What Is the Difference Between Paprika and Cayenne Pepper?

difference-between-paprika-cayenne-pepper Credit: Roberto Verzo/CC-BY-2.0

Paprika and cayenne pepper are two different types of chili peppers from the genus Capsicum annuum. They are both cultivars, or plants that are propogated from stem cuttings, not seeds. Paprika originated in Southern Mexico, yet it is most popular in Hungary, where the finest paprika is produced. Cayenne pepper initially grew in South and Central America, yet is named after the city of Cayenne in French Guiana.

Paprika's signature dark red hue is used to infuse color into a number of dishes, such as deviled eggs and potato salad. Paprika's sweet, smoky and generally mild flavor, however, is only released when it is cooked. Its color also deepens throughout the cooking process, which makes the spice perform two-fold when used in soups, stews, meat and other dishes.

Also crimson-colored, cayenne pepper has a distinctive, spicy flavor. Popularized by southern Louisiana Cajun cooks, the spice is generally used to give heat and depth of flavor to gumbo, jambalaya and red beans and rice. Cayenne pepper is also used medicinally by a number of cultures around the world. It is an ingredient in over-the-counter and prescription creams and lotions that help to alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia, arthritis, post-herpetic nerve pain, diabetic foot pain and cluster headaches.