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Hungarian Paprikash Chicken (With Meatballs)

We’re using light, tender juicy chicken meatballs in this version of Hungarian paprikash chicken. Same delicious (and fairly traditional) paprikash sauce though.

This from-scratch recipe only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. 

chicken meatball paprikash over egg noodles on plate with asparagus

I researched a ton of recipes as usual to put together this one which, I’m happy to report, got raised eyebrows from my husband – the good kind – and he doesn’t even like sour cream.

My friend, Viv, introduced me to Hungarian cuisine with chicken paprikash over 30 years ago. I think sour cream might be her favorite food in the world. Needless to say, her version of this comfort food includes sour cream. 

The meatballs work well in the recipe, although not traditional of course. I used the same great recipe I use for chicken meatball recipe (sticky sweet & spicy). They’re light, tasty, soft and juicy and get bathed in the yummy paprikash sauce which is really the star of the show.

Is this authentic chicken paprikash? 

Well, no, not entirely. Firstly, we’re using chicken meatballs instead of the traditional bone-in chicken – usually thighs and drumsticks. Secondly, authentic means different things in different regions and families. 

I read many comments in other recipes such as “what? you can’t use sour cream” or “you have to use peppers” or “hey, nix the tomatoes!” Clearly, lots of opinions on what authentic Hungarian chicken paprikash looks like. 

At least most people seem to agree that the core ingredients for chicken paprikash are chicken, onions, garlic, broth and, of course, paprika. Some versions, like ours, use tomatoes and sour cream. 

Ingredient notes – tailored to your taste

onions, sour cream, tomato sauce, parsley, seasonings, paprika, garlic

Paprikash sauce ingredients

ground chicken mixture in bowl

Chicken meatball ingredients: ground chicken, bread, milk, ketchup, onion, parsley, garlic powder, salt, pepper – adding ground chicken last.

Here’s a couple of variations you can try since we’ve dispensed with the completely authentic recipe anyway 🙂

  • Chicken: The recipe calls for meatballs – use white or dark ground chicken. I use dark. You can, however, use the more traditional bone-in chicken pieces. Or even boneless chicken. 
  • Paprika: Use any combination of Hungarian sweet paprika, Hungarian hot paprika or smoked paprika. If using regular paprika, you can always add spice with red chili peppers, sriracha or any hot sauce. 
  • Vegetables: feel free to add a chopped bell pepper when sautéing the onions. 
  • Sour Cream – since you’re only using 1/2 cup/96 grams for the whole recipe, I go for the full fat sour cream for extra richness. Light is fine too. Even plain yogurt. Another option, is to skip the sour cream and add heavy cream (35%) or half and half cream (10%). 
  • Vegetarian version: Skip the meatballs and just make the delicious paprikash sauce with noodles. Or use vegetarian meatballs or tofu instead. Ok, not exactly a chicken paprikash!

3 Tips for Success

  1. Use the freshest paprika you can find. It can make a difference.
  2. Don’t cook paprika over high heat. It burns easily and ruins the flavor of the dish. Turning the heat to low when adding it.
  3. Don’t over mix the chicken meatball mixture or your meatballs won’t be tender and juicy. 

Step by step instructions

meatballs uncooked on parchment lined pan

Make the meatball mixture, combining the ingredients lightly. Form the meatballs with wet hands as the mixture will be sticky.

Pan fry the meatballs in a nonstick skillet on the stove top in two batches. Or bake them if you prefer.

chopped onions and paprika in skillet

Sauté onions. Lower heat and add garlic and paprika.

Stir in flour, then tomato sauce and broth. Cook for a few minutes until sauce is thickened. Stir in sour cream and parsley. Add meatballs to heat through.

chicken meatball paprikash in skillet

Garnish with parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings.

chicken meatball paprikash over egg noodles on plate

Serve over egg noodles (traditional) or mashed potatoes or rice.

Shortcuts

  • In a pinch, don’t hesitate to use frozen meatballs from the grocery store – and thaw them. Or use pre-made fresh meatballs and bake or pan fry them.
  • Homemade meatballs previously made and frozen are perfect as well.

Make Ahead 

  • The meatballs can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen.
  • Or, the whole dish can be prepared and reheated gently on the stove or microwave, stirring often.

Recipe FAQ

What paprika should I use?

You might need to experiment with your preferred type – Hungarian sweet paprika (not actually sweet), Hungarian hot paprika or smoked paprika. Or a combination. Fresh regular paprika, also referred to as sweet paprika, will work fine too. Here’s a good article on the 3 main types of paprika to help you decide. Most importantly, though, is to try to use the freshest Hungarian paprika you can find.

How long will paprika stay fresh?

If your paprika has been sitting in the cupboard for more than a couple of years, toss it. Store paprika in an airtight container or bag. Some say storing it in the fridge will keep it fresh for longer. 

What is the secret to tender, juicy meatballs?

– Don’t use extra lean ground chicken. Try to ground chicken that contains 10-15% fat for more flavor and moistness. I use dark meat ground chicken if I can find it – the best!
– Mix the ground chicken with a panade which is a mixture of bread or bread crumbs and milk (or other liquid). This creates soft, tender meatballs.
– Don’t over mix the meatball ingredients and don’t pack the meatballs too tightly. Use wet hands to form the meatballs. Use a light touch.

