Hungarian Paprika Pepper


Hungarian Paprika pepper is the most popular recipe in the Hungarian cuisine. It is a powder ground from sweet red peppers and belongs to the group of spices which are called “hot”. Hungarian paprika, sometimes also called “Mexican paprika,” is a must for a Hungarian kitchen, it’s made of capsicum peppers. In fact, the peppers are an essential ingredient in many Hungarian dishes as well as a garnishing spice.

Hungarian Paprika: The Essential Red Spice

If there is one ingredient that Hungary is undeniably associated with, it is, of course, paprika. Though peppers were not introduced to Hungary until the 16th century, the spice symbolizes Hungarian cuisine and is an essential component of some of the best-known Hungarian dishes, including gulyáspörkölt (stew), lecsó, chicken paprikás, and halászlé (fisherman’s soup). Paprika gives these dishes their brilliant orange color, and the intense peppery flavor and aroma so characteristic of Hungarian cuisine. “There is something about paprika itself that makes it synonymous with ‘Hungarian.’ ‘Fiery,’ ‘spicy,’ ‘temperamental’—all these adjectives suggest both paprika and the national character,” writes George Lang in The Cuisine of Hungary. “Paprika is to the Hungarian cuisine as wit is to its conversation—not just a superficial garnish, but an integral element, a very special and unique flavor instantly recognizable.”

Paprika is a spice powder made from drying and then grinding the pods of several different types of Capsicum annuum peppers (and in Hungarian the word paprika, confusingly, also refers to the peppers themselves). Most commercial paprika comes from southern Hungary, particularly around the towns of Szeged and Kalocsa, and it comes in a range of sweetness/heat levels and coarseness. Visiting one of these paprika manufacturers during processing time will leave you smelling of paprika long after you have left the place.

Though there are four different official grades of Hungarian paprika, most cooks do not pay attention to these grades. Rather, they look for a fresh paprika from a trusted producer, with a strong peppery aroma and an intense color. The best paprika is intensely colored, from deep reddish brown to bright orange. If you are buying homemade paprika at the market (which usually is sold in half-kilogram unlabeled plastic bags), it will simply be édes (sweet) or csipős (hot). But elsewhere you may encounter különleges (“special”), the most finely ground, brightest red paprika, which can be sweet or mild; csemege (“gourmet”), a light red, slightly coarse paprika, which can be hot or mild; édesnemes (“noble”), a light red, coarser paprika; and rózsa (“rose”), a dark red, medium-coarse paprika, which tends to be very hot.

Paprika is an everyday ingredient in the Hungarian kitchen and it is used in abundance, though in a thoroughly different way than it is typically used in the US. In Hungary, nearly all dishes are prepared with sweet paprika. If there’s a single Hungarian cooking technique that summarizes Hungarian cooking, it is that adding paprika (and not just a pinch, rather several heaping tablespoons) to diced onions which have been slowly sautéing in hot fat until they are clear (but never browned), will produce the most definitive Hungarian flavor, adding depth and complexity. “Somewhere along the line the Hungarians hit on the holy trinity of lard, onion and pure ground paprika,” writes Lang. To best bring out the full flavor in paprika, it must be added to the hot fat (in generous amounts) and heated very briefly (to prevent the bitterness that occurs when it burns) before adding the rest of the ingredients. This cooking method is the first step to countless Hungarian dishes.

A little bowl or shaker of paprika sits next to the salt and pepper on any proper Hungarian dining table … in case you need an extra dose. Sprinkling paprika on a cold dish will add little depth, but it is also essential to a few cold dishes. For example, paprika is sprinkled on top of thick slices of bread smeared with lard and red onions (called zsíros kenyér), on top of cold foie gras (liba maj), or devilled eggs (kaszinótojás). It is also the defining ingredient in körözött (Liptauer), the dip made from curd cheese, onions and caraway seeds. In fact, in Hungary, paprika can be added to just about anything … which explains why when you buy a half-kilogram bag of paprika you don’t have to think twice about how to use it.

Hungarian Paprika: All About It

Hungarian Paprika is one of the most popular spices in the world, made from ground dried red peppers, known for its spicy heat as well as a fiery flavor and crimson color that makes any food that it is added to so much more appealing. Learn more about it.Hungarian Paprika

It is possible to define what the classic cuisine of a particular region tastes like in a few words. Reading words like ‘herbs, cheese, and carbs’ would immediately make you think about some classic Italian dishes. When you think of Indian food, your mind wanders over to the expansive world of spices.

