Friday Random Recipe: Chicken Paprikash

The year before our first kid was born, my wife and I went on vacation in Budapest. It was a beautiful city, and the food was wonderful – I particularly loved the chicken paprikash that they seemed to server everywhere. When I got home, I started looking for recipes to reproduce it. This is the closest I’ve been able to come.

The most important thing for this recipe is the paprika. Get good hungarian paprika. American paprika is pretty much just powdered red food coloring. Hungarian paprika is a richly flavorful spice which is the heart of this dish.


  • 3 tablespoons Sweet hungarian paprika
  • 3 tablespoons Hot hungarian paprika.
  • 2-3 pounds of chicken, bone in, skin on. (You can use either a good sized whole chicken,
    or just chicken legs; dark meat will come out the best.)
  • 3 large onions, quartered and then sliced thin.
  • Several cloves of garlic, finely minced.
  • 3 bay leaves.
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock.
  • 1 cup creme fraiche. (Sour cream will work if you can’t get the fraiche, but creme fraiche is
    much better.)
  • Cooked egg noodles or spaetzle tossed with butter.
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Cut the chicken into parts. If you’re using a whole chicken, separate the legs, thighs, wings,
    and cut the breasts each in half. If you’re using just legs, separate the drumsticks from the thighs.
  2. On medium high heat, brown the chicken well. Start with the fattiest pieces in a dry pan; the rendered fat is what you’ll use to cook everything else. Drain the fat if there’s too much, but make sure
    to keep enough to be able to saute the onions.
  3. When the chicken is done, dump the leftover fat into a large stockpot on medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, and just barely starting to turn golden.
  4. Add the paprika, bay leaves, and some salt and pepper and stir around.
  5. Add the chicken stock. Taste it for salt and pepper. At this point, it should taste a little
    too salty, because the chicken is unsalted, and it’s going to absorb some of the
    salt. Also add more paprika if it doesn’t taste strong enough.
  6. Put the chicken back in. If the stock doesn’t cover the chicken, add more. (And then add more
    paprika to make up for the dilution.)
  7. When the stock comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and let it simmer for at least an hour until the chicken is cooked through and tender enough to fall off the bone.
  8. When it’s all cooked through, taste again for salt and pepper, and remove the bay leaves.
  9. Right before serving, add the creme fraiche on low heat, and stir it through the sauce.
  10. Serve over the egg noodles or spaetzle. (If you have a good recipe for spaetzle, please let me
    know; I haven’t been able to make any that comes out like the real hungarian stuff.)

0 thoughts on “Friday Random Recipe: Chicken Paprikash

  1. Coturnix

    I’ll have to try your recipe. My mother, my brother and my wife are in a constant, multiannual competition who makes better paprikash. I am the lucky test-taster of all their efforts!

  2. krisztian pinter

    i’m happily report from hungary, that your recipe is quite authentic 🙂
    those noodles (galuska or nokedli) are really simple, it is nothing but whole eggs, flour, salt and water. amounts are largely freechoice, should make a very soft but not liquid dough. it must be cream-like and sticky. do not make it totally smooth, if it has small irregularities only, stop, and let rest for 5 minutes. the secret is sloppiness, do it fast, no need to pay attention to detail. the more you knead, the harder the galuska will be. then you need to form small pieces (1cm). there is a tool we use, like a pan with 6-8mm holes. but if you don’t have, a teaspoon will do, except it takes ages. you make the pieces directly into a large bowl with boiling salted water, and boil until it comes up, and floats on water, plus another 2-5 mins, as you like it. remove from water or filt. serve immediately. some used to heat it a bit over a drop of oil in a pan, it becomes less sticky. others say you must wash it with cold water.

  3. ParanoidMarvin

    One important addendum, for the non-experienced. Take the pot off the flame when you add the paprika, and return it only after you stirred things up and added the stock, since if the paprika gets burned it will get horribly bitter and you might as well dump the onions and start over.

  4. Jake

    Galuska are pretty simple in theory, bit fiddly in practice. You want a slightly firm dough and some way to get small pieces of it. If you’re skilled you can apparently do this with a knife (I can’t). A useful and simple dedicated tool is a pan with holes in it called a galuskaszaggató; unfortunately, they’re hard to come by outside of Hungary. A quicker and easier-found tool is a rotary spaetzle machine (VillaWare makes a $30 model).
    As for the dough, Derecskey suggests 3 cups flour, 1.5 tsp salt, 3 eggs, and 2 tablespoons of butter with half a cup of water. Lang, more traditional, suggests 2 eggs, 3 cups of flour, 2 tsp salt, and 6 tablespoons of lard with 2/3 cups of water. I go with Lang generally here; his galuska seem to have a superior texture (schmaltz may be substituted for the lard; butter seems an inferior compromise to me). The most important thing though is to let the dough settle a while: at least 15 minutes, possibly as long as 45.

  5. JBL

    The tool for the galuska that Krisztian mentions looks very much like a large-holed cheese grater (the single-sided kind) and is set atop the pot of boiling water, so the dough can easily slide through to cook.

  6. The New York City High School Math Teacher

    You can get the right flavor of sweet paprika from bulk dried Indian (sub-continent) sweet paprika. It’s just as good, actually, and not 19$ a pound, as it is in the little supermarket tins.
    And what about serving the paprikash with its traditional accompaniment – kartoffel klöse (potato dumplings)?
    2 lbs cooked all purpose, riced, mixed (gently!) with salt, pepper, oil, three eggs, a tsp of baking powder. Float in a simmering water bath for 15 minutes (until done and expanded).
    Schmecks gut.

