A thoroughly authentic Hungarian Goulash recipe with a depth and richness of flavor that will satisfy both body and soul and transport you back to Hungary! Hungary’s national dish, the depth and richness of this traditional gulyás is simply out-of-this-world delicious!
Traditional Hungarian goulash is a prime example of how a few simple ingredients, cooked properly, can yield an incredible flavor. Though many variations of Hungarian goulash exist, and every cook makes it just a bit differently, this is an authentic recipe from the heart of Hungary.
Hungary holds a special place in my heart and in my family’s hearts. My brother lived there for 2 years as a young man, regularly wrote home to us about his experiences there, the beautiful scenery and architecture, and his love for the Hungarian people. When I visited Budapest I immediately fell in love with it. Its name comes from the two sides of the city (Buda and Pest) separated by the Danube River running through it. With its striking chain bridge, stunning parliament building, and its incredible Buda Castle, Budapest is a breathtaking city.
Hungary’s history has been one of hardship and heartbreak. But the passion and stamina of soul has remained in the hearts of the Hungarian people.
I’ve always been touched by Hungary’s national anthem, Himnusz, or “hymn”, written by the poet Kölcsey. Their anthem is a poetic prayer and unlike most anthems that focus on an expression of national pride, the Hungarian anthem is a direct, heartfelt plea to God. In the mid-20th century, during the years of strongest communist rule in Hungary, the words were not sung, only the music was played. The communist government asked two of the most acclaimed artists of that time, a poet and composer, to rewrite the national anthem. Both refused. The next communist leader also tried, unsuccessfully, to have it changed. Hungary’s national anthem remains Himnusz. The first three lines:
O God, bless the nation of Hungary
With your grace and bounty
Extend over it your guarding arm
I also love Hungarian food. Their breads and smoked sausages are fantastic as are their meats, stews, sauces, and desserts. Today I’m going to share the national dish of Hungary: Goulash.
What is Hungarian Goulash?
Goulash, or as Hungarians call it, gulyás, means “herdsman.” Its origins date back to the 9th century Magyar shepherds as a simple meat and onion stew prepared in heavy iron kettles known as bogracs. In the 15th century invading Ottoman Turks introduced a new spice to Hungary, paprika. While the rest of Europe remained lukewarm towards this red chili pepper from the New World, Hungary embraced it and paprika has since become a defining element of Hungarian cuisine.
Goulash is kind of in between a soup and a stew. Unlike some stews, Goulash is not overly packed full of beef and vegetables, it is a little more brothy. But through the cooking process, the broth becomes thicker and more like a rich sauce.
And no, contrary to popular belief here in the U.S., goulash is NOT made with ground beef or (heaven forbid) macaroni noodles!
To achieve the ultimate flavor, the cooking method is important and quality, real Hungarian paprika is essential. And lots of it! None of this “2 teaspoons of paprika” jazz. Hungarians use very generous amounts of paprika, and that’s key. A Hungarian once told me, “however much paprika the recipe calls for – at least double or triple it!”
For this size batch of Goulash, you want to use a full 1/4 cup of it. When I lived in Germany, Hungary was just a few hours away and I would stock up on it when I visited. Now I order it online and recommend this genuine imported Hungarian paprika imported from Hungary. There is no comparison in flavor. It has an extraordinarily rich flavor and an exceptionally vibrant red color. Many of our readers have tried it and agree that quality Hungarian-imported paprika makes all the difference.
I mentioned earlier, many variations of goulash exist. Some include turnip or wine or caraway seeds, to name a few. But this recipe is a very old, very traditional way of making Goulash that my brother and I learned from older generations of Hungarian women and it needs no embellishments. It’s simple and simply delicious!
Hungarian Goulash Recipe
Let’s get started!
Melt the pork lard or butter/oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy soup pot over medium high heat and cook the onions until beginning to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Add the beef and cook until the beef is just starting to brown, 7-10 minutes.
Add the bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic and cook for another 6-8 minutes. (Note about peppers: Outside of Hungary it’s very difficult to find the peppers they use there. The best ones to use in their place are red and some yellow/orange. Avoid regular green bell peppers as they have a starkly different flavor profile.)
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the paprika, salt, pepper and caraway (if using) (note: paprika becomes bitter if at all scorched).
Add the beef broth, bay leaf, return to the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the carrots, tomatoes and potatoes. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for another 30-40 minutes or until the beef is nice and tender. Add salt to taste. Remove the bay leaf.
Serve with some crusty bread and, if desired, a dollop of sour cream.
For more authentic Hungarian dishes, be sure to try our:
Authentic Hungarian Goulash (Gulyás)
- 3 tablespoons pork lard , or butter or bacon grease (pork lard is traditionally used and imparts a great flavor)
- 1 1/2 pounds yellow onions chopped
- 1/4 cup quality genuine imported Hungarian sweet paprika
- 1 1/2 pounds stewing beef , cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 5 cloves garlic ,minced
- 2 red bell peppers ,seeded/membranes removed, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 1 yellow bell pepper ,seeded/membranes removed, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 2 tomatoes ,diced
- 2 carrots ,diced
- 2 medium potatoes ,cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 5 cups beef broth (traditionally just water is used but beef broth adds so much more flavor)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed caraway seeds (optional, not traditional in all regions)
- Melt the pork lard or butter/oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy soup pot over medium high heat and cook the onions until beginning to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Add the beef and cook until the beef is just starting to brown, 7-10 minutes. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic and cook for another 6-8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the paprika, salt, pepper and caraway (if using) (note: paprika becomes bitter if at all scorched). Add the beef broth, bay leaf, return to the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the carrots and potatoes. Return to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for another 30-40 minutes or until the beef is nice and tender. Add salt to taste. Remove the bay leaf.
Originally published on The Daring Gourmet on March 18, 2014