Chicken Paprikash

I find it easier in the cooler months to use canned tomatoes. But if you’re so inclined to use fresh tomatoes, cook them down a bit more to release some of the liquid and use less water.

A blue earthenware dish with chicken paprikash--chicken thighs in a creamy paprika sauce, on a marble counter

Chicken Paprikash

5 / 8 votes
Chicken paprikash is such an Old World staple and beloved American favorite from the 1960's that I just had to bring it back. Chicken thighs are seared and then cooked in a tomato-onion sauce. Just before serving, sour cream is stirred in.
David Leite
CourseMains
CuisineHungarian
Servings4 to 6 servings
Calories883 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients 

For the chicken paprikash

  • 3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium (14 oz) yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 3/4 pound tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped, or 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 to 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

To serve

  • 3/4 pound egg noodles, cooked and buttered (for an authentic touch use nokedli, which are Hungarian dumplings quite a lot like spatzle)
  • Chopped parsley, optional

Instructions 

  • Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and generously season it on all sides with salt and pepper.
  • In an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook until deeply golden brown and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. (Don’t skimp on this step.) Flip and sear until the chicken is golden brown but not cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  • Pour off all but 1 tablespoon or so of the fat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onions. Cook, stirring often to scrape up any stuck-on bits from the pan, until the onions are softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  • Reduce the heat to low, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet, and sprinkle in the paprika. Cook, stirring constantly for 30 to 45 seconds but no longer or the paprika could turn bitter.
  • Add the tomatoes and the 1/2 cup (120 ml) water to the skillet and stir to combine. If a thinner sauce is desired, stir in some or all of the remaining water. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Nestle the chicken in the sauce, skin-side up, so the skin doesn’t get soggy. Slide the skillet into the oven and braise until the chicken is cooked through and wiggles easily from the bone, 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Transfer the chicken to a plate. Stir the sour cream into the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Pour the sauce over the cooked noodles and top with the chicken and parsley, if using.

Notes

A More Classic-Ish Stovetop Variation

If you’d prefer to make this dish entirely on the stovetop, or if your oven is otherwise occupied, you can follow the recipe directions using a Dutch oven and cook it a gentle simmer over low heat. No need to remove the chicken from the pot when adding the sour cream–just stir it right in. The resulting paprikash will be every bit as delicious as the original, however, you won’t benefit from non-flabby skin on your chicken.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 883 kcalCarbohydrates: 70 gProtein: 55 gFat: 43 gSaturated Fat: 16 gMonounsaturated Fat: 14 gTrans Fat: 0.5 gCholesterol: 329 mgSodium: 279 mgFiber: 6 gSugar: 6 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe © 2018 David Leite. Photo © 2018 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

We really liked this dish. The chicken was very tender and the tasty sauce coated the noodles nicely. I can’t say that the chicken was crisp even though I made sure it wasn’t submerged in the tomato mixture. If crispness is important, a quick minute or two under the broiler would work.

I made half this recipe. I used my 12-inch cast iron skillet and was able to brown 5 chicken thighs at the same time. I also used the same pan to bake the dish in the oven.

We tend to like things a bit spicier, so in the future I might use some half sharp paprika or maybe a small amount of smoked paprika. We each ate two thighs, so I am looking forward to the other thigh for lunch tomorrow!

I thought the sauce was a little too watery (perhaps because I used fresh tomatoes?), so I removed the chicken and reduced the sauce for about 5 minutes before stirring in the sour cream. Served over egg noodles garnished with parsley.

I am always looking for new ways to use chicken for dinner. I haven’t made paprikash in years, but I thought this was a very good, very rich version. If you use a large ovenproof skillet, it can be a one-pan meal (except for the serving plate, as you have to take the cooked chicken out to finish the sauce with sour cream). I would highly recommend using an uncovered skillet so that the crisp skin you just made in the first step doesn’t get flabby. Perfect for guests, but not too much work.

All in all, I loved it. Thought it had a bit of retro flair and the red color was great (no white tablecloths unless you want to never have it be white again). Reminded me of stroganoff; thought there should be devils on horseback or rumaki nearby while Betty served this to Don and his clients after a couple of martinis.

On a beautiful evening that was a cool and welcome reprieve from brutal summer heat, this dish served up a preview of heavier autumn fare. I miscalculated the timing and we ate rather late, but this braise–served after a course of creamy root vegetable soup made by a friend–hit the spot.

I used sweet paprika from a local spice shop, where their products are very fresh. Its deep and distinctive aroma (not to mention its rust color reminiscent of leaves turning in the fall!) adds something extra special to the dish. Since the spice is a featured player in this classic, it really pays to use the good stuff.

