Despite its misleading name, sweet paprika, of which Hungarian paprika is one variety, isn't sugary or sweet at all. Instead, it's called sweet paprika to distinguish it from other types of paprika that are spicy. The end zing, or lack thereof, depends on what type of peppers were used to make the spice. Some paprika is made from red bell peppers, while other paprika is made from chili peppers. If you don't have sweet paprika on hand, you can use any number of substitutes, many of which will yield flavorful results.
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Swap Paprika for Paprika
Not all paprika tastes the same, but that doesn't mean that you can't use one that's different than what's called for in your recipe. For example, you can used spicy paprika in place of sweet, but the final product will have much more of a kick. Smoked paprika will impart a different flavor, too.
Mix Up the Peppers
Paprika is made from bell or chili peppers that have been finely ground two or more times without the veins and seeds, according to Katherine K. Schlosser, author of "The Herb Society of America's Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs." Because of that, you can swap sweet paprika for another pepper-based spice, such as cayenne or chili powder. Like using other types of paprika, these spices will lend your recipe a different flavor than you would get from the sweet paprika.
Opt for an Entirely Different Spice
If you don't have any paprika in the house, you can use any number of alternate spices, as long as you realize that the flavor of the final product won't taste the same as it would with the sweet paprika. Use nutmeg, cinnamon or cloves instead of paprika in a deviled egg or potato salad recipe. Replace the paprika in chili with mace, mustard, garlic powder or cumin, or use ground ginger or black pepper instead of paprika in your favorite fried rice recipe.
Make the Switch
Experiment with different types of paprika in the recipes you usually include the spice in. if you're worried about using spicy paprika in place of the sweet paprika, you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that a spicy paprika creates a tasty end result. A different kind of paprika in cold dishes, such as deviled eggs, won't have much of a difference, however, since cooking is what brings out the flavor of the paprika, according to Schlosser.