How To Make Your Own Smoked Paprika At Home
Every time I stumble on a recipe that called for smoked paprika, I simply shrugged and used regular paprika instead. I didn’t know that the varieties made a lot of difference, so I never bothered to store some smoked paprika on hand. I've been doing this for years, unmindful of the huge difference that I would've noticed immediately if only I tried to gamble on it earlier.
But boy -- I was so wrong. Turns out smoked paprika is a lot different from the regular stuff. I looked it up and found out that it’s the Spanish relative to the more popularly used sweet Hungarian paprika. It’s made from dried pimiento peppers smoked over an oak fire, ground, then milled into fine powder.
Smoked paprika also goes by the name Spanish paprika, sweet paprika, smoked pimenton, or simply pimenton, but whatever you want to call it, it’s recognizable by its deep red hue and obviously, by it’s strong, smoky scent. You’ll sometimes find smoke paprika in stores, and while you’ll find labels indicating it’s a hot spice, it really isn’t. In fact, it’s quite sweet and mild.
The thing is, I constantly have a hard time finding smoked paprika locally, and getting authentically smoked paprika from Spain isn't always an available or easy option, so I decided to develop my own homemade smoked paprika recipe. You can use this on just about anything. I use it on beef, pork, and chicken dishes, but it’s also great on seafood, eggs, and soups as well.
What You Will Need to Make Homemade Smoked Paprika
If your goal is to replicate or duplicate the flavor of the originally smoked paprika called La Chinata, or other forms of high-quality smoked Pimenton de La Vera, the process can be a bit more rigorous.
First off, you’ll need the best peppers from Spain, particularly in La Vera and Murcia, the country’s primary pimenton-producing regions. Peppers from these regions are typically harvested around October.
To be able to nearly perfect the Spanish smoked paprika, you’ll need to produce power made from the peppers grown there, which are Jaranda and Bola for sweet smoked paprika or Pimenton Dulce; Jariza and Jeromin for hot smoked paprika or Pimenton Picante; and a blend of Picante and dulce if you want to make bittersweet smoked paprika or Pimenton Agridulce.
Note the even the Picante varieties are not as spicy as hot pepper flakes or cayenne. Pimenton Picante merely tastes warm and pleasant.
Regardless of your choice of pepper, the end product should have a slightly charred and smoky taste due to the process of drying the peppers by smoking oak wood. In Spain, they smoke paprika using Encina or holm oak. It’s a type of live oak that grows primarily in Spain and is used generally for roasting and smoking native dishes.
Step by Step Instructions for Making Homemade Smoked Paprika
Rinse and Prepare the Peppers
Make sure your peppers are clean! Wash and dry them before smoking them. Remember to only use fresh peppers and throw away rotten ones. Those won’t do you any good.
Wear gloves to remove the stems, ribs, and seeds. You can slice the thicker and larger peppers into thinner ones or into rings. Leave them whole if you prefer, but they will take much longer to dry. However, you can cut a slit in each whole pepper to make sure that the smoke can penetrate.
Remember that gloves are important when working with peppers. Their oils can burn your skin and it’s not like it will go away immediately. The pain can linger!
Smoke the Peppers
Make sure your smoker is ready for the peppers. Use the tongs to turn the peppers at least once a day until you see them gradually dry out. This will take days, sometimes even weeks, depending on the size of the peppers.
If you’re using an electric smoker, you can turn it off at night. If you’re using wood though, allow the fire to burn down at night.
The process of drying La Chinata is quite different. As mentioned, the peppers are harvested in October and from the field, they are moved to a smoking house that Spanish farmers often have in their own land.
The traditional way of drying the peppers is by smoking them using firewood from holm oak, which usually takes about 15 days to ensure that fruit is already dry.
Dry the Smoked Peppers
Smoked peppers will have a lovely aroma, but they are still pretty much wet and fleshy, which is not very ideal for storage. Use your baking parchment paper to dry the smoked peppers in the oven in the lowest possible setting. Turn them a couple of times until they are completely dry inside out.
As for the traditional process, the paprika is dried under the sun, which results to a more intense flavor and aroma, the signature for most Spanish cuisines, from salami and chorizo to paella.
To dry out the smoked peppers faster, smoke the peppers for only a day and complete the drying process by using a dehydrator. Transfer your peppers to your dehydrator trays and let the magic work by setting it at 125 degrees F for about 10 hours tops.