But when it comes to defining Hungarian cuisine, you may find yourself at a loss for words. That is because it is a combination of a thousand different types of flavors. You will find traditional Hungarian dishes that are extremely simple and fresh, while others are laden with aromatics and spice for flavor and color.

Here, our focus is going to be on the latter kind of traditional Hungarian food.

What Is Hungarian Paprika?

Hungarian Paprika originates from the region that is its namesake – Hungary. Paprika is one of the most popular spices across the world. It is known for its red hot, spicy heat level as well as a fiery flavor and red color that makes any food that it is added to so much more appealing.

However, many people do not know that there are many different types of paprika. In fact, you may have been using a different kind every time and never have been any wiser.

All the varieties of paprika pepper have a different heat level as well as flavor profile. One of the most rich and complex of the varieties belongs to the famed Hungarian Paprika. It is made with dried sweet peppers that are ground up and sifted to give a very fine, bright red or pale orange powder.

Is Hungarian Paprika Spicy?

The heat level of Hungarian Paprika depends on the kind you get. Certain types of Hungarian Paprika can go up to 10k SV on the Scoville scale but sweeter varieties are also available.

How To Use Hungarian Paprika?

The most classic use of Hungarian Paprika is in a very famous, traditional Hungarian dish which is goulash. Another popular use of Sweet Hungarian Paprika is in Chicken Paprikash. But the uses do not end there. You can add it to almost anything for a little bit of spice, a whole lot of flavor, and a burst of stunning color.

Sprinkle it over devilled eggs to add color and flavor, use it to season your chicken and veggies, or add it to your rice and curries for a gorgeous hue. It can also be added to salsas, sauces, soups, and stews for a beautiful, bright color like that of a paella.

Certain smokier kinds of Hungarian Paprika are preferred for dry rubs for delicious barbecues and meat dishes for adding a smoky flavor. It is also classically added to special Spanish sausages called chorizos.

Where To Buy Hungarian Paprika?

When you set out to search for Hungarian Paprika, you will discover an interesting tidbit – there are about eight to nine different kinds of Hungarian Paprika in and of itself. Each of these types has a different color, flavor profile, and heat level.

You will find everything from a mild, aromatic paprika that adds a unique, sweet flavor, to a deep, red hot one that will truly smoke your senses. These varieties are best appreciated in Hungary based stores or specialty stores that feature Hungarian spices and groceries.

You can also find Hungarian Paprika in online stores with ease. Most commonly, you will find something known as edesnemes which is a typically bright red form of Hungarian Paprika.

It has a very pungent peppery flavor that is mildly spicy and provides a very unique sweetness that tastes wonderful in most foods and dishes, especially if you are planning on indulging in some homemade Hungarian cuisine. This is also labelled as Sweet Hungarian Paprika in some locations and brands.

What Is A Substitute For Hungarian Paprika?

If you are unable to find Hungarian Paprika in your local area or online, one of the best substitutes for Hungarian Paprika would be cayenne pepper. We would recommend using a lesser quantity of cayenne, however, as the former tends to be hotter than the latter.

Other substitutes include chili powder and red chili flakes. If you are trying to emulate the flavor of Sweet Hungarian Paprika, add a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweet flavor.

What Is The Difference Between Hungarian Paprika And Regular Paprika?

If you are just a casual chef, you may find yourself confused at the term ‘Hungarian Paprika’. Is that just a fancy name for regular paprika? Has paprika always originated from Hungary? Or are you missing some information?

Here are the facts: regular paprika and Hungarian Paprika are not the same thing. The concept of paprika is a spice mixture that has some level of heat as it is made from dried and crushed up peppers. Depending on what kind of peppers are used in the process, the heat level and flavor profile of each kind of paprika varies.

While it may seem confusing at first, it is a blessing for chefs as it gives them a lot of room to experiment and diversify the taste of their dishes.

You have hot paprikas that are fiery and add amazing levels of heat. On the other hand, you also have sweet paprikas that are relatively mild and give a sweet and sour kind of flavor to the food.

Regular paprika is more of the latter kind. It tends to be mild in regards to the spiciness and has a relatively subtle flavor as well. It does, however, have a very bright and eye catching crimson color that is perfect for garnishing and adding color to any dish. Authentic Hungarian style Paprika, as we have already discussed, is deeper and more complex and tends to go all out in terms of spice in the more intense varieties.

