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Authentic Pörkölt (Hungarian Beef and Onion Stew)

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One of the most famous Hungarian dishes, this slow-simmered Hungarian beef and onion stew is loaded with flavor and is positively delicious!  An authentic Pörkölt recipe, it is destined to become a favorite in your home.

It’s one of my most favorite Hungarian dishes along with Hungarian Goulash, Chicken Paprikash, and Szegedin Goulash!

porkolt recipe traditional authentic beef onion stew paprika

My last trip to Hungary before leaving Europe and moving to the United States was with my brother.  Knowing we’d be terribly homesick, we decided to do a Grand Tour of Italy, Austria and Hungary before we left.  It’s one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. We took time with us, simply jumped in the car with a few provisions, and drove south from Germany with no set itinerary or hotel reservations.  We wanted to be spontaneous, to go wherever the mood led us.  And it was fantastic!

Budapest Hungary Parliament Budapest Hungary Chain Bridge

While we were in Budapest we ate at one particular restaurant twice, St. Jupát.  Several years prior it had been a grease pit, but churned out the best food. It was so greasy that at the back of the restaurant where the cooking steam was coming up through the grates on the sidewalk, the grates were covered with thick residues of lard.  Fast forward a few years, the restaurant had experienced a makeover and the atmosphere was really cozy.  All-wood interior with tables made out of huge, solid slabs of wood.  Even the food was served on rectangular wooden plates.  Never mind the fact that the forks and knives of hundreds of previous customers had carved grooves into the wooden plates, raising the question of sanitation – the food was absolutely fabulous and that’s all that mattered.  Plus, as always, you say a quick blessing on the food and trust that God will prevent you from keeling over dead after your meal. That method of food safety has never failed us!

What is Pörkölt?

Marhapörkölt, Hungarian for “beef stew”, is a prime example of how just a few simple ingredients can produce the most delicious flavor.  The basic Hungarian porkolt consists of onions sautéed in fat, meat and paprika and slow-simmered in a little water…and the result is fabulous.

And so we ordered the Marhapörkölt, one of our favorite Hungarian dishes, and practically swooned over how delicious it was. We ordered a side serving of Hungarian cucumber salad and for dessert we had traditional cold Hungarian cherry soup.  We enjoyed everything so much that we ordered exactly the same thing the following evening.

There are a couple of important keys necessary for achieving the best flavor results:  The onions need to be cooked in lard and the paprika is added to the beef and only briefly cooked to bring out the flavor but not so long that it becomes bitter.  And you only want to use a little water so that the stew is thick and concentrated for serving over dumplings or noodles.

And of course, very importantly, you need quality Hungarian paprika.  There are many options out there to purchase, a tiny fraction of which actually come from Hungary.  We cannot emphasize enough what a massive difference quality Hungarian paprika makes.  We recommend this genuine Hungarian paprika imported from the Kalocsa region of Hungary.  It has a wonderfully rich flavor and an exceptionally vibrant red color.  Many of our readers have tried it, written back and agree that quality Hungarian-imported paprika makes all the difference.

I don’t recall whether this restaurant included caraway seed or not, but that is a common addition and has been included here. I don’t like it to be overpowering, but a little bit added creates a really nice flavor element.

A word about the lard:  Most lard that you find in the grocery store is hydrogenated and is something I avoid.  Some specialty stores carry pasture-raised lard but it’s very expensive.  You can also buy it online.   With the high cost of lard in many places we include an alternative that will provide a lot of flavor as well:  Bacon.  You can either use bacon grease in lieu of lard or add bacon pieces to your Pörkölt – your choice.  If you’re up to rendering your own lard (it’s SUPER easy and MUCH cheaper), check out our post on How to Make Lard.

Porkolt is most commonly made with beef or pork and some versions include bell peppers and tomatoes.  I’ve included both. Marhapörkölt really is Hungarian comfort food at its best.  Pull up a chair and join me!

porkolt recipe traditional authentic beef onion stew paprika

Authentic Pörkölt Recipe

Let’s get started!

In a large saucepan, fry the bacon until done.

Add the onions and cook over medium high heat until light golden.

cook bacon and onions

Add the bell pepper and garlic and cook for another two minutes.

Add the beef and cook for just a minute until some but not all of the pink is gone.

cook peppers and beef

Add the paprika, stir to combine, and remove from the heat (paprika gets bitter when fried).

Add the tomatoes and remaining seasonings.

porkolt recipe traditional authentic beef onion stew paprika

Pour just a little water in – you want it to come up just a tad above the halfway point of the stew mixture.  In other words, you don’t want it to completely cover the stew.

Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 90 minutes.  If it’s not thick enough by that point, let it simmer uncovered for a few more minutes to evaporate some of the liquid.  Add salt to taste.

porkolt recipe traditional authentic beef onion stew paprika

porkolt recipe traditional authentic beef onion stew paprika

Serve the porkolt with Spätzle.  In Hungary they’re shorter and stubbier but the flavor and texture is the same.  Or serve with boiled potatoes or wide egg noodles.  A side salad, particularly a cucumber salad, is also traditional.  If desired, serve with a dollop of sour cream.


porkolt recipe traditional authentic beef onion stew paprika

For more delicious Hungarian recipes be sure to also try our:

porkolt recipe traditional authentic beef onion stew paprika

Authentic Pörkölt (Hungarian Beef and Onion Stew)

One of the most famous Hungarian dishes, this slow-simmered Hungarian beef and onion stew is loaded with flavor and is positively delicious!
4.88 from 63 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Course Entree, Main Dish
Cuisine Hungarian
Servings 4
Calories 587 kcal


  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon , diced (traditionally you would use lard (about 2 tablespoons) and many Hungarians add some kolbasz for flavor which makes a big difference)
  • 1 large yellow onion , finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper , seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 large tomato , finely diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds stewing beef , cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons quality imported sweet Hungarian paprika (yes, that's TABLEspoons!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds , coarsely crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Water


  • In a heavy pot or Dutch oven fry the bacon until done. Add the onions and cook over medium-high heat until golden. Add the bell peppers and garlic and cook for another two minutes. Add the beef and cook for a minute until some, but not all, of the pink is gone. Stir in the paprika and remove from heat.
  • Add the remaining ingredients. Add just enough water to come up to just over the halfway point of the stew mixture (in other words, not so the water is covering it). Return to heat and bring it to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 90 minutes. If the stew isn't thick enough, continue to simmer uncovered for a few more minutes so that some of the liquid evaporates. Add salt to taste.
  • Serve with Spätzle (in Hungary they are shorter and stubbier, so prepare the dough accordingly or just use whatever method/shape you prefer - the texture and flavor of the dough is the same regardless). Or serve with boiled potatoes or wide egg noodles. A side salad, particularly a cucumber salad, is traditional. If desired, serve with a dollop of sour cream.


Calories: 587kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 36gFat: 47gSaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 145mgSodium: 1233mgPotassium: 855mgFiber: 4gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 3827IUVitamin C: 31mgCalcium: 62mgIron: 5mg
Keyword Beef Stew, Hungarian, Porkolt
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Originally published on The Daring Gourmet March 18, 2015

kimberly killebrew the daring gourmet

Hi, I’m Kimberly Killebrew and welcome to Daring Gourmet where you'll find delicious originals, revitalized classics, and simply downright good eats from around the world! Originally from Germany, later raised in England, world-traveled, and now living in the U.S., from my globally-influenced kitchen I invite you to tour the world through your taste buds!

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Recipe Rating

4.88 from 63 votes (35 ratings without comment)


  1. you have mentioned that you add (In a large saucepan, fry the bacon until done, add the onions and cook over medium high heat until light golden.

    the way i would do it is fry the onion first until it is golden brown then add some of the paprika, Vegeta and the meat. I would use pork and not bacon then after like 20 seconds add like 2 cups of water and add bay leaves then stir and add salt and pepper and cover the the pot and let it simmer until the meat is done. just at the end add sour cream and mix well. This is the most traditional way to make porkolt.

    you can also use chicken to make it as well.

    we don’t use Spätzle we use nokedli.

    when you add sweet peppers or tomato that is not porkolt any more but lecso which is another type of Hungarian stew.

    we also don’t use caraway seeds in the original porkolt
    and i have never made oven made porkolt before

    i hope this helps :)

  2. True Hungarian paprika and bacon fat really does make a difference !
    This is almost identical to what my mother and grandmother made.

  3. I know this is a LATE post, but I made pörkölt the first time with actual pork(I made a guess). It turned out very good! I didn’t use tomatoes and I did use red peppers. I served it with pierioges and cucumber salad.

  4. Hungarian here. This looks legit. One point I want to add is that the quality of the paprika REALLY matters. The OG way is to get paprika ground fresh by locals/villagers. Paprika has a freshness shelf life and you want the fresh stuff. I live in the US and it’s a big deal when we get our yearly fresh batch from friends & relatives still in Hungary. Oddly, other paprika isn’t quite as good (Spanish, or commercially bulk produced stuff). I know, you likely don’t have a villager hookup for paprika :) but if you can’t figure out why it’s not “exactly” like what you tried in Hungary, this could be a reason. No reason not to try with what you have on hand though!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, V.Sz. I agree that fresh makes a massive difference. But in the absence of the Hungarian village hookup, I always encourage my readers to purchase imported REAL Hungarian paprika regardless because even if it isn’t freshly ground from that season’s peppers it is still world’s better than any other paprika.
      I’m a gardener and next year am growing my own Hungarian peppers and drying/grinding them for powder. Looking forward to experimenting. No, they won’t have the Hungarian sun but I’m hopeful nevertheless :)

      1. Awesome. Absolutely, go with what you can!

        Couple of suggestions on the recipe:
        – I think tomatoes are not common in this recipe. Onions, bell pepper and garlic.
        – I think red bell pepper is more common then green.
        – Something to try: sear the beef pieces in the lard/oil step 1. Just sear all sides, don’t cook them fully. Remove to a separate plate, then “deglaze” with 1/2 cup water. This dissolves all the burnt on juices and emphasizes the beef flavor. Add the onions and go from there.

