How to Use Smoked Paprika and a Recipe for Smoky Beluga Lentils

There are certain spices in a pantry worth having because the spice alone can take the dish to another level. Not a lot of spices can do that truly by themselves. Sometimes a fresh herb can, like fresh basil or tarragon, but when it comes to dried spices, not many can do what smoked paprika does by itself. Here you’ll learn why you should just buy/use this one spice today to take this week’s meals up a notch.

Spanish smoked paprika, or Pimenton de la Vera, lends a depth to dishes by way of an earthy, woodsy flavor, and of course some not-so-subtle smokiness.The small red chilis are actually dried by smoking over oak wood fires in the region of Spain called La Vera.  You can find a few different varieties: the dulce (sweet), agridulce (bittersweet), or picante (hot). I’ve used both dulce and picante and prefer dulce as an all around staple that my kids enjoy too. Smoked paprika also benefits vegetarians who are craving that smoky flavoring, however, my vegetarian daughter who has never had bacon or chorizo in her life and doesn’t even know what she’s missing smoky flavors are loved this lentil dish. I wonder if she’ll be asking for BBQ soon??

Smoky Beluga Lentils

Smoky Beluga Lentils

If you’re looking for a boost of flavor, something different, invest in that small jar of smoked paprika. I think it is a must have in an international pantry or in anyone’s kitchen who is looking to take a staple dish to the next interesting level. Aside from the recipe below (which by the way is a PERFECT accompaniment to a broiled piece of fish), you can use it in this salad dressing, this one-pot meal, this easy weeknight recipe, or in sautéed kale or other hearty greens, like in this recipe.


Smoky Beluga Lentils

Serves: 3-4 as a side

If I find a new quality heirloom lentil or bean at the grocery store, I grab it right away and think about how to make it interesting. Lentils can get boring easily, but two things make this dish interesting: the texture, color, and size of the lentils, and the ingredient smoked paprika. Smoked paprika is bacon’s vegetarian sister. If you haven’t used it yet, you’ll find it something you reach for often when you’re looking for a bit of flavor or smoke in a dish. It isn’t good on everything, but it certainly takes a bowl of lentils to the next level.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced thinly
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup beluga lentils, rinsed


  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery, and garlic for about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Mix in the salt, pepper and smoked paprika.
  3. Pour in the lentils, and stir to coat well. Pour 4 cups water.
  4. Cook 30 minutes uncovered at a simmer, or until most of the water is evaporated.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings as you wish!
  6. Serve this side dish with a perfectly cooked piece of fish, or with shrimp, or in hollowed out cooked squashes, like chayote

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