If you’ve visited Spain before, you’ve probably heard about or tasted pimentón.
This is a spicy and smoky ingredient to use in food. Pimentón varies from other types of paprika because it has a special quality concerning how it’s made.
How is pimentón made? While most pimentón can be sun-dried, it’s usually smoked over an oak fire. This gives it a smoky flavor.
Different types of pimentón in Spain are categorized according to how hot they are. With that in mind, let’s explore this interesting spice and how to use it in your cooking.
Is Pimentón The Same As Paprika?
If you usually shop for paprika at the grocery store because you love it’s strong flavor, you might think that pimentón is the same thing. While they’re similar, pimentón varies from paprika because it’s smoked.
You can easily find paprika in the supermarkets, and this spice is machine-dried. It doesn’t have a sweet or smoky flavor that you get with pimentón.
There are also differences in the peppers used to make paprika and pimentón. In the U.S. the paprika you buy at the grocery store comes from red bell peppers. By comparison, pimentón that’s made in Spain will be made from local peppers which have different levels of heat and sweetness.
What makes pimentón special is that for over four centuries this spice has been made in the same way and its recipes have been handed down from one generation to the next.
Four Types Of Pimentón
There are four types of pimentón and they vary quite a bit from each other.
Pimentón dulce. This is a sweet kind of paprika that’s made from a mild type of pepper. Round red peppers are what make this light and mild paprika. It’s great for use in large quantities in stews or over guacamole.
Pimentón picante. This is hot paprika that’s spicy. It’s made from a variety of hot peppers that have been dried. Although this spicy pimentón adds a lovely kick to your food, it’s not unbearably spicy by any means.
Pimentón agridulce. This is a bittersweet paprika that isn’t too hot and it’s made from long, dark red peppers.
Pimentón de La Vera. This paprika is dried in smoke from a holm oak wood fire before it’s ground by stone. La Vera is a protected natural landscape in Spain and this paprika comes from there.
Where Is Pimentón Made?
Pimentón can be found in many areas of Spain, but pimentón that comes from La Vera has a special feature – it’s dried over wild oak. This is a process that’s been chosen to make pimentón because in this region peppers can’t be sun-dried as a result of the climate.
Sun-dried pimentón is more common in eastern parts of the country because of their dry and hot climate.
How Is Pimentón Made?
When the peppers have grown, they are harvested and left to dry on racks. When they’re dry, they are put over a wood fire that’s made with burning oak.
The peppers get smoked for 15 days, which allows them to slowly release their flavors and juicies, while also preserving their red color.
When all the liquid has been removed from the peppers in this way, the peppers are stone ground so that they become powdered to use as a spice.
Brief History Of How Pimentón Came About
By now you might be wondering how and when pimentón was first made.
Capsicum annuum peppers are used to make pimentón and these were discovered by Columbus when he travelled to the New World. When he located this fiery capsicum, he decided to call it pimiento, so that’s where the name pimentón comes from.
Columbus took peppers back to Spain where they started to be cultivated. The Hieronymite monks located in La Vera are known to be the first people in history to dry the peppers and make a powder with them, which they then used in food.
In 1555, when Emperor Charles V abdicated the Spanish throne before retiring to the Yuste monastery in La Vera, legend has it that he liked the spice so much he recommended it to his sister, who was Queen Mary of Hungary. That’s where it became paprika.
From its humble beginnings in the monastery, pimentón soon became popular as a regional specialty. It’s even been awarded with Denominación de Origen, which certifies its authenticity and quality. Only around 12 producers are allowed to call their spice pimentón de la Vera.
How Is Pimentón Used In Spanish Cooking?
Pimentón is a spice that’s integral to Spanish cuisine as a result of its smoky flavor. It complements famous Spanish dishes such as paella as well as meat-based dishes. It’s also got a red color that bolsters the appearance of dishes.
Pimentón features in popular Spanish tapas dishes, such as gambas al ajillo (shrimps in garlic) and patatas bravas (bravas potatoes) which makes use of paprika in its fiery sauce. It’s also commonly used in spicy sausage known as chorizo.
The Spanish also use this paprika in salads such as ensalada tropical (tropical salad) that combines fish, fruit, and cheese, and it has paprika on top as a garnish. In Spanish main courses, paprika is a popular ingredient.
Examples include fabada asturiana (asturian bean and sausage casserole), and huevos rellenos de atun (deviled eggs with tuna).
If you want to try pimentón in your cooking at home, you can start by cooking it with saffron in meat or potato dishes. Add it to a tomato sauce for a burst of flavor or simply sprinkle it over homemade chips before roasting them. You should also experiment with it by adding it to rice, potatoes, and stews.
The options are endless!
Spanish Pimentón Vs Hungarian Paprika: What Are The Differences?
Both Spanish pimentón and Hungarian paprika are spices that are made from capsicum peppers. These peppers come in a variety of types, such as sweet and hot chili peppers.
Spanish pimentón can be sweet, bittersweet with medium heat, or spicy. The intensity in the heat depends on the type of pepper that’s used to make the pimentón spice.
All types of Hungarian paprika contain a sweet, rich red pepper flavor but they also vary in heat and strength.
How these spices are made varies a bit. Pimentón is made by being dried slowly over about two weeks before being stemmed, seeded, and stone ground. This drying process is what makes the pimentón smoky in flavor.
To make Hungarian paprika, on the other hand, peppers are strung together and hung to air dry. Once they’ve been dried, they are also stemmed, seeded, and ground.
How Is Pimentón Different From Cayenne Pepper?
There are many differences between pimentón and cayenne. For starters, cayenne pepper is a very spicy chili whereas ground paprika and pimentón come in a variety of flavors and levels of heat. Since cayenne pepper is so hot, it’s a common ingredient in tabasco sauce!
Pimentón (and paprika) and cayenne pepper also vary when it comes to their textures. Paprika is ground into a fine powder, whereas cayenne pepper is coarser in texture.
Where can you buy pimentón?
You can usually find at least one variety of pimentón in supermarkets or grocery stores, but you can find more at Spanish delis or specialty stores. You should also search for pimentón online.
What are pimientos?
These are sweet cherry peppers which are some of the mildest peppers on the Scoville heat index scale. This is a tool used to measure the spiciness of hot peppers.
How hot is pimentón?
The spiciest pimentón, pimentón picante, scores 500SHU on the Scoville scale of heat, whereas jalapeños come in at 5000SHU. This means that pimentón is 10 times less spicy than jalapeños.
Is pimentón the perfect spice? It’s certainly a spice that you should add to your spice rack.
In this article, we’ve featured all the information you need to know about pimentón and why it’s such a valuable spice to add to your home cooking.
We’ve also given you ideas of how you can start using pimentón when whipping up tasty meals. Don’t be afraid to add it to stews, meat-based dishes like sausages, and any other food to which you want to give a smoky flavor.
Nicole Dowdy is an avid foodie and successful restaurateur. [He/she] has dedicated nearly all her life to learning popular recipes from across the globe as well as developing new ones. Using Food Migration, Nicole Dowdy shares the very best recipes for just about every home cook looking to try something new in the kitchen. Pro chefs can also learn a few tricks on the website.Looking to improve your kitchen? You will also find awesome and high-quality kitchen utensil recommendations as well as buying guides on this website.