What Is Chicken Paprikash And What Does It Taste Like?

Hearty, simple, and satisfying, chicken paprikash is one of Hungary's best-known dishes. Praised by Fork+Plate as "one of the world's great peasant dishes," paprikás csirke is believed to date back at least a few centuries. According to Taste Atlas, this rustic stew that was originally prepared by farmers as a way to make use of the tough thighs and legs of older birds. These parts were made tender by braising them over an open fire, and they were served with a paprika-spiced broth. Over time, sour cream and flour were added to the end of the cooking process, giving this dish the creamy, rich sauce that makes it the ultimate comfort food. 

Chicken paprikash originated in Southern Hungary, the nation's premier pepper-growing region. The first published recipe for paprikás csirke appeared in the Hungarian National Cookbook in 1830. In the latter part of the 19th century, Hungary experienced a "national awakening," in which Hungarian customs, culture, and food were celebrated, and humble chicken paprikash found its way beyond rural kitchens and into the restaurants and homes of Hungarian cities and eventually Western Europe and the U.S. (via Taste Atlas).

So what does chicken paprikash taste like? Well, like chicken, of course, as well as the mildly sweet flavor of the paprika, combined with the richness of sour cream, according to A Spicy Perspective.

Rich chicken and bright pepper flavors

Traditional chicken paprikash begins with cooking sliced onions in lard (via Taste Atlas), but many recipes call for oil or a butter-and-oil combination (via Cook the Story). The chicken pieces are then added to the pan and browned, the heat is reduced, and the paprika is added and warmed over a low temperature, which deepens and intensifies its flavor (via Serious Eats). Broth is added to the pan, along with tomato paste(although the Hungarian version never included this, per Fork+Plate), and the dish is slowly simmered until the meat is thoroughly cooked. The chicken pieces are then removed, and the sauce is thickened with flour before sour cream is whisked in.

Paprika, of course, is the star of the dish, and recipes typically call for anywhere from two tablespoons to a quarter-cup (via Taste Atlas). Paprika comes in sweet, hot, and smoked varieties (via Cooking Light). Most paprikash recipes specify sweet Hungarian paprika (via Epicurious). According to CNN, Hungarian paprika is preferable because Hungary's cooler growing season gives its peppers superior sweetness. (Note: Paprika begins to lose its potency after about six months. It's a good idea to store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator to help it retain its color and flavor, according to Delishably.)

Some cooks cut the cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces and return them to the sauce to serve as a stew. Chicken paprikash is traditionally served with Hungarian galuska or csipetke dumplings, according to Taste Atlas, but wide noodles are also common and delicious.