Oh My Gosh… It’s Paprikash

There are quite a few paprikash recipes in “The Art of Good Cooking” including Chicken Paprikash, Beef Paprikash, and Chicken Giblet Paprikash. I was pretty unfamiliar with the paprika based dish before trying these recipes. The idea that paprika could be used as major spice and not just a sprinkle on top of shepherds pie or deviled eggs, was foreign and strange for me. I always thought paprika, the Hungarian word for pepper, was used mostly for color and didn’t have much flavor. Like many spices though, it depends on the quality and type of spice you buy.

There are many different types of paprika such as smoked, sweet, special quality, delicate, noble sweet, rose, and more. Sweet Paprika, traditionally used in paprikash, has a subtle mute flavor unlike its hot ruby red color. In addition to the onion, garlic, tomato paste or sauce, and sour cream that usually make up a paprikash, paprika is the defining ingredient. Like many dishes and ingredients, it’s difficult to find information on the history of paprikash in the United States. I was hoping to learn more about how my grandmother came across paprikash as well as its popularity in the 1960s, other than the likelihood that she may have had an Eastern European friend (which is how she learned most of her international recipes). Unfortunately, the history of paprikash seems somewhat sparse, even the Hungarian history. Other than a small website indicating that paprikash became a popular dish after the price of regular pepper started to rise in Hungry, I haven’t found much information on it.

You may be thinking, why even bother with paprikash anyway? An old fashioned dish often related to goulash which lacks the trendy names and ingredients we’re so accustomed to. Surprisingly, the sauce of a paprikash is deliciously fragrant, layered with sweet and subtle flavors. It’s one of the better quick sauces I’ve tried, great for a weeknight meal, and in my opinion underrated. Try it for yourself or if you happen to be some kind of paprikash expert, please share any knowledge or bits of history you have.



  • Judith Lieberman

    There were at least two terrific old-fashioned Hungarian food stores in Yorkville in the middle of the last century: H. Roth and Paprika Weiss. They both sold a fabulous assortment of foodstuffs, and cooking and baking supplies. The delicious smell overwhelmed you when walk in. There were barrels of lekvar, goose feather brushes and high-quality paprika that was a revelation after the standard grocery store stale red powder. Any New Yorker that cooked and baked would have been familar with them. I’m sure your grandmother shopped there as well.

  • Thanks for the history Judith! I wish I could have shopped at those Hungarian food stores as well.

  • Supposedly Karoly Gundel, Hungarian chef, was introduced to the Emperor, Franz Josef, and, perhaps unwisely, mentioned that he could make anything taste good. The Emperor thought a moment, took off his leather boots, handed them to Gundel, and said, “You will serve these to me next Wednesday.”

    Gundel chopped them fine, boiled them many times and many hours in water and vinegar, mixed them with ground veal, fried them as chops and served them with paprika sauce. The Emperor said they were good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *