This Spice is My Family’s Savory Secret and the One Thing I Never Leave Spain Without

published Apr 17, 2023
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Garlicky sautéed shrimp with oregano, paprika and lime in cast iron skillet.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Growing up, I adored watching my abuela cook. I’d sit alongside her in amazement as I studied her Iberian hands, gently floating from cutting board to pot to cabinet and back again as she magically concocted delectable dishes that would make any Michelin-starred chef weep with jealousy (I’m biased, but it’s true). While she was definitely one to keep her recipes a well-guarded secret, there was one special ingredient in her arsenal she let me in on: Pimenton “El Angel” Dulce Spanish Smoked Sweet Paprika. Whenever I’d see her reach into the spice cabinet and pull out this bright red tin, I knew I was in for a treat. You see, this wasn’t just any ol’ paprika — it came straight from the motherland and was an essential pickup anytime my family made it back to Spain. Thankfully, I, nor you, no longer need to book a flight to get our hands on this essential pantry staple.

Since 1880, El Angel has been creating some of the finest paprikas around, becoming one of the best-known paprika companies. Based out of Cáceres, Spain, the company’s method has remained the same for over a century: Sweet red peppers are dried slowly over an oak-burning fire for several weeks and then stone-ground into the silky, fine powder you’ll find in each tin. The result? A sweet, cool, and smoky paprika with a flavor so one-of-a-kind, you might not pick up a different bottle of paprika ever again.

Credit: Sarah Vazquez

In the past, the only way we were able to get a bottle of this paprika was via a trip back to Spain. In fact, it became such a staple thing, I used to wait with bated breath when my grandmother would return from her trips and unpack, to see how many tins of El Angel she was able to fit in her suitcase (hint: it was always a lot). Thankfully now, El Angel can be found in some U.S. stores as well as online, which is good for me because when I say my family uses this on everything, I mean everything. Camarones al ajillo, or shrimp in garlic, never tastes better than when it’s made with El Angel’s pimenton. Sunday roast and winter stews? Those are instantly elevated with a couple of teaspoons of this bad boy. Pulpo a la Gallega, a hometown staple better known as Galician Octopus, is famously topped with this paprika. And, of course, no Spanish paella can be complete without it.

Ready to add some authentic Spanish flavor to your spice collection? You can pick up a bottle of Pimenton “El Angel” Dulce Spanish Smoked Sweet Paprika for just $8 today (there’s also a hot version if you like things spicy). Whether you’re a devoted paprika lover or simply someone looking for a little special something to take their recipes to the next level, this paprika is sure to become a staple in your home, too.