Smoked paprika is one of those secret ingredients that, once you’re familiar with the taste, can bring magic to a wide variety of simple and complex recipes.
It’s equally delicious sprinkled over your fried potatoes and scrambled eggs for breakfast as it is rubbed into a roast chicken or mixed into your signature chili.
Not all paprika is made equal and smoked paprika is even more delicate. As a premium spice, it can be extremely expensive and difficult to find. You’ll want to be sure you’ve found the right stuff.
So what is the best smoked paprika? The best smoked paprika should have its characteristic smokey aroma which should be strong when you open the container, a rich red color, and a full-bodied flavor.
To save you some of the trouble, we’ve taken the time to source 7 of the best smoked paprika brands you can buy.
We’ve outlined all their best and worst features so that you can choose the right spice for you, whether you’re more interested in budget or organic, sweet or hot, or even just the uniqueness that a fresh brand can bring to an age-old, traditional product.
So read on, and let’s get cooking!
What is Smoked Paprika?
Smoked paprika is made from pimiento peppers, primarily of Spanish origin. The peppers are smoked whole, dried, and ground into a fine powder.
Most producers will remove the seeds and stems after the peppers are dried, though some leave them for added heat and flavor.
Smoked paprika, though made from peppers, is not a hot spice unless specifically labeled as such. It’s mild and occasionally even a little bit sweet.
There are two signature features of any great smoked paprika: the heavenly smokey aroma and the delicious full-bodied flavor.
Since smoked paprika is made from peppers that are primarily grown in Spain, it’s not surprising that it’s very commonly used in Spanish cuisine.
Chorizo sausage and paella wouldn’t be the same without this smokey spice, but it’s also perfect for stews, as a dry rub for meat, or even simple egg dishes.
Best Smoked Paprika You Can Buy
Smoked paprika is generally known for adding a smokey depth of flavor to dishes. It should be a deep rich color and very aromatic when you open the container. Some brands bring a bit more heat than others and a few add a touch of sweetness.
Here are some of our top picks:
|1.||The Spice Lab Smoked Spanish Paprika||Gourmet, non-GMO|
|2.||McCormick Gourmet Smoked Paprika||Organic|
|3.||Unpretentious Baker Smoked Paprika||No added ingredients|
|4.||Chiquilin Smoked Paprika||Gourmet Spanish paprika|
|5.||Chili-Trade Hungarian Paprika||Sweet paprika|
|6.||Gustus Vitae Smoked Spanish Paprika||Artisanal, sustainable|
|7.||Badia Smoked Paprika||Budget buy|
No matter what your flavor profile preferences are, you’ll find the right paprika for your spice cupboard somewhere on our list of the 7 best smoked paprika you can buy.
1. The Spice Lab Smoked Spanish Paprika
The Spice Lab is a woman-owned family operated business that focuses on sourcing and packaging only the most premium of ingredients for their spices, salts, teas, and other gourmet gifts.
They’re known as a premium brand that delivers on quality and, we have to admit, they do, but at a price. If you’re looking for just the right, mild, and smoky flavor and are willing to pay a premium for the best quality ingredients, The Spice Lab is ready for you.
- 1.8 ounces in a high-quality French glass jar
- Made from imported premium American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) Spanish paprika, packaged in the USA
- Adds a very slight heat as well as the depth of smokey flavor to be expected in smoked paprika
Biggest Drawback: The Spice Lab has both sweet paprika and smoked paprika and their packaging between the two is very similar, so it’s easy to accidentally order the wrong variety. When you’re putting this into your cart, double and triple-check you have the smoked paprika you’re looking for.
2. McCormick Gourmet Smoked Paprika
McCormick is the leading brand when it comes to anything spice-related, and smoked paprika is no exception.
This particular spice is a premium product to start with, but McCormick has a top-quality organic option that is intensely flavored. Somehow they’ve managed to keep it competitive in pricing, if you’re looking at a premium spice level.
