What is it?
- a red spice which adds a characteristic smoky flavour to Spanish coooking- paella and chorizo wouldn’t taste the same without it!
- it adds an attractive orangey red colour to dishes.
- the powder is made from the ground-down red chilli peppers (capsicum anuum) which traditionally were dried in the sun or over wood fires for the smoky flavour. Nowadays modern mechanisation has increasingly taken over production.
- Ñoras and Choricero peppers are the main peppers used in its production and are also sold whole in Spain for cooking.
- Hungarian paprika is a good alternative if you’re unable to find pimentón, as it has the same origins and was actually introduced to the country by the Spaniards in the 16th century.
Cooking and Buying guide
The flavour and colour of pimentón varies on the type of chilli pepper it comes from but adding any of them to your cooking will add a distinctive sweet, smoky or fiery layer to your dish.
There are two main areas producing pimentón: Vera and Murcia.If you see a D O stamp on the label this will tell you which region it’s from so denotyes quality(DO=Denominación Origen.) But whether from Vera or Murcia, both regions produce the following three varieties:
- Dulce: (sweet) the mildest type and perfect for adding a smoky undertone to your cooking.
- Agridulce: adds a medium hot, bitter-sweet flavour.
- Picante: as the name suggests is hot and fiery.
So it’s a matter of taste (or availablility if you don’t live in Spain) which one you choose but it’s worth keeping a selection in your cupboard as they last a long time in their little red tins, as long as ensure the lid is put back on properly after use!
- a store cupboard essential to pep up the most ordinary of dishes such as roast or pan fried potatoes, in tomato sauces, rubbed onto chicken before roasting and in any vegetable or meat stews.
- For barbequeues, stir pimentón into a little hot water to form a smooth paste and rub onto meat once it’s almost cooked and return to grill- (burnt pimenton tastes bitter)
- as with all spices, the flavour is intense so a little goes a long way!
Did you know? It was Christopher Columbus who accidentally discovered the chilli pepper used to make pimentón while on his way to India, looking to bring back the other type of pepper. The Spanish word for pepper is pimienta but after getting lost and landing instead in the Americas, he did what any enterprising explorer would do and brought back a substitute- pimiento! The milled pimiento was a hit (eventually) and became known as pimentón. Although a different sort of “pepper” it went on to become a great hit and has become part of Spain’s culinary heritage!