Paprika Oleoresin


Paprika oleoresin is a natural food additive used because of its ability to color foods a deep red.


Paprika oleoresin is a red-orange oily material and it is used to colour foods. It also has a slight odor. It is extracted from the common sweet red pepper, Capsicum annum L. In Hungarian, the word paprika refers to both the spice and the fresh pepper.

Paprika oleoresin may also be called paprika extract or oleoresin paprika.  In Europe, it is designated with the E number 160c.  It is similar to lycopene which has an E number of 160d.

Because it is derived from natural food sources it is exempt1 from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certification for food colourants.

To make paprika oleoresin, the peppers are harvested and dried. The peppers may be left whole, cut into pieces, or powdered. Then a solvent is percolated through the peppers. The solvent can be any one or a combination of the following:

  • Acetone,
  • Ethyl alcohol,
  • Ethylene dichloride,
  • Hexane,
  • Isopropyl alcohol,
  • Methyl alcohol,
  • Methylene chloride, or
  • Trichloroethylene

The solvent is then removed, leaving the paprika oleoresin.  Removing 100% of the solvent would be impossible.  Some residue may remain in the final product.

The main components of paprika oleoresin are the xanthophylls, capsanthin, and capsorubin. These are the red components. and beta-carotene (the yellow component). All of these molecules are in a group of molecules called carotenoids.


picture of a yellow leaf used to describe one of the components of paprika oleoresinXanthophylls are yellow pigments that form one of two major divisions of the carotenoid group.

The name comes from the ancient Greek words xanthos, which means yellow, and phyllon, which means leaf.

Xanthophylls are carotenoids that contain oxygen atoms.


One of the two compounds that form the red component of paprika oleoresin.  It is a di-hydroxy, keto carotenoid. Simply put, this is just a carotenoid that contains an oxygen carbon double bond.


The second of the two compounds that form the red component of the oleoresin.


Beta-carotene is the yellow-orange pigment we all know from carrots. A carotene is a carotenoid that that only contains hydrocarbons and no oxygen.

Common Uses

Paprika oleoresin is used wherever red and orange colorings are desired.  It is commonly used in:

  • cheeses
  • orange juice
  • sauces
  • meats (sausages)

It is often used in combination with real paprika to intensify the colour.

One of the most unique uses for paprika oleoresin is to add it to poultry feed5.   This gives the meat and egg yolks a darker yellow appearance than is natural for them.

Health Issues / Side Effects

There is very little information on the health issues or side effects of paprika oleoresin.  Some people have reported allergic reactions to paprika and other red peppers.


One interesting note is that you can test the purity of paprika oleoresin.  Add two milliliters of sulfuric acid to a 0.5 gram sample. If it is pure, its color will change to blue.


  1. Code of Federal Regulations
  2. Canadian List of Permitted Food Additives
  3. Current EU Approved Food Additives
  4. Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code
  5. Alibaba – Paprika Oleoresin for Poultry

Further Reading

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