Smoked Paprika Is the Solution to Your Quarantine Cooking Fatigue

The Spice Adds Big Flavor to Just About Everything

Top view of delicious octopus with potato,olive oil and smoked paprika on table

Stocksy / Martí Sans

Most kitchen cabinets contain paprika, but have you considered adding the smoked variation (also known as pimentón) to your spice collection? The aromatic red powder undergoes an extra finishing step—getting dried and smoked over oak coals—and comes in sweet, mild, and hot to please varying palates. Its versatility expands beyond traditional recipes beyond chorizo and paella, giving meats and vegetables a smokiness that tastes like they have been cooked on an outdoor grill.

"Not only is it an essential component in rubs, stews, grilling, barbecuing, braising, and sauces, it's a great finishing spice that can be sprinkled on literally anything where you want a sweet and smoky zing, and pairs really well with oils and butter," explains Meherwan Irani, executive chef and owner of Indian street-food restaurant Chai Pani and founder of Spicewalla. He even revives frozen naan by getting it hot, spreading butter or ghee on top, and sprinkling it with some smoked paprika.

Chefs utilize smoked paprika in unexpected ways to make cooking at home extra appetizing. Irani prepares a flavoring oil by heating safflower or grapeseed oil to about 275 F, then steeping fresh ginger, garlic, black pepper, coriander seeds, black peppercorns, a whole red chili, pinch of salt, and smoked paprika. Once the garlic and ginger look like they're starting to brown, he allows it to cool, then strain and store in a mason jar. "It's a brilliant drizzle over hummus, soft cheeses, roast salmon, steaks, any kind of mezze," he says.

Smoked paprika is another one of Irani's go to when roasting potatoes. Simply toss the spuds in salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic powder, rosemary, and smoked paprika, then roast in the oven on a sheet pan. He also likes to mix smoked paprika with mayonnaise of choice to add smokey zing to sandwiches, burgers, and tuna salads.

Plant-based Charity Morgan raves about her favorite spice as well. She fell in love with smoked paprika after smelling it for the first time and often substitutes it in recipes that call for regular paprika. She also uses it in a nontraditional dish: potato salad.

Private chef Jumoke Jackson (also known as Mr. Foodtastic) owns a catering and event planning firm in Washington, D.C. He recommends adding 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika to hot honey butter for even more flavor. Chef Marc Vidal of Boqueria, a tapas bar and restaurant in New York City, makes a smoked paprika vinaigrette that he folds into cooked lentils or beans, drizzles over scrambled eggs and uses as a pork shoulder marinade.

Smoked paprika is available in local grocery stores and specialty shops. Some online retailers such as SpicewallaLa Tienda, and Cost Plus World Market sell it in tin cans, the best option for maintaining freshness. The condiment is reasonably priced and worth every penny. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way, so start with a small amount of smoked paprika and store the rest in a cool, dark place.

If you're new to smoked paprika, there are plenty of ways to introduce the spice to your cooking. Put this crockpot chicken and vegetable dinner on in the morning and leave it until dinnertime. The one-pot meal will be a guaranteed hit with the entire family. Another option is this no fuss baked chicken. It cooks in about 50 minutes and adds a little pizzazz. These delicious sweet and smoky Carolina pork ribs also cook in the oven and their goodness comes from the easy smoked paprika-flecked sauce. The marinade is the star in this grilled cedar plank salmon, helping produce a moist, savory fish, while the spices in this red lentil soup highlight the earthiness of the vegetables (swap the chicken broth with water for a vegetarian alternative). Lastly, smoked paprika provides color to this quick and simple sweet potato dip. Break out the pita chips, turn on Netflix, and enjoy your night in.