Authentic Hungarian Goulash

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Inspired by my travels to Budapest Hungary, and the amazingly delicious goulash I ate there, this Easy Authentic Hungarian Goulash Recipe is a hearty, earthy, and meaty stew that brings authentic Hungarian flavor in an easy one-pot stew the whole family will love!

The Best Goulash, an easy and authentic Hungarian beef stew with meat and onions.
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An authentic Hungarian Goulash beef stew with a spoon full of chicken curry in a bowl.

GulyÁs – Hungarian Style Goulash

If you’ve never had delicious, hearty Hungarian Goulash, you’re missing out on one of my all-time favorite comfort food dishes!

Authentic Hungarian Goulash is rich, meaty, a little sweet – and loaded with flavor thanks to stew meat, green pepper, red pepper, sweet paprika, garlic.

Goulash is incredibly adaptable too – it can be made without potatoes or noodles to be a delicious keto Hungarian goulash – or served with egg noodles, topped with sour cream, or made a little extra salty and rich with some caraway seeds.

While this goulash calls for everything in a pot and cooked, it can also be made in a crock pot or slow cooker by browning the meat and vegetables beforehand, and then adding the beef broth and other ingredients to the slow cooker on medium heat (you don’t need to bring it to a boil right away) for an all-day simmer.

In an instant pot, add the beef first and let brown, before then adding in vegetables to soften and brown and add rest of ingredients to cook on high heat for 8 minutes with a natural release.

This recipe is one I found while visiting Budapest, Hungary, and tweaked to work here in America – and I highly recommend browning meat and vegetables in lard as they do (it brings out a rich flavor that I can’t get with butter or olive oil) but you can also just use olive oil if you’d prefer.

I am not including a ton of salt and pepper in this recipe since the paprika flavors are so delicious – but be sure to season according to your own taste!

The Best Goulash - a flavorful bowl of goulash with onions and potatoes.

How to Make Hungarian Goulash

To make this recipe, you will need:

  • Pork Lard or Butter: Used for sautéing the onions and meat, adding flavor and helping to brown the ingredients.
  • Onions: Provide a sweet and savory base flavor for the goulash when sautéed until soft and translucent.
  • Hungarian Paprika: The star of the dish, Hungarian paprika lends the signature deep red color and a distinct, earthy, and slightly spicy flavor.
  • Stew Meat: Typically beef, cut into small pieces, becomes tender and flavorful as it simmers in the paprika-infused broth.
  • Garlic: Adds a robust and aromatic element to the dish, enhancing the overall flavor.
  • Bell Peppers (optional): The red and yellow bell peppers contribute sweetness, color, and a mild pepper flavor to the goulash.
  • Celery (optional): Celery adds an earthy, salty flavor and extra texture to highlight the capsicum flavor from bell peppers and sweetness of carrots.
  • Tomato Paste: Tomato paste is a thickening agent. It helps give the goulash a thicker and more substantial texture, creating a hearty and satisfying stew-like consistency, as well as a rich, hearty flavor.
  • Tomatoes: Diced tomatoes provide acidity and a tomatoey essence to balance the richness of the meat and paprika.
  • Carrots: Diced carrots offer a touch of sweetness and contribute to the overall heartiness of the dish.
  • Potatoes (optional): Potatoes absorb the flavors of the goulash and add a starchy component that thickens the broth.
  • Beef Broth: The base liquid for the goulash, beef broth infuses the dish with savory meaty goodness.
  • Bay Leaf: Imparts a subtle herbal note and depth of flavor to the stew.
  • Salt and Pepper: Enhance and season the dish, ensuring it’s well-balanced.
  • Dried Marjoram: A herb that complements the paprika and adds a pleasant aroma to the goulash.
  • Eros Pista Chili Paste (optional): If used, this chili paste adds heat and an extra layer of spiciness to the goulash, but it’s optional and can be adjusted based on your preference for spiciness.

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, we will use the following process:

  • Brown beef in batches. In a large, heavy pot or dutch oven, brown beef in batches. I don’t add fat, since beef will have some, but you can add a little oil or lard if you’d like. When beef is browned, set aside in a bowl.
  • Brown vegetables. Melt the lard or butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook the onions, carrots, and peppers until beginning to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Be sure to scrape up all the browned bits of beef as the onions and peppers cook.
  • Assemble soup. Remove from heat and stir in the paprika, marjoram, salt and pepper. Add beef back to dish, toss well to mix thoroughly. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, potatoes, beef broth, bay leaf.
  • Boil, then simmer. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 40 minutes – 3 hours. (The length of time is up to you – it is done at 40 minutes, but becomes thicker and more intense after slowly simmering on low for hours.)
  • Enjoy! Serve. Add salt or Eros Pista chili pasta to taste.
The Best Goulash - A bowl of stew with onions and tomatoes, a delicious and authentic Hungarian beef stew.

