Chicken Paprikash: That Famous Hungarian Dish!

Growing up, my mom had the same small, square, Schilling can of paprika in her spice drawer for years. She sprinkled it on potato salad and deviled eggs. That was about it. Well, in Hungary ground paprika is rarely pinched or sprinkled; it’s spooned in heaps and scooped. Most Hungarian cooks wouldn’t last a week with my mom’s little spice can. Hungarian kitchens often house jars of it, ranging from sweet to sprout-hair-on-your-chest hot. It’s reported that each Hungarian eats over a pound of the “red gold” a year!

P1080437One of my all time favorite Hungarian dishes is chicken paprikash, called paprikás csirke here. Like gulyás and pörkölt, it’s one of the country’s staples. At the end of the 19th century, this colorful, creamy dish became famous outside of Hungary when French chef Georges Escoffier put Poulet au Paprika on the menu at the famed Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo.

Tonight, I’m going to make chicken paprikas for supper. It’s not difficult. Since I can’t send you the leftovers (there never are any when I make it), I’m sending along the recipe instead. If you’ve never tasted paprikás csirke before, I guarantee you’ll be hooked. If you’re Hungarian, who in your life makes the best?

Recipe for Paprikás Csirke from Culinaria Hungary

P1080431Ingredients: 1 chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds/1.2 kg); 1 large onion, 2 1/2 tbsp oil; 1 heaping tbsp ground paprika (mild or semisweet); 2 bell peppers (optional); 1 large tomato; 1 2/3 cups/400 ml sour cream; 1-2 tbsp flour: salt

Directions: Divide the chicken into pieces (do not skin). Finely chop the onion. Heat the oil, and gently cook the onion, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, and sprinkle with the ground paprika. Add the chicken pieces and fry over high heat for several minutes. Then reduce the heat, season the chicken with salt, and cover the lid. Remove the seeds from the bell pepers (optional) and slice into rings. Peel, seed, and chop the tomato. Add the pepper rings and chopped tomato to the chicken and cover with the lid. Continue cooking until done, stirring from time to time. In the pan, combine the cream with a little flour, and stir until smooth. Add the sour cream to the reduced juices at the end of the cooking time, and simmer gently for another 4-5 minutes. Serve with plain or quark dumplings. Yum!

20 thoughts on “Chicken Paprikash: That Famous Hungarian Dish!

  1. Sounds delicious, Phil. I once spent an afternoon in the kitchen with a Hungarian friend’s mom who coached me through her recipe. To this day, it’s one of my favourite (and most popular) dishes.

    Jó étvágyat!


  2. When I was running the kitchen at an assisted living facility I made this for a Hungarian lady when her brother visited. He brought his family each time I made it and being told that it tasted “as good as they made it at home” was the best compliment I ever received. I didn’t use my grandma’s recipe, hers was more a soup than a sauce.

    • “Csirkepörkölt” is without the sour cream and the flour, but it almost the same. “Csirkepörkölt” proper name is “chicken goulash”, but both of them are delicious. My children’s all time favourite. :-)

      • Dear Andor, I would disagree with you a little. 1. Goulash is a soup, made only from beef, not other meats 2. Stew what we make of beef, pork, chicken, veal and we call it “porkolt”, marha-, sertes-, csirke vagy borjuporkolt respectively. 3. When we add sour-cream to the stew, we call it Paprikash. ( Beef stew does not get sour-cream, it stays “marhaporkolt”) The rest will be called “sertes-paprikas”, “borjupaprikas” vagy “paprikas csirke”. All are delicious no question about it!

  3. I am happy to see that you got pictures before you ate! :) I’ve enjoyed your last few blogs. We have lived in Budapest off and on since 2008 and enjoy their traditional dishes. Living in an apartment owned by a Hungarian and eating her dishes, I think there is a difference between the way I make a Hungarian dish and the way she creates one. Sometimes what is on paper and how a cook makes it, are not always the same.

