It can be easy to confuse paprika with chili powder, especially if you are in the habit of grabbing and opening spice jars based on the color of the contents instead of what is on the labels. They both have a similar deep red color and may even have a similar smell depending on which types you are using. There are a few differences along with those similarities. Below is a look at how they compare to each other.
How does paprika differ from chili powder?
Paprika consists of ground red pepper, which is sometimes smoked. Paprika may consist of one type of pepper or it may be blended, but the only ingredient will be the pepper. Most quality paprika is made and used in one of two places: Spain or Hungary. Both Spanish and Hungarian paprika can be hot or sweet. Typically, Hungarian paprika has a more intense red pepper flavor when compared to Spanish paprika but smoked paprika comes from Spain.
The Spanish smoked paprika is yet another flavorful version of the spice. The hot versions of both Hungarian and Spanish paprika will provide a similar heat to the heat from cayenne pepper, the smoked version can add a strong smoke flavor to your food that is similar to the taste of liquid smoke. The type of paprika that most Americans know is sweet and mild-tasting.
While it is possible to find chili powder that only contains one type of chili pepper and nothing else, those are different from chili powder seasoning. The chili powder found in most US grocery stores is a spice blend that was invented to make it easier for American cooks to find and use the spices used in chili con carne. Chili powder typically consists of powdered ancho peppers along with a selection of other spices including cumin and garlic.
As a result of the fact that it contains multiple spices, the flavor of chili powder is typically more complex when compared to that of plain paprika. It may also be hotter since ancho chilies have more heat than the milder peppers used to make paprika. It is important to note that some chili powder blends will include paprika along with powdered ancho peppers.
If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?
The mild, sweet paprika that American cooks sprinkle over potato salad or deviled eggs is not a suitable substitute for chili powder on its own. It is not complex or flavorful enough. You will need to mix it with other spices to get an effective chili powder substitute. A hotter Spanish paprika may be a closer match, but will still not be ideal. See good alternative here.
Chili powder can be used in place of paprika as long as you are mindful of the added spices and their impact on the flavor of your dish. It may not be an effective paprika substitute in milder flavored dishes, but may work in a dry rub where pungent spices can beneficial. If you need an alternative to paprika, take a look at these.
When should you use paprika and when should you use chili powder?
Paprika an excellent all-purpose seasoning. Its mild flavors and bright color fit in a range of dishes that include soups, stews, and rice dishes. It is traditionally used to flavor sausages, pastas, and eggs.
Chili powder was invented to flavor chili, which means that this is arguably the best use for it; however, it contains a versatile set of spices that can be used in many different savory dishes. You can add some to your barbecue sauce or use it in place of taco seasoning.