Chicken Paprikash recipe
March 31, 2009 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have a recipe for an authentic Hungarian Chicken Paprikash?

My husband had told me that his favorite childhood dish was his family's Chicken Paprikash. Unfortunately, his parents are deceased and since it's a surprise, I can't ask him for the recipe. So, if anyone would like to share their recipe with me, I would be grateful. Also, I have seen the recipes with just "paprika", I know that there are different kinds of it out there, so it would be helpful to know exactly what kind to use since I have never in my life cooked with it before.
posted by kochanie to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
This was just on The Kitchn the other day. I can't vouch for any of the recipes listed, but there are several family recipes in the comments section.
posted by phunniemee at 6:24 PM on March 31, 2009

Yes! I do! My great grandmother, long envious of the Hungarian aristocracy, has passed this one down to us. It is a family favorite. It is really simple but extremely satisfying.

This is the recipe my mom typed up for me when I went to college:

Chicken Paprikash with Dumplings, Grandma Tessie Style
Brown chicken pieces in butter, salt, and paprika (about 1/3 cup for a whole cut up chicken). Add water (1 cup or about 1 & 1/2 inch) and 1 or 2 large onions, diced. Simmer, covered, about 1 hour. Add more water when needed. Taste, and add more paprika if needed (in my experience, it is always needed). Mix together sour cream (1 chicken needs about 15 oz. sour cream) and enough flour to bind (a few teaspoons) (this is important! If you don't mix the flour into the sour cream beforehand, it separates in the sauce and gets all lumpy! Be certain to do this!) Stir into chicken in pot. Serve with dumplings.


3 eggs
3/4 cups water
2 & 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt

Beat eggs well, add salt and water and stir this into the flour until a smooth batter is formed. Use metal spoon. Dip into boiling water, cut small amount of batter for dumpling, a little crescent shape on the side of the spoon. Drop into water off spoon, should come off cleanly, if not, spoon should be hotter. Continue dropping by spoonful into boiling water until all the batter is used up. This is the hardest bit of the whole recipe. It might be nice to have someone to help you hold the bowl. The batter is extremely sticky and heavy. Cook dumplings about ten minutes. Drain in colander.

It in nice to put the dumplings on one side of the serving dish and the chicken with sauce on the other side.

A word about paprika: Look for the red tin labeled Hungarian paprika. If you are not using hungarian paprika, you are a fool. It comes in sweet or spicy, I go for the sweet, but the spicy is good too. It is brilliant in nearly everything. Do not skimp on it in paprikash, as it is the key ingredient!
posted by Mizu at 6:25 PM on March 31, 2009 [7 favorites]

Robert Farrar Capon has a version in The Supper of the Lamb that has been much loved by my family since before I was born. I cannot vouch for its authenticity, but it is seriously my favorite food. A copy of it is posted here - the recipe is the same, I checked my cookbook to make sure.

My family always serves it over spaetzle, basically 2 cups flour, 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg, 2 eggs, and enough milk to make a stiff batter (around 3/4 cup). You mix up the dough and drop by very small spoonfuls into boiling water. (unless you have a spaetzle mill. i love love love my spaetzle mill.) Boil ten to fifteen minutes, then drain in colander, transfer to bowl, and add lots of butter. If you are not up for making spaetzle, you could serve it over egg noodles instead.

Most of all - enjoy! I am sure your husband will be delighted.
posted by beandip at 6:48 PM on March 31, 2009

This is very long (sorry) - but it's the best recipe ever, although it allows for a lot of variations. Really great paprikás / gulyás / pörkölt takes hours to prepare. This is John Farago's recipe from "Sctrictly From Hungary," but I've added my adaptations at the end (some of them, anyway.) I have a better recipe but I've not written it down:

John Farago's All-Purpose Hungarian Recipe

(This recipe is based on the premise that all Hungarian dishes, or at least all Hungarian meat stews, are basically variations on a theme.)