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Authentic Hungarian Goulash

Use Hungarian Paprika: The quality and type of paprika you use are crucial. Opt for high-quality Hungarian paprika, either sweet (édes) or hot (csíp?s), depending on your heat preference. While paprika is just dried bell peppers, the Hungarian paprika lends a huge difference in flavor you want to get perfectly. This is the primary flavoring agent for goulash. You can adjust other spices as you’d like, but the paprika is really critical here!

Render Fat: If using pork lard or bacon fat, start by rendering it in the pot. This provides a flavorful base for sautéing the onions and meat.

Sauté Onions Slowly: Take your time sautéing the chopped onions until they are soft, translucent, and slightly caramelized. This step adds sweetness and depth to the dish.

Don’t Rush Browning: When browning the meat, do it in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Allow each batch to brown evenly on all sides. Browning adds flavor through Maillard reactions.

Balanced Spices: While paprika is the star, don’t forget the other spices like garlic, marjoram, salt, and pepper. These balance the flavors and add complexity.

Low and Slow Cooking: Goulash benefits from slow, gentle simmering. Use a low heat setting to let the meat become tender and the flavors meld together. I like to cook mine 3 hours, though the technical cooking time is 1 hour, to get a deeper, richer flavor and thicker stew. This is a personal preference!

Add Tomatoes and Liquid: Incorporate diced tomatoes and beef broth to create a rich and flavorful base for the goulash. The liquid should cover the meat and vegetables.

Thicken with Tomato Paste: If your goulash is thin, do not skip the tomato paste. Tomato paste is an excellent thickener – and takes a bit of time to work. Add before simmering to let it help thicken stew.

Consider Vegetables: Traditional Hungarian goulash may include bell peppers, potatoes, and carrots. These vegetables add sweetness, color, and substance to the dish.

Simmer Until Meat is Tender: The hallmark of a good goulash is tender meat. Simmer until the meat is fork-tender and has absorbed the flavors of the sauce.

Adjust Seasoning: Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. You can add more paprika, salt, or other spices to suit your taste.

Serve with Traditional Sides: Hungarian goulash is often served with traditional sides like Hungarian dumplings (nokedli) or crusty bread. These accompaniments soak up the flavorful sauce.

Reheat for Even Better Flavor: Goulash often tastes even better the next day. Reheat it gently on the stovetop to allow the flavors to meld further.

FAQs

What is Hungarian Goulash?

Hungarian goulash, known as “gulyás” in Hungary, is a traditional Hungarian stew made with tender pieces of meat (often beef), onions, and a richly spiced paprika-infused broth. It is a hearty and flavorful dish that is often enjoyed in Central and Eastern Europe.

What type of meat is used in Hungarian Goulash?

Traditionally, Hungarian goulash is made with beef, specifically tougher cuts suitable for slow cooking, such as chuck or shin. Pork or veal can also be used, but beef is the most common choice.

What gives Hungarian goulash its distinctive flavor?

The distinctive flavor of Hungarian goulash comes primarily from Hungarian paprika. This spice is available in sweet and hot varieties, and it imparts a deep red color and a rich, slightly sweet, and earthy flavor to the dish.

What are the essential ingredients in Hungarian Goulash?

The essential ingredients for Hungarian goulash include meat (usually beef), onions, Hungarian paprika, garlic, tomatoes (usually in the form of diced tomatoes or tomato paste), and beef broth. Additional vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, and potatoes are often added.

Why is my family’s goulash recipe different?

Hungarian goulash is a family-cherished dish – everyone’s Grandmother has a slightly different take. Some have bell peppers, some don’t – some use small dumpling noodles, some potatoes – some are more soup-like, some thicker. The authentic Hungarian goulash will use high quality Hungarian paprika and tomatoes – and usually beef – and then a variety of vegetables.

Is there a Vegetarian or Vegan Version of Hungarian Goulash?

