Delectable Hungarian Chicken Paprikash is rustic comfort food at its best. Chicken pieces are stewed until fork-tender in a richly colored, ambrosial sauce of onion, tomatoes, spicy peppers, paprika and sour cream. I’ve included directions for cooking in an Instant Pot, Slow Cooker or on your stovetop. Plus, I’ve also shared tips and tricks I learned at a cooking class in Budapest, Hungary!

Blue plate showing a portion of Hungarian Chicken Paprikash

Hungarian Chicken Paprikash Recipe

I’ve been making Chicken Paprikash for years. Like most peasant food, it’s easy to prepare with simple, readily available ingredients that magically blend together to form something divine. The basic recipe is straight forward – chicken pieces are simmered in a flavorful sauce of onions, paprika and sometimes tomatoes, garlic and/or peppers, then finished off with sour cream. In Hungary, it’s traditionally served with Hungarian Dumplings, also known as Nokedli.

Close up of blue plate holding a portion of Chicken Paprikash

What is Chicken Paprikash?

Chicken Paprikash is a traditional Hungarian dish in which chicken pieces are stewed in a sauce spiked with lots of paprika, and then finished off with sour cream. Many variations abound; most often they include onions, tomatoes and some sort of pepper.

What does Paprikash taste like?

The spice Paprikash, or paprika, has a mild, sweet, earthy, sometimes musty flavor. Note that there are different types of paprika – sweet (called for in this recipe), spicy and smoked.

Lee and teacher in Budapest cooking class
Me and cooking instructor at Chefparade Cooking School

I’d always thought my recipe for Chicken Paprikash was missing something. So, a few years ago while on a bike trip along the Danube River, I encouraged Robert and our friends Paul Maxwell and Evie Haskell to take a cooking class with me at Chefparade Cooking School in Budapest, Hungary. Fortunately, they agreed – and I’m so glad they did. We learned a lot about traditional Hungarian cooking ingredients and methods, and I discovered how to perfect my Chicken Paprikash recipe. (I also learned how to make Hungarian Dumplings – a.k.a. Nokedli!)

Best ingredients to use in Hungarian Chicken Paprikash

My key takeaways from the cooking class about perfecting my Chicken Paprikash recipe are largely about the ingredients:

  • Good quality, sweet Hungarian Paprika – It’s the true star of the dish, and can make or break it. I purchase my paprika at Savory Spice in Denver. You can order from them online, too. FYI, “sweet” doesn’t mean it has a super sweet flavor; it just differentiates it from “hot” or “smoked” paprika.
  • Bone-in, Skin-on Chicken Drumsticks or Thighs – These chicken pieces provide the most flavor, have the best texture and stay moist after stewing. Chicken breasts tend to get dried out when slow cooked – yes, even when cooked in a sauce. Also, keeping the skin on helps the chicken pieces hold their shape.
  • Tomatoes – Some Paprikash recipes include tomatoes, others don’t. Fresh or canned, tomatoes add in another layer of tastiness – their acidity enhancing the chicken’s rich savory flavors.
  • Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers – Several US versions of Paprikash include green peppers (as did my old recipe). In Hungary, if peppers are used, it’s most often the Hungarian Wax Pepper. These peppers are not sweet, but spicy. On the heat index, they are comparable to jalapeno peppers. If you can’t find them, look for Caribe peppers (I found these at my local Kroger grocery store, in the produce section, by the jalapenos). Jalapeno or Serrano peppers are also a good substitute.
Hungarian Wax Pepper
Caribe Peppers

How to Make Hungarian Chicken Paprikash

In the recipe card below, I provide three different methods for preparing Chicken Paprikash – on the stovetop, in and Instant Pot or in a Slow Cooker. Here are the steps involved in the stovetop method, which is the traditional approach (and how I learned to make it in Hungary):

  1. Prep pan.
    Heat oil in a large skillet (cast iron works well) over high heat.
  2. Prep chicken.
    While oil is heating, place 2 tablespoons flour in a large baggie; add the chicken pieces one at a time and shake to coat chicken with flour. Set aside on a plate.
  3. Brown chicken pieces.
    Place chicken in a single layer in hot oil in skillet, skin side down. Sauté until lightly browned, around 4 to 5 minutes. Flip over and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove chicken from heat and set aside. Don’t clean out pan!
  4. Cook onions.
    Turn temperature down to medium and add chopped onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until soft – around 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in paprika.
  5. Add liquids, tomatoes, pepper, salt and chicken; cook.
    Place chicken broth in a 1 cup measuring cup. Add reserved tomato juice to make 1 cup liquid. Stir into onion mixture. Add diced tomatoes, yellow pepper and salt. Nestle chicken pieces in sauce. Cover pan and cook on low heat until chicken is very tender cooked through (165 degrees on an instant read thermometer), around 45 minutes.
  6. Remove chicken; finish sauce.
    Remove chicken pieces from sauce and set aside, leaving the sauce in the pan. Place 3/4 cup sour cream in a small mixing bowl; whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Whisk in 3 spoonfuls of the sauce from the chicken, one spoonful at a time. Stir mixture into sauce in the pan and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, add more sour cream to taste.
  7. Reheat chicken; serve.
    Place chicken back in sauce to heat through.
blue plate showing a portion of Hungarian Chicken Paprikash

