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    Hungarian Goulash

    In pursuit of happiness, I’m excited to make a hearty and delicious pot of Authentic Hungarian Goulash.

    This stew is a national dish of Hungary, and a personal favorite of mine for good reason. It’s a warm and hearty soup with fork-tender beef and root vegetables, all slow-cooked for hours in a broth laced with sweet paprika.

    The result is a flavor like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. Hungarian Goulash truly celebrates the quintessential Hungarian ingredient: sweet paprika!

    This Hungarian Goulash is a rich beef and vegetable soup with bold and unique flavors from their famous Hungarian sweet paprika.

    I fell in love with the flavors that can be created with Hungarian sweet paprika after trying another of their classics, Chicken Paprikash. I cooked it last year, and was amazed how different the stew turns out after the addition of massive amounts of this special paprika powder.

    It’s one of our favorite chicken stews, and that’s why I was quite eager to apply the same flavors to beef soup. Yes, let’s make it very loud and clear. Authentic Hungarian Goulash is a more liquidy soup, rather than stew.

    If you’re dining anywhere in Hungary, or go to some local Hungarian restaurant and order goulash thinking of it as a stew, you’ll be hugely surprised when you end up getting a bowlful of vibrantly colored beef soup, either served with their traditional noodles or some bread.

    This Hungarian Goulash is a rich beef and vegetable soup with bold and unique flavors from their famous Hungarian sweet paprika.

    What is Hungarian Goulash?

    Goulash (Hungarian: gulyás) is one of the national dishes of Hungary. It is a beef (though many times you see pork) and vegetable soup, made with tender chunks of meat with root vegetables simmered slow and low for hours in a rich broth seasoned with plenty of sweet paprika. It could be mistaken for a thicker stew version, known as Pörkölt.

    Its origin may be traced back as far as the 10th century, to stews eaten by Hungarian shepherds. Goulash originates from the Hungarian gulyás, meaning “herdsman” or “cowboy”.

    The word gulyás originally meant herdsman, but over time the dish became gulyáshús (‘goulash meat’), a meat dish which was prepared by herdsmen. At that time, the cooked and flavored meat was dried with the help of the sun and packed into bags produced from sheep’s stomachs, needing only water to make it into a meal.

    This Hungarian Goulash is a rich beef and vegetable soup with bold and unique flavors from their famous Hungarian sweet paprika.

    The unique portable nature of Hungarian Goulash made it extremely popular, spreading it to other countries, ultimately becoming the peasant dish of the masses. Earlier versions of goulash did not include paprika, as it was not introduced to Europe until the 15th century.

    Every Hungarian household has their own special gulyás, passed on from generation to generation, which results in so many variations around the country. Different vegetables and meats can go in the stewing pot, traditionally cooked on an open fire.

    Sometimes it’s laced with a little wine, and sometimes their hand pinched noodles called csipetke are added to the pot in the end. What remains constant is a good dose of their very typical Hungarian Sweet Paprika.

    What is Hungarian Sweet Paprika?

    box of hungarian paprika

    Sweet paprika is made of red bell peppers (not basic, smoked or hot paprika), and adds the signature vibrant, sweet, slightly smoky warming notes. It is brightly red, and imparts a beautiful red color to the soup, and many other Hungarian dishes.

    Do NOT mistake or replace it with regular smoked paprika or plain paprika. Since it’s made of sweet red bell peppers, it doesn’t have any heat, and imparts a fruity, clean, peppery taste.

    You can buy this in specialty ethnic stores, or order it online. A good quality Hungarian Sweet Paprika is very crucial in achieving the signature Hungarian flavors, and you can’t substitute any other chili peppers for this recipe. The closest I can think of is Spanish sweet paprika, which comes close to the flavor profile.

    What Cut of Beef To Use?

    Goulash can be made with beef, veal, pork, or lamb, using typical cuts like the shank, shin, or shoulder. For the best flavor in Hungarian Goulash, I recommend using boneless chuck. It’s ideal to find a piece of chuck roast that’s richly marbled and a bit fattier. When you cook it slowly for a long time, it becomes incredibly tender and just melts in your mouth.

    Ingredient Notes

    • Beef – Today I am using chuck roast for this goulash. Avoid beef labeled as “stew meat”, as most of the times it is just remnants of various cuts of beef, and will not yield the fork tender melt in your mouth tenderness.
    • Sweet paprika – It is a MUST for this recipe. Hungarian sweet paprika cannot be substituted for other paprika. You may be able to find it at your grocery store, or specialty ethnic stores, or simply order online.
    • Lard – Traditionally pork lard is used in Hungary, to impart special flavor to the soup. In its absence, you can use butter or just regular canola oil.
    • Vegetables – Onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes.
    • Flavor enhancers and spices – Black pepper, salt, caraway seeds (optional), bay leaves, garlic, fresh parsley (for garnish).
    • Beef broth – Traditionally they only use water (sometimes supplementing it with bouillon) as a soup base, but we think beef broth adds great depth to the soup.