  5. Annoying! Put your cute reminiscences LAST, please. Flash right to the recipe. And you’re right: Caraway seeds are A Good Thing.

    1. Rudy, if the annoyance is too much for you to enjoy the benefit of a FREE recipe, especially when there’s a convenient “Jump to Recipe” right at the very top of the page, feel free to buy a cookbook.

      1. Couldn’t agree more with your response to that sourpuss. Stories like yours add to the beauty of the recipe as they add cultural color and intrigue.

        I am Hungarian and this recipe is excellent. I prefer red bell pepper over green for its milder taste. My (Hungarian) mother likes to add a minced jalapeño for heat. This dish handles it well, as another poster mentioned.

        I’ve followed your csirke paprikas recipe previously and it was also authentic and delicious!

        One friendly suggestion: provide a link to a cucumber salad. It is such a refreshing accompaniment to the weight of this dish. Just make sure the “dressing” is the right balance of sweet and tangy.

        Thank you for your contribution to the world of cooking and cultural celebration!

  6. In Australia I purchase Sweet Hungarian Paprika distributed by Hoyts.
    They supply a lot of different Spices and are available at most Supermarkets or Delicatessens.

  7. I’m Hungarian (born and raised) and I was curious how foreigners see our food. I found a couple of recipes that made me want to scrape my eyes out with a spoon (they put TOMATO PASTE instead of tomatoes into the pörkölt, why). The bacon threw me off a bit, but this is an otherwise authentic and good recipe. Good job!

  8. This was a good recipe. Although my own attempt could have turned out a bit better. The texture of mine was a bit off because in my anticipation of trying something new I started cooking too early and kept it on the stove for an hour longer than it really needed. Not an hour longer than stated in the recipe but rather an hour after it looked perfect which was a bit more than 90mins. It was good and my guests enjoyed it but not entirely to my own tastes. I’m certain that I can do better next time I try. Despite all that it may just well become a staple in my house after all since I discovered the leftovers make an excellent soup starter. Just threw some onions and diced potatoes in a pot with the leftovers and butter added a little flour, vegetable stock, sour cream and a sprinkle of hot paprika and let it cook for a bit. Awesome soup. I’m thinking I may just make it and freeze it in portioned cubes for when I want soup.

  9. This was such a nice surprise, to find the proper recipe. It looks right. The steps are correct.
    Such a simple recipe, yet you have no idea how many abominations I’ve found, or maybe you do.
    Thank you for doing it right.

    One thing that seems to have been omitted, is that both this and gulyás lend themselves very well to heat.
    You can buy Erős Pista, which is a paste made from hot hungarian peppers, Haragos Pista, which is the same thing but even stronger, or you can also get paprika powder that is made from hot paprika, if you wanna do it the real OG way.

    Link for Erős Pista: http s://www.amazon.com/Eros-Pista-Paprika-univer-200g/dp/B000LRILJE
    This is the spicy one.

    Link for Haragos Pista:http s://www.amazon.com/-/es/Univer-Haragos-Steves-Crushed-Paprika/dp/B00GG0K706
    This is hellfire.
    Use a different brand at your own peril.

  10. I’ve lived in Hungary for three years and married to a Hungarian for 17 years and I can say that this is a really good recipe. Two suggestions. Consider adding a few squirts of Univer Piros Arany Red Gold Hungarian Paprika Paste in addition to regular Hungarian paprika. You can find it on Amazon in the USA. Second, consider adding a little more water and cooking down for another 30-45 minutes. Depending on your beef this ensures every bite is melt-in-your-mouth tender. Also fun fact, one old school Hungarian way to make gulyás is with leftover pörkölt. If you want an awesome gulyás then make a bigger batch of pörkölt than you need and use the leftovers plus potato, carrot and parsnip to make really amazing gulyás.

  11. I’ve noticed your link for the Paprika leads to Amazon. Amazon states it is currently unavailable and not sure it will be back in stock. Could you provide another reference for buying this quality paprika?

    My mouth is drooling while waiting to try these different recipes. I have my own that have been passed down and I believe they’ve been dumbed down. I was excited to come across your website.

    1. Hi Frank, I’ve updated the link with a product that is in stock (though that could always change). This one is also a better deal: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004YXNJT8?ie=UTF8&tag=thedargou09-20&camp=1789&linkCode=xm2&creativeASIN=B004YXNJT8 As long as you’re using paprika that’s actually imported from Hungary you can be sure you’re getting a quality product with the best flavor. Happy cooking and I hope you enjoy the recipe!