Tips to ensure your Hungarian Paprikash comes out perfectly

  • Sear chicken pieces in hot oil before adding the sauce. This is my addition – we didn’t do this in the class. I find searing meats over high heat before braising, baking, stewing, etc. not only provides a rich brown color on the outside, it brings out the natural umami flavors.
  • Sauté onion before adding to other ingredients. When slow cooking, I’ve found that first sautéing onions provides a deeper flavor to the finished dish.
  • Mix flour into sour cream before adding to sauce. When finishing the dish, we learned in class to whisk flour into the sour cream, for two reasons. First, the flour ensures a nice thick sauce. Second, putting it into the sour cream ensures even distribution in the sauce – no lumps!
  • Mix some of the sauce into sour cream mixture before adding. Similarly, to ensure the sour cream is evenly incorporated into the sauce, mix a few spoonfuls of sauce into the cream before adding.

What to Serve with this Paprikash Recipe

The traditional side dish with Chicken Paprikash is Hungarian Dumplings, also called Nokedli. Similar to German Spaetzle, they are basically a small egg pasta. They are surprisingly easy to make, and I think their rustic look pairs perfectly with this dish.

If you don’t want to make the dumplings, I recommend serving with egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Blue bowl holding Nokedli

What do you drink with Hungarian Chicken Paprikash with Dumplings?

I like to pair this dish with one of my good friend Nimrod Kovacs’ wines from Hungary. His winery is named for him – Nimrod Wines. For a rich, deep and full bodied red, check out his blend Rhapsody Bikaver.

And for a white, I recommend either his Furmint or Chardonnay. Unfortunately, they are so popular it’s difficult to always find them in the U.S. Check his website and you can find out where they’re available. In a pinch, substitute a nice un-oaked Chardonnay from France or the U.S., or a nice dry Riesling (yes, not all Rieslings are sweet!).

How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat this Paprikash Recipe

Place leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Store noodles separately.

To freeze, place chilled Paprikash in an airtight container in the freezer; it will keep for up to 2 months. Note that the texture of frozen sour cream can be grainy when thawed, so if preparing ahead for later, freeze before adding our cream. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before proceeding.

Reheat Chicken Paprikash in a saucepan over medium heat until warmed through; follow directions for adding sour cream (if frozen without it).

Hungarian Paprikash Recipe FAQ

How do you thicken Chicken Paprikash?

I love the technique I learned in my Hungarian cooking class for thickening this sauce. Place sour cream in a small mixing bowl and whisk in flour until smooth. (This ensures the flour gets completely incorporated and doesn’t form lumps.) Whisk spoonfuls of the sauce into the sour cream mixture. Now stir the sour cream mixture into the sauce and simmer until thickened.

What is the difference between goulash and paprikash?

Both goulash and paprikash are stews. Goulash traditionally includes beef, veal, pork or lamb and Paprikash features chicken. Goulash also contains more vegetables and sometimes potatoes, with no sour cream added. Paprikash features fewer vegetables (usually onion, peppers and tomatoes) and always sour cream.

How do you use Hungarian paprika?

Paprika can be used on many, many dishes. The Hungarians put it on everything! Chicken Paprikash and Hungarian Goulash are the two more popular uses. Add liberal amounts to to diced onions when sautéing; sprinkle on top of deviled eggs to add color as well as a pop of flavor.

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Close up of blue plate holding a portion of Chicken Paprikash

Hungarian Chicken Paprikash

Delectable Hungarian Chicken Paprikash is rustic comfort food at its best. Chicken is stewed until fork-tender in a richly colored, ambrosial sauce of onion, tomatoes, spicy peppers, paprika and sour cream. Directions for cooking in an Instant Pot, Slow Cooker or on your stovetop included. (The times noted above are for cooking on the stove top.) Serve with Hungarian Dumplings (Nokedli).

