When I decided to try making Hungarian food vegetarian, the motivation came from my love of Chicken Paprikas. This dish is my all-time favorite Hungarian meal. Growing up, if there was a special occasion and my Mom asked me what I would like her to make for dinner, Chicken Paprikas was my response. Coming home from college, Chicken Paprikas would be on the menu. I loved it so much, I probably could have had it every night. The funny thing is, the chicken wasn’t the star of the meal to me. It may have been the substance, but the star was the sweet creamy sauce, the tart green peppers, and the incredible homemade noodles/dumplings. When I became a vegetarian, my first thought was “How am I going to live without Chicken Paprikas?” Misha assured me that many meat-based meals could be made vegetarian, and even though I knew he was 100% right, I was so scared to try making Chicken Paprikas without meat. What if it failed? What if I really did have to live the rest of my life without my favorite meal?!

Frozen cutlets in the "well" of veggies, covered in paprika

Well, worry no more, vegetarian Chicken Paprikas lovers out there!!! I finally faced my ridiculous fears and made a delicious, authentic, meat-free Chicken Paprikas, and it is AWESOME. As I said earlier, the true star of Chicken Paprikas is not the meat, and so it survived the transformation fairly intact. Everyone knows the noodles/dumplings are the best part- you would always eat a bit of meat and then a LOT of noodles. In place of the chicken, I used Quorn, an incredible chicken substitute product first mentioned (and photographed) in my Chicken and Broccoli Casserole post. It is really amazing how well something called mycoprotein (read: mushrooms) absorbs flavor. My “chicken” was nice and tender, a bit pink, and very tasty. Of course, I made a TON of noodles (after lots of dough beating and numerous frantic picture text messages to my Mom asking if the dough was the right consistency), and the dish got DEVOURED by Misha. That means it was a success!

Noodles cooking, sauce with flour mixture gently heating

I may have cut my green peppers a bit too big. So know this: you need to cut your green peppers smaller than I did! And you may need to go to the gym to get enough upper-arm strength to beat the noodles. But otherwise, this meal is easy, slightly time-consuming, and absolutely delicious. You too will be a Chicken Paprikas fiend, and make it for every special occasion.

Speaking of special occasions, I turned 25 on January 24th!  My incredible birthday present from Misha was a trip to the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  It’s about three hours from our house, and we stayed in a hotel on the beach and drank fantastic beer and ate delicious food and went for a walk on the beach.  It was so fun and relaxing, and such a special trip.  I am so spoiled by Misha!  To cap off my b-day celebrations, a few girlfriends and I went out for sushi, followed by a vegan chocolate cake with vegan vanilla icing made at work by my friend Emily, and Misha’s Mom made me my favorite spring rolls!  Oh yeah, and my incredible parents spoiled me further by buying me an iPhone.  It was the best birthday in recent memory (although last year was pretty great too), and I am so lucky and blessed to have such giving, loving, wonderful family and friends!  If I had been able to be at my parents’ for my birthday, Chicken Paprikas would have been my special meal. Enjoy!

Me and Misha at the Dogfish Head Brewpub in Rehoboth

tender "chicken"

Grandma Elek’s Chicken Paprikas

2-4 Quorn chicken cutlets

About 2 tablespoons shortening (olive oil, butter)

1 large sweet onion, chopped fine

1 green pepper, chopped fine

½ pint half and half

1 tablespoon flour

Sweet Hungarian Paprika

For noodles/dumplings (Nokedly):

1 egg

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon soft butter

1 to 1 ½ cups all purpose flour

Water

**the noodles can EASILY be doubled or tripled, and the more the better! I tripled the recipe for my meal***
In a large, deep pan, sauté onions and green peppers in shortening until soft, tender, and transparent. Make a “well” in the center of the pan and add a little more shortening and the frozen chicken cutlets. Coat every inch of everything in the pan with a generous amount of paprika. Saute for about 5 minutes, turning the cutlets a couple of times and stirring the onions and peppers. Add more paprika as needed.

Add water to almost cover. Then simmer on low heat until the chicken cutlets are heated thoroughly. This does not take long, about 5-10 minutes. While the cutlets are heating, put a big pot of salted water on the stove on high heat and make the dough for the noodles. The cutlets will finish heating before you are finished with the noodles- simply turn the burner off and cover the pan for the time being.

To make the dough for the noodles, beat the eggs and then add salt, soft butter, and flour; keep beating, adding flour and a little water as you beat until bubbles form when you stop beating. (NOTE: I really don’t know if bubbles formed when I stopped beating, but the dough should be fairly wet and not too sticky. You really need to beat it hard and fast, adding a fair amount of water as necessary. See pictures below to get an idea of what the dough should look like!)

Turn the dough out onto a large cutting board, and cut the dough into boiling water in small pieces using a hot, sharp knife. Dipping the knife in the water periodically helps keep it hot and prevents the dough from sticking to it too much. The dumplings will be weird little shapes and if you cut a few too big or too small it’s not a big deal- I definitely cut a bunch of mine too big. Once you’ve cut all the dough in, cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until the noodles taste done.  When you cut the noodles in, they sink, but they will float back to the top as they cook. Drain them in a colander and rinse them in warm water to help prevent sticking.  See pictures below to get a visual idea of the process.

Now turn back to your chicken and sauce. Turn the burner back on and get a little simmer going again. In a small bowl, mix the flour and ½ and ½ . Add to the pan and stir it in. Let it heat and thicken a little and serve hot over the noodles. DON’T LET THE SAUCE BOIL ONCE THE ½ AND ½ MIXTURE IS ADDED. That will just make it curdle and be gross.

One final note: it is best to dish the noodles and then put the chicken and sauce over the noodles. This way everyone can add as many noodles as they want, and then IF there are any leftovers they can be stored by themselves. If you mix the noodles into the sauce and store them like that, they will get soggy. This dish is great re-heated and had for leftovers the next day. Also, the best way to mop up any remaining sauce on your plate is with a piece of sliced bread!

this dough needs more beating, more water- it's too sticky and thick, clumpy

This is me in college, beating noodle dough for chicken paprikas. This is exactly what I had to do this time as well. The floor and your knees are helpful aids in beating dough!

this dough is looking much better- just about ready to turn out onto cutting board

The dough on the board, being cut into the water

Noodles in the water right after they've been cut in, and swirling my knife in the water to keep it hot