Hungarian Chicken Goulash

Hungarian Chicken Goulash

Whether you live in what is currently a cool and rainy place like Washington, an area that is just beginning to thaw out from a mini ice age, or some warm and sunny region, this Hungarian Chicken Goulash is something you will all enjoy regardless of your current climate conditions.

I love Hungarian food.  I love the country, the people, the culture, the traditions…their handmade leather goods, their architecture (Budapest is one stunning city – that famous bridge, the parliament, the Fisherman’s Wharf, wow!)  and those fantastic and terribly addictive little túró rudi’s – Hungarian chocolate bars that are kept refrigerated.  An outer coating of chocolate with a sweet and tangy cheese curd in the middle.  I could write sonnets about these cheesy-chocolate delights…*sigh*…focus, Kimberly, focus.

My brother had the opportunity to live in Hungary for two years, so he (the lucky guy) got to experience much more of Hungary than I did.  He also speaks Hungarian fluently.  Just before we moved back to the U.S. he took me to what had been one of favorite restaurants in Budapest.  Rustic wood tables and benches, wood walls and floors.  Charming atmosphere.  The food was served on wooden slab-like plates.  We realized it probably wasn’t the most hygienic (you know, as you cut into wood with utensils it’s easy for food particles to get stuck in the grooves over time).  Still, it didn’t detract from our enjoyment of the meal one bit.  Our favorite dish to order was the Pörkölt, a traditional thick Hungarian meat stew that is served over Hungarian egg noodles that resemble German Spätzle.  Along with it we enjoyed a classic Hungarian cucumber salad and for dessert Washideg Meggyleves, a well-known and delicious chilled cherry soup (cherries, sugar, lemon, cinnamon, sour cream, etc).  We ordered this same meal several times during our last trip to Budapest.

I found a smokin’ deal on some lovely organic yellow bell peppers last week and so I stocked up.  Yesterday I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner.  I remembered I had those bell peppers.  I also had some chicken thawing in the fridge.  Why not a chicken version of Hungary’s national dish?

You will be amazed at how a few simple ingredients elicit such an amazing depth of flavor.  The key is adding lots and lots of paprika and slowly stewing down the soup for a good hour or more.  I’m always amused when I see “authentic” Hungarian recipes on the web that call for a teaspoon or two of paprika.  In Hungary, paprika is quite literally added by the handful.  That is what gives you the classic flavor that makes Hungarian food so delicious.  That and pork fat, butter, onions, kolbász (traditional Hungarian sausage)…oh my!

But today’s dish is a lean and healthy Hungarian Chicken Goulash.  Bon appetit!

Or, as the Hungarians say – Jó étvágyat!

For two more delicious Hungarian dishes, see Hungarian Mushroom Soup and Hungarian Mushroom Pasta.

First we’re going to start with the bell peppers and onions.

Chicken Goulash prep 1

Chop the onions into stew-sized pieces.

Chicken Goulash prep 2

Chop the yellow and/or orange bell peppers.

Chicken Goulash prep 3

Mince the garlic.  Yes, we need lots and lots of garlic!

Chicken Goulash prep 4

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large Dutch oven (I use and love Lodge) over medium high heat and cook the onions for about 5-7 minutes until soft and translucent and just beginning to turn golden.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Chicken Goulash prep 5

Add the bell peppers and the paprika powder and cook for another 7-8 minutes.

Chicken Goulash prep 6

Cube the chicken breast.

Chicken Goulash prep 7

Add the chicken breast along with the paprika and bouillon cubes.  *NOTE:  Update – add the paprika in with the bell peppers instead (see former step).

Chicken Goulash prep 8

Stir to combine.

Chicken Goulash prep 11

Oops, I almost forgot.  We’re going to add some tomatoes as well.

Chicken Goulash prep 9

After you add the tomatoes, add just enough water to cover the stew ingredients, about 4 cups.

