Hungarian paprika? In the beginning, Hungarians did not use paprika as a spice, but more like ornamentals. Ever since the 16th century, this plant existed in Hungary, but mostly as decoration in the castles of nobles.
Back then paprika had a completely different name, although historians are not completely sure what that was, or how it managed to reach Hungary in the first place. By analysing various sources, one could conclude that paprika arrived from the East, Turkey to be precise since some of the older names for paprika are related to the Ottoman Empire. Other historians regularly name Portugal as the true origin of paprika. After the Turkish closed many of the essential trade routes, Hungary was looking for new a spice that could replace pepper, which led to a rapidly growing demand for paprika from the West.
Since the beginning of the 18th century, paprika has become much more popular. Not only it was able to give a nice flavor to meals, but paprika was also much cheaper than pepper, so it became a popular spice for both the rich and the poor.
The first written sources about paprika appeared in 18th-century cookbooks.
However, they were not only using it for spicing meals but also for medical purposes thanks to its health benefits.
Nowadays paprika is a widely popular spice in many regions, and it’s used for many different recipes.
Facts about Hungarian Paprika
In non-English languages paprika also refers to the plant which is used to produce the spice itself. Its Latin name is Capsicum annuum which mainly refers to its hotness. Hungarian paprika powder is made by harvesting and drying the plant, but the taste can be quite different depending on the region that produces it. Despite its relatively short history, Hungarian paprika has become widely famous in many countries across the world.
It is available in many different versions with varying colors and hotness: the brighter the color, the hotter paprika usually is. The main reason why paprika can cause a burning sensation in the mouth is a chemical called capsaicin that can be extracted from the plant. However, hotness is not the only characteristics of capsaicin: thanks to its inflammatory and painkiller effect, it can be found in many different medications. This means that eating paprika has excellent health benefits as well. Fresh Hungarian paprika has a high amount of Vitamin C so eating it on the regular can help you stay healthy and energized.
Recipes – Cooking with Hungarian Paprika
Paprika is used in many traditional Hungarian recipes, both as a powder and plant. It’s one of the essential spices in such famous Hungarian dishes like the chicken paprikash or the goulash. Genuine Hungarian paprika is perfect for giving meals a nice red color, however, its taste is just as important.
Not only that, authentic Hungarian paprika is used to produce many of the traditional Hungarian food products such as the Piros Arany, Erős Pista, Haragos Pista and Édes Anna, which are all paprika pastes with varying degrees of hotness. They are widely used for sandwiches, soups or grilled meats. It is important to mention that paprika is also an essential spice in many of the sausages and salamis that are produced in Hungary.
Thanks to its special climate, Hungary became one of the biggest producers of paprika: so much so that nowadays paprika is widely known as a Hungarian symbolic heritage. The plant is usually harvested in September, then processed in various ways depending on the product. When it comes to the growing and production of paprika, there are two cities we absolutely need to mention: Szeged and Kalocsa. Both produce a huge amount if paprika every day and some of them are used in all parts of the world.
Types of Hungarian Paprika
There are many paprika varieties depending on the spiciness you are looking for, but all of them has a uniquely rich and sweet flavor.
There are eight different types of Hungarian paprika: különleges (which stands for “special” in Hungary) has a mild taste and bright red color. Then comes csemege, which is available in both hot and mild variations. Édesnemes is one of the most popular types of Hungarian paprika, also available in many parts of the world. It has a certain pungent smell and a sweet taste, and it is a perfect choice for most dishes that require paprika.
Félédes paprika is a semi-sweet variant, perfect for people who prefer a mild hotness and don’t want to go overboard with it.
Rózsa (rose) has a pale red and yellow color, which makes it ideal for giving meals a nice unique color. Naturally, Hungarian paprika also has a hot variety called erős which gives dishes a bit more kick. Outside of Hungary, édes paprika (sweet) is usually the most popular variant.
Frequently asked questions
How long does Hungarian paprika last?
Depending on the type and quality, the amount of time you can store Hungarian paprika can vary. Most types can be stored from six to twelve months in dark, cold and dry places. You can most likely use paprika even after a year, but keep in mind that it might lose some of its rich flavor and character, which will naturally affect your dishes as well. In general, it is advised to go with the expiry date given by the original producer of the paprika and use it all up before it officially expires.
How to make Hungarian paprika?
If you don’t want to buy paprika from the stores or you just want to try your hands and making your own paprika, there is an easy but long way to do that. It is not a particularly difficult process, but it definitely takes some time. When making your own paprika powder, it is essential that you choose thin-walled paprika for the drying process. Using paprika with thick walls can cause them to rot during the drying process.
Drying is the main reason why making your paprika takes a long time: you need to store your plants in a dry and dark place for a few months before you can ground the dried paprika into powder. If you try to do this in a space with high humidity, mold will most likely ruin your paprika. The dry and hot Hungarian summer is perfect for drying paprika, which is followed by the grounding process. You will only need a tool for drying which you can buy in specialized stores or online shops.
How to use Hungarian Paprika?
The possibilities are endless when it comes to using Hungarian paprika. Not only you can use it as a spice, but it also is perfect for making various sauces and pastes too, which you can eat alongside your favorite grilled meats, sandwiches or soups. Paprika also plays an essential part in giving various salamis and sausages their amazing flavor.
Last but not least, paprika is a widely used spice in many of the traditional dishes in Hungary such as chicken paprikash, stew or goulash. Nowadays paprika is used in whole new ways as well. It is possible to produce oil from the seed of the pepper, which is ideal for salads or marinades. Thanks to its high levels of antioxidants, pepper seed oil has an inflammatory effect and many health benefits too.
What is the best Hungarian paprika?
In general, you could say that the best Hungarian paprika comes from two cities, namely Szeged and Kalocsa. These two cities are responsible for producing most of Hungary’s national spice. Naturally, depending on the type of Hungarian paprika, its quality can also vary. When it comes to paprika produced in Kalocsa, the type with the highest grade is called “Kalocsa Aranya” which is available in both sweet and hot varieties. Paprika powders in Szeged have three different grades, in which the first grade has the highest quality.
What is special about Hungarian paprika?
The unique and favorable climate made Hungarian paprika so delicious that it was able to become popular in the whole world. Not too hot but has a nice sweet taste, authentic Hungarian paprika gives one-of-a-kind flavor to many dishes. It doesn’t have a smokey flavor like Spanish paprika, and it’s milder than chili. Hungarian paprika is perfect for those who prefer a mild taste with a rich character. Alongside its unique flavor, Hungarian paprika has many health benefits too. It can be used for reducing inflammation and improving eyesight.
What do you use Hungarian paprika for?
Hungarian paprika is mainly used for two reasons: spicing foods and giving them a nice color. Depending on your goals, you should go for different paprika types. If you want something truly unique in both taste and color, the variant called különleges (special) is a perfect choice.
Thanks to its yellow-brownish color, rózsa (rose) can give dishes a nice bright color. Édesnemes or simply just édes paprika can generally be used for almost everything that requires paprika. Paprika powder is also perfect for using it as a decoration: it can make any boring looking food more interesting in seconds.
You can use it for decorating sandwiches, potato salads or deviled eggs. Outside of gastronomy, paprika is heavily used for its health benefits. Extracted from pepper, capsaicin has inflammatory effects, while the plant itself has high amounts of Vitamin C. It’s a good idea to regularly eat pepper of paprika products, especially during the winter.