This article may contain one or more independently chosen Amazon affiliate links. See full disclosure.
What most Americans call Hungarian Goulash is not goulash at all but a dish based on Hungarian Paprikash (Papriká). Goulash, or Gulyás is a soup or stew. In Hungarian, it means ‘stew of the cowboy.’ The story is that Hungarian cowboys would cook cubes of beef with spices into a soup. This would have included black pepper and, in reality, this cowboy soup was created before paprika was introduced to Hungary and became the staple spice of the cuisine, supplanting black pepper and other pungent spices. So, while goulash does have paprika, the paprika is simply a seasoning.
What we think of as goulash is different. Along with chicken, paprika is the entire point of the dish and there is much less liquid.
One other difference is the addition of starches. My research reveals different takes on whether traditional goulash had added starches like potatoes. It seems nobody knows or agrees on how it was made originally. However, modern recipes tend to include potatoes. Paprikash, on the other hand, does not include any starch, but it is often served over fried potato disks, noodles, or rice. I actually love it over rice but I’m a rice nut. German spaetzle, aka Nokedli egg dumplings, are often reported as a traditional starch accompaniment.
In Chicken Paprikash, which, in Hungarian, is called Paprikás Csirke, many of the ingredients recipe sites list as essential are optional. And, most of them include too much tomato. You can do without tomato entirely but when used, only a small amount is included, not an entire can of stewed tomatoes. One fresh tomato or even just a tablespoon or so of tomato paste should suffice. The only essential ingredients are onions, chicken, and paprika. Additional herbs like caraway seed or dried marjoram can be included (I always add caraway). And a clove of garlic can be added. Green or red sweet peppers can also be included, but are not strictly needed.
What About Sour Cream?
Sour cream is traditional to paprikash. You can add sour cream to the dish at the end of cooking. I love to dollop some sour cream over the dish, but I’m weird that way.
What About Liquid?
For chicken paprikash it is best to use chicken broth for the liquid. Do not add more than enough to cover the chicken well. Then, you’ll want to cook it slowly, allowing it to cook down. At the end, you should have a somewhat reduced sauce with lots of paprika flavor. Remember, the star of the show is paprika.
What Type of Paprika?
It is best to buy a Hungarian Sweet Paprika. You can also use Hot Hungarian Paprika if your prefer more heat, or you can use a combination of the two. I also sometimes add smoked paprika because I love the flavor it adds. You do not need to be concerned with how ‘traditional’ your paprikash is. You can be sure that Hungarian cooks have their own preferences and recipes. You can adapt yours to suit your tastes as long as you don’t skimp on the paprika.
Is Cornstarch or Other Thickener Needed?
If you play your cards right your sauce will cook down to a perfect consistency and you will not need any added thickener like cornstarch. If you add too much liquid, which will dilute the flavor anyway, you may need to add some thickener at the end. It is best to avoid this as it changes the texture of the sauce.
Another option is to start with a paprika roux. This will allow you to deepen the flavor while thickening the sauce after you add the liquid.
What About Beef or Pork?
Although beef is traditional to goulash, chicken seems to be traditional to paprikash. However, I make ‘beef paprikash’ all the time. Just brown pieces of stew meat like chuck before adding the other ingredients. You can also use a nice cut of beef if you want to splurge. If you can get them, try some beef tenderloin tips. These are affordable but are still tenderloin. Use beef broth instead of chicken broth.
Type of Chicken
This need not be an expensive meal. Traditionally, chicken would be cooked on the bone. You can use chicken thigh pieces. Avoid the temptation of using chicken breast or you’ll end up with dry and tough pieces of chicken like the kind you get in your Indian carryout.
Hungarian Chicken Paprikash (Paprikás Csirke), which Americans know erroneously as goulash, is a saucy and satisfying dish with the wonderful flavor of the most under-utilized and finest spice there is: paprika. Serve this great family meal over noodles, potatoes, or rice.
1 pound large chicken pieces, dark meat like thighs or legs
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic (optional)
1 tomato, peeled and chopped fine
2 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika (or your choice, add more to taste)
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp caraway seeds
salt to taste
2 tablespoon sour cream
1. Heat the oil in a large pot, over medium heat
2. Add the onions to the pot and sauté them for about 5 minutes until translucent.
3. Add the tomato and sauté for a few more minutes.
4. Turn down heat and add the garlic, if desired.
5. Salt the chicken pieces lightly and add them to the pot.
6. Sprinkle the paprika on top of the chicken and add a small amount of broth and stir together.
7. Add the caraway and return heat to medium.
8. Add the remaining broth until the liquid just covers the chicken.
9. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
10. Cover the pot and simmer for around 30 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the liquid hasn’t reduced too much. Add a little water to keep the chicken just covered, if needed).
11. If the sauce needs to be thicker, remove the chicken to a plate and add the sour cream to the sauce, cooking on low heat to reduce (or add cornstarch slurry).
12. Once the sauce has reached the desired consistency, return the chicken to the sauce.
13. Check for salt and add salt as needed.
14. Serve over nokedli, fried potato disks, rice, egg noodles, or your pasta of choice.
If you want to add green peppers or other sweet peppers, add them after the onion, before the tomato.
Keywords: Hungarian, paprikash, goulash, hungarian goulash, hungarian paprikash, chicken paprikash, paprika, Hungarian paprika
This article contains one or more Amazon affiliate links. See full disclosure.