What to serve with this chicken paprikash recipe

In keeping with Hungarian tradition, the dish is best served with egg noodles. Rice or mashed potatoes work well too. I also like to serve it with a side of asparagus, green beans or a good bread to sop up the paprikash sauce. 

Other saucy chicken recipes you might like

chicken meatball paprikash over egg noodles on black plate

If you like this recipe, please leave a 5 star rating 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟in the recipe card below. And if you REALLY like it, consider a review in the comments. Thanks!

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chicken meatball paprikash over egg noodles on plate with asparagus
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Hungarian Paprikash Chicken (With Meatballs)

We're using light, tender juicy chicken meatballs in this version of Hungarian paprikash chicken. Same delicious (and fairly traditional) paprikash sauce though. Ready in 30 minutes.
Prep Time8 mins
Cook Time22 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Hungarian-style
Servings: 4
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 1 1/2 pound (0.68kg) ground/minced chicken (dark or white meat – I use dark)
  • 2 slices bread, torn into tiny pieces (or 1/3 cup bread crumbs)
  • 3 tablespoon milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon grated onion (or 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper or more to taste

Paprikash Sauce recipe

  • 2 tablespoon butter (or olive oil)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1/2 large onion)
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic (2 cloves garlic)
  • 2 tablespoon Hungarian Paprika, Note 1 sweet Hungarian paprika or hot Hungarian paprika
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) chicken broth (or chicken stock)
  • 1/2 cup (112g, 8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup (123g, 4.3oz) sour cream (full or light)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sriracha or other hot sauce, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup (50g) chopped parsley

Instructions

  • PREP: Heat oven to 425F/218C IF baking meatballs. If pan frying, use large nonstick skillet. Gather all ingredients.
  • MAKE MEATBALLS: In a medium bowl, add bread bits and milk. Let soak for a minute until liquid is absorbed. Add grated onion, ketchup, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix together. Add minced chicken and lightly mix all ingredients together (I used my hand like a claw to mix and twist lightly). Don't over mix or meatballs will be dense. Meatball mixture will be very moist. Wet your hands (do this periodically) and form into meatballs about 2 inch/5 cm size. (I don't worry about them being perfectly round). Cooking methods, Note 2.
    To pan fry: Heat non stick pan to medium (I use 6/10) and add 1-2 tsp oil. Form meatballs and drop into pan. You will have to do 2 batches. Pan fry for 2-3 minutes per side until lightly browned. They will finish cooking in the sauce later. Set aside on paper towels to soak up oil. Repeat with 2nd batch.
    To bake: Line a large baking pan with parchment or foil sprayed with oil. Place meatballs on pan and bake for about 12-13 minutes until almost cooked through. They will finish cooking in the sauce later.
  • MAKE PAPRIKASH SAUCE: While meatballs are baking or pan frying, make sauce. Heat butter (or oil) in a skillet to Medium heat. Add onions and saute for 2-3 minutes. Turn heat to medium low and stir in paprika and garlic. Stir in flour and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Increase heat to medium-high heat. Add broth, tomato sauce and sriracha (if using). Cook for a 3 minutes until you get a thick tomato sauce.
  • FINISH DISH: Lower heat to a simmer. Stir in sour cream and parsley to create a creamy paprika sauce. Add meatballs to simmering sauce and cook for 3-4 minutes. Taste and add salt and black pepper to taste. If sauce is too thick, thin it with a bit more broth. Serve meatballs paprikash over egg noodles, mashed potatoes or rice.

Notes

  1. Paprika: Use any combination of Hungarian sweet paprika, Hungarian hot paprika or smoked paprika. If using regular paprika (also called sweet paprika), you can always add spice with chili flakes, sriracha or any hot sauce. 
  2. Cooking method for meatballs: For a slightly lower calorie/fat version, you can bake the meatballs. Or pan fry them. They take about the same amount of time (since you need to do two batches in the pan). The pan-fried ones have a nice browned crust. The oven baked meatballs don’t. But keep in mind, you will be covering them in the paprikash sauce. 
  3. Variations to try:
    • Chicken: The recipe calls for meatballs – you can use white or dark ground chicken. I use dark. You can, however, use the pan-fried traditional bone-in chicken pieces, boneless skinless chicken thighs or even grilled boneless chicken breast cut into pieces.
    • Vegetables: feel free to add a chopped bell pepper when you are sautéing the onions. 
    • Sour Cream – since you’re only using 1/2 cup/96 grams for the whole recipe, I go for the full fat sour cream. Light is fine too. Even plain yogurt. Another option is to skip the sour cream and add heavy cream or half and half (10%). 
  4. Make Ahead: Meatballs can be made ahead, cooled and refrigerated for a couple of days. Or frozen. The whole dish can also be made ahead and refrigerated, then gently warmed on the stove or in microwave within 2-3 days. 
 
Nutrition values are estimates based on baked chicken meatballs and full fat sour cream. 

Nutrition

Calories: 427kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 177mg | Sodium: 1560mg | Potassium: 1352mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 2999IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 110mg | Iron: 4mg
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  1. 5 stars
    Just bought 2 lbs of ground chicken on the idea of making this. Probably enough for a small army. But I thought – husband will like this and it’s not beef!