Paprika vs Cayenne

Paprika vs Cayenne – What Are The Differences?

When you love food and cooking, you know paprika and maybe even cayenne pepper. Avid cooks use both all the time! Are you aware, though, that they are not the same thing? 

Take a look here at all the differences between paprika and cayenne, and decide which one you like better! 

What Is Paprika?

*Photo by AndreySt/depositphotos

Paprika is a spice that contains dried and ground peppers. The peppers used to make paprika come from North America and Central Mexico. These peppers belong to the Capsicum annuum family, but they tend to be milder in heat. 

For the most part, paprika comes from Hungary and Spain, and it can be either sweet, hot, or smokey. The flavor depends on what type of peppers are used and how manufacturers prepare the spice. All paprika has a red, brownish color, which can vary depending on the preparation too.

There are variations of paprika, including sweet paprika, Hungarian paprika, and Spanish paprika. Sweet paprika is considered the regular version and is mild in flavor with a hint of sweetness. Hungarian paprika is sweet and mild but has varying grades. Spanish paprika is also called pimenton, and it can be sweet, spicy, or sweet and spicy.

Nutrition Facts

One teaspoon (2.3 g) of paprika has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 6.49 calories
  • 0.325 g protein
  • 0.296 g fat 
  • 1.24 g carbohydrate
  • 0.803 g fiber
  • 5.27 mg calcium 
  • 4.09 mg magnesium 
  • 7.22 mg phosphorus 
  • 52.4 mg potassium  
  • 1.56 mg sodium
  • 56.6 µg vitamin A  

Which Paprika Is Best?

Like we said above, there are various types of paprika, and they will vary in different ways. The flavors and colors depending on where it is produced as well as the types of peppers. The choice of how to use paprika also depends on its flavor profile.

When it comes to Hungarian paprika, it can retain more sugar due to cooler weather, and it is sweeter. Paprika from Hungary can be a bit spicy and sweet too or pungent or spicy. 

Most of the exported Hungarian paprika is sweet and used in dishes like eggs, marinades, casseroles, and stews. 

Traditional paprika, also called domestic when in North America, is much sweeter and fresh. This paprika is milder than most, so you can add it to plenty of dishes because it will not disrupt the flavors excessively. You can use this paprika in deviled eggs, cheese dishes, salads, smoked foods, and poultry. 

Smoked paprika is what others refer to as Spanish paprika, pimenton, or smoked sweet paprika. This spice is sweet but has a strong hint of smokiness, both in flavor and aroma. Many use this paprika on potatoes, sauces, and meat rubs. 

Picante paprika, or smoked hot paprika, is another version of the Spanish paprika that has been smoked traditionally but is mildly hot. This spice is deep red and earthy with hints of smoked wood. You can use Picante paprika in paella, chorizo, chicken, pork, lamb, beef, and stews. 

Remember that paprika does not contain any capsaicin, so it is not as spicy as other pepper products. Choose the right one depending on what you are cooking. 

For heavy dishes with meat and sauces, you can pick Spanish or Picante paprika for salads, poultry, or eggs, go with traditional or Hungarian paprika. 

See more: Substitutes for Paprika

What Is Cayenne Pepper?

Cayenne peppers

Cayenne pepper is extremely spicy chili pepper. This pepper rates between 30,000 and 50,000 SHU on the Scoville Heat Units. What you commonly see in the grocery store is cayenne pepper that is ground and bottled.

Like paprika, cayenne pepper is a cooking spice for different dishes. However, when you use cayenne pepper, you should start with very little amounts. Cayenne is popular in Mexican, Caribbean, and South American cuisines.

The name cayenne comes from the city of Cayenne in French Guiana. This city is also where the pepper comes from and where it was first used. Because cayenne contains capsaicin, it has health benefits that other spices do not.

Nutrition Facts

One teaspoon (1.8 g) of cayenne pepper has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 5.72 calories
  • 0.216 g protein
  • 0.311 g fat 
  • 1.02 g carbohydrate
  • 0.49 g fiber
  • 2.66 mg calcium 
  • 2.74 mg magnesium 
  • 5.27 mg phosphorus 
  • 36.3 mg potassium  
  • 0.54 mg sodium
  • 37.5 µg vitamin A  

Which Cayenne Pepper Is Best?

cayenne pepper powder

Unlike paprika, cayenne pepper usually contains a mix of different cayenne peppers. You can for the most part get the same type of heat and flavor in each powder. However, there are differences between the types of cayenne peppers out there. 

