It may be a surprise to some that paprika, one of the most common spices in the kitchen cabinet, comes from hot peppers. But is paprika spicy? The answer: It depends. It’s a little more complex than you may think. Sure a lot of paprika starts with a mild chili, the pimento, but this is a spice that can come in a lot of different varieties, each with its own level of heat to it.
Table of Contents
- How hot is normal store-bought paprika?
- How hot is Hungarian paprika?
- How hot is Spanish paprika?
- Which paprika should you choose?
- Must-read related posts
How hot is normal store-bought paprika?
No better place to start than what you typically find. If you’re at the store and you come across plain paprika in your spice aisle, chances are it’ll carry a pretty mild heat. This type typically has a mild chili base (like pimento powder, as mentioned). It may sometimes be cut with a spicier chili, like cayenne pepper, but more often than not regular paprika won’t top 100 to 500 Scoville heat units (SHU). That’s at the very least four times milder than a jalapeño.
How hot is Hungarian paprika?
This is where it can get a little tricky. Paprika is a staple of Hungarian cuisine, and Hungarian paprika can be as complex as the food it spices. There’s a range to Hungarian paprika, like the Scoville scale itself. The most common you’ll find in the United States is Hungarian sweet paprika, which has a mild pungency to it. You’ll also find Hungarian hot paprika. It can range to near cayenne pepper levels of heat, or four times hotter than a jalapeño.
Here’s the Hungarian paprika scale, ranging in heat from mild to hot:
- Különleges (sweet and mild)
- Csípősmentes csemege
- Csemege paprika
- Csípős csemege
- Édesnemes (the typical U.S. Hungarian Sweet Paprika, still sweet with very mild heat)
- Erős (hottest, most pungent)
How hot is Spanish paprika?
To add more complexity to paprika the spice, Spanish paprika also comes in various levels of heat. It’s not as complex as its Hungarian counterpart, but you’ll still find paprika in mild form (dulce), medium (agridulce), and hot (picante). And then there’s the smoked variety as well, that often comes in mild (just labeled “smoked paprika”) or hot (typically labelled with “hot” on the the packaging.) So your heat experience will vary from variety to variety.
–> Learn More: We compare Hungarian and Spanish Paprika
This set features dulce (mild), picante (hot), and smoked paprika -- the three most common Spanish paprikas you'll use. As a set, they'll cover a lot of ground in your spice rack.
Which paprika should you choose?
That really depends on the recipe, the need, and your heat tolerance. It’s good to have a general paprika or a Hungarian sweet paprika as a staple in the spice cupboard. They are the most all-purpose. But if you’re looking to bring some authentic flavor to your Hungarian or Spanish dishes (or you simply like your spices on the hotter side) then you may want to pick up a more pungent paprika variety. No matter what, this is a spice no kitchen should be without!
Must-read related posts
- Smoked Vs. Sweet: See how these two versions of paprika are the same and different.
- Six Delicious Smoked Paprika Uses: Learn how to use this delicious earthy, smoky variety in fun ways in the kitchen!
- Paprika Vs. Chili Powder: We compare the spice and the seasoning blend so you can see what makes each tick.