Paprika (more commonly /pəˈpriːkə/, British English more commonly /ˈpæprɪkə/) 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 North America, in particular Central Mexico, where it has been cultivated for centuries. The peppers were subsequently introduced to the Old World, when paprika was later brought to Spain in the 16th century. The seasoning is used to add color to many types of dishes in diverse cuisines.
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.
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.
The red, orange or yellow color of paprika powder derives from its mix of carotenoids. Yellow-orange paprika colors derive primarily from α-carotene and β-carotene (provitamin A compounds), zeaxanthin, lutein and β-cryptoxanthin, whereas red colors derive from capsanthin and capsorubin. One study found that zeaxanthin concentrations in orange paprika were considerable. The same study found that lutein is much higher in orange paprika, compared to red or yellow.
In a typical serving size of one teaspoon (2 grams), paprika supplies 6 calories and is rich in vitamin A (21% of the Daily Value, DV), moderate in vitamin B6 (14% DV) and vitamin E (10% DV), and provides no other nutrients in significant content.