Chili Powder and Paprika

spice containers with Mexican chili powder and paprika

Chili powder can be a confusing ingredient when making recipes from other parts of the world.  In the US when we go into a grocery store and buy chili powder it is a spice mix.  How do you know if it’s a spice mix or actually ground chili’s? Look at the ingredients and you’ll see it’s not just ground chili’s.  It would be very unusual for you to find anything other than a spice mix labeled as chili powder in US grocery stores.

Some recipes from other cultures and countries will call for chili powder but it isn’t the spice mix.  Instead it’s ground chili’s.  Likely the same as paprika but the variety of pepper could be different.  I researched this by going to a local Indian grocer and they didn’t have anything labeled chili powder to sell but they had paprika and according to them it’s the same.  They also had hot or red chili powder which is hot and closer to or maybe the same as a cayenne pepper.

There is more than one type of paprika but if a recipe calls for paprika you can expect it’s just regular paprika and nothing else.

When a recipe calls for chili powder how do you know which to use?  If it’s not 100% clear consider the recipe and where it originates.  Probably chili powder otherwise they’d probably say paprika.  An Indian or East African dish?  They probably intend for you to use paprika.