual regions and each takes great pride in its individuality. For example in Murcia, their particular paprika is made from a small, round pepper that has a deep and exquisite flavor. After harvesting, they are sun-dried and hand ground.

The region of Extremadura is home to Spain's most famous version of paprika, the pimenton de la Vera which is the source for what many consider the finest smoked paprika. That particular pepper was the first to be awarded a coveted “domination of origin” status. Harvested by hand and smoked over oak for up to two weeks, they are turned every 24 hours so that their smoke flavor is developed evenly. After these peppers are smoked, they are then divided into three different categories: sweet, bittersweet, and hot and go through an extreme milling process that pulverizes the smoked peppers which can take up to 9 hours to complete. The town of La Chinata is known for its superior version of smoke paprika and over 200 tons are produced yearly.

Experiment with smoked paprika in this aioli that goes great with grilled meats, chicken or crab cakes. It's also a great sandwich spread.

Spicy Smoked Paprika Aioli

aioliMakes approximately 1 cup

1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

1 ½ teaspoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons of very hot water

In a bowl, combine the paprika and tomato paste with a wire whisk, then add the hot water and combine until smooth. Allow to cool and set aside as you prepare the aioli.

4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 large egg yolks

½ of a lemon, juiced

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup of canola oil or of another type of mild flavored oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Stir together the garlic, egg yolks, and lemon juice and combine well. In a very slow, steady stream, whisk in the oil. It should have the consistency of mayonnaise. It can be made by hand, in a blender, or a food processor. Fold in the smoked paprika mixture and serve.

Bon Appetit!


  • Bremzen, Anya Von. "Chapters Tapas, Pages 44-5 and Soup, Page 84." The New Spanish Table. New York: Workman Pub., 2005.
  • Green, Aliza. "Pages 225-6." Field Guide to Herbs & Spices. Philadelphia: Quirk, 2006.

Topics: smoked paprika, aioli, pepper, Spain, goulash, Columbus, smoky paprika

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