Here’s A Recipe For Hungarian Goulash – As Made By My Hungarian Grandmother!
If there is a recipe that sparks joy and warm feelings of comfort in some Europeans, it’s Hungarian goulash.
A national dish of Hungary, goulash or gulyás or “gulyásleves” (leves meaning soup) is a paprika-packed soup made with hearty but simple ingredients like potatoes, carrots, onions, and beef.
You can’t mistake Hungarian beef goulash with its signature red color that comes from a spice that is a key ingredient in Hungarian cooking – paprika!
Goulash is actually something that Eric grew up eating. The Hungarian goulash recipe below was made by his Mama (Hungarian grandmother who came to Canada from Hungary) and was passed along to Eric’s mother.
Growing up in Canada, there was nothing better than coming in from a long play session out in the snow to a steaming hot bowl of goulash!
The first time Eric visited Budapest – the Hungarian capital – he was actually recommended a place where he could find authentic goulash.
The small cafe/bar did not disappoint – serving up a bowl of goulash soup just like Mama used to make with a nice slice of bread.
Recipe Tips & Substitutions
Before you head off to cook up a big pot of goulash, here are a few things you should consider/know:
- You need a good “stewing beef” for goulash soup. This means a beef cut that is good for slow cooking and does well with moisture. This might translate to a round, flank, or chuck cut of beef. Something with good marbling will allow a bit of natural fat into the broth.
- This recipe is a version of a more traditional Hungarian goulash. However, you can add more/different vegetables. A popular variation is with the addition of red peppers (also known as capsicum or bell peppers for the North Americans). Toss them in a little after the potatoes and carrots since they soften up faster. We’ve even seen celery or parsnip added by other families – there are many regional/family differences to goulash.
- Another substitution to make this goulash more authentic would be to add lard (specifically pork lard) instead of oil. Pork lard would have been used because that’s what was available. A simple oil – not olive oil – will work fine, too.
- There are different types of paprika (ground-up red pepper spice). Hungarian sweet paprika is the classic spice used in Hungarian cooking (it’s not actually sweet-tasting, despite the name). You can also find “smoked paprika” and versions that offer more of a spicy hot taste. For our recipe, we use authentic Szeged paprika, but if you can’t get a hold of Hungarian paprika, you can also use normal paprika or smoked paprika that you can find at the grocery store.
- Speaking of spices, you can also add caraway seeds – whole or ground – for flavoring into the goulash. Caraway is often used in cooking from the region – but some people really dislike the taste/smell. We also don’t typically include it when making goulash. Some people also like to toss in bay leaves and remove them after simmering.
How to Make Hungarian Goulash – Step by Step Instructions
To make this authentic Hungarian goulash recipe, you can follow the recipe process photos in this section. That way, you can see exactly how we make our goulash soup.
If you’re feeling confident in the overall recipe process, you can skip down and find the detailed recipe card at the bottom of this post!
First, chop the onion, carrots and potatoes into small pieces. Set the vegetables aside.
Also cut the stewing beef into bite-size pieces if it isn’t already cut.
Heat up a large pot, add the oil and sauté the onion on medium heat for 5-10 minutes until translucent.
Now, add in the beef.
Sauté until the beef is browned and partially cooked. Stir occasionally to keep the beef from sticking too much.
After reducing the heat, 2 cups of broth until the mixture is covered completely. If two cups are not enough, add slightly more until the beef is fully covered.
Stir in the paprika and pepper to taste.
Place the lid on the pot and simmer the beef on low heat for one hour or until the beef is tender.
Once the beef is tender, add in the chopped carrots and potatoes. Also, add another cup of broth so that the carrots and potatoes are covered. You can also use water if you prefer.
Simmer the mixture until the carrots and potatoes are soft. Make sure to not overcook the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the pot from heat and serve the goulash hot.
There are a few ways in which you can enjoy this easy Hungarian goulash. It tastes great with a few slices of fresh thick-cut crusty bread.
Of course, goulash can also can be served with egg noodles/dumplings (called Nokedli or spaetzle) or Hungarian pinched noodles (Csipetke) in the soup to make it more filling.
