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Nov 13, 2006 02:32 AM

Confused about cayenne pepper, chili powder and paprika

They seem pretty similar; I guess thay are made from different types of chilies but are their differences so significant? Are they interchangeable in recipes? Will it be a big difference if I substitute one for the other?

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  1. Cayenne is made from a specific, hot pepper.

    Paprikas are usually made from milder peppers -- sweet paprika is even available, which to me does not taste even a little spicey.

    Chili powder, however, is rather different -- it's a mix that includes dried ground chile peppers (often both cayenne and paprika), cumin, garlic, and oregano.

    1. They are not all the same.

      Generally speaking from mildest to hottest in taste: Paprika, Chili Powder, Cayenne.

      Cayenne are peppers. They are really hot and cayenne powder is ground dried cayenne pepper.

      Chili Powder is a mix of chili pepper powder and other spices like cumin and garlic powder and sometimes other spices like cinnamon or nutmeg (no lie). But chili powder can be really hot depending on the ratio and kind of chiles to other ingredients in the mix. Also, paprika and cayenne can be components of chili powder. If you wanted to sub chili powder for cayenne (say) you would have to consider what it was going into and whether it would go well together or clash.

      Paprika - there are a lot of different types and grades. I think it is made of a pepper that has had the oomph taken out of it. BUT it is a distinct flavor and not just a spice for heat. You do not see many Chicken Cayenne dishes out there. rather than getting all particular, just know that at the grocery there are different kinds. Some are sweet, some are hot. Some are Spanish, Hungarian, turkish (etc. and the within those groups there are grades or different qualities.

      Someone else will probably be able to elaborate on that. I am not, obviously, an expert.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Wanda Fuca

        Red Chilli powder used in Indian Kitchen, and sold in India is only RED CHILLI DRIED AND POWDERED, there is no other addition of any other spices. Most of Indians don't even know Cayenne Powder.

          1. re: chefj

            What isn't the case in the US?

            There is a masala that is sold for making a dish called 'chili' or Texas bowl of red. That is a mix - mild peppers, some hot, cumin, etc.

            But it is also easy to find pure ground chile peppers. The most common is labeled 'cayenne', and is used generically when a hot red powder is needed. It may come from a specific variety of chile that is grown around the world (including India), though New Mexico produces most.

            The 'chilli' spelling is uncommon in the USA.

            Terminology varies around the world, including spelling. But it isn't hard to adapt.

            1. re: paulj

              "Red Chilli powder used in Indian Kitchen, and sold in India is only RED CHILLI DRIED AND POWDERED,"
              When you find a Bottled labeled Chili Powder in a US Grocery more than likely it is not pure red Chili Powder but the Blend that we call Chili Powder.

              1. re: chefj

                Right, if it's labeled "chili powder" here in the USA it will typically contain cumin and often also oregano, garlic powder. But of course you can also buy simple ground chile pepper here, though not so common in many supermarkets. I think chefj and paulj (members of the dysfunctional j family??) are "violently agreeing" with each other, lol.

          2. re: aschwinnie

            My ex-boyfriend is Indian and I used some chile powder left by his mother in his kitchen and Wow! I do believe that is pure chili powder. I ruined my dish by assuming it had the heat of American chili powder.

        1. Generic paprika is mild. Hungarian paprika (the best is from the town of Szeged) is available in sweet and hot powdered versions, although the sweet variety is what we usually associate with paprika, used in dishes such as chicken paprikash and Hungarian goulash. There are also Spanish paprikas on the market, which are smoked.

          Generic chili powder is a rather harsh mix of various chili peppers, cumin, oregano, salt and dehydrated garlic. A better alternative to "chili powder" is to purchase chili powders made from one specific type of chili. McCormick's is now marketing, along with their "chili powder", other PURE chili powders. "Ancho Chili Powder" is sweet, slightly smokey, and a bit hot, and is absolutely fabulous for chili con carne. Ancho chilis are dried, smoked poblano chilis. You can also buy chipotle chili powder, as well as others. By buying the pure chili powders, you have more control over the ingredients and flavours (and the amount of salt) that are going into your cooked foods.

          1 Reply
          1. re: FlavoursGal

            ...those smoked Spanish Paprikas are wonderful--try them if you can find them. The brand I buy comes in 'sweet' (not hot) and 'hot' which packs a moderate amount of heat. I use the smoked sweet in place of Hungarian Szeged-type in chicken dishes which call for paprika and the flavor is very good.

          2. Sorry on your last question about whether it will make a difference -- if you tell us what you're making that will probably elicit more useful advice.

            1. Someone should add here that some cookbooks will confuse you by using neutral terms that are not clear.

              For example, Julie Sahni, who writes excellent Indian cookbooks, is fond of the term 'red pepper' when she means cheyenne pepper or another hot, dried, ground, chili-pepper. 'Red Pepper' is vague enough to suggest that maybe paprika is wanted. Anyways, reading a cookbook's glossary on such occasions is usually all that is needed.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Atahualpa

                even I am a Hobby Cook and you can check FB "Tips on Indian Kitchen"
                Two years before I created Vegan masalachai lette with soya milk and vegan Kaffee late in one of gym Homes Place in Berlin was Kaffee with Coconut milk. But recently i saw it in Starbuck coffee newly introduced as Sumatra.

                1. re: aschwinnie

                  What does this mean? I can not make Heads or Tails of it.

                  1. re: chefj

                    off course yes ! I only shared my experience, have a nice weekend !