paprika vs smoked paprika, paprika flavor, paprika seasoning

For a long time, I didn’t think paprika had a taste. I use it in my cooking, of course, but when I add paprika, it’s always alongside cumin and other flavorful spices. It took me a long time to figure out how to let the flavor of paprika really shine through.

red seasoning, pepper seasoning

Of course, this would have taken a lot less time if I had researched smoked paprika. The more flavorful smoked variety of this kitchen spice takes things to a whole new level. But what is it, what’s the difference between it and normal paprika, and when should you use both?

What Is Paprika, Anyway?

dried chilis, mexican dried chilis

Paprika is dried crushed chilis. That’s it. There’s no other ingredient. Some paprika comes from Hungarian chilis, some comes from Spanish chilis, and some come from generic chilis with no specified country of origin.

In order to get the most flavor from your paprika, be sure to use it within a few months of purchase. If it sits in your cupboard for years, all of the flavor compounds will decay and leave you with flavorless orange powder. You’re still free to use it, of course, but it won’t taste like much.

crushed chilis, chili seasoning

So What’s Smoked Paprika?

Smoked paprika comes from peppers that have been smoked before they were crushed. This leads to the inclusion of a powerful smoky flavor.

Oak is often used, although woods will vary by manufacturer. Smoked paprika has a very strong flavor, to the point where it’s sometimes used instead of liquid smoke in barbecue dishes.

Can I Substitute Smoked Paprika for Regular Paprika? What About Vice Versa?

There are two answers to this question. The first is that it’s your kitchen, you can do whatever you want. The second is that smoked paprika has a very distinct and powerful flavor. If your dish didn’t call for a strong smoky flavor originally, it might be a bit weird for you to suddenly add (or remove) it.dried peppers, sun dried peppers

In other words, substituting smoked paprika for regular paprika (or vice versa) should be a well thought out decision. It shouldn’t depend on what’s handy in your cupboard. If you want your meal to have a strong, smoky flavor, ignore what the recipe calls for and use the smoked variety.

If you’ve prepared a dish before that calls for smoked paprika and you didn’t particularly like the smoky taste, substitute regular paprika for a more mild dish. As long as you spend a bit of time considering your options, you’ll do perfectly fine.

Is Smoked Paprika Spicier Than Regular Paprika?

Most varieties of store-bought paprika aren’t particularly spicy. Spicy paprika does exist, however. Both kinds of paprika can pack quite a lot of heat depending on which chilis were used in their manufacture.

If you smoke a hot pepper, it’ll stay pretty hot!

If you want a spicy paprika, your best bet is to look online. The stuff you’ll find in local stores is almost always pretty mild.

Using Smoked Paprika instead of Liquid Smoke

types of dried peppers, how to use dried peppers

If you’re into barbecue and you want to up the smoke-factor in your dishes, consider using smoked paprika as a dry rub on your favorite meats. It’s pretty strong so you definitely shouldn’t go overboard.

Instead, rub on a thin layer along with some salt and freshly ground black pepper before you cook your meat. If this doesn’t deliver quite enough smoky goodness, you can always sprinkle on more afterward.

Smoked Paprika vs Regular Paprika: Which Should I Use?

red spice, mexican red spice

Both smoked paprika and regular paprika are made from crushed and dried chilis, but smoked paprika utilizes chilis that have been smoked with natural woods before they were crushed. This gives it a strong smoky flavor that’s perfect for some savory dishes but very out of place in others.

If you want your dish to taste smoky, you’ll definitely want to choose smoked paprika. If you think a smoky flavor would be odd in your cheddar biscuits or savory baked good, you’ll want to stick to regular paprika.

Both spices have plenty of uses in the kitchen and can really add a bit of flavor (and color) to your favorite dishes.


Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

1 Comment

  1. Darrell Foust Reply

    Great post!
    I like spicy, very spicy. Smoked paprika is the only non-spicy spice I owned. Some of the recipes I use, call for it. You mentioned looking online if you want spicy smoked ‘paprika’. There’s a company that sells ‘smoked ghost powder’. It really packs a punch. I use it in place of the smoked paprika. Same strong smoke flavor, ghost pepper heat and sprinkles like paprika.
    Gives a whole new meaning to ‘deviled eggs’, if you bite in one of THOSE! ?

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