  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 65 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons organic canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 3/4 to 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (and/or drumsticks) – see Note
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 4 heaping teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika – See Note
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes, drained and juices reserved
  • 1 (2 to 3 inch) Hungarian hot wax pepper (or caribe pepper), seeded, deveined and finely chopped – see Note
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sour cream
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

Instant Pot directions

  1. Place the oil in Instant Pot, heat on High on Sauté setting.
  2. While oil is heating, place 2 tablespoons flour in a large baggie; add the chicken pieces one at a time and shake to coat chicken with flour. Set aside on a plate.
  3. Add chicken to hot oil, skin side down, and sauté until lightly browned, around 3 to 4 minutes. Flip over and cook for 3 minutes. Remove chicken from heat and set aside. Don’t clean out pan!
  4. Turn temperature down to medium and add chopped onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until soft. Stir in paprika.
  5. Place chicken broth in a 1 cup measuring cup. Add reserved tomato juice to make 1 cup liquid. Stir into onion mixture.
  6. Add diced tomatoes, yellow pepper and salt to sauce. Nestle in chicken pieces. Place glass Instant Pot lid on Pot, switch setting to Slow Cook, on Medium; cook for 6 to 8 hours, or until chicken is very tender.
  7. Remove chicken pieces from sauce and set aside, leaving the sauce in the pan.
  8. Place 3/4 cup sour cream in a small mixing bowl; whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Whisk in 3 spoonfuls of the sauce from the chicken, one spoonful at a time. Stir mixture into sauce in the pan and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
  9. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, add more sour cream to taste. Place chicken back in sauce to heat through.
  10. Serve over Hungarian Dumplings, egg noodles or other pasta.

Slow Cooker Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat.
  2. While oil is heating, place 2 tablespoons flour in a large baggie; add the chicken pieces one at a time and shake to coat chicken with flour. Set aside on a plate.
  3. Add chicken to hot oil, skin side down, and sauté until lightly browned, around 3 to 4 minutes. Flip over and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove chicken from heat and set aside.
  4. Turn temperature down to medium and add chopped onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until soft. Transfer to slow cooker. Stir in paprika.
  5. Place chicken broth in a 1 cup measuring cup. Add reserved tomato juice to make 1 cup liquid. Stir into onion mixture. Add diced tomatoes, yellow pepper and salt. Nestle chicken pieces in sauce. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until chicken is very tender.
  6. Remove chicken pieces from sauce and set aside, leaving the sauce in the pan.
  7. Place 3/4 cup sour cream in a small mixing bowl; whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Whisk in 3 spoonfuls of the sauce from the chicken, one spoonful at a time. Stir mixture into sauce in the pan and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, add more sour cream to taste. Place chicken back in sauce to heat through.
  9. Serve over Hungarian Dumplings, egg noodles or other pasta.

Stove Top Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet (cast iron works well) over high heat.
  2. While oil is heating, place 2 tablespoons flour in a large baggie; add the chicken pieces one at a time and shake to coat chicken with flour. Set aside on a plate.
  3. Add chicken to hot oil, skin side down, and sauté until lightly browned, around 3 to 4 minutes. Flip over and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove chicken from heat and set aside. Don’t clean out pan!
  4. Turn temperature down to medium and add chopped onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until soft. Stir in paprika.
  5. Place chicken broth in a 1 cup measuring cup. Add reserved tomato juice to make 1 cup liquid. Stir into onion mixture. Add diced tomatoes, yellow pepper and salt. Nestle chicken pieces in sauce. Cover pan and cook on low heat until chicken is very tender cooked through (165 degrees on an instant read thermometer), around 45 minutes.
  6. Remove chicken pieces from sauce and set aside. Leaving the sauce in the pan.
  7. Place 3/4 cup sour cream in a small mixing bowl; whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons flour. Whisk in 3 spoonfuls of the sauce from the chicken, one spoonful at a time. Stir mixture into sauce in the pan and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If desired, add more sour cream to taste. Place chicken back in sauce to heat through.
  9. Serve over Hungarian Dumplings, egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Notes

Gluten Free: use gluten free flour.

Note on paprika: it’s important to use good quality, Hungarian paprika. It’s the true star of the dish, and can make or break it. I get mine at Savory Spice in Denver; you can order from them online, too.

Note on chicken: use bone in, skin on chicken drumsticks or thighs. These chicken pieces provide the most flavor, and have the best texture after stewing. Chicken breasts tend to get dried out when slow cooked – yes, even when cooked in a sauce. Also, keeping the skin on helps the chicken pieces hold their shape.

Note on Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers: These peppers are not sweet, but spicy. If you can’t find them, look for Caribe peppers (I found these at my local Kroger grocery store). Jalapeno or serrano peppers are also a good substitute.

  • Author: By Lee Clayton Roper
  • Category: main dish, poultry
  • Method: Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Hungarian
Close up of blue plate holding a portion of Chicken Paprikash

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About the author

Hi, I'm Lee.

I am inspired by my mother, Sally’s, love of cooking and entertaining to gather friends and family together over great meals and conversation. In fact, I held my first dinner party at the age of 16. Throughout the years, I haves provided recipes, menu advice and cooking tips to friends seeking uncomplicated and delicious ideas for home entertaining.


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