Creamy chicken paprikash is one of those simple, no-frills, soul-soothing meals that warms you from the inside out. Deliciously tender pieces of chicken cooked in a rich paprika cream sauce and spooned over a plate of buttered noodles.
When it comes to comfort food, this dish is not messing around.
What is Chicken Paprikash?
If you've never had Chicken Paprikash, you're in for a treat.
It's a simple, homey, ultra-comforting Hungarian dish of chicken cooked in a sauce made with tomatoes, paprika, and sour cream. Chicken Paprikash is traditionally served over dumpling like egg noodles known as nokedli (also called Spätzle), but in this recipe, it's spooned over thick buttered egg noodles.
It's exactly the kind of thing I want to eat on cold fall and winter nights, when the days are short and I'm longing for something that makes me feel all warm, and snug, and cared for.
What kind of paprika is best in chicken paprikash?
There are three main types of Paprika and, in most recipes, the one you use WILL affect the taste of the dish, so it's important to know the difference.
Paprika is made from grinding the pods of mild peppers in the Capsicum family. But, depending on the variety, paprika ranges in color from deep brick-red to bright orange, and in flavor from sweet and mild to hot and bitter.
In US supermarkets, you'll find paprika that's simply labeled "paprika". In most cases, this is Sweet Paprika. It's mild, slightly sweet, and in most cases, when you come across a recipe that doesn't clarify which kind of paprika to use, this is what you want.
Smoked Paprika (Spanish Paprika)
Smoked Paprika (also called Spanish Paprika) is made from peppers that have been smoked and dried over a fire.
The process imparts the paprika with a smokey flavor similar to what you get when charring peppers on a grill or over an open flame. Spanish paprika is typically still slightly sweet and mild and so it can be used in place of Sweet Paprika in recipes where you want to impart the dish with a bit of smokiness.
Hungarian Paprika is, obviously, the Hungarian variety of paprika and the kind used in Chicken Paprikash.
While many recipes using sweet paprika or Spanish paprika use the spice in combination with other spices, Hungarian dishes often use paprika as the main flavoring.
Just to confuse matters further, Hungarian Paprika comes in two varieties: sweet and hot. Most of the time, Hungarian Paprika in the US is the sweet variety. So, if you see the spice labeled as simply "Hungarian Paprika" without any indication that it's sweet or hot, it's most likely sweet and mild in flavor.
The variety in my kitchen right now is McCormick Hungarian Paprika and it's not spicy at all. Because I like a bit of heat in my Chicken Paprikash, I've included a dash of cayenne in this recipe as well as a hearty dose of Hungarian Paprika.
If you're using Hot Hungarian Paprika, you'll probably want to leave the cayenne out. As is the case with all spices, add as much or as little cayenne as you like to achieve the level of spiciness you prefer.
Keep it quick and easy with boneless, skinless chicken thighs
"Authentic" Chicken Paprikash uses bone-in, skin-on chicken, often using pieces cut from a whole bird. In this recipe, I've opted for boneless, skinless chicken thighs to save some time and simplify the whole process.
For me, chicken thighs are preferable to chicken breasts in dishes like Chicken Paprikash because they are more flavorful and won't dry out as easily when cooked.
When braised, or cooked in a soup or stew, dark meat chicken remains tender, juicy, and delicious, while white meat can dry out and end up with a "chalky" texture if even slightly overcooked.
For all these reasons, using chicken thighs in this dish was a no-brainer. Using boneless, skinless chicken thighs reduces the cooking time and, I feel, makes the dish easier to eat. No cutting around bones or around the tough parts of chicken skin. Just chunks of tender, flavorful, chicken swimming in creamy paprika sauce.
Be still my beating heart. 🥰
By the way, I use boneless chicken thighs in more recipes than any other cut of chicken, even those traditionally made with white meat chicken. Boneless thighs will generally save you some time and make dishes like slow cooker butter chicken, Mexican adobo chicken, and this chicken thigh Marsala recipe from Chichi at Let's Cook Chicken even more flavorful and delicious.
How to serve chicken paprikash
If you were to eat this dish in Hungary, it would most likely be served with dumpling-like egg noodles known as nokedli (also called Spätzle). There are plenty of good recipes for nokedli online if you'd like to try your hand at making these little Hungarian dumplings yourself.
