Image adapted from Stacy Spensley, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Smoked paprika has a unique flavor: woodsy, smoky, and earthy. Think of the mellow smokiness of chipotle peppers/powder, but without the spicy heat. It’s a great spice to have on hand for everyday recipes, and needn’t be reserved for the once-a-year paella (though it is indeed fabulous in paella!). Here are 6 tasty ideas for cooking with smoked paprika.

  1. Add to your summer kale salad. One of my go-to summer lunches right now is a shredded kale salad with simple lemon-olive oil dressing and a soft-boiled egg. For the dressing, simply whisk together two parts olive oil and one part fresh lemon juice, and add a few healthy dashes of smoked paprika (and chipotle chili powder, if you really like the heat!). Season to taste and add to shredded kale; mix well with hands to fully incorporate dressing and soften the greens. Top with a soft-boiled or fried egg and enjoy.
  2. Roll soft cheese into smoked paprika. The tangy, sweet flavors of a soft cheese like chevre are a nice contrast to the earthiness of smoked paprika. Roll a goat cheese log or chevre rounds into a plate dusted with smoked paprika, along with cracked pepper and a teensy bit of finely crushed sea salt. Serve over crackers and with sliced dark fruits of choice (try figs and dates!).
  3. Kick up your summer BBQ sauce. Whether you’re making BBQ sauce from scratch or just pouring the sweet stuff from a bottle, stirring in a pinch or two of smoked paprika will bring out the bold, caramelized flavors of the sauce. Serve your newfangled sauce with grilled meats, seafood, or burgers.
  4. Dust it over your bowl of popcorn. Popcorn just begs to be tossed in all sorts of savory and creative spices, and smoked paprika is no exception. Mix with sea salt, grated Parmesan, and melted butter and pour over freshly popped popcorn, or try with brown sugar and cinnamon for an interesting sweet-savory combo.
  5. Add to a pot of baked beans. Smoked paprika brings out the earthy, meaty flavors of dishes, and it brings out the “meaty” side of beans just as bacon or pork does. Add a few pinches of smoked paprika to your pot of baked beans for a wonderfully smoky effect—whether or not you’re actually using bacon in the recipe.
  6. Use it as the “secret ingredient” in chocolate desserts. Chocolate lends itself deliciously to all sorts of spices, from the typical cinnamon to the unexpected chili pepper. Try adding a few pinches of smoked paprika to your next chocolate dessert for a sweet smoky element no one will be able to guess. Especially good in chocolate fondues, chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, or chocolate bark.

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Image adapted from Stacy Spensley, Flickr, CC BY 2.0