Paprika is a spice that didn’t have a presence in my mom’s South Indian kitchen, however paprika fits right into the Indian spice tin, as if it has always belonged there. Paprika is most well known in Hungarian and Spanish cuisines (instead of black pepper, Hungarian tables are home to salt and paprika shakers), and yet it is a seamless accompaniment to ginger, turmeric, garlic, cumin, coriander, and any number of Indian spices. It adds incredible color and flavor to curry, and in my life, to hot sauces. As with many spices, you can release the aroma and flavor of paprika even further by sautéing it in hot oil, but careful not to burn it.
Paprika is ground from the dried fruit of different varieties of the capsicum plant. I have four types of paprika in my spice drawer, and I use them all frequently: Sweet Hungarian, Sweet Spanish Smoked, Hot Hungarian, and Hot Smoked. Each of these is incredibly approachable, and you won’t have any trouble using them in everyday dishes. While warming a bottled tomato sauce on the stove, heighten the sauce by mixing in Spanish or Hot smoked paprika. Mix Hot Hungarian into your scrambled eggs. Quickly toast Sweet Hungarian paprika and whisk into an olive oil and sherry vinegar salad dressing. The options are endless.