This particular recipe calls for egg noodles, which can be found at nearly every moderately well stocked supermarket. But, most of the time, I prefer to serve Chicken Paprikash over thick cut, homemade, fresh pasta. One of my other favorite chicken dishes to serve over homemade fresh egg noodles is this Instant pot chicken stroganoff from Chhavi over at Yellow thyme.
I was first introduced to pasta making by my friend Judy, a pasta making queen. The first time I had fresh pasta at her house, I couldn't believe how much better it was then supermarket dried varieties. I've been a pasta making fool ever since.
To be clear: making fresh pasta takes more time and effort than opening a box of dried. For sure. There are always a couple boxes of dried pasta in our pantry for those nights when I want to throw something together quickly. But, if you've never made fresh pasta, you might be surprised at how simple and rewarding it is.
The process requires little more than whisking, kneading, and feeding dough through a pasta machine. And the end result is superior in every way - better texture, better flavor, and considerably more nutritious.
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- ¾ cup sour cream at room temperature (*see note)
- 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- salt and ground black pepper
- 7 tablespoon butter, divided
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¼ cup Sweet Hungarian Paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 12 ounces dried Egg noodles - OR - homemade, thick cut, fresh fettuccini noodles *see note
- 1 - 3 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Set the sour cream out on the countertop to allow it to come to room temperature.
- Lay the chicken thighs out on sheets of paper towels. Blot with an additional paper towel to dry the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Add the flour to a shallow baking dish. Dredge the pieces of chicken in the flour, coating them on both sides. Set the chicken on a plate.
- Add 3 tablespoons of butter to a large skillet and set it over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is beginign to sizzle, add the chicken. Let the chicken cook on one side, undisturbed, until lightly browned. You'll know when the chicken is ready to be turned because it will easily release from the pan. Flip the chicken pieces over and brown on the other side.
- Remove the chicken from the skillet, setting it on a plate.
- Turn the heat down to medium, and add 2 more tablespoons of butter and the diced onion. Sprinkle the onions with about ½ teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until softened and translucent. Add the minced garlic, tomato paste, paprika, cayenne, and sugar to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes longer.
- Stir in tomatoes and 1 cup of water and turn the heat to high. Add the chicken back into the skillet when the liquid begins to boil. Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Let the chicken simmer in the sauce for about 25 minutes, until cooked through. (*See note)
- While the chicken simmers, cook the noodles: Fill a large stock pot with water and add 3 - 4 tablespoons of salt. (*see note) Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the noodles. Cook according to the package directions if using egg noodles. If using fresh noodles, cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain noodles in a colander set inside the sink then dump them into a large bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Toss the noodles in the butter is melted and noodles are coated. Cover to keep the noodles warm and set aside.
- Remove the skillet from the heat. Using tongs, lift the chicken from the skillet and set it onto a plate. Taste the sauce and add more salt if desired. Stir about ½ cup of the sauce into the sour cream then stir to combine. Stir it back into the skillet. Stir in 1 teaspoon lemon juice, taste and add more lemon juice and/or salt if desired.
- Add the chicken back to the skillet and sprinkle with the chopped fresh parsley.
- To serve, spoon the chicken and sauce over the buttered egg noodles.
- It's important to bring the temperature of the sour cream up slowly so that it doesn't split. Start with room temperature sour cream and add about ½ cup of the hot paprika sauce to the sour cream before stirring it back into the pan.
- To test that the chicken is cooked through, remove one piece from the skillet and cut into the center of it. If no pink remains inside the chicken thigh, the chicken is done.
- I realize that adding 3-4 tablespoons of salt to the water you will use to cook the noodles seems excessive, but trust me, it's not. In order for the noodles to be properly seasoned, the water must taste salty, like salt water. The noodles will NOT absorbe all that salt. Nearly all of it will stay in the water. But, adding just a small amount of salt to a large pot of water will do nothing to actually season the noodles.
- If making fresh pasta, be sure to cut out thick noodles. I use a Marcato Atlas Pasta Machine and roll out the sheets to a maximum of 4 is about right for this dish.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1038Total Fat: 58gSaturated Fat: 26gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 28gCholesterol: 519mgSodium: 1577mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 7gSugar: 10gProtein: 92g