Smoked Paprika

Pimenton de la Vera.jpg

Pimentón de la Vera is a paprika-like powder made of smoked and ground chili peppers, produced in Extremadura, one of the seventeen autonomous communities of Spain. Extremadura is in the South-West of Spain, close to Portugal, and it is in fact where the first chili peppers were introduced as they were brought back from the New World.

Pimentón is made from pimientos that are grown locally, and then slowly dried over an oakwood fire. The process lasts for ten to fifteen days, during which the peppers are constantly hand-turned, until they are completely dried and infused with smoke flavors. They are then transferred to a manufacture where the stem and seeds are discarded, and the flesh is ground to a super-fine, brick-red powder.

Initially made by monks from a Yuste monastery in the 16th century, pimentón progressively grew to become a regional specialty, and was awarded a Denominación de Origen to certify its quality and authenticity. It was the first chili pepper to be thus protected, just before the piment d’Espelette. About a dozen producers are currently allowed to call their chili powder Pimentón de la Vera, and their little tins are marked with a special numbered label.

I love anything that has smoky, woody and/or earthy accents, and I tend to get particularly excited about “magic” spices that will shake up any dish you put them in and lend it an unusual depth of flavor, without tasting too obvious if you use them with a light hand.

Pimentón comes in three kinds, depending on the variety of pepper from which it is ground: sweet (dulce), hot (picante) or bittersweet (agridulce). The best known use for it is in chorizo, that spicy Spanish sausage I love so much, but it works wonders in stews, soups, potatoes and rice. It can be successfully used as a rub for meat (chicken, veal or pork), and I find it particularly astounding with fish and shellfish — think red tuna or gambas.

I bought my Pimentón at Izraël here in Paris (30 rue François Miron in the 4th), but it can also be brought back from your next trip to Spain (oh yes) or ordered online — just make sure you choose one that benefits from the denomination of origin.

  • http://richardab.typepad.com/iheartnyc/ Richard AB

    I buy that exact brand here in NYC, it really adds a punch to a stew I make with beef, tomatoes and rioja wine. It’s sort of like the Spanish version of boeuf bourguignon.

  • http://tascadaelvira.blogspot.com/ Elvira

    In Portugal, the dried pepper paste is more appreciate than the powder. You have to try it. It is really tasty and delicious in the marinades.

  • http://www.winosandfoodies.typepad.com/ Barbara

    It’s available here in NZ at http://www.sabato.co.nz/

    I use both the “hot” and the “bittersweet” varieties.

  • http://www.inpraiseofsardines.com Brett

    Hi Clotilde, I too love to use this spice, especially on pork and fish (in Spain it’s always sprinkled on the octopus and potato dish, pulpo a la gallega). In the US, we can also get the same brand online from the Spanish Table.

  • Neil

    Clotilde, I have this available here in Memphis at Mantia’s International Market. I use it, among other things, in a barbeque rub that allows me to have that barbeque taste without having to smoke the meat will I cook it. By using either the sweet or hot or a mitxture of the two Pimeton de la Vera, I can control the end result of the barbeque.

    Keep up the the good work.

    Neil

  • Tejal

    When I first bought it, I used it in almost everything I cooked; it’s wonderful to see it profiled on your site. I buy it at Divertimenti, a great kitchen store on Marlyebone High Street, London.

  • lisa

    As a vegetarian, I use it to give a smoky flavor to my beans without having to use a ham hock. I find it very strong, though, and have learned that I enjoy it much more when I use it with a light hand.

  • http://www.edgargonzalez.com edgar gonzalez

    There is a recipe of a splendid chocolate soufle with pimenton agridulce which I think is forbidden by some religions (something so good can not be good)…. Unfortunately I moved from murcia and the guy who owned the restaurant never gave me the recipe….. :(

  • http://www.loneykitchen.blogspot.com hchie

    I have been using this pimenton for the past 5 years and it’s the best that I’ve tried. Simon Johnson in Sydney always has it. Great for making chorizo!

  • http://www.freshcatering.blogspot.com Rachael

    I felt like such a goof when I brought back three cans of that from Spain last summer only to see it on the shelves of my local market, Happily, I still had a thousand and one uses for it. What a sensational product.

  • http://18thcenturyreadingroom.blogspot.com Carrie

    Lisa — That’s an interesting idea, adding smoked spices to add subtle ham-flavor to dishes. I adore pimentón de la vera, but I find myself using it sparingly because sometimes it tastes a little too “hammish” for my vegetarian palate.
    What is it about smoked things that immediately make us think of pork, smoked or otherwise? Even lapsang souchong tea smells like bacon to me. (My non-veg bf says that’s crazy; it smells nothing like bacon.) The hot pimentón is to die for and excruciatingly spicy in a unique way!

  • http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com Kalyn

    I have a tin of this that I got at a little foodie market when I was visiting San Francisco. It’s fantastic. It’s great to get an online source from the comment above.

  • http://www.mantias.blogspot.com Alyce

    I LOVE this stuff! It makes me want to rub it behind my ears like perfume and go flirt with toreros and matadors! I mix it with olive oil, smushed garlic and oregano and rub it on pork loin, roast it and serve it with sherry aioli. Or saute shrimp in it. Yummm…

  • http://thehungryrose.blogspot.com Rose

    I know this has nothing to do with this post, but rather with your bagel post a few days ago. But i thought I’d mention this.