When they’re done, it’s now safe to store the peppers in tightly sealed containers and use them as needed.
Prep the Dried Peppers for Use
Always store your smoked and dried peppers in an airtight container. Only grind them once you’re ready to use them. Holding off the grinding process until use is a good way to preserve its smoky flavor. When stored, smoked peppers are generally OK for a few weeks, but to get the best taste, ground them at the time of use.
Store your sealed smoked paprika away from direct light and heat, such as a drawer or a closed cupboard, and always away from the oven. Smoked paprika doesn’t exactly go bad, but it loses potency in a period of six to eight months.
You can use smoked paprika in soft cheeses and cooked eggs, and it also goes well with white fish, pork, and chicken. You’ll also find it a natural match with tomato-based dishes and potatoes.
Heating will improve the flavor of paprika, but be careful because it easily burns. To avoid this from happening, always use low heat, add olive oil, and do not fry it for more than one minute.
- Powders derived from pepper are quite fine and may get into the air if the room you’re working on is not well-ventilated. Because of this tendency, wearing a mask and goggles may sometimes be needed to avoid getting the powder into your eyes or inhale them.
- For every pound of fresh chili peppers, it will produce about 4 ounces of dried pepper pods. Once ground, it should yield about 3/4 cup of pepper powder.
Since smoked paprika is not as hot as cayenne or Chile flakes, don’t be afraid to be generous. Expect a smoky, warm, and palatable heat when you mix it in your dishes. Hungarian recipes are known to have at least one tablespoon of smoked paprika to achieve their signature flavor.
So why does paprika have different levels of hotness? The answer lies on how the red powders are produced. The mild or sweet paprikas do not have the compound capsaicin, which is responsible for giving chilies their heat. The sweet variety of peppers are removed of the membranes and seeds once they’re produced, while on the spicy paprikas, the seeds and the capsaicin glands are left on the pepper when they are dried and formed into a powder.
When using smoked paprika, a pinch goes a long way with this spice and if you’re not used to it yet, the smokiness can be a bit overpowering. So you should always start off with a half teaspoon when experimenting with a new recipe or dish, and from there, work your way up.
What makes this spice highly-coveted is its smoky quality. Even a little bit makes your dish smokier and more palatable, and very aromatic too!
I hope that this step by step guide helps you concoct the best homemade smoked paprika you can ever make. While you can buy a ready-made product in local stores, the experience of making your own compares to none. Plus, you can save a ton of cash in the process as well.
There are many different dishes that smoked paprika can be a part of, so if you have ideas, feel free to comment them below. Or if you have your own way of preparing smoked paprika, share your process to us as well.
Inspire your friends to incorporate smoked paprika in their dishes by sharing this article, and tell us how it turned out. We’re always happy to hear from you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a difference between smoked paprika and regular paprika?
Yes, there is a difference between smoked, sweet, and hot paprika. All paprika is made from grinding dried peppers, but the type of pepper determines whether it is hot or sweet. Smoked paprika is a Spanish spice, as opposed to the Hungarian style of sweet paprika. The pimiento peppers are first smoked over oak before being ground into a fine powder.
Is smoked paprika healthy?
Since smoked paprika is a spice, it’s naturally free of fat and low in calories. It’s a great way to add flavor to your food without increasing fat, cholesterol, or carbohydrates. It’s also high in antioxidants and vitamins that work hard to keep you healthy.
What does smoked paprika taste like?
Unlike sweet paprika (which is slowly sun dried), paprika has an intensely smoky flavor. That gives it a rich, deep flavor that is hard to compare to sweet or hot paprika. Because of this, it’s really hard to substitute one of the other types of paprika for smoked paprika.
What peppers are used for paprika?
You can use any peppers you like when making smoked paprika. If you choose a mild pepper, like bell peppers, your smoked paprika will have a sweet backbone. Alternatively, if you choose a spicy pepper like a fresno, your paprika will be spicy. Keep in mind that you’ll want to choose a red colored pepper if you want your paprika to match the store-bought varieties.
How long does smoked paprika last?
Dried, whole paprika is good for a very long time. They’re good for two to three years, assuming you’ve completely dried out the peppers and they have no moisture content. Once the peppers are ground, their shelf life is much shorter. In about six months, they will start to lose their pungency.