Paprika is made from various kinds of Capsicum annuum peppers that are dried and ground into a powder, a process that can vary. Used for flavor and color, paprika is the fourth most consumed spice in the world and is used in spice mixes, marinades, stews, chilis and as a garnish. Depending on the variety of pepper and how it is processed, the color can range from bright red to brown, and the flavor from mild to spicy.
Smoked paprika differs from other forms of paprika in flavor. It uses chilies that are smoke-dried, typically with oak, and then crushed into powder. Smoking with oak leads to a strong, outdoorsy flavor, making it an excellent ingredient for dry rubs and spice for barbeque dishes and hearty meats. Paprika with any heat level—from generic to Hungarian to Spanish—can be smoked. Smoked paprika, most often made from the Spanish variety, which can range from mild to hot, is typically found under the name Pimenton de la Vera. Smoked hot paprika is called picante, and is most often found in specialty stores or online.
Regular paprika and smoked paprika are not perfect substitutions. The big, smoky flavor of smoked paprika is considered “too big” for recipes calling for sweet paprika. Likewise, sweet paprika does not have a strong enough flavor for hearty dishes.