Carolina cayenne peppers are twice as hot and wider than the regular cayenne pepper. They score between 100,000 and 125,000 SHU on the Scoville Heat Units scale. This pepper is native to Central and South America. It is typically used in sauces, marinades, salsa, and meat. 

The Cayenne Buist’s Yellow pepper is originally from the United States, and it is much milder and sweeter. It scores a 1,000 SHU or less on the Scoville Heat Units scale. This pepper is sometimes used in salsa and other sauces. 

The Dagger Pod cayenne pepper is a very hot pepper that scores between 30,000 to 50,000 SHU on the Scoville Heat Units scale. Its shape resembles a dagger. This pepper is normally used in sauces, salsa, blends, and rubs. 

Golden cayenne peppers also score between 30,000 to 50,000 SHU on the Scoville Heat Units scale. These peppers grow bigger than red cayenne, and they only develop their heat until they mature. They are often used in place of the jalapeno or habanero peppers. 

For the most part, red cayenne is used in the spice you can find in grocery stores. In some cases, the spice powder will be a mix of peppers to give more flavor and heat. All cayenne peppers are good for you, but the higher capsaicin content, the better they are at preventing inflammation, promoting digestion, and boosting your metabolism. 

See more: Substitutes for Cayenne Pepper

What Are The Key Differences Between Paprika and Cayenne?

The main difference between paprika powder and cayenne pepper powder is consistency. Paprika varies in flavor and heat depending on the region and preparation. Cayenne pepper is always between 30,000 and 50,000 SHU.

As mentioned above, since paprika is not the same across the board, it varies in heat. Cayenne pepper is always spicy. Paprika, on the other hand, can be sweet and pungent as well.

Another difference between these two spices is their color. Paprika has a wider range of red, ranging from orange-brown to deep red. Cayenne pepper is almost always orange-red, with very little variation. 

Their origin is also different and can influence how they taste. Paprika can come from Hungary, Spain, and North America, and each kind has its properties. Cayenne pepper is almost always from the Americas, and the flavor is the same.

The texture between paprika and cayenne pepper is also slightly different. Paprika is always ground into a very fine powder, almost resembling cinnamon. Cayenne pepper is much coarser sandy, which makes it harder to dissolve and hide in dishes.

Using these two spices is also very different. Paprika goes well with several dishes, including eggs, poultry, rice, sauces, and stews. Cayenne pepper is mostly used in salsa, poultry, meat, and chili.

Finally, you cannot substitute these for one another in every case. While you can substitute cayenne pepper with paprika, the opposite is not true. Cayenne pepper is much spicier and heavier than paprika, and should not replace it in cooking. 

Main DifferencesPaprikaCayenne
Origin North America, Hungary, and SpainFrench Guiana
ProductionThe peppers are harvested in the summer and fall. Then the pods are dried and ground. Drying and grinding of the red cayenne pepper
ColorDeep red, red-brown, or bright orange-redOrange-red
Scoville Heat Units 250 to 1,000 SHU30,000 to 50,000 SHU
Taste and SmellPaprika tastes sweet, slightly hot, and fruity. This spice smells sweet. Cayenne pepper tastes earthy and spicy. This spice smells pungent and musky. 
Dishes Paprika is used in paella, chorizo, deviled eggs, meat, hummus, and sauces. Cayenne pepper is used in beef, pork, lamb, and poultry, eggs, salsa, and marinades. 
Cost$1.29 to $5.99$3.50 to $13.99
Calories per 100ml  282 calories 318 calories

Is Paprika or Cayenne Healthier?

Paprika and cayenne pepper are both healthy spices. You can use them both without much problem or added calories. However, cayenne pepper does contain more health properties. 

Since cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, it can promote certain processes in your body. This spice is known to be anti-inflammatory, digestive, immune-boosting, and metabolism-boosting as well. You can find this spice to be more productive when used in your diet. 

However, because cayenne pepper is so spicy, you will likely not use a lot of it. Paprika contains more nutrients and is lower in spice. Either choice is good for you, but which one to use depends on your taste and dish selection.


Although paprika and cayenne may look the same, they are not! Be careful when you choose one or the other, as it can affect your cooking. Now you can safely go to the grocery store and pick the right spice when you are getting ready to cook your favorite meals from around the world!

*image by AndreySt&Euripides&

About The Author

Scroll to Top