    Hungarian Goulash Recipe

    1. Sear the beef: Though some people add the meat directly to the pot, I always prefer to sear it first until it’s browned all over, because this adds tons of flavor. I season the beef chunks generously with salt and pepper and sear them in melted lard, making sure not to overcrowd the pot. After searing, I plate it out. This extra step really makes a difference in the depth of flavor in the goulash.

    browned beef chunks

    2. Make the soup base: In the same, I add diced onions and sauté them until they start to caramelize a bit, which takes about 12-15 minutes. Then I add bell peppers and garlic and cook everything for another 6-8 minutes. After that, I toss in the tomatoes and sauté for about 5-6 minutes, or until most of the liquid starts to evaporate.

    Before continuing, I remove the pot from the heat and stir in the paprika, salt, pepper, and caraway seeds, if I’m using them. It’s important to do this off the heat because paprika can become bitter if it gets scorched over high heat.

    cooked tomato mixture

    3. Assemble Goulash and Simmer: I add the beef chunks back into the pot and mix them well with the vegetables. Then I stir in the broth along with a bay leaf and carrots, and put the pot back on the stove to continue cooking.

    beef added back in

    Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer the stew for an an hour or more (sometimes the meat may take longer, as much as 90 minutes or more, to become tender). Stir occasionally.

    4. Add in starch: When the meat is almost tender, I add in the potatoes and let the stew simmer until the potatoes are cooked to my liking and the beef is fork tender.

    I cook it uncovered for the last 30-40 minutes to let the liquid reduce slightly, but I make sure it stays soupy. After tasting, I adjust the salt if needed and garnish the dish with chopped fresh parsley before serving.

    finished product

    Alpana’s Tips

    1. I cut the chuck roast into evenly sized chunks, about 1 inch to 1.5 inches, to ensure they cook evenly. When I sear the beef, I’m careful not to overcrowd the pan, because that would cause the meat to steam instead of browning, and it would release a lot of liquid. If necessary, I sear the meat in two batches to get that perfect browning.

    2. The big grandma TIP here is “not adding Hungarian sweet paprika into the pot when it’s on stovetop”. This sweet paprika tends to get bitter if slightly scorched over high heat. Always remove the pan from the stove top, then add the paprika and mix well before returning the pot back to stove top.

    3. I cook the Goulash for a long time to make sure the meat becomes buttery tender. It really needs at least 2 hours, sometimes even more. I let the pot simmer until the meat is almost tender, then I add the potatoes and cook for another 20 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked just how I like them. This extra cooking time makes all the difference.

    4. Don’t be scared to add in flavors. You need plenty of onion, plenty of garlic and plenty of sweet paprika to create theses amazing flavors. I never skimp on these ingredients.

    This Hungarian Goulash is a rich beef and vegetable soup with bold and unique flavors from their famous Hungarian sweet paprika.

    How to Serve It

    Authentic Hungarian Goulash is traditionally served in soup bowls over Csipetke, which are pinched egg noodles shaped like tiny dumplings. Sometimes, I add Csipetke directly to the soup to boil together. You can also serve it over regular egg noodles if you prefer.

    I personally love to pair it with my favorite crusty No Knead Bread. Many people enjoy it with a dollop of sour cream, which adds a lovely creamy texture to the dish.

    What is the Difference Between Hungarian Goulash and American Goulash?

    Hungarian Goulash is a meat and vegetable soup laced heavily with sweet paprika. It’s more of a brothy and liquidy meal, rather than thick stew.

    American Goulash is one-pot pasta dish made from ground beef, tomato sauce, herbs and elbow macaroni. It is also called American Chop Suey, and is very similar to our own Johnny Marzetti.

    This Hungarian Goulash is a rich beef and vegetable soup with bold and unique flavors from their famous Hungarian sweet paprika.

    Well, that’s my take on this famous and classic Hungarian dish, Goulash. It ain’t your American Goulash for sure.

    Give these amazing flavors a try and make this international gem very easily in your own kitchen. As far as us, we were completely hooked to this soup from our very first bite. Hmm… To the pursuit of happiness…

    Hungarian Goulash, on our GypsyPlate… enjoy!

    bowl of hungarian goulash atop the Gypsy Plate

    Try these other great beef stew recipes!
    Mexican Beef Birria
    Japanese Beef Curry
    Puerto Rican Sancocho
    Moroccan Beef Tagine
    Guinness Beef Stew
    Carbonnade Flamande
    West African Maafe
    Beef Caldereta
    Carne Guisada

    featured image for hungarian goulash recipe post

    Hungarian Goulash Recipe

    Yield: 6-8 servings
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
    Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

    This Hungarian Goulash is a rich beef and vegetable soup with bold and unique flavors from their famous Hungarian sweet paprika.


