HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


Where's the Hungarian Paprika?

I shopped yesterday for Hungarian Paprika (in the familiar red can, in the fine print I see that it appears to be "Pride of Szeged" (from memory, so spelling may be off)). No stores in my neighborhood (PG county) stocked it -- Wegmans, SFW, Giant, Safeway, Yes Organic.

Has anyone else had this experience? Is there an obvious explanation? Are we at war with Hungary and nobody's told us?

And does it matter? should I just use the cheapest Paprika I can find as a substitute, or is the available but much more expensive "organic" really better?

Finally (if it is permanently gone from the DC area, and if it really does matter) is there an online source for the "normal" Hungarian paprika, or something better? (Not smoked Spanish paprika.)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Penzey's has Hungarian paprika. Online orders over $30 have free shipping.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hobbert

      Or you can go to their store in Rockville.

    2. Otto's:


      I haven't bought from this source yet, but I'm thinking of it. I've heard that the major brand of Hungarian paprika is being cut with Brazilian peppers. I don't know to what extent that was true, or if it is still true, but it's reason enough for me to try something else.

      1. Rodman's

        It is about profit and price to the chains. Hungarian is more expensive and the profit margin lower. There is a lot of quality standards lowering in DC over the past few years. Too many Washingtonians worry more about price than value.

        There is a complicated story here regarding how Hungary becomes part of the EU, with a relaxation of protectionism, and EU regulation of food processing within Hungary that led to the Hungarian prices being undercut by cheap S. American stuff, then contamination with aflatoxin (meet your “organic” toxin) and a host of other factors. There is no “domestic” pepper as Spanish peppers and Hungarian are now both “EU” and Spanish and Brazilian peppers are more naturally red than Hungarian varieties. Furthermore, a lot of world paprika was being cut with S. American and sold as Hungarian to boost profits at the expense of Hungarian producers.

        So dried Spanish peppers are not imports to Hungary officially, and the Spanish don’t have to tell that they are importing, rather than growing them. And, there is disempowerment of national authorities in monitoring paprika safety.

        Bottom line: they are using imported peppers, the processes are still the best, and what you buy as generic paprika is generally of lower quality than Hungarian which, comes in about 8 grades, all of higher quality.

        3 Replies
        1. re: law_doc89

          there are eight grades of hungarian paprika?
          how does one know which grade a product is? is it labeled?
          what are the criteria for grading?

            1. re: law_doc89

              thanks, that's a nice site. i just pinned a couple of good looking recipes -- baked ricotta and rum raisin ice cream. (oh how i get distracted!).

              i wish i had known all these paprika nuances before i went to hungary! our host was kind enough to send me back to america with a couple of tubes of gulyás paste. VERY handy.

              i see i can order it online. (yay, algore's internet). http://www.hungariandeli.com/Paste.htm

        2. Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria stocks Szeged brand (they have a big selection). 352 S Pickett St, Alexandria, VA 22304. You can peruse the awesome selection imported ingredients and food stuffs while your there and get some awesome shwarma to go from the take out counter (they also make middle eastern pastry that's pretty tasty as the name suggests)

          1. Found this at Harris Teeter on Rt. 50 in Loudoun Co. $4.59 for a 5 oz. can. They have both hot and sweet.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Hobbert

              I saw several varieties, of that brand, at the Harris Teeter in Maple Lawn, Md (south of Columbia). I like that brand at least for the sweet paprika (only variety I have tried), better than Penzey's, although I only notice in Goulash.

            2. Thanks to all who replied to my inquiries. I didn't know about Penzey's spice store in Rockville, and it sounds like that would be generally useful. The loophole in EU regulations is interesting to me as an economist: Hungary would like to forbid Brazilian peppers, but EU requires free trade between Spain and Hungary, and Spain is open to Brazil, so transhipment from Brazil through Spain is legal and inevitable. And then it did cause an aflatoxin problem in 2004.

              From time to time I have a doctor's appointment that is close to a Harris Teeter, so that's where I'll look next time I'm in the area.

              1 Reply
              1. re: howardl

                Personally don't care for Penzy's. I think their product is woefully stale for a specialty spice merchant. I found Silver Cloud Estates recommended by a chef. They ship retial amounts. Great selection, pricing. Very fresh.


              2. Because of this discussion, I asked the manager at my local Giant who showed me they carry it, but it is separate, away from the spices section.

                2 Replies
                1. re: law_doc89

                  Was it in the "international" section, or where did you find it?

                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                    No, just some free-standing rack at the end of another aisle away from the spices. GO figure.

                    BTW, Fresh and Greens has it, and the fish rub, too.

                2. Whole Foods on P Street had some today - $3.99 a tin. I was scouring the shelves looking for mace (I can't find it anywhere!) and noticed it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: helen_m

                    Funny I just bought mace. Indian stores sometimes have mace as does Penzey's. (I only like some items at Penzey's, but I don't have any opinion on the quality of the mace).

                    1. re: mscoffee1

                      Thank you! I've looked in every store I've been in and nada. I haven't heard of Penzey's and not sure where the Indian stores are in DC yet but I will google. We moved here from the UK recently and am gradually building up my spice cupboard again (we couldn't ship any with us, I had to donate it all to friends)

                  2. Giant should have both the sweet and hot Szeged brand paprika...most of their stores seem to carry them. If your local one doesn't have it, they can certainly get it for you.

                    Also, in answer to your other question...there is _no_ real substitute for Hungarian Paprika, which is utterly delicious stuff.

                    Most other types (perhaps except for the smoked ones) offer nothing much more than color. They are usually little more than mild, colored dust. ;-)

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: The Professor

                      I got some dirt-cheap paprika of unknown provenance from Aldi recently, and it was delicious in paprikas and porkolt. Given that Aldi sources a number of products from Europe, it may well have been Hungarian.

                      Didn't ATK do a test a while back concluding that McCormick paprika was the best for gulyás and paprikas? Thought that was surprising...

                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                        You're right about Aldi possibly sourcing paprika from Hungary...given the company's German origins, it would make sense. I haven't tried theirs, but since I'll be in Aldi later today I'll grab some and check it out.

                        As far as McCormicks...no way. Besides being stupidly expensive, the flavor just isn't there...I speak from experience. I was pressed into service making some chicken paprikás at a friend's house and was forced to use the Mc C's. It fell far short.

                        I like ATK, but if they actually recommended McCormick over real Hungarian paprika, then it was clearly a bad call (or promotional consideration. LOL).

                        1. re: ChristinaMason

                          checking back in...
                          I visited the local Aldi's and learned that the paprika they sell comes from India.