If you’re thinking “I’d make a thick version and serve it on boiled potatoes or Nokedli”, you might be thinking of beef stew which is called Marhapörkölt. Both are tasty – but we know this goulash more as a soup and not as a beef stew.
You can store cooled leftovers of goulash soup in a sealed container in the fridge. It’ll last for up to three days like this.
To reheat the goulash, you can place it in a pot and heat it up on the stovetop or separate portions and microwave them. You may have to add a bit more water/broth to the pot since the meat and vegetables can absorb it over time in the fridge.
You can also make a giant pot of goulash with the intention of having leftovers since goulash freezes well. Place the cooled goulash in a sealed freezer container. It will last in the freezer for up to three months.
You can take a container out the night before and place it in the fridge to thaw. You can then heat it up on the stove on low heat or microwave it.
Hungarian goulash – also known as gulyásleves – is a traditional soup that originates from the nomadic plains people/Magyar herdsmen of modern-day Hungary. It is most commonly made from beef, potatoes, carrots, onions, and paprika – although there are many variations and ingredients used.
Unsurprisingly, there are some Eastern European soups that are similar to Hungarian goulash. Similar (and different variations) of the dish are found throughout the region – including in the Czech Republic and in Romania/Transylvanian region.
Cuts of stewing beef are often used in goulash. “Stewing beef” is usually chuck or round beef that has been cut into smaller pieces – and it gets soft and tender when simmered in liquid.
Traditional goulash soup is served with a nice thick slice of crusty bread. That said, you can make the soup more filling by adding some egg noodles/dumplings.
American goulash is a completely different recipe compared to Hungarian goulash. American goulash is more like a thickened stew that includes ground beef and macaroni noodles. True goulash is a soup made with chunks of beef, potatoes, carrots, and paprika.
For more great Hungarian recipes, have a look at these tasty dinner ideas:
- Stuffed Peppers – Hungarian recipe for peppers packed with rice and meat in tomato sauce
- Marhapörkölt – A traditional Hungarian beef stew with onions and peppers
- Hungarian Cabbage Noodles – Káposztás Tészta
- Easy Chicken Paprikash – A simplified version of the authentic paprika chicken recipe
- 1 pound stewing beef, cut into bite-size pieces about 1/2-1 inch
- 1 large onion
- 1 cup chopped carrots, approximately one big carrot
- 2 cups chopped potatoes, approximately two medium/large potatoes
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1 heaping tablespoon Hungarian paprika, more to taste
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- Chop the onion, carrots, potatoes, and beef into small cubes. Set the vegetables aside. You can also chop the potatoes and carrots later while the beef is cooking.
- Heat up a large pot, add the oil and sauté the onion on medium heat for 5-10 minutes until translucent.
- Add in the beef and sauté until the beef is browned and partially cooked. Stir occasionally to keep the beef from sticking too much.
- After reducing the heat, 2 cups of broth until the mixture is covered completely. If two cups are not enough, add slightly more until the beef is fully covered.
- Stir in the paprika and pepper to taste.
- Place the lid on the pot and simmer the beef on low heat for one hour or until the beef is tender.
- Once the beef is tender, add in the chopped carrots and potatoes. Also, add another cup of broth so that the carrots and potatoes are covered. You can also use water if you prefer.
- Simmer the mixture until the carrots and potatoes are soft. Make sure to not overcook the potatoes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove the pot from heat and serve the goulash on its own or with fresh crusty bread or noodles.
- You can also use vegetable broth if you do not have beef broth available. The beef and paprika will flavor the broth nicely in any case.
- You don’t usually need to add much extra salt if you use broth that contains salt.
- There are different types of paprika. In Hungarian cooking, sweet Hungarian paprika is typically used. It gives the broth a very dark red color and has a unique flavor. You can often find it at European delis. If you can’t get a hold of sweet Hungarian paprika, you can also use smoked paprika or regular paprika that you can buy at the grocery store. However, if you are able to, we’d recommend using actual Hungarian paprika.
This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice.