Hungarian Paprika: Flavor Profile
Sweet Hungarian paprika might look like regular paprika, but its taste couldn’t be more different. Revered for its fruity pepper flavor, Hungarian paprika is utilized in numerous Eastern European dishes. It gives goulash – the national dish of Hungary – its famous smoky, sweet and rustic flavor, and it’s popular in potato salads, chicken paprikash and as a vibrant garnish.
Hungary produces several variations, ranging from noble sweet (mild) to strong (the hottest). Our sweet Hungarian paprika is graded noble sweet, a pungent, sweet paprika with a vibrant deep red color. Noble sweet paprika also has notes of oaky smoke and red bell pepper.
Cooking with Hungarian Paprika
Paprika is a versatile spice, and that explains, in part, it’s popularity. One of the Top 5 spices in the world, paprika can be used in a variety of dishes. It’s especially common in Hungarian and Eastern European cooking, although the Hungarians prefer it to be sweet and mild in flavor. Some common uses include:
- Sauces – Paprika is found is a lot of red sauces, including BBQ sauce, ketchup and cocktail sauce. Not only does the spice add plenty of vibrant red color, it also gives off notes of sweetness, perfect for molasses-y or sweeter sauces.
- Rubs and Blends – Paprika gives a smoky, pepper taste in rubs and blends and it pairs particularly well with beef and pork.
- Garnish – Hungarian paprika makes a vibrant, colorful garnish. Of course, you’ve seen it on deviled eggs, but it’s also great on cheese or for a splash of color on roasted meats.
- Hearty Stews – Goulash wouldn’t be goulash without Hungarian paprika. Yet, the spice lends itself nicely to many long-simmering chilis and stews.
- Sausage and Meats – A popular spice in sausage, Hungarian paprika gives plenty of sweet smokiness, which enhances the flavor and fats of beef, pork and lamb.
Hungarian Paprika: History
Although its synonymous with Hungarian cuisine, the peppers used to make paprika are from Mexico. In fact, paprika is a relatively new introduction into the spice world, originating in the 16th century. (Black pepper, for example, has been in use since at least 2500 B.C.)
The peppers are believed to have traveled to the Old World via Christopher Columbus. They first appeared in Spain in the 16th century and were then distributed to Asia and North Africa. The Spanish were the first to produce a spice using the sweet red peppers, which they called pimenton, and it was commonly used in cuisine from the autonomous Extremadura region of Spain.
The pepper was introduced in Buda (which is now part of Budapest) in the early 1500s. Yet, the spice wasn’t widely used in the country until the 19th century. In the 1800s, Hungarian paprika was much spicier, but in the 1920s, a Hungarian grower found sweet pepper varieties that he propagated throughout the country. By the 1930s, many sweet paprika varieties were available, and that’s the paprika we know today.
In Hungary, you can find many different grades of paprika. Yet, the most commonly exported variety is Noble Sweet, which has mild, sweet pepper flavor. Today, paprika is the world’s fourth most used spice, and it is found in many spice blends including Baharat.
Cultivation and Production
Paprika is made from the fruit of Capsicum annuum plants, which includes many varieties of peppers including bell peppers, jalapenos and New Mexico chili peppers. Hungarian paprika is most commonly made from sweet red peppers.
To produce the spice, the pods of the peppers are dried and ground. Yet, Hungarian paprika adds in several steps. The peppers are sorted by sweetness or spiciness. Spicier peppers are used for the “strong” paprika, while “noble sweet” paprika use sweet red peppers.
The peppers are smoked using oak, which gives the spice its distinctive rustic flavor. Once smoked, the peppers are then ground and blended. Ultimately, the color of the spice depends on the peppers used to make it.
For example, noble sweet paprika has a vibrant red color, while the hotter varieties tend to be reddish brown.
About Our Hungarian Paprika
We source our Hungarian paprika from… you guessed it, Hungary! Due to its geographic location, which pushes the limits of pepper production, Hungary produces mostly early-to-bloom varieties. Banana peppers, for example, are grown there in abundance, and a sweeter version is what’s commonly used to make paprika.
Our paprika comes from the country’s southern regions near Szeged, a city with a long pepper growing history.