New-Classic, Not-Chicken Paprikash

February 16, 2018

Waiter! There is too much pepper on my paprikash. But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie. Pecan pie. Pecan pie. Peeecan piiiiiie.

Just me? When Harry Met SallyNora Ephron’s greatest film (yes, I'm more than happy to discuss this in the comments)—was my first paprikash encounter. This, of course, is completely unfair to paprikash, since Harry and Sally aren’t even eating it, merely mentioning, and all as a guys-we’re-not-flirting joke. Anyway. Something about paprikash just sounds so, well, cute. Also, a lot like paprika.

Coincidence? Not quite. Paprikash—also known as chicken paprikash, or paprika chicken—is a creamy and saucy, smoky and spicy stew native to Hungary. From a distance, you might mistake it for Indian butter chicken. And the two have a lot in common: chicken parts swimming in a rich, red pool. But, instead of garam masala offering warmth and kick, paprikash turns to—just guess—paprika.

Chicken? Cauliflower? Who cares! Photo by Julia Gartland

Which type? It depends. This dried, ground pepper blend comes hails from various countries and arrives in various spice levels, like sweet, smoked, and hot. If you can find Hungarian, this will be most fitting. If you can’t, that’s okay, too. For paprikash, which uses a lot of paprika, I like to blend spice levels to taste—mostly sweet or smoked, with some hot rounding it out. In The Spice Companion, Lior Lev Sercarz writes: “Paprika really shines when slightly heated or infused into a liquid.” Lucky for us, this recipe does both.

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The only catch: There's no chicken. Instead, humble, magical cauliflower. You quarter a head—stem attached so the florets don’t jump ship—then sear on all sides. Transfer to a plate. Sauté onion and red bell pepper until slouchy and sweet. Then, lots of garlic, butter, and paprika, plus a little flour to thicken everyone up. Crushed tomatoes and water create a sauce. Cauliflower jumps back in there, where it will simmer until tender. Add some tangy, whole-milk Greek yogurt—I prefer this to sour cream but you can use either—just make sure it’s room-temperature, else it might curdle. Top with parsley. Serve on extra buttery egg noodles. Egg noodles. Egg noodles. Egg noooooodles.

Have you ever made (or tried) paprikash before? Tell us about it in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • amysarah
  • Smaug
  • Ali Whitmer
    Ali Whitmer
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


amysarah February 17, 2018
I've made lots of Paprikash and eaten way more (I'm half Hungarian.) Love the idea of using cauliflower, going to try that.

To add a couple of things - Hungarian paprika comes in degrees of sweet-hot (though hot is used in moderation, rarely as a dominant flavor.) But much as I love smoked paprika (Pimenton,) it's a Spanish variant, so I don't associate 'smoky' with classic Paprikash - just the distinctive earthy flavor of good Paprika. Might be tasty, just not traditional. I usually add a little fresh dill, like my grandmother. Also - I agree buttered noodles are a great accompaniment (just great, period) but sometime try Nokedli (the Hungarian version spaetzle) - easy to make, and heaven with a Paprikash. (PS Paprikash is often made with chicken, not just veal, or sometimes beef.)
Smaug February 17, 2018
Always knew it as a veal dish.
Ali W. February 17, 2018
Garlic is mentioned in the article, but isn't in the recipe. ?
Emma L. February 17, 2018
Hi Ali, thank you for the catch! Just updated.