Chicken Goulash prep 10

Add the bay leaves, cracked peppercorns, and crushed caraway seeds.  Stir to combine.  Bring the goulash to a boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and continue to simmer, covered, for an hour.

Hungarian Chicken Goulash prep 12

Serve the goulash hot with a dollop of sour cream (the sour cream makes a huge difference – don’t omit).

Hungarian Chicken Goulash

Hungarian Chicken Goulash
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Made in authentic Hungarian fashion, simple ingredients yield tremendous depth of flavor.
Cuisine: Hungarian
Serves: 6
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 yellow or orange bell peppers (or a combination of the two), chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 3 chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds), cubed
  • ¼ cup sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 3 chicken bouillon cubes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream
  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Saute the onions until tender and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add the bell peppers and the paprika powder and cook for another 7-8 minutes until tender. Add the tomatoes and chicken and cook for another two minutes.
  3. Add the bouillon cubes, caraway seeds, bay leaves and cracked peppercorns. Stir to combine. Pour in enough water to just cover the mixture, about 4 cups.
  4. Bring the goulash to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for one hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream.


24 Responses

  1. wrote on

    I will have to try this one. I grew up on Hungarian food (my father was born in what was then Hungary), and have never seen a dish quite like this. What I’ve always made is Chicken Paprikás, with onion, sour cream, paprika, tomato sauce and those delicious homemade egg noodles… which I haven’t made in far too long. There are so many wonderful cuisines out there that I sometimes forget the one I grew up with. Thank you for reminding me about it.

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      You are so right. We often go out looking for the new, exciting and adventurous only to find ourselves coming back to our roots and realizing how much we’ve missed them. I think it’s very typical to take for granted the things we grew up with, traditional foods included. And then when our interest in those old family recipes is sparked we wish we had paid more attention to the way our mothers, fathers, or grandparents made them. I hear comments like that time and time again from people I talk to. That’s one of my reasons for creating this blog – continuing to collect and create treasured recipes, some old and some new, to pass down to my children.

      Chicken paprikas is one of my favorite Hungarian dishes as well. I’ll definitely be getting around to that one at some point, along with the Hungarian pörkölt, cherry soup, cucumber salad, stuffed peppers, a phenomenal potato/egg/kolbasz casserole, and a variety of Hungarian baked goods.

      • wrote on

        You definitely know your Hungarian – only those who do know how to spell kolbasz and pörkölt. I’ll look forward to any of those recipes you share!

  2. wrote on

    I can believe it takes plenty of paprika to get the right taste. Sounds delicious.

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      It makes a big difference. And Hungarian paprika is mild – no heat at all – so no problem loading up on it :)

      • wrote on

        Hungarian paprika also comes in a hot version, but is not as readily available as the sweet.

    • wrote on

      Paprika is a staple in the Hungarian cuisine, which contributes seriously to the flavor of the dishes. You want to make sure you get imported Hungarian paprika, because it is sweet. Other paprikas are used just for decoration for a reason – they are not sweet.

      • The Daring Gourmet

        wrote on

        Yes, I loaded up on my last trip to Hungary – have several bags of it :)

  3. wrote on

    We had this for dinner tonight, and it was very nice. I like the subtlety of the caraway flavor and the little bit of heat from the peppercorns. (I had to have my husband crush the peppercorns.) In trying to figure out what to serve with this I ended up making csipetke, those nice little dumpling noodles. I had to cook them separately, and added them to the goulash. I let the whole thing sit overnight, so the noodles could absorb the flavors. I ended up using plain, nonfat Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream, because of calories and that is what I always have in my refrigerator; I think I might like it a little better with sour cream. But in any case, this is a very nice dish, and my husband liked it a lot. Usually he reserves judgment and it generally takes him a while to decide he can be enthusiastic about a dish.

    BTW, when you wax poetic about things Hungarian, don’t forget their beautiful embroidery!