    The name of a FABULOUS bagel place in Paris is called “Bagels and Brownies” (or is it Brownies and Bagels? can’t remember) and it is right by Metro Saint Placide.

    Being a lifelong New Yorker (and therefore a bagel conisseur-who obviously can’t spell), some of the best bagels I’ve had are from that shop.

    That said, frozen H&H bagels are a fantastic substitute.

  • Heron

    Wow I just picked up a little cannister of the smoked paprika two months ago at the Italian Center in Edmonton (even though the product is Spanish and interestinly not Hungarian!).

    I use it sparingly on fish and generously in chile.

    Segway to Chipolte peppers in adobo sauce….Have you discovered the smoky seduction of this mexican product? Deep in flavour and full of mystery!

    Heron, otherwise known as Art.

  • http://www.4everykitchen.com Ruth

    It is truly a wonderful thing!!! I first heard about it on some cooking show and scoured every food shop I could find in Toronto where I live. Now I notice it everywhere.

    Great post about the essence and history of this truly fabulous powder.

  • Alexandra

    We sell that exact brand at my little French Bakery here in Vancouver, Canada! It is delicious used in everything from sandwiches to risottos to pizza toppings…

  • Sharon Gittleman

    Off the Topic

    I read the article linked below which reports the findings of a study by Jean-Claude Kaufmann about French families’ eating habits and was curious what you thought of his results.

    Kaufmann said “French housewives dream that cooking will bring them happiness and love” – but their families often ignore their efforts, prefering to watch TV while eating fast food.

    When he asked these same women, “what would be their greatest dream” they said “to give up cooking.”

    Does this ring true? Is it nonsense? What do you think

    http://www.iht.com/bin/print_ipub.php?file=/articles/2005/09/22/opinion/blume.php

  • http://www.winosandfoodies.typepad.com/ Barbara

    Interesting Sharon. I’ve been a houseguest of two French families and in both the husband did most of the cooking.

  • http://www.superfood.blog-city.com Richard Leader

    I love the stuff – I have a tin of the exact same brand on my kitchen shelf – bought here in London (Borough Market?).
    I love it dusted over parsnip soup…
    Or in pretty much anything else, to be honest.

  • maryse

    I just so happened to buy some smoked Paprika today myself, it’s by Santo Dominica, though, and it’s the bittersweet version. I am quite excited to try it out in some vegetarian dishes.

  • Aude

    I’m Spanish an at home we prepare hot toast with olive oil, pimentón and fleur de sel, just delicious, and with some gruyere on top and grilled it is marvelous!
    We also use it for baked potatoes or boiled fish… But always with fleur de sel!

  • alexis

    Hi, i just love your page, try the pimenton on rissoto, make a rissoto with red wine, add chorizo and season with pimenton picante, finish up with grated manchego and/or grated parmigiano :D

    bye!

  • http://www.robinoriginals.com/eats.html Robin

    I LOVE smokey Spanish paprika! I usually use

    http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/p-penzeysspanishpaprika.html

    Now I’m intrigued to know that there are 3 different levels, can’t wait to try them all!
    I “discovered” Spanish Paprika in certain dishes by accident… I was making my traditional “jewish” Brisket and was horrified late one night that I had run out of traditional Hungarian Paprika… I had a small jar of Spanish Paprika in my pantry so decided to try it. It was so incredibly good, that I’ve never looked back!
    Now I use it in Chili, too, along with ancho and chipotle chilis.

  • feedme

    Another U.S. source for Pimenton de la Vera is the Spice House in Milwaukee, WI and Evanston, IL – amazingly fresh spices, and it’s family owned too. I have been a devoted customer for over 10 years. Order online at:

  • Glenn Naumovitz

    Thank you thank you thank you for posting this. I love to cook but had never heard of pimenton until reading an article about it in the New York Times a few months ago. I live in Paris and since then have been going insane trying to find the stuff… until I had the idea of googling “pimenton Paris”. Izraël, of course! I should have thought of that. I used to go there a lot but forgot about the place. Now I know where to go for pimenton, which I’m sure I’ll love.

  • http://www.flickr.com/craigjenkins Craig

    Ruth – yes we’re lucky in Toronto – they have it in a number of shops at St. Lawrence Market, at all Alex Farm Cheese outlets, and at a small Spanish and Mediterranean catering / takeout shop on Mount Pleasant that is even named after it :)

    Feel free to search Pimenton on my site for pics, or their site at http://www.pimenton.ca

  • szilvim

    Hello,
    As being Hungarian I can assure all of you that there is no such a perfect thing than the lovely red colour of the Hungarian Paprika! It is worth to be worldfamous, I suggest you to try it!But always buy the original one “Made in Hungary” :D You can use it for everything and it exists in hot version also.
    An other important gastro guidance: the goulash sold anywhere else outside Hungary is NOT the real goulash: it is a SOUP, a dense, tasty soup made of beef, paprika, carotts and little tipical dumplings called “galuska”. If you would like to taste the real one, you have to come to Hungary! :)

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