We’re using light, tender juicy chicken meatballs in this version of Hungarian chicken paprikash. Same delicious (and fairly traditional) paprikash sauce though.
My Hungarian friend, Viv, introduced me to 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.
I researched a ton of recipes as usual and 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.
Is this chicken paprikash recipe authentic?
Well, no, not entirely. Firstly, we’re using chicken meatballs instead of the traditional bone-in chicken – usually thighs and drumsticks. Secondly, authentic can mean 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.
Having said that, most people seem to agree that the core ingredients are chicken, onions, garlic, broth and, of course, paprika. Some versions, like ours, use tomatoes and sour cream.
I admit that no versions I’ve seen use meatballs. I gave it a try and they work. They cook quickly and, like regular chicken pieces, get bathed in the yummy paprikash sauce which is really the star of the show. I use dark ground chicken meat which I find juicier. The meatballs are really good – light, tasty, soft and juicy. The same recipe I use for Cocktail Chicken Meatballs.
2 Tips for Success
There are really only two important tips. Both involve paprika.
- Which paprika should you buy – does it make a difference?
- Yes, the type you use will definitely make a difference. You might need to experiment with your preferred type – Hungarian sweet paprika (not actually sweet), Hungarian hot paprika or smoked paprika. Nothing wrong with trying a combination – I do. 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 – apparently it can make a big difference. So if your paprika has been sitting in the cupboard for more than a couple of years…
- Store paprika in an airtight container or bag. Some say storing it in the fridge will keep it fresh for longer.
- Don’t cook paprika over high heat. It burns easily and ruins the flavor of the dish. Paprika is not one of those seasonings that needs to develop with heat. In fact, some say to turn off the heat when you add the paprika. I find turning the heat to low is fine.
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.
One more thing… this from-scratch recipe only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.
Tailor To Your Taste
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 pan-fried traditional bone-in chicken pieces. Or even grill them.
- Cooking method for meatballs: For a slightly lower calorie/fat version, you can bake the meatballs. Or, as pictured, 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.
- Flavors: As noted about, you can use any combination of Hungarian sweet paprika, Hungarian hot paprika or smoked paprika. If using regular paprika, you can always add spice with chili flakes, sriracha or any hot sauce.
- Vegetables: feel free to add chopped peppers when you are sauteing the onions.
- Sour Cream – since you’re only using 1/2 cup 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%).
- In a pinch, don’t hesitate to use frozen store-bought meatballs – and thaw them.
- Homemade meatballs previously made and frozen are perfect as well.
- Use frozen garlic cubes instead of fresh minced garlic.
- 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.
Other saucy chicken recipes you might like
- meatball stew
- saucy baked chicken meatballs
- Indian butter chicken recipe
- skillet chicken pot pie recipe (30 minutes)
- chicken and vegetables in a skillet
- easy bourbon chicken (20 minutes)
- recipe for chicken fricassee
How to make Hungarian chicken paprikash with meatballs
Hungarian Chicken Paprikash With 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 breadcrumbs)
- 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
- 2 tablespoon butter (or vegetable oil)
- 1 cup chopped onion (1/2 large onion)
- 2 teaspoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
- 2 tablespoon Hungarian Paprika, Note 1 sweet or hot
- 1 1/2 tablespoon flour
- 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) chicken broth
- 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
- PREP: Heat oven to 425F/218C IF baking meatballs. If pan frying, use large non stick pan. 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). Mixture will be very moist. Wet your hands (do this periodically) and form into meatballs about 2 inches. (I don't worry about them being perfectly round). 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 towel. 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. 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. Add broth, tomato sauce and sriracha (if using). Cook for a 3 minutes until sauce is thickened.
- FINISH DISH: Lower heat to a simmer. Stir in sour cream and parsley, then meatballs and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. If sauce is too thick, thin it with a bit more broth. Serve over noodles, mashed potatoes or rice.
- 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.
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 more pan-fried traditional bone-in chicken pieces. Or even grilled chicken.
- Vegetables: feel free to add chopped peppers when you are sauteing the onions.
- Sour Cream - since you're only using 1/2 cup 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%).
- 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 with 2-3 days.