Chicken Paprikash

14 Sep

nestled, simmering chicken

A few days ago I decided that I desperately needed to make Chicken Paprikash. I wasn’t quite sure what chicken paprikash was exactly, but I adhere to the rule that anything Hungarian tends to be pretty damn delicious.

I formulated this particular rule a few years ago during a Christmas visit to my family, when my parents took me to their favourite little hole-in-the-wall Hungarian restaurant, nestled on a side street right off the Graben. They had warned me that the place was popular, but small and “cozy” – their euphemism for “crowded”. We strode out of the bitterly cold Viennese streets into a hot, bustling little room where tiny tables and customers’ elbows jostled for space with the rapidly pirouetting waiters and ever-swinging kitchen door.  After we ordered the waiter brought a small basket of round golden biscuits to the table. Unprepared for the transcendental experience that was about to occur, I grabbed one.

homemade pogacsa

I’ve never really fully recovered. It was what the French refer to as a “coup de foudre” or  “lightning strike”, though the term is traditionally reserved for the process of falling in love with another human being rather than a baked good.  I was so instantly smitten by the scone that I tore off a piece of the table cloth and jotted  down the Hungarian name, pogásca. Once I got back home I dredged up a recipe online, and the resulting “Hungarian Bacon Biscuits” are pretty much a guaranteed success at any event.

All of this provides a rather long backstory to my immediate and all-encompassing need to make chicken paprikash as soon as I stumbled upon the recipe. A cursory examination of the ingredients confirmed my suspicions concerning Hungarian culinary genius. Chicken. Butter. Onions. Salt. Spices. Sour Cream. All of this boded well.

Fortunately, it was a cinch to throw together. Melt the butter, brown some chicken, sautee your onions in browned chicken bits and the rest of the melted butter, add spices and chicken stock, and then let everything simmer for awhile. Add sour cream and then impress the pants off your guests/boyfriend/Hungarian exchange student/bewildered parents.


  • 2 lbs of onions (either three enormous onions or four more reasonably proportioned onions)
  • 2 & 1/2 pounds of bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks (I used eight large drumsticks)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp hot paprika
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Coarse salt and pepper to taste
not even two pounds of onions

Don't fret, they'll cook down...


1. Salt the chicken pieces and let them sit at room temperature while you prepare the onions. Slice onions into long strips, moving from root to tip.

2. Melt the butter in a large sautee pan (if you are an impoverished graduate student you may substitute an Ikea wok) over medium high heat. Add the chicken, and cook until skin has browned on one side, 5-6 minutes. Use tongs to turn over the chicken pieces, cooking the other side for 3-4 minutes, until the skin has browned. I will say, the one downside to using the wok was that not all of the chicken browned easily. In the future, I will make this in a larger, flat-bottomed pot and hope for the best.

onions with butter and paprika

3. Remove chicken from heat and set aside. Add your mountain of sliced onions to the remaining butter, taking care to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan to add more flavour to the dish. Continue to cook over medium heat until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes.

4. First add the sweet paprika, hot paprika and black pepper to the onions, stirring to incorporate the spices. Then add the cup of chicken stock (pausing again to scrape up the delicious bits of browned chicken from the bottom of the pan). Nestle the browned chicken on top of the onions, cover* and cook on a low simmer until the chicken has cooked through, 20-25 minutes.

*If you are an impoverished graduate student you can use another frying pan as a lid for your wok, as a functional yet ridiculous solution to your dearth of wok lids.

5. While Elise claims this step is optional, I disagree. Continue simmering until the chicken becomes tender and falls off the bone,  an additional 15-30 minutes after the chicken has cooked through.

6. When the chicken is done to your taste, remove the pan from heat. Remove the chicken from pan and stir the sour cream into the onion/stock/paprika amalgam. (I actually forgot to remove the chicken before stirring in the sour cream, and nothing disastrous or apocalyptic came of it, so if you’re pressed for time I assume you can just dump in the sour cream).

I made the dish when we had some friends over for dinner – clearly my new favourite social activity. I stored the finished Paprikash in the fridge for a few hours before hand, since I had prepared dinner in advance in anticipation of enjoying a few beers with our friends (genius). About 20 minutes before we were ready to eat, I simply put the whole kit & caboodle back on the stove over medium-low heat until it reached an appropriate temperature, and then served it over white rice. Seconds were had by all, though some chose to simply douse their rice in the sauce on the second go-around.Which meant…leftovers!

God Bless Hungary.


5 Responses to “Chicken Paprikash”

  1. Erin September 25, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    Come cook for me. Please : )

    • JB September 26, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

      Any day Lady, any day.

  2. Nick December 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    This is brilliant, thank you

  3. Elena December 3, 2012 at 6:06 am #

    Do you have a link for the pogásca you made? It looks great!

    • JB December 14, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

      Hi Elena! I’m having trouble finding the exact recipe I have used in the past (the website it was drawn from appears to have been significantly reconfigured), but I think I have the ingredients list jotted down somewhere. This might provide grist for a future post….I will comment again if this is the case!

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