    • 3 Tbsp lard, butter or oil, divided
    • 2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1 inch chunks
    • 2 large yellow onions, diced
    • 1 red bell pepper, diced
    • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
    • 5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
    • ¼ cup Hungarian sweet paprika (see note 1)
    • ½ tsp caraway seeds, slightly pounded (optional)
    • ½ tsp black pepper
    • 2 small bay leaves
    • 5 cups of beef broth
    • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
    • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
    • salt to taste
    • parsley, chopped for garnish


    Stove Top Method

    1. Melt 2 Tbsp lard in a large heavy bottomed soup pot or dutch oven over medium high heat. Season the beef chunks with salt and pepper and sear until brown on all sides. Brown the meat in two batches, so as not to over crowd and steam it. Plate it out.
    2. In the same pan, add 1 Tbsp lard and add in diced onion and sauté the onions till they start caramelizing a little, about 12-15 minutes. Add in bell peppers and garlic, cook for another 6-8 minutes.
    3. Add in tomatoes and sauté for 5-6 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
    4. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the paprika, salt, pepper and caraway (if using). (see note 2)
    5. Add in the beef chunks back into the pot and mix well. Stir in the broth along with bay leaf and carrots and return the pot back to the stove.
    6. Bring it to boil, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer the stew for an an hour or more, stirring occasionally. (see note 3)
    7. Add in potatoes when the meat is almost tender, and simmer the stew till the potatoes are cooked to your liking and the beef is fork tender. (see note 4)
    8. Taste and adjust the salt, and garnish it with chopped fresh parsley.

    Slow Cooker Method

    1. Sear the Beef: Instead of using a soup pot, use a skillet to sear the beef. Heat 2 Tbsp of lard, butter, or oil over medium-high heat. Season the beef chunks with salt and pepper, and brown them on all sides. This step adds a rich flavor to the stew.
    2. Sauté Vegetables: In the same skillet, add 1 Tbsp of lard and sauté the onions until they start to caramelize, then add bell peppers and garlic. Sautéing these ingredients before adding them to the crockpot deepens their flavors.
    3. Combine in Crockpot: Transfer the seared beef and sautéed vegetables into the crockpot. Stir in the diced tomatoes, paprika, caraway seeds (if using), and black pepper.
    4. Add Liquids and Cook: Pour in the beef broth, ensuring the meat and vegetables are well covered. Add the bay leaves, potatoes and carrots. Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. The slow and low cooking process will make the beef incredibly tender.

    Instant Pot Method

    1. Sear the Beef: Set the Instant Pot to the 'Sauté' mode. Add 2 Tbsp of lard, butter, or oil. Season the beef chunks with salt and pepper, and sear them in batches until browned on all sides. This step enhances the flavor.
    2. Sauté Vegetables: In the Instant Pot, add the remaining 1 Tbsp of fat. Sauté the onions until they start to caramelize, then add the bell peppers and garlic, cooking for a few minutes more.
    3. Deglaze: Add a bit of beef broth to deglaze the pot, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. This step is crucial to prevent the 'burn' notice on your Instant Pot.
    4. Add Remaining Ingredients: Return the beef to the pot. Add the tomatoes, paprika, caraway seeds (if using), black pepper, bay leaves, and the remaining beef broth. Stir well to combine.
      Pressure Cook: Secure the lid, set the valve to 'Sealing,' and cook on high pressure for 35 minutes. This time allows the beef to become wonderfully tender.
    5. Add Carrots and Potatoes: Once the cooking time is up, do a quick release of the pressure. Open the lid carefully, add the carrots and potatoes, stir, then close the lid again. Set the Instant Pot to 'Manual' or 'Pressure Cook' mode and cook for an additional 10 minutes. This ensures the vegetables are cooked just right – tender but not mushy.


    1. Do not replace the Hungarian paprika with regular or smoked paprika, they are very different products. If you cannot find Hungarian paprika in your supermarket, check specialty grocery stores, or order it online.
    2. Paprika becomes bitter if it gets scorched over high heat, so it is very important to remove the pot from the heat.
    3. Depending on the size of the chunks and the heat of your stove, the meat may take longer, as much as 90 minutes or more to become tender.
    4. We prefer to cook the stew uncovered for the last 30-40 minutes, so the liquid reduces a bit, while still maintaining a soupy consistency.
    5. Storing and Leftovers: Like any other stew or soup, goulash refrigerates well and tastes even better, as all the flavors have chance to meld with each other and sort of accentuate. Make this soup up to 4 days ahead. Cool it down completely, then refrigerate it. Simply reheat it on the stovetop until hot all through out. You can also microwave this soup in a bowl.
    6. This Hungarian Goulash recipe freezes very well up to 3 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 8 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 435Total Fat 26gSaturated Fat 10gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 103mgSodium 745mgCarbohydrates 19gFiber 4gSugar 5gProtein 32g

    Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.

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    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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      6 thoughts on “Hungarian Goulash”

      • I went online to buy Hungarian Paprika like you suggested but missed that it didn’t say “Sweet” – so is just Hungarian Paprika going to work?

      • I don’t see many recipes online for authentic Hungarian Goulash. With my husband being Hungarian I have been making this specialty for decades. My recipe is almost identical to yours except that I do not use caraway seeds and use butter instead of lard. Many times I even double or triple the recipe if serving for a large group of people or bringing to a church potluck. This is truly the ultimate comfort food. I also have been using the same brand of hungarian paprika that you use for as long as I can remember and I am a retired senior (married for 45 years).

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