Hungarian Paprika

History, Facts & Recipes

Learn about the history, types, and production of Hungarian paprika. You’ll also find some authentic Hungarian dishes prepared the famous red spice.

Paprika Facts

  • Paprika powder is produced by grinding the dried, deep red paprika pods of the pepper plant (Capsicum annum L. is the botanical name).
  • Although paprika is the symbol of Hungary’s cuisine, the plant was brought to the country by the Turks only in the 16-17th centuries.
  • Its pungency ranges from sweet to mildly hot and very hot, depending of the type of pepper the powder was produced.
  • The colour of the spices varies from mild to bright red and there are paprika powder types with brownish colour too.

that not the brightest red paprika is the hottest! The orange coloured one will make you really cry.The hotness is caused by capsaicin, a chemical that is extracted from paprika plants to use in pharmaceutical production due to its pan killer effect.The fresh red pepper is rich in vitamin C (150mg/100g paprika) and other important minerals. Albert Szent-Györgyi, Hungarian scientist was awarded the Noble prize in 1937 for discovering vitamin C, its antiscorbutic and other physiological effects.He and his colleagues worked at the laboratory of the Szeged University. Szent-Györgyi and his colleagues experimented with the paprika plant and they extracted vitamin C first in the world form the vegetable.Would you think that even pálinka (distillate) is made from paprika?

hungarian_cooking_course_chefparade05TIP: Learn to Cook Hungarian Dishes

If you want to learn how to make authentic local dishes and find out more about the local gastronomy, attend a Hungarian Cooking Course held in a modern cooking school in Budapest’s center.

English-speaking young chefs will help you prepare a typical Hungarian menu that you can eat at the end of the course.

History of Hungarian Paprika

The Turks introduced the pepper plant to Hungary during their rule in the 16th-17th centuries. At first it was regarded and used as an ordinary plant and decorated the gardens.

Shepherds and herdsmen who had more contact with the invaders started spice their meals with the fiery powder.

Then paprika got to the kitchens of the peasants. Aristocrats found the peasant foods flavoured with the red spice very tasty and slowly they started to use it too.

By the 19th century paprika became a dominant spice in Hungarian kitchens and restaurants.



Due to the favourable climate, and geographical conditions Hungarian paprika has a bright red colour and a distinctive rich flavour that allowed Hungary to became one of the leading producers in the world.

Kalocsa and Szeged in the southern part of Hungary are the heart of production in Hungary.

These regions have the highest amount of sunny hours a year, and the plants need lots of sunshine to get ripe and sweet.

Ripe peppers are harvested in September.

Kalocsa, Szeged and the neighboring villages are adorned with bright red, threaded paprika strings, hung from the fences and porches.

Farmers used to hung the strings in a rainproof area and let them desiccate by the sunshine then dried them in earthenware ovens.

Today the fresh peppers are dried artificially in ovens.

The dried pods were crushed by foot then ground into a fine powder using a mortar and a pestle.

Water mills and later steam-powered mills replaced the manual kulu towards the end of he 19th century. During the first decades of paprika production the pungency of the powder couldn’t be controlled.

The pepper’s veins and seeds that contain the capsaicin responsible for its pungency were manually removed from the dried, crushed pods prior to grinding.

Not only the process was lengthy, but some capsaicin always remained in the pods which made it impossible to predict the hotness of the powder.


In the mid 1800-ies the Pálfy brothers from Szeged invented an efficient way to remove the veins and seeds thus enabling mass-market production of sweet paprika that has always had a larger market than the hot types.

Ferenc Horváth and Jenő Obermayer form Kalocsa developed the first non-pungent pepper variety in the world through cross-breeding.

This pepper type is sweet and there’s no need to remove the veins and seeds.

Today automatic machines do everything from sorting, washing, grinding to packaging.

Many farmers make paprika powder at home to this day, especially in the villages in the Great Plain.

Types of Hungarian paprika

In the shops you can find 8 brands of the spice varying in colour and pungency:

  • Special quality (Különleges) – this is the mildest of all and has the most vibrant red colour
  • Delicate (csípősmentes csemege)-mild with rich flavour,
  • Exquisite delicate (csemege) –slightly more pungent than the Delicate,
  • Pungent Exquisite delicate (csípős csemege), even more pungent
  • Noble sweet (édesnemes) – the most common type, slightly pungent with bright red colour,
  • Half-sweet (félédes) – a medium-pungent
  • Rose (rózsa) – light red colour, mildly pungent
  • Hot (erős) – the hottest of all paprikas, light brown-orange colour

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