Spice up your life with paprika!

If you’ve been wanting to add some pizazz to your kitchen playlist, then boy have I got a spice for you: paprika.

We know paprika as that red powder sold in little jars or tin cans and often associate it with Hungary, but beyond that, what is the stuff?

Paprika is just the powdered form of a variety of dried peppers or chilies, and ranges in flavor from sweet to spicy, depending on the nature of the pepper or chile from which it was derived.

And what does the country of Hungary have to do with it? Well, when Europeans brought peppers back to their homeland from America in the 1500s, it was the Hungarians who sun-dried and grinded them, thus making what we now know as paprika. While paprika is made all over, the best stuff is still thought to come from Hungary.

Paprika can be spicy, but it won’t burn your mouth off like cayenne powder. Rather, paprika offers a complex flavor and can act to literally warm your body (good to know for those cold winter months).

Great, so now that you have a short history lesson on paprika, how can you use the stuff aside from sprinkling it atop hummus or deviled eggs?

Well, one of my favorite ways is to use it with a heavy hand to build a vibrant tomato sauce that itself will help flavor chicken, pork, beef or even vegetables.

In this recipe, we’ll have paprika play a starring role in a hearty and healthful chicken entree whose sauce might just outshine the poultry itself.

Chicken Pizazz in Tomato and Paprika Sauce

(Makes 4 servings)

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Half of one large brown onion, sliced
  • 2 bell peppers (your choice of color), sliced
  • 1 teaspoon each garlic salt and black pepper
  • 1 pound skinless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into chunks
  • 3 tablespoons paprika (your choice of mild, spicy or sweet)
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 ounces of water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Music to make it by: Moby’s 18

Step 1: Grab a large (10-inch or larger) sauté pan that has a lid, heat over medium and add the oil. After the oil heats for a minute, throw in the bell peppers, onions and garlic salt and pepper, and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat or until the onions and peppers just begin the brown.

Step 2: While the veggies are cooking, slice the chicken into small chunks, put the pieces in a dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When done cutting the chicken, be sure to thoroughly wash and scrub the cutting board, knife, and anything else the raw chicken came into contact with.

Step 3: Move the peppers and onions to one side of the pan and add the chicken. Cook for five minutes over medium or until the chicken begins to brown. Turn the chicken and cook for five more minutes.

Step 4: Add the paprika to the pan, mix well and cook for a minute. Doesn’t this smell great? Add the crushed tomatoes and water, and mix well. Make sure the sauce covers the chicken. If it doesn’t, add more water.

Step 5: When the mixture comes to a simmer – when small bubbles break the surface of the sauce – put a lid on the pan, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for at least 25 minutes. Feel free to throw in some bay leaves like I have above for extra flavor. When there is only five minutes left, stir in the sugar, taste the sauce and add any salt or pepper as you see fit. Cover and cook the remaining five minutes.

Congratulations! You’ve just made an amazing dinner that will really add some spice to your life. I like to serve this dish as a meal over rice or pasta. Now that you know how to make this dish, try it with other meat or even seafood. You’ll find the sauce itself is also very versatile, and is delicious served as a warm condiment. Heck, the other night I had mine over meatloaf!


  1. Steve A said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

    Matt, I saw this recipe in Thursday’s OC Register and made this dish tonight (Sunday). It turned out fantastic. Thank you for the recipe.

  2. Matt Degen said,

    July 19, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

    Steve — Glad to hear it turned out well!

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