Yes, there are vegetarian and vegan versions of Hungarian goulash that use plant-based proteins like seitan or tofu instead of meat. These versions still incorporate the signature paprika and spices for flavor. I like to add 1 tablespoon cumin when using vegetable stock and meat substitute to give a hearty, earthy, and almost meaty flavor.

What are traditional Side Dishes for Hungarian Goulash?

Traditional side dishes to accompany Hungarian goulash include Hungarian dumplings (nokedli), boiled or steamed potatoes, or crusty bread. These sides are perfect for soaking up the flavorful sauce.

Can I adjust the spiciness?

Yes, you can adjust the spiciness of Hungarian goulash by choosing sweet or hot Hungarian paprika. You can also control the level of heat by adding more or less paprika or incorporating chili paste or flakes to taste. I also LOVE to stir in Eros Pista – a Hungarian salt and chili paste – to add more flavor.

Is Hungarian Goulash Gluten-Free?

Hungarian goulash is naturally gluten-free if prepared without any wheat-based thickeners. However, be sure to check ingredient labels, especially when using store-bought beef broth or other pre-packaged ingredients.

Can I make Hungarian Goulash in Advance?

Yes, Hungarian goulash often tastes even better when reheated. Making it in advance and allowing the flavors to meld overnight can result in a more flavorful dish. Reheat gently on the stovetop or in the oven.

what are some Goulash variations?

There are regional and personal variations of Hungarian goulash. Some versions include green bell peppers, while others skip them. You may also find variations with different types of meat or additional vegetables.

Why is there no macaroni?

Macaroni is typical in American-style goulash – which is not at all traditional in Hungary. Hungarian goulash is richer, with a deep red color and unique flavor from paprika – while American goulash typically relies on just tomatoes for color.

The Best Authentic Hungarian Goulash Beef Stew with onions and potatoes.

Finding Authentic Goulash in Budapest Hungary

I recently went on a trip through European Christmas Markets (my absolute favorite, and my second annual Christmas Market trip in Europe…), and the first stop we had was a city I had been wanting to visit for what seems like my whole life – Budapest!

Budapest (really cities Buda, and Pest), straddles the Danube River in Western Hungary, not far from the Austrian and Slovakian borders.

We drove from Paris to Budapest, which was amazing in itself – winding our way through France, to Luxembourg (long story, we went the wrong way and ended up in Belgium and Luxembourg…) and then on to Germany and Austria before pulling into Budapest late at night. When we woke up, it was time for FOOD!

We hit up the Christmas market, and the first thing I wanted to eat was a warm and comforting goulash!

While touring the city, I had the great fortune of testing out a couple goulashes – which was a total dream for me!

Goulash, the paprika and beef stew Hungary is known for more than almost any other dish, is uniform in the beef and paprika – but goulash is one of those recipes handed down through families, and is radically different from cook to cook.

Sunset along the Danube was jaw-dropping – Budapest’s skyline is dreamy and romantic, and I could have stood along the river bank for hours!

One of my favorite sights in Budapest was the Parliament building – it is absolutely stunning and impressive – especially with Christmas lights twinkling all around it!

I wasn’t able to tour the Hungarian Parliament while visiting (a major regret!!!), which was a major disappointment for me – I worked in the Senate and as a lobbyist before starting a blog, and I love to tour other nations government buildings and Parliaments whenever I can.

We did get to tour the Parliament grounds, which offer one of the best views across the Danube towards the Fishermans Bastion. It is a stunning place to take in a sunset!

To see more of my trip to Budapest, please visit here:

I didn’t get to ride on the Budapest Eye (another regret of my too-short stay in Budapest!!), but it provides a gorgeous, 360 view over the entire city skyline.

I knew I’d love Budapest – but I didn’t realize how much I would love the city. Amazing food on every corner, some of the best coffee in Europe, and a warm, welcome feeling from locals.

Budapest is full of amazing things to do and some of my favorite cuisine – but for me, Goulash will always be my #1 thing to eat in Budapest!

I love hearty, rich, and smoky-sweet beef stews, and the rich, complex paprika flavors in goulash are irresistible! The great thing about goulash is it is a great “catchall” recipe – you can swap the potatoes out for noodles, reduce to be thicker or add more stock to be thinner, add whatever vegetables you have on hand – it is very adaptable to the ingredients you have on hand, or your own preferences!

An easy one-pot Authentic Hungarian Goulash beef stew with meat and onions, perfect for The Best Goulash recipe.