If you’d prefer budget-friendly to organic, they do also have a larger quantity container for their standard, non-smoked McCormick Paprika.
- 1.62 oz glass jar
- Made from organic whole sweet peppers, slow-smoked and dried before being deseeded and de-stemmed and ground into a fine, consistent powder
- Contains silicon dioxide to keep the powder fresh and free-flowing
Biggest Drawback: For an organic, premium quality spice, McCormick is generally competitively priced. But when you consider the average spice in your cabinet, the price tag attached to this small bottle may seem extravagant. The flavor is beyond compare, however.
3. Unpretentious Baker Smoked Paprika
Unpretentious Baker is not a very well known brand, but their smoked paprika is certainly unpretentious in its simplicity. Using smoked paprika as the only ingredient, this option is highly prized for its lack of preservatives or fillers.
Many companies use ingredients like silicon dioxide to keep their paprika free-flowing, but this causes concerns with some of the more health-conscious, so this smoked paprika wins the hearts and palettes of those discerning cooks.
- 9 oz container provides great value
- Sourced directly from Spain and made in the USA
- Contains no preservatives, additives, fillers, or artificial colors
Biggest Drawback: As sometimes happens with spices, especially in larger containers, there is a bit of mixed messaging with the labeling of this product. The container itself is 16 oz, but it accommodates only 9 ounces of smoked paprika by weight. This discrepancy is frustrating for consumers who expect a larger volume of spice.
4. Chiquilin Smoked Paprika
Chiquilin is a brand devoted entirely to spices, with paprika being their leading focus.
They carefully curate a range of 5 varieties in addition to their traditional smoked paprika, including sweet, hot, bittersweet, sweet smoked, and hot smoked. If you want to buy your spice from a company that lives and breathes for paprika, this is the option for you.
- 2-pack of 2.64 oz tins, great for reliable long-term storage
- Made from Spanish peppers smoked over oak logs for full, rich, and signature flavor and aroma
- The very tightly sealing lid will keep your paprika fresh and full of flavor
Biggest Drawback: This paprika is directly imported from Spain and it doesn’t come with an ingredients list, which is always a sensitive topic. In the sales material, the only item listed is smoked paprika, so despite the minor lack in clarity, it’s likely there are no other additives.
5. Chili-Trade Hungarian Paprika
Most smoked paprika is Spanish paprika. Hungarian paprika is known to be sweeter, and if you enjoy a little sweet in your savory, this Hungarian paprika will elevate every dish you sprinkle it on.
You have many options to choose from, including hot, sweet, hot and smoked, and sweet and smoked or you can get a sample pack and try all four.
- Packaged in lovely 100-gram textile bags
- No additives or preservatives
- The peppers are harvested by hand from Kalocsa, the paprika capital of Hungary
Biggest Drawback: If you’re used to Spanish smoked paprika, which is more common, you will be surprised by the sweetness of this Hungarian smoked paprika, whether you buy the sweet and smoked variety or not. Hungarian peppers are simply sweeter than Spanish peppers and it’s not to everyone’s tastes.
6. Gustus Vitae Smoked Spanish Paprika
Gustus Vitae brings artisanal craft quality to the spice scene with this smoked Spanish paprika.
Not only is every batch produced in small quantities to ensure quality control and sustainability, but the brand has leveled up the packaging by storing the spice in reusable magnetic tins that will not only protect the quality of your paprika but will also stick to any metal surface, making storage and display fun and easy.
- 1.6 ounces of premium paprika packaged in 4 ounce magnetic tins
- Sustainably sourced and crafted in small batches for precise quality control
- Non-GMO project verified
Biggest Drawback: The magnetic tins are unique and interesting, but they arrive very, very tightly sealed. They can be difficult to open and, if you’re not careful, you can spill your spice trying to open the can.
7. Badia Smoked Paprika
Smoked paprika is typically a slightly premium product because of the extra effort that is involved in smoking the peppers before grinding them.