The first step is to fry the onions, Dice 2 large onions. Fry in fat appropriate to the meat (lard for pork, goosefat for poultry, either of these or butter or suet for beef or veal.) The trick is that you want the onions to begin to brown - caramelize - which brings out their sweetness, dries them out, and gets rid of the oniony aftertaste. If the temperature is allowed to drop too much, the onions will turn to mush before they caramelize. To avoid this, use a pan that retains heat. Cast iron or enameled cast iron takes a long time to change temperature. The heavier the better. Then get it as hot as possible, which means bring the fat to just below the temperature at which it starts to smoke (when the first hints of smoke appear, throw in the onions.) Solid fats - goosefat, lard, butter, Crisco, suet - start to smoke at higher temperatures than liquid fats (that makes sense, since they melt into liquid from a solid at a higher temperature.)

Add about a teaspoon of salt, sprinkle with a good hint of pepper, and fry at medium-high heat. The fat is what keeps the onions from burning, so there needs to be a good bit of it (I start with about 4-6 tablespoons and add more if looks like things are sticking too much.) You wind up cooking the water out of them, so eventually they should be golden brown with very few bubbles, just fat and onions left in the pan.

Variant: Peppers. Almost all Hungarian dishes except Székely Gulyás require peppers as well as onions. No peppers for Székely Gulyás! I chop the peppers after I throw the onions into the pan and throw the peppers in with the frying onions as soon as they are all chopped. This gives the pan a chance to heat back up and the onions a chance to start to caramelize before the peppers add their water and make it harder to get everything brown. The peppers, too, should cook out their water and begin to brown around the edges.

Variant: Root vegetables. Before adding peppers, consider adding a couple of handfuls of finely chopped carrots and perhaps 1/3 or 1/2 that amount of chopped parsnips. These should cook down to almost nothing before it's all done, so get them well softened while sautéing. The effect is to sweeten the sauce somewhat, and make it richer.

Variant: Apple. I add a thinly sliced whole apple (something tart, usually Granny Smith) to the onions and peppers. Start to peel after you throw in the peppers, core it slice it translucently thin, throw it in.

Variant: Caraway seeds. You can, and probably should, throw a tablespoon or less of caraway seeds in with the onions, peppers, and apple (not for Székely Gulyás, though, for reasons that become obvious.)

The next step is to sear the meat so that it stays moist as it stews. It doesn't matter what the meat is, Cut the meat into 1-inch chunks, unless you're using a whole chicken, then cut it up into eight pieces, dry the meat, and rub with salt, pepper and some form of garlic (crushed actually works the least well because it burns easily; powdered, granulated, or garlic salts works well.) Be generous with all three parts of the rub.

Remove the vegetables from the fat (let the fat drain back into the pot), and crank up the heat again. In relatively small batches, sear the meat so that it crusts at the edges. Let it sit for a bit without stirring or it won't brown. Then turn and scrape it a bit till it's browned all around. Again, unless the heat is high, the meat will start to simmer in its own juices, which is sort of the opposite of what you want.

When all the meat is done, deglaze the pan of the brown/black stuff that's stuck at the bottom. You can use water to do this, say, about 1/2 cup. Scrape the bottom as the water boils, and let it boil vigorously until it pretty much all has evaporated.

Variant: Deglazing liquid. I actually use Tokaji or some other sweet dessert wine. But you can use port (I use white port) or apple cider. I also add the juice of about 1/2 lemon (be careful not to let the seeds fall in; they turn sour when they cook.)

Throw the meat, inions, peppers, etc. back into the pot with the fat and add the paprika. I use a vast amount (about 1/2 cup) of the sweetest Hungarian paprika I can find. Mix it around until the paprika dissolves. If you don't mix it, it will burn in the fat. Bring the temperature down to the lowest simmer you can get and put a cover on it.

Variant: Hot paprika. In addition to the sweet paprika, I add about 1/2 teaspoon of hot paprika. You can always add more later if you want it spicy.

