The intake of a carotenoid-rich diet is epidemiologically related to a lower risk for different chronic disorders like cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer or age-related macular degeneration. Red pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) and its dietary products contain a variety of carotenoids, which may contribute to the carotenoid pattern of human blood and tissues. The objective of the present study was to assess the availability of carotenoids from paprika oleoresin, including zeaxanthin, β-cryptoxanthin, β-carotene and the paprika-specific oxocarotenoids capsanthin and capsorubin. After overnight fasting, the volunteers (n 9) ingested a single dose of the paprika oleoresin containing 6·4 mg zeaxanthin, 4·2 mg β-cryptoxanthin, 6·2 mg β-carotene, 35·0 mg capsanthin and 2·0 mg capsorubin. At different time points the carotenoid pattern in the chylomicron fraction was analysed to evaluate carotenoid absorption. From the major carotenoids present in the paprika oleoresin only zeaxanthin, β-cryptoxanthin and β-carotene were detectable in considerable amounts. Although the xanthophylls in paprika oleoresin were mainly present as mono- or di-esters, only free zeaxanthin and β-cryptoxanthin were found in human samples. The bioavailability of the pepper-specific carotenoids capsanthin and capsorubin from paprika oleoresin is very low. However, oleoresin is a suitable source for the provitamin A carotenoids β-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin and the macular pigment zeaxanthin.