It’s such a delicious and addictive spice that it’s really useful to find a large container, helping to offset the premium cost with a bit of a bulk purchase. Badia delivers on this aspect with the baking of a well-know, reliable brand history.
- 16 oz container for great quantity value
- No preservatives or any other listed ingredients
- Made from the entire pepper, dried and ground whole
Biggest Drawback: The biggest drawback with this option is that, if you happen to be one of the few who don’t fall immediately in love with the flavor, you will have a lot of smoked paprika to discard or gift to a friend or family member.
Spanish Paprika Vs Smoked Paprika?
Spanish paprika is another name for smoked paprika. It’s also sometimes called pimiento, named after the type of Spanish pepper that is smoked to create the spice.
While there is no true difference between Spanish paprika and smoked paprika, you can find the spice at different heat levels, usually in mild, medium, or hot.
The vast majority of smoked paprika is mild in terms of heat, with the smokiness being the key feature. Unless the brand your purchasing specifically states “hot” on the package, assume it won’t be.
There are also different types of paprika that aren’t usually smoked. Hungarian paprika, for example, it more widely known to be sweet but can also be quite hot, depending on the type of paprika you purchase.
Just as Spanish paprika can be interchanged with smoked paprika, Hungarian paprika can be interchanged with either hot or sweet paprika, though each packaged should be labeled accordingly.
If you see paprika listed with no qualifiers, it is likely sweet paprika, often made from sweet red bell peppers.
Can You Substitute Smoked Paprika For Regular Paprika?
You can substitute smoked paprika for paprika, but the flavor profile will naturally change.
Good smoked paprika is very smokey in both fragrance and flavor, whereas standard paprika is mild in flavor and leans toward sweet. They’re made form different types of peppers and prepared in entirely different ways.
A more suitable substitution for paprika is actually chili powder.
Is Smoked Paprika Spicy?
No, unless the package specifically states that it is a hot and smokey variety, smoked paprika is not spicy.
It’s made from pimiento peppers which are closer to bell peppers than hot peppers. The most obvious quality that stands out when you used smoked paprika is the smokiness.
Of course, there are some blends out there that add heat to their paprika either by using the seeds or a different type of pepper, but it will always be stated on the package because it is not the norm.
Can You Make Smoked Paprika?
Traditional smoked paprika is made by smoking Spanish pimiento peppers over a hardwood fire, usually oak, drying the smoked peppers, and then finally grinding and milling until a very fine powder is achieved.
If you can’t find a reliable supply of smoked paprika, you’re going to find it even more difficult to find a reliable supply of pimiento peppers, unless you happen to live in Spain. Of course, if you can find the peppers and you have a smoker, you can make your own.
If you want to simply find a reasonable substitute for smoked paprika, you can blend a few more common and less expensive spices together to come up with a similar flavor profile.
The closest single ingredient substitution you can try is chipotle pepper powder, which is made from smoked chipotle chilies. You’ll get a similar smokiness but with an added dose of heat because chipotles are naturally hotter than pimiento peppers.
If you’d prefer to avoid or tame down the heat, a combination of chili powder and regular paprika, along with some cumin or liquid smoke will bring you somewhere close.
This creation will depend heavily on your personal preferences, so you’ll want to do some experimentation and there’s likely to be a bit of trial and error.
What Are the Most Popular Smoked Paprika Recipes?
Smoked paprika is used heavily in Spanish cuisine, so you’ll find it called for in recipes like paella, roasted meat, really rich and saucy stews, and anything that you can spread some luscious Romanesco sauce over.
Mexican cuisine is very similar, in many ways, to Spanish cuisine, so you’ll also find smoked paprika in dishes like tacos, chili, quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas, and more.
The rest of the world has welcomed this exotic and memorable spice, so recipes as simple as scrambled eggs, creamy pasta sauces, and a wide variety of soups or simmer sauces also use smoked paprika to enhance the flavor. It works perfectly as a marinade for meat and even vegetables as well.
Up Next: 7 Best Spice Sets