Paprika is a spice powder made from varieties of capsicum native to South America but now grown in cooler climates including Hungary and Spain. There are six grades of Hungarian paprika and sometimes cayenne is added to give heat. The Spanish grade paprika – pimenton – as dolce (sweet), agridulce (semi-sweet) and picante (hot). The varieties of capsicums that paprika is made from vary in size and shape but all are ripened to give paprika its distinctive red colour. Confusingly, like allspice, paprika is sometimes called pimento (the Spanish for pepper).
Paprika is used in a wide variety of foods to add flavour and colour; if a red, reddish brown or orange coloured food is said to contain natural colour, it will probably be coloured with paprika. Paprika has a mild, slightly musty aroma; its taste can be mild to pungent with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Paprika is used in many foods from Indian to European; perhaps it is best known as an essential ingredient in Hungarian goulash and Spanish chorizo. Smoked paprika is also available to add a warm smokiness to recipes.
Paprika has few reported medicinal uses although it is a useful source of vitamin A. The colour of the capsicums used to make paprika comes from its beta-carotene content which our bodies convert into vitamin A.