In lecsó—the Hungarian version of ratatouille or shakshuka—paprika is the star and not merely a seasoning. The end result is a tangle of tender peppers, hunks of sausage, juicy tomatoes, and lightly caramelized onions all bathed in a sauce that builds itself—rich, piquant and vibrantly red.
To emulate robustly smoky and savory Hungarian sausage, use two grocery store staples: bacon for rich smokiness and kielbasa for texture and spice. Sweet and subtly hot, Hungarian wax peppers are the traditional go-to, though hard to find in the U.S. In their place, an easier-to-source blend of yellow bell peppers and mildly spicy banana, cubanelle or Anaheim peppers are used.
Paprika’s earthy-sweet notes complement both the peppers and sausage, while giving the stew an especially luscious consistency. To round out the meal, serve with crusty bread, but it also is delicious spooned over rice, mashed potatoes or nokedli, Spätzle-like Hungarian dumplings.
TIP: Don’t add the tomatoes until the end of cooking. Their freshness and bright acidity balance the richness of the stew.
In the end, it seemed a bit “watery” to us, and given that a lot of the vegetables release moisture, the amount of water at 1 1/2 cups is too much and could be scaled back to 3/4 cup. But the overall flavors were delicious! We served ours with cooked spaetzle, but you could also serve over rice or mashed potatoes.
8 oz. kielbasa or other smoked sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch half-moons
1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
2 oz. bacon, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 medium yellow bell peppers (about 1 lb. total), stemmed, seeded and cut into ¾-inch pieces
4 banana peppers or 3 cubanelle or Anaheim peppers (about 1 lb. total), stemmed, seeded and cut into ¾-inch pieces
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp. sweet paprika, divided
¾ tsp. hot paprika or ¾ tsp. sweet paprika plus ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 lb. ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, combine the sausage and oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate; set aside.
Reduce to medium, add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Add both types of peppers, the garlic, 1 teaspoon of the sweet paprika, the hot paprika and ½ cup water. Scrape up any browned bits, then cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the peppers begin to soften, about 3 minutes.
Stir in 1½ cups water, cover partially, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are fully softened, 12 to 15 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, sausage and remaining 1 tablespoon sweet paprika. Cook, partially covered, until the tomatoes release their juices but have not broken down, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt.
Friends of ours, husband and wife, were in a car accident, and while luckily they weren’t seriously injured, they were not in any mood, or condition, to cook for themselves for a period of days. Their daughter set up a “Meals on Wheels” type of delivery system called Meal Train, whereas each night friends and/or family members made a hot meal to be delivered to their household in the evening at the time of their choosing.
What a fantastic idea! The couple filled out an online form which described their likes and dislikes (i.e. nothing too spicy, prefer chicken and pasta dishes), and the link was emailed to the group. We chose our day and then the recipe based on their criteria. Our contribution? Chicken Paprikash. And just as The Hubs was leaving to transport the goods, he commented that one of their passions was delivering meals on wheels to those in need. What goes around, comes around…
This Hungarian classic can be on the table (or in the car as the case would be) in an hour if you use an Instant Pot or pressure cooker. And less than 10 ingredients to boot! To streamline the process even more, prep the dill while the chicken cooks, as it’s not used until the end of cooking to finish the sauce and as a garnish. We happened to use dried dill, saving even more time.
Paprika is a key ingredient in this dish, so make sure yours is fresh and fragrant; paprika that has gone stale and lost its flavor and color will result in a bland, lackluster stew. Buttered egg noodles are the perfect accompaniment. Even though you might be tempted, don’t use low-fat sour cream. It lacks richness and body and will make a lean, watery chicken paprikash.
3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, skin removed and discarded
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
4 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill, divided
Egg noodles, cooked to package directions
On a 6-quart Instant Pot, select More/High Sauté. Add the butter and let melt. Add the onion, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden brown, about 6 minutes.
Add the paprika and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir in ½ cup water, scraping up the browned bits. Nestle in the chicken in an even layer, slightly overlapping the pieces if needed.
Cancel, lock the lid in place and move the pressure valve to Sealing. Select Pressure Cook or Manual; make sure the pressure level is set to High. Set the cooking time for 10 minutes.
When pressure cooking is complete, allow the pressure to reduce naturally for 10 minutes, then release the remaining steam by moving the pressure valve to Venting. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot.
Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a dish and tent with foil.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and cornstarch. Stir the mixture into the pot, then select More/High Sauté and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce begins to simmer and is lightly thickened.
Press Cancel to turn off the pot, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in 2 tablespoons of dill. Using potholders, carefully remove the insert from the housing and pour the sauce over the chicken.
Serve over hot cooked egg noodles and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons dill (or parsley).