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FLAVOR PAIRINGS & TRENDS >  - Smoked Paprika & Agave Nectar (with Recipe)



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Flavor Pairing:
Smoked Paprika & Agave Nectar

Recipe below
Smoky sweetness from the purity of nature. When the intense, natural sweetness of agave nectar meets the enticing, toasty notes of smoked paprika, the two fuse into a sumptuous, magnificent union.

Sweet red chile peppers are artfully transformed when naturally smoked over wood planks. A distinctive departure from traditional mild paprika, the addictive flavor of smoked paprika invokes the infectious culinary spirit of Spain.


Agave nectar is derived from the same cactus-like plant from Mexico that gives us tequila. Varieties of light, amber or dark syrups span from pure sweetness to muted hints of caramel. Fast becoming the natural sweetener of choice, agave nectar is moving from a specialty foods niche to restaurant menus and supermarket shelves.

Enjoy this Spanish-Mexican pair in Smoked Paprika Shrimp with Poblano Polenta and Red Pepper-Agave Sauce or a Smoky Margarita, a playful twist on a classic drink. Use the combination to create a sweet-hot glaze for pork ribs and chicken, or try in desserts, including poached pears with agave sauce or an agave-sweetened flan dusted with smoked paprika.

Smoked Paprika Shrimp

“I am curious about agave nectar and have been using it more often; smoked paprika gives the nectar a wonderful savory flavor.”
Cat Cora, Iron Chef and Cookbook Author


The perfect match of Spanish smoked paprika and agave nectar brings sweet smoky heat to this vibrantly flavored and colored dish.
Prep Time: 45 minutes 
Cook Time:  1 hour 
Makes 8 appetizer-size servings or 4 main-dish servings.

Red Pepper-Agave Sauce:

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil  
    • 1/4 cup chopped red onion  
    • 3 tablespoons agave nectar or honey  
    • 1 1/2 pounds red bell peppers, roasted (see Test Kitchen Tip below)
       OR 1 jar (12 to 13 ounces) roasted red peppers, drained 
    • 1/2 cup chicken stock  
    • 1/2 cup heavy cream  
    • 1 tablespoon tomato paste  

Poblano Polenta:  

    • 1 quart (4 cups) milk  
    • 1 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Sicilian Sea Salt   
    • 1 cup polenta
    • 2 tablespoons butter  
    • 1 cup shredded Manchego cheese
    • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels  
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted Poblano chile (see Test Kitchen Tip below)
          OR 1 tablespoon chopped drained pickled jalapeno pepper

Smoked Paprika Shrimp:  

    • 1 pound large shrimp (21 to 25 count), peeled and deveined  
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided  
    • 2 teaspoons McCormick® Gourmet Collection Smoked Paprika   
    • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Sicilian Sea Salt   
    • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Gourmet Collection Coarse Grind Black Pepper
    • 2 green onions, thinly sliced



1. For the Red Pepper-Agave Sauce, heat oil in small skillet on medium heat.  Add onion; cook and stir 2 minutes or until softened.  Add agave nectar; cook and stir 1 minute or until onion starts to caramelize.  Place roasted bell peppers, chicken broth, heavy cream, tomato paste and onion mixture in blender or food processor; cover. Puree until smooth.  Spoon bell pepper mixture into medium saucepan.  Bring to boil on medium heat.  Cook 10 to 12 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened.  Keep warm.  
2. For the Poblano Polenta, bring milk and sea salt to simmer in heavy 2-quart saucepan on medium heat.  Whisking constantly, add polenta in thin stream.  Stirring frequently, cook 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Stir in butter, corn, cheese and chile until well mixed.  Keep warm.  
3. For the Smoked Paprika Shrimp, toss shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the oil.  Sprinkle with smoked paprika, sea salt and pepper.  Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat.  Add shrimp; cook and stir 3 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink.  
4. To serve, spoon Poblano Polenta onto each plate.  Drizzle Red Pepper-Agave Sauce around polenta.  Arrange Smoked Paprika Shrimp on sauce.  Sprinkle with green onions.

Test Kitchen Tips: 
• To roast the bell peppers and the Poblano chile on a gas stove-top, cook the peppers directly over a medium-high gas flame until blackened on all sides, turning with tongs.  Transfer peppers and chile to a paper bag.  Close bag.  Let stand 15 minutes or until peppers are cool enough to handle.  Peel off blackened skin.  Remove tops, ribs and seeds. 
• To roast the bell peppers and the Poblano chile under the broiler, preheat broiler. Halve and core the peppers.  Remove the tops, ribs and seeds.  Place the pepper halves on a baking sheet, cut-side down.  Broil 5 to 7 minutes or until the skin has blistered and blackened over the entire surface.  Transfer to a paper bag.  Close bag.  Let stand 15 minutes or until peppers are cool enough to handle.  Peel off blackened skin. 

Nutritional Information Per One Appetizer Serving of the Smoked Paprika Shrimp with Red Pepper-Agave Sauce:  191 Calories, Fat 11g, Protein 11g, Carbohydrates 12g, Cholesterol 105mg, Sodium 256mg, Fiber 2g

Nutritional Information Per One Appetizer Serving of the Poblano Polenta: 225 Calories, Fat 9g, Protein 9g, Carbohydrates 27g, Cholesterol 29mg, Sodium 386mg, Fiber 3g


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