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Wonderful, and thanks for the feedback! I guess I should be especially flattered since your husband gave this his “thumbs up” :) I like your addition of the csipetke in the goulash. I made this dish again last week at my husband’s request (he really likes it as well). Greek yogurt is a fine substitute, but yes, sour cream would definitely add a better flavor. Sour cream really transforms a lot of saucy type dishes, especially Hungarian ones.

      Ah yes, their embroidery! :) I actually have several hand-embroidered tablecloths from Hungary. I guess I don’t remember to think about them because they’re packed away for safe-keeping until the little hands of my 3 and 1 year old are no longer smearing finger paint, play dough, food, and who knows what everywhere ;)

      • jesusan

        wrote on

        I had an epiphany the other night about using non-fat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, and tried it in another dish I make (the one my husband calls ‘road kill’, more commonly known as Skid Road Stroganoff). I suddenly realized that adding a little sugar to the yogurt would give more of a sour cream effect, and it does. It takes probably about ¾ tsp. per cup of yogurt to make it more like sour cream (it may be more than that, but that’s where I’ll start next time I try it). Thought you might like to know. At least for me it makes much more sense than fat free or low fat sour cream which are essentially flavorless (to me).

        • The Daring Gourmet

          wrote on

          That’s a great tip, Susan, thank you!

  4. Anonymous

    wrote on

    fantastic recipe thanks

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Thank YOU for the feedback!

  5. wrote on

    SO, long story short, chicken goulash was the meal my grandmother made (that her mother, from rural hungary, had taught her), that really sticks out as ‘food folklore’ in my family.

    We never used tomatoes (this is a debate as old as the sky) but I recognise the validity of doing so… but I would add the paprika (thank you thank you thank you for measuring in cups. american wusses with their ‘two teaspoons’ nonsense) in with the peppers, before the chicken- it needs time to toast and fry and really release the paprika flavor before the liquid component hits it.

    Also, I used chicken breasts and stock for years, because it’s super easy – but I have recently converted back to grandma’s whole chicken method (albeit using a pressure cooker – I don’t have all day). there’s a collagen layer on a finished goulash that captures this rich, sweet, spiciness – it’s worth the hassle, to me anyway.

    Oh- last thing – invest in good paprika!!! I grew up with “Pride of Szeged” paprika, and thought that was as good as it would get – one trip to penzie’s spices… my god, real paprika will make your head spin. And – try half sharp paprika instead one time, and you’ll find out why sour cream (omitted in our family) is so ever-present in hungarian food.

    Alright – your goulash looks beautiful and it brings back some memories – I’m going to go cook :)

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Hi Nat! Thank you for sharing such wonderful information! To address each of your points: You’re absolutely right about when to add the paprika. I’ve always sauteed the paprika with the veggies first in other recipes and I’m not sure how it slipped my mind on this one. I’m going to update the recipe because yes, it makes a difference. And using whole chicken – that makes a HUGE difference as well. When I make Middle Eastern and African dishes I almost always whole chicken. But to cut back on cooking time I opted for chicken breast in this version. Real Hungarian paprika powder – YES! There really is no substitute. I picked up several packages of it on my last trip to Hungary. And as for the hot stuff – yes, I remember almost burning my tongue off in Budapest! :) Thanks so much for visiting, Nat, and for your wonderful insights!

  6. wrote on

    mighty,put a green chillie in 2 and served on fuesli o mammy !!! thanks :)

    • The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Haha, thanks, Rob! If you’re looking for some additional heat, the hot Hungarian paprika powder is some serious business!

  7. Anonymous

    wrote on

    You should use dark chicken thigh meat. Much more flavorful and won’t get dry in a long slow simmer…

    • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Thanks for the tip. Yes, thigh meat does have more flavor.

  8. wrote on

    Seems very runny definitely needs thickening somehow

    • Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet

      wrote on

      Hi Vicki, unlike many of the American adaptations of goulash, Hungarian goulash isn’t thick at all, it’s a brothy soup.

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