Buttered noodles are one of my favorite side dishes, and I like them with parsley, so I added parsley to them as well as sprinkling it over the chicken at the end.

Great meal, but I’ll start earlier next time.

When I saw this recipe, I was excited because I couldn’t even remember when I last had this. And it didn’t disappoint! It tasted like classic chicken paprikash. I used a Dutch oven and then cooked it on the stove, which took a similar amount of time. If you’re craving a classic take, this recipe is for you.

This chicken paprikash was a surprisingly simple recipe that works well on a weeknight, this was also a good introduction to a dish I had assumed was much more mysterious. I used a mix of thighs and drumsticks, so the browning in two stages worked well with the slightly quicker drumstick time (plus I could rotate them to brown all sides). I had a fresh tin of Szeged Hungarian Sweet Paprika on hand, so I made this and we tried it with eggy noodles the first night, and then I tried my hand at making spatzle, and lastly: a final meal with a curly edged pasta that nicely grabbed the sauce and I added some sauteed pimenton and red pepper (the recipe would nicely serve 6 but we were two).

Of course the first night the skin was nice and crisp, which was worth cooking this in a skillet versus a Dutch oven. In reheating, the skin was not crisp, but the flavor was good and you want to be very gentle in reheating the sauce since the sour cream has already been mixed in.

Now I am curious about other Hungarian paprikas, as I mostly have been cooking with Spanish paprika. This was a great way to renew my appreciation of this most familiar pantry item.

This is classic comfort food, ready in just over an hour! The crisp chicken skin and luxuriant sauce create a very satisfying combination.

Our family are fans of bone in chicken breast, so I used 3 and was able to fit in a single layer in a 10 inch Dutch oven. They were done in the time mentioned, but I did keep an eye on the thermometer, as breasts can dry out quickly if overdone. We had them with the parsley and buttered noodles, with the addition of some peas added to the pasta water. Delicious meal!

I really enjoyed how this recipe flowed. I chopped the onions while the chicken browned, and made the spätzle while it was in the oven. And I don’t know about your butcher, but mine is an angel sent from heaven. After trimming the thighs, I had 6 lovely pieces of excess skin for cracklings. Overall, this dish had a lovely depth of flavor that belied the ease of preparation. The chicken was perfectly cooked and moist, with a crisp delectable skin. And the sauce, prepared with bright, fresh paprika, was so delicious people were eating it with a spoon.

This chicken paprikash an easy, simple-to-put-together recipe that really lets paprika shine and allows you to truly appreciate this spice. With so few ingredients needed and the majority of them pantry items, this dish can be made almost at any time and a great option for when you are having trouble coming up with something to cook. As noted in the recipe, it is critical to make sure the paprika is fresh as it is the star of the dish. It’s worth taking the time to brown the chicken and get that crisp skin as well as build flavor for the sauce. Lastly, the sour cream at the end really rounds out the sauce, providing some brightness as well as creaminess. I would recommend this dish to anyone who is unfamiliar with paprika as a great introduction to this spice.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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34 Comments

  1. David, I love you. You are so genuine. Your writing is enchanting. I was only looking for a recipe and I found you. xo

    P.S. Totally white straight financially conservative woman…living in the Sonoran Desert…married 39 years, now widowed…but from…you guessed it–NYC ♡

    1. Eugenia, why, thank you!! It means so much. And you win the comment of the day award, hands down. I hope you’re staying cool in the Arizona heat.

    2. NYC here as well. I went to St. Stephen as a kid (Hungarian parish). The older Hungarian women would make this. It was delicious!

  2. 5 stars
    Ah, Chicken Paprikash!

    I reckon there needs to be a shortlist of about ten dishes that any self-respecting cook ought to learn how to make, and have under his belt. You could whittle that down to a mere ten, and chicken paprikash would easily make that list.

    It is such a cinch dish, yet one that seems to intricate at the same time. Every time I make it, it turns out not to be merely a winner but one of the greats that I make. If I could only get a girl, this would be one meal I could woo her with.

    At least I can still impress my parents with it.

  3. 5 stars
    This paprikash is everything you hope an Old World dish to be: homey and delicious with simple preparation and few ingredients. The chicken is moist and tender with a crisp skin and the sauce…oh, the sauce! My husband was scooping spoonfuls of it out of the pan after dinner and even my picky 8 year old asked for seconds.

    We didn’t have the suggested Hungarian noodles but grocery store spaetzle was a fine substitute.