Variant: Székely Gulyás. Székely Gulyás is a pork gulyás with sauerkraut. Once the pork is simmering, it's time to start thinking about the sauerkraut. The question here is "How sour do you like it?" I like it not very sour. I buy fresh kraut from a Hungarian butcher or a place that sells fresh pickles, and I rinse it with cold water until it tastes right. You should make sure that it's still at least a little bit sour, that's sort of the point. Then simmer it in a separate pot (to get it warm and soft), with about 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds mixed in. The balance between kraut and meat is entirely up to you; use anywhere from equal amounts (by weight, uncooked) to twice as much meat as kraut.

Variant: Tomatoes. While it is simmering, you can add tomatoes: 1 can or less of whole Italian-style plum tomatoes, mushed up, or 1 similar-sized can of crushed tomatoes, or as much thick tomato paste as you feel like, or two or three fresh tomatoes, or whatever you'd like. This is entirely a matter of personal taste. Tomatoes can add sweetness, intensity, and color, depending on what you use and how much. My mother always used to sneak in a couple of tablespoons of thickened paste. I toss in a fresh tomato or two if I have a couple that are very ripe, and when I cook in volume I'll toss in a large canful for bulk and flavor. Start with none; experiment to see whether you want to add any.

Let the stew simmer for at least a couple of hours, until the meat stops being tough and chewy. Be patient, it will eventually get flaky and soft. When it does, you're almost done. How you finish the sauce depends on what you want it to be when you're done.

Variant: Székely Gulyás. Basically, all you have to do now is drain the kraut and combine it with the meat. Stir it around, add a bit more (2 to 4 tablespoons) sweet paprika so that the kraut will take on a rosy red color, and simmer them together for 30 minutes or so, very low heat, stirring occasionally so it doesn't burn. When you serve it, add sour cream to taste and stir it around so the color turn a creamy red. About 1 cup should do it. You can put more sour cream on the table with it, as well as sweet and hot paprikas. A variant within the variant: You can add sliced sausage during this final heating phase while the meat and kraut are together. Debrecen (a Hungarian sausage) or kolbasz or any sausage you feel like, about 1/2- to 1-inch-thick rounds. You can also add another apple, finally diced, but then be sure to keep the dish simmering until the apple turns soft and indistinguishably mushy.

Variant: Gulyás soup. Real gulyás is a think beef soup, more sharp than sweet. If that's what you're aiming for, add some beef or some veal or even chicken stock to thin it down to watery consistency, and add hot paprika to taste. You can boil some potatoes in with it and some carrots and parsnips and turnips if you want. If you're going to add these vegetables, don't let the meat get too soft in phase III before you add them, since you'll be cooking it for about another hour after the vegetables get tossed in. Serve with tiny dumplings cooked in the gulyás, a dollop of sour cream (about 1 teaspoon per bowl) and sprinkle with a dash of hot paprika on top.

Variant: Goulash. Actually, in Hungarian a pörkölt. At the end of phase III, that's pretty much what you have. Make sure the sauce is hearty and flavorful. If not, remove the meat and boil it down (you can also add paprika) to get a dense, intense sauce. It will be thinned a bit by the cream, so you want it really intense. When it's to taste, serve with sour cream and hot and sweet paprikas on the side. A variant within the variant: there is no defensible reason not to add 1 cup of heavy cream at the very end. Mix it in.

Variant: Paprikas. Paprikas sauce is a smooth creamy sauce. Take the meat out of the stew and get the sauce to the same intense place described above for goulash. There's no turning back; however intense you get it here, that's the most it will ever be again, so make sure you're happy with it before going on. Then throw the onions, peppers, etc. into a food processor with whatever sauce travels with them, and purée them down into a smooth paste. Throw the purée back into the sauce. (Do it slowly, so that you get the right texture and taste to suit you.) Add the meat back in. (This will thin the sauce a bit because the meat juices will have come out while it was sitting there.) Add 1 cup of heavy cream (or less, to taste.) Stir. Serve with sour cream. I put a dollop on each serving (about 2 tablespoons), and let the people mix it in themselves, or you can just serve it on the side.

Final notes: Serve with some form of noodle or dumpling. You can always correct the flavor by playing with any of the following at any stage (in diminishing order of rationality): salt, sweet paprika, hot paprika, sweet wine (Tokaji or port), lemon juice, garlic powder, apple cider.


