Cook Hungarian – Your Classic Goulash

In our new weekly series titled Cook Hungarian we present the best of Hungarian cuisine, ranging from the most popular touristy choices to the least known local specialties. It is only fitting to start off such a series with probably the most well known Hungarian meal of all time, the favorite of tourists all over the world, the Hungarian Goulash soup.

Many hotels and restaurants claim to know Goulash, but as a typically traditional food with deep roots in history and community, you will only get the best of the best by going full on local, and that means family recipes! Many Hungarians have their own spin on goulash, and as with many culinary topics, everyone has a firm belief of knowing the best way to prepare a Goulash – and are often willing to defend their recipe to the bitter end!


Goulash on open fire

But what is Goulash anyways? Hotels all over the world love to boast with their international restaurant’s repertoire by offering unique specialties, like Goulash, but often what’s served bares little or no resemblance to the actual meal. Authentic Goulash, or “gulyás”, is a beef dish cooked with onions, Hungarian paprika powder, tomatoes and some green pepper. It is neither a soup nor a stew, maybe something in between, and it is often served with potatoes, noodles or even simple bread. If done properly, your Hungarian Goulash is a thick, almost a saucy, stew-like meal, usually served as a main dish.

These are the basics of Goulash, but from this point, every recipe takes on a new life with often quite imaginative ingredients. Now we shall take a look at one way of doing Goulash, but it cannot be stressed enough, that there are several schools of thoughts on this!

Ingredients for 6

  • 1 kg beef, shin or shoulder, bought from you local friendly butcher
  • 3 tablespoons of oil (can be lard as well, depending on how hearty you wish to make your Goulash)
  • 3 medium onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 medium tomatoes (some believe in canned tomatoes, other tomato paste, either way, try to use roughly the same quantity)
  • 1-2 green peppers, depending on size
  • 2 bay leaf
  • ground black pepper, salt, caraway seed
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 carrots, 1 parsnip
  • water
  • and finally, the heart and soul of every Goulash: 2 tablespoons of spicy Hungarian paprika powder (Check the strength of the powder beforehand and adjust quantity to your taste!)

Preparing the meal

  1. Chop the onions and peppers, grate the garlic, cut the meat into small cubes of 2 by 2 cm. Cut the carrots, parsnip, dice up the potatoes.
  2. Heat up the oil (or lard) in a sizable pot, braise the chopped onions in it until they get a nice golden brown color
  3. Sprinkle the braised onions with paprika powder while stirring them to prevent the paprika from burning
  4. Add the beef cubes and sauté them till they turn white, maybe get a bit of brownish color as well
  5. At this point the meat will probably let out its own juice, but don’t panic, that is completely expected! Let the beef simmer in it, then add the grated garlic, also don’t forget to add the spices (caraway seeds, salt, black pepper, bay leaf)
  6. Pour water enough to cover the content of the pan and let it simmer on low heat for a few minutes
  7. Sit back, relax, let the stew cook for at least an hour, maybe treat yourself to a “pálinka”
  8. At this point it is time to add the vegetables to the stew, bring forth the carrot, parsnip and potatoes!
  9. When the beef is almost ready (this could take another hour, depending on the age of the beef and the strength of your oven), add the tomato cubes and the sliced green peppers. Let it cook on low heat for another few minutes.
  10. Remove the lid of the pan until the soup thickens
  11. Finally, bring the soup to the boil, it needs about 10 minutes to get cooked

Serve your first Hungarian Goulash with confidence, some pálinka (a substitute for confidence), and don’t forget to say bon appetit, or jó étvágyat!


photos from Wikipedia, by m.louis, Lily15