  7. Mike

    For those without the specialized spaetzle hardware, there is a great multitasking solution: a common colander. Large batches in pro kitchens are done this way. It is nice if the colander can rest on the top rim of your boiling water pot, to take the strain off of holding it there (dough is heavy!). It will also seem like you need 3 or four hands the first time, and so a helper is nice. A couple of other tools will help. One is a sheet pan or a cookie sheet to transfer the drippy colander to after you have loaded a batch into the water. Also, I find a flexible dough scraper is essential. Shaped light a capital “D”, and made out of flexible plastic, the curved part is used to scrape various surfaces down. This tool allows you to easily load, and then gently press the dough through the colander by light pressure on the dough. Here you are lightly pushing against the dough holding the scraper almost horizontal to the bottom of the colander. And finally, since this dough is really, really messy, the flexi-scraper is a great clean-up tool. The final piece of equipment is a hand help mesh strainer, commonly called a “spider”. Essentially this is a piece of wire mesh with a handle, which allows you to remove many pieces of spaetzle from a pot at once, leaving the water behind. Finally a caution: you will be working above steam…be careful out there!
    I absolutely agree with the freeform approach of #2, which allows you to fiddle and learn. But a basic spaetzle dough will approach:
    2 eggs
    2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
    1/2 cup water
    1/2 cup milk (optional, sub with 1/2 water)
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    freshly grated nutmeg (not optional IMHO)
    Beat liquid ingredients lightly in a large bowl. Blend in salt and nutmeg. Gradually add sifted flour until a very, very thick pancake-batter like consistency is achieved. It should run off your wooden spoon, but barely. My experience is it should not be stiff enough to cut on a board…you can make world-class noodles from a stiff dough, just not spaetzle. This dough will be wet, flowing, and extremely sticky. Feel free to experiment with additional ingredients, herbs especially.
    Bring lots of well salted water to a rapid boil, place your colander on the rim of the pot, and load with several scoops of dough. A very loose (wet) dough might already begin to fall through the holes in the colander, while a stiffer dough will need a bit of persuasion with your scraper. Either way, you will find that the dough falls through in nice elongated egg-shaped strands, which is perfect! This occurs because as the weight of the dough pulls itself down faster and faster it cuts the strand short, just the way you want it. Be careful how much you load into the water at one time…if you continue to load raw dough strands directly onto raw dough which has not separated by boiling, you’ll end up with an ugly mass of dough in the water, instead of individual pieces. Each time a batch falls into the water, you should ensure that all pieces are “sealed” by the boiling process. A quick pass through the water with the spider will accomplish this. Two to four loadings are typical. Cook at the boil for about a minute, 2-3 at the outside for a large batch, stirring and separating gently with your spider. The spaetzle will float and puff up a bit as the egg leavens the dough. When they are done, strain them out with the spider onto a sheet pan (one layer), where they can cool off. If you are going to hold them for a time, rather than serve immediately, sprinkle the cooled spaetzle with olive oil, and toss to coat, to keep the starchy layer from sticking them all together in the fridge. They fry best if slightly dried off, which you can do by gently massaging them with a tea towel or paper towels, or just air dry for a bit.
    My favorite service:
    Put a big knob of fresh butter in a large sauté pan (teflon is fine), and place it on high heat. Once the butter is melted, and just as it turns nutty and brown, drop in a big load of cooled spaetzle, which will begin to color because of the turning butter. Toss a few times, and season with kosher salt, more fresh nutmeg, and a few turns of fresh pepper. The pan may cry out for another piece of butter, so you’d better watch closely. Toss well for a few minutes, until they are very hot and just begin to color from the frying. Some folks like their spaetzle “blond” (no color), and some “browned” a bit, your mileage will vary. At the very end, toss in as much freshly chopped parsley as you can stand, and serve with Hungarian goulash, fricassee, paprikash, schnitzel, or nothing at all . A splash of fresh lemon goes well also. You can easily do the whole process in a good olive oil (zero cholesterol), which is very nearly as good!

  8. Mu2

    If you have a good recipe for spaetzle, please let me know; I haven’t been able to make any that comes out like the real hungarian stuff
    Hungarian spaetzle :):):)
    Spaetzle is a Swabian specialty, an area centered in south-western Germany, and, depending on the state of war in Europe, including parts of Austria, Switzerland, France etc. Hungarians haven’t made it into that area since 955 AD.
    One easy way to make them without colander or other tool is to slop a bit of rather liquidly dough on a wooden cutting board, and than scrape 1/4 inch wide strips of dough straight into boiling water with a knife. Wooden board works better than plastic since the dough sticks a bit to the board, allowing to scrape the dough without risking that the whole mess slides into the water in one big glob.

  9. BWV

    You got a pretty good chile recipe there if you just change the Paprika to a good chile powder and perhaps add some cumin. Texas chile and goulash are pretty much the same, save for the spices – don’t know but there may be a link with the large German and Czech populations in TX.

  10. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    In my chili, I don’t use powdered chili. I go for dried chili peppers, cook them in some stock to soften them, and then puree them. A couple of anchos, plus a chipotle or two makes for a great blend. I also don’t keep the meat on the bone for chili. And I’m not a cumin fan, so I don’t use a lot of it, but I do add some roasted coriander seeds and avocado leaves.
    But yeah, the basic dishes are pretty similar when done right.
    Unfortunately, up here in NYC, they make what they call chili with ground meat, lots of beans, ridiculous amounts of cumin, and not very much (if any) actual chilis. Terrible stuff – comes out with a gritty texture, and an indescribably awful flavor. I was astonished the first time I tried *real* chili – it was *so* good, and it’s so easy to make – why did people change the recipe to make that godawful *crap*?


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