Why Smoked Paprika?

Basically, it's a smoked pepper that's been dried and ground. You can use it anywhere you would use paprika. It's very versatile and a terrific flavor booster. It is truly an indispensable spice.

First of all, it’s worth noting, though, that when it comes to spice levels, paprika (plain or smoked) will never give your dishes the same blow-your-socks-off heat as, for example, cayenne pepper or dried chili flakes. Instead, expect a warming but palatable heat with a smoky, more complex profile. Don’t be afraid to be generous. According to professional chef, Jamie Oliver, “Many recipes call for at least one tablespoon of smoked paprika to achieve sufficient depth of flavor.”

I asked some of our friends and neighbors who use this spice what their recommendations were. Got some interesting answers:

  • You can add a real smoky flavor to your meat without having to grill or smoke it.

  • Many people said they love using smoked paprika to add a bacon-like note to dishes that they’d like to keep meatless.

  • It's great for adding depth to sautéed greens, pot beans, and vegetarian soups and stews.

  • Or use it to boost the smoky flavor of chipotle chilies without adding more heat. Just don't use too much. It can get overwhelming.

  • It adds sparkle and punch with roasted anything (chicken, potatoes, tomatoes... also with things that make me think 'cook over fire' - like ribs, salmon, paella, etc.).

  • It’s great with eggs - especially in a Spanish tortilla!

  • It takes simple sautéed shrimp (in olive oil and lots of fresh garlic) to a whole new level. Try this with fresh crusty French bread for sopping. Scrumptious!

And now a little specific advice on sautéing with it: When using smoked paprika in dishes that involve sautéing, put some smoked paprika in the oil (along with other spices, if desired) while it heats up, before adding the ingredient(s) to be sautéed. It's a way to use the smokiness a little more subtly and to spread it out in a dish (rather than it just being noticed wherever the paprika happens to be sprinkled).

Lastly, a note on plain paprika: It’s difficult, when cooking with this, for much to go wrong, but there are a couple of points to consider:

  • Heating the spice will unlock its natural flavor, but be careful not to go overboard as paprika can easily burn – cook with a little olive oil gently over a low heat for no more than a minute

  • As paprika only comes dried, choose the freshest you can – stored in an airtight container, it should last around a year, but after this it will lose its aroma and may become chalky

And I’ll close with a suggestion and recipe from aforementioned famous chef, Jamie Oliver: “Be bold and try spiking a soft cheese with a layer of smoked paprika and heating until gooey; just add crusty bread for spreading or dipping, and you have an easy and instant crowd-pleaser!” Here’s his recipe and our thanks to him for sharing. Meanwhile, if you haven’t already tried smoked paprika, give it some thought. This really is an indispensible spice.


2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

½ cup shredded Swiss cheese

3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon smoked paprika, plus extra for sprinkling

1 loaf country-style or French bread, toasted or grilled, to serve

Preheat your oven to 350°F. With hand mixer, blend cheeses well; add paprika and mix until thoroughly combined.

Place the cheese on an ovenproof baking dish; bake for 15 minutes, until the cheese is very soft and gooey. Transfer it onto a plate and sift over a little extra paprika.

Serve the baked cheese immediately with the toasted or grilled bread on the side.

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    Alice Osborne
    DVO Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author! alice@dvo.com

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