  4. Unfortunately, the very best Hungarian cooks in my family are gone. Namely, both grandmas, mother, and aunt (mother’s sister). However, I must say, I do pretty darn good, I had GREAT teacher’s. My sister-in-law does a bang up job also. We serve over a pinched dumpling called “megcsipte gomboc”. Always a favorite in our family. Az On egeszsege!

  5. LOVE paprikash! It’s so nice to see that you also include tomatoes in yours. I have for many, many years been told true paprikash doesn’t include them. My Hungarian grandmother would disagree!

  6. I use chopped celery with the onion and do not use peppers or tomatoes. A family favorite, fixing it next week for my grand daughter’s 34th birthday. She’s had it every year on her birthday for 34 years.

  7. Definitely my favorite Hungarian dish! I love it when my nagymama makes it for me with cseresny leves every time I go to visit her in Hungary. I’ve tried making it myself before and it doesn’t compare to my nagymama’s.

  8. Ez, valóban jó étel! Kiegészíteném, hogy nem őrölt borssal, hanem köménymaggal kell ízesíteni. A végén tejfölös habarás is lehet! A körités, eredeti formában a nokedli. Jó étvágyat!

    • Kedves Marta!

      A csirkeporkoltbe vagy paprikas csirkebe meg veletlenul sem tennek komenymagot, borsot sem. Egyik sem valo bele, felenk senki sem tesz bele. A paprika a fo fuszer, ezert is hivjuk paprikasnak, azt viszont nem szabad kisajnalni. Eredetileg Paparol szarmazom, mas videken vagy Erdelyben tan maskepp csinaljak. A nokedli vagy galuska elmaradhatatlan, ugy szinten az uborkasalata. Igy talaltuk mi is az ettermemben, Sarasotan.

  9. Paprikás Csirke is a true Hungaricum. But the recipe that Phillip uses from the Culinaria (A German series) includes flour as a thickener. As George Lang noted in his classic book on Hungarian cuisine, authentic Hungarian recipes do not “frenchify” Chicken Parprikash by adding wine, nor “germanicize” Chicken Parprikash by adding flour. There should be enough paprika itself in the sauce to slightly thicken it and give it just the right consistency. (PS – Phillip Done’s postings are fantastic. A great commentary on life in Budapest today.)

  10. Okay, first if all, I am commenting on a lot of your posts today cuz I honestly haven’t taken the time to read them when you post them. Getting to read these back to back is fun though. Secondly, the paprikash reference takes me back to the film, “When Harry met Sally”. Billy Crystal’s character is being silly and saying something about pepper on paprikash. Lastly, I am glad that the green pepper is optional.

  11. Besides I am so glad, that Americans generally love my country, Budapest, Magyar people and Magyar dishes, as it was always said in my Hungarian – French Restaurant in Sarasota, Florida. I can congratulate only to Phil for the loving blog, I guess we all enjoy it very much. I would add only a tiny bit of note to the Chicken Paprikash recipe. After placing the meat over the sautéed onion with paprika, it need to add some water, avoiding the paprika being burn, as it would give a bitter taste to it, if there is no liquid enough. Though never too much water, that is the part easy to mess up the whole thing. I add actually little water gradually during the cooking process to reach a nice thicker sauce. In that case we don’t really need to use any flour at the end.

  12. Flour?? NOOOOOOOOOOOO! :D Don’t kill the food…This food doesn’t need any flour. Aaaaaand you better add some water before adding paprika to the hot oil, because it might burn it, and it’ll tast quite bad. Although this is a typical traditional food… we all have our own version :)

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I made it tonight over on the other side of the world (Phoenix AZ) and it was very easy to do and so, so, delicious. My kids loved it. It is as close as I’ve ever come to making chicken paprikash like I tasted in Budapest 10 years ago. I hope to go back one day, but if I don’t, at least I have your recipe for when I want to relive that moment!

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