Aside from the ones pertaining to székely gulyás, I adhere to all the variants prior to phase IV.

Additionally, I really fry those onions to the point where they're beyond "caramelized" and have become nearly black. By the time you've "stewed" the whole thing, it won't matter, and experience has shown me that the flavor is much more intense this way.

I don't worry about chopping the apple too finely - no matter what, it seems to disappear entirely by the time the food is served.

I use grated carrots from the bag - they're small enough that they cook down quickly, and it saves time chopping.

I'm pretty liberal with the paprika. Instead of using the hot (or csipös) paprika, which I don't always have, I've found that a good squeeze of pörkölt sauce from the tube does just as well.

For deglazing liquid, I've used white cooking wine. I leave about 1/3 cup in the pan when I add everything back in, instead of letting it evaporate.

For tomatoes, I just add a can of diced tomatoes (with or without onions), after straining out the juice.

I've never added cream. But I do put a lot of sour cream next to the dish.

Instead of cooking noodles, I like a polenta of oatmeal consistency. This is how it's served in the Hungarian parts of Transylvania and it "works" better. I just buy corn meal and boil it in water; about 2 cups of grits for every 6 cups of boiling water. The Romanians make this with a lot of butter and replaces some water with milk, but I've never tried it that way. I do put in about three tablespoons of olive oil, though.

Inevitably, there are leftovers. I put some polenta in a bowl with the appropriate amount of pörkölt, in individual servings. The polenta tends to dry it; that's why I keep it with the pörkölt. Then just microwave and go.

And there should always be some sort of appropriate bread or rolls to go with it.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:35 PM on March 31, 2009 [47 favorites]

Cook's Illustrated had a Chicken Paprikash recipe in March 2002. I still remember it, so it must have turned out pretty well when I tried it! Can't say if it's "authentic" but it was pretty straightforward. Their article emphasized that using the right kind of paprika was crucial.

November 2008 had another big paprika recipe, Hungarian Beef Stew, which also had a lot of background about different types of paprika -- might be worth looking up.
posted by xil at 7:37 PM on March 31, 2009

My grandmother (Slovak, for what it's worth) made it nearly identically to Mizu's recipe. She had a written revipe, but it was super, super loose (For example, it would say, "brown onions and such until done enough.") She served it with spaetzle. It was my favorite meal, it s one of the only things I miss not eating meat.

I made a vegetarian version recently, subbing chicken for tofu and mushrooms. I serves it with barley, and it was a pretty good lazy-person's substitute for spaetzle.
posted by piratebowling at 7:39 PM on March 31, 2009

Holy awesome, Dee Xtrovert! One question - you mention peppers. What kind of peppers? Chili? Green/yellow/red bell peppers?
posted by suedehead at 10:24 PM on March 31, 2009

Red bell peppers or green bell peppers work best. I've nver tried yellow or orange, but I would doubt it would make a big difference. Definitely not chili peppers!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:58 AM on April 1, 2009

This is our version of my dad's recipe. I don't know where he got it from... It's probably less authentic than the others, but it's on the table in less than 20 minutes.

1–2 cloves garlic
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp caraway
1 tsp thyme
2 chicken breasts, boned and crushed
* We've been out of sherry, so we've recently discovered that a slightly malty, slightly sweet beer, such as Erie's Railbender Ale makes an excellent substitute.
2–3 Tbsp paprika
* We use a mix of Hungary Half-Sharp and Hungary Sweet paprikas from Penzey's; we've recently gotten some of their Spanish Smoked Paprika to try, but haven't gotten around to it yet....
1/4–1/2 cup sour cream

1. Heat skillet, add butter, garlic, spices.
2. When garlic begins to brown, add chicken. Sauté until done, quench with sherry. Remove the chicken to a plate.
3. Add paprika to make a thick, chalky paste, then add more sherry (less than 1/4 cup) to thin the paste.
4. Add sour cream, stir until well-blended. Serve over noodles.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 6:31 AM on April 7, 2009

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