What to Serve With Hungarian Goulash

One of my favorite ways to make this Hungarian Goulash is without potatoes or noodles – its a rich and comforting stew that is naturally grain and gluten free and great for paleo or keto diets!

Egg Noodles: A classic side, egg noodles complement the richness of the goulash.

Spaetzle: These small German dumplings are a delightful accompaniment.

Crusty Bread: Ideal for soaking up the flavorful sauce.

Mashed Potatoes: Smooth and creamy, they balance the goulash’s robust flavors.

Cucumber Salad: A refreshing, vinegary salad to offset the heartiness.

Pickled Red Cabbage: Adds a tangy crunch.

Steamed Vegetables: Light steamed greens or carrots for a healthy side.

Polenta: Soft polenta can be a comforting base for the goulash.

Green Salad: A simple leafy salad for a fresh contrast.

Sour Cream: A dollop on top enriches the dish.

Try these recipes next:

An Easy One Pot Authentic Hungarian Goulash Beef Stew

Easy One Pot Authentic Hungarian Goulash Recipe

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Authentic Hungarian Goulash is a delicious and hearty beef stew that is renowned for its rich flavors and tender meat. This Easy One Pot recipe allows you to enjoy the traditional flavors of this classic dish

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A bowl of keto goulash with beef and onions.

Authentic Hungarian Goulash

Yield: 6 people
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Easy One Pot Authentic Hungarian Goulash Recipe is a hearty, earthy, and meaty stew that brings authentic Hungarian flavor in an easy one-pot stew the whole family will love!

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons pork lard or butter , pork fat is traditionally used
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Hungarian paprika, good quality imported from Hungary
  • 2 pounds stew meat, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded/membranes removed, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (optional)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded/membranes removed, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (optional)
  • 1 can tomatoes, diced
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 2 potatoes, medium, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1-2 tablespoons Eros Pista chili paste, optional for heat

Instructions

  1. In a large, heavy pot or dutch oven, brown beef in batches. I don't add fat, since beef will have some, but you can add a little oil or lard if you'd like. When beef is browned, set aside in a bowl.
  2. Melt the lard or butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook the onions, carrots, and peppers until beginning to brown, about 7-10 minutes. Be sure to scrape up all the browned bits of beef as the onions and peppers cook.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the paprika, marjoram, salt and pepper.
  4. Add beef back to dish, toss well to mix thoroughly.
  5. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, potatoes, beef broth, bay leaf.
  6. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 40 minutes (see note).
  7. Serve. Add salt or Eros Pista chili pasta to taste.

Notes

This stew is technically done after an hour - however, I personally like to let it simmer for 2-3 hours, minimum. This will give a richer, heartier, thicker stew as the potatoes and peppers break down into the stew, and provide intense flavor with super-tender beef. Add more water if needed cooking longer.

You can skip the vegetables (bell peppers, carrots) or add others (celery, cauliflower) as desired. Diced tomatoes can also be skipped, but do not skip tomato paste.

Nutrition Information
Yield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 391Total Fat 14gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 124mgSodium 1186mgCarbohydrates 25gFiber 4gSugar 7gProtein 43g

Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.

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About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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12 Comments

  1. Made this recipe for my housemates at the seminary on the feast of St Cyril and St Methodius, who are the patrons of the slavs, in honor of my Hungarian family (maternal grandmother). Paired it with Bikaver red table wine from Hungary. Provided some sour cream to be added individually. Everyone absolutely loved it; thank you!!

    PS: I ran out of room in my dutch oven for all the broth–ended up putting in about half of what was called for but it ended up being just right.

  2. One again many people think goulash gets its red color from tomatoes. I am glad to see you are not one. Same think happens with authentic enchilada sauce. Cut up tomatoes in goulash are a different story from tomato paste or sauce. Mike Mazurki, friend and customer at the bank I worked at in L.A. made goulash for us. He opened a restaurant near by. He was a well know Hungarian-American character actor and a very kind person. Your recipe is very similar to his but he used to add some gin to his. I think red wine, sake, vodka, or even tequila are good substitutes if you have no gin. Thanks for the authentic recipe.

    1. Oooooh adding gin sounds cool! I got this recipe by combining a couple I gathered from a few places in Budapest – the red definitely comes from the paprika! I LOVE paprika and all the flavor from it!

  3. This recipe was truly delicious. I made it today with 2 lbs of sirloin tips I found in my freezer. I love the smoky flavor and rich saucy taste. Thanks for sharing!