Cooking Up Hungarian Goulash – As Told By My Hungarian Grandmother!
If there is a recipe that sparks joy and warm feelings of European comfort in people, it’s Hungarian goulash.
A national dish of Hungary, goulash or gulyás is a soup/stew – depending on who you ask and how you prepare it – made with hearty but simple ingredients like potatoes, carrots, and beef.
You can’t mistake the dish 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 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 Hungarian goulash.
The small cafe/bar did not disappoint – serving up a bowl of goulash just like Mama used to make with a small slice of bread.
That said, there are a few ways in which you can enjoy goulash. Hungarian goulash is a delicious meal on its own or it can be served over egg noodles/dumplings (called Nokedli or spaetzle), or even potatoes.
That said, goulash is not something unique to just Hungary. Similar (and different variations) of the dish are found throughout Central and Eastern Europe in Czechia and even in Romania. We even have a recipe for German goulash that Lisa grew up eating!
In fact, we ate Romanian goulash when we visited Brasov – and while it was very similar to this recipe below, it was special in its own way and was equally as delicious!
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”- as in, a beef cut that is good for slow cooking and does well with moisture. This might translate to a flank or chuck cut of beef. Something with good marbling will allow a bit of natural fat into the broth.
- This recipe is a more traditional version of 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.
- There are different types of paprika (ground up red pepper spice). Hungarian paprika is the classic spice used but you can also find “smoked paprika” and versions that offer more of a sweet or a spicy hot taste. Our recipe is not spicy at all but feel free to spice it up if you wish.
For more great Hungarian recipes, you can dive into 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
- Easy Chicken Paprikash – A simplified version of the authentic paprika chicken recipe
- 500 grams / approx. 1 lb stewing beef cut into bite size pieces (about 1.5 -2 cm/ 0.5 in)
- 1 large chopped onion
- 1 cup of chopped carrots (approx. one big carrot)
- 2 cups of chopped potatoes (approx. two big potatoes)
- 1 tbsp of oil
- 750 ml / approx. 3 cups of beef broth (1 1/2 cubes if you buy those)
- 1 heaping tbsp of Hungarian paprika (more to taste)
- A pinch of salt
- Pepper (to taste)
- Chop the onion, carrots, potatoes, and beef into small cubes. Set the vegetables aside.
- Heat up a large pot, add the oil and sauté the onion on a medium high-heat until translucent.
- Add in the beef and sauté until the beef is browned and partially cooked. Stir occassionally to keep the beef from sticking too much.
- After reducing the heat, add 500ml (approx. 2 cups) of the broth until the mixture is covered completely.
- Add in the paprika and pepper to taste.
- On low heat, simmer the beef mixture for one hour or until beef is tender. Check on the tenderness of the beef after 45 minutes to gauge time needed.
- Once the beef is tender, add in another 250ml (approx. 1 cup) of broth. You can also use water if you prefer.
- Add in the chopped carrots and potatoes and simmer the mixture until the carrots and potatoes are soft. Make sure to not overcook the potatoes.
- Add salt (be careful if you used salty broth) and pepper to taste.
- Remove the pot from heat, serve hot, and enjoy!
- 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.
- If you add red bell pepper, add them after the carrots and potatoes since they can soften up quicker.
- You don't usually need to add extra salt if you use broth that contains salt.
- There are different types of paprika - with Hungarian paprika being the most popular. So be careful you don't accidentally buy/add hot paprika if you don't like spice!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 433Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 37mgSodium: 1498mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 8gSugar: 8gProtein: 22g
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. The exact values can vary depending on the specific ingredients used.