Hungarian gulyás or goulash, a 3.5★★★ traditional food

Well, if you take the flight that I post earlier to Hungary and not “hungry”, bad joke all the time not worth repeating, it is a must to eat traditional food. And the most known is the goulash, especially that it is still cold outside and a hot spicy soup is just the perfect lunch or dinner. For me it worth 3,5 stars as I personally love soups, but it is nothing to travel for or dream about it.

I had it so many times in so many restaurants by so many chefs that I can now say that even if it is just a spicy beef soup, you can still spoil the recipe and have so different qualities. Yes, you might wonder how to ruin a soup, but trust me, it is possible and it is even more possible in Budapest if you go to tourist restaurants.

Please find a small restaurant, outside the beaten paths, where you see locals having lunch, especially if you see the white collars workers.

In many other parts of the world, even in Transylvania it is more of a stew than a soup, but the real Hungarian one is a beef soup with paprika that turns it into almost a red soup.

Authentic Hungarian Goulash (gulyás)

A Classic Recipe, Preparation Tips, History

From the country’s varied culinary repertoire Hungarian goulash is the most famous and often cooked dish outside the borders of Hungary.

thick goulash soup with potato and carrot cubes in a white bowlStill many confusions and misconceptions surround its exact preparation method.

Even in Hungary every other housewife or chef has her/his own way of cooking it by

  • adding or omitting some of the ingredients, or
  • changing something in the preparation process,
  • However, they would all call their gulyás the most authentic.

What’s Authentic Hungarian Goulash?

goulash served in a beige soup plateAuthentic gulyás is a beef dish cooked with

  • onions,
  • Hungarian paprika spice,
  • tomatoes and
  • some green pepper.

Potato and noodles (csipetke in Hungarian) are also added according to some recipes.

Hungarian goulash is neither a soup nor a stew, it’s somewhere in between.

Though in Hungary it’s considered rather to be a soup than a stew, so look for it among “Soups” on restaurant menus.

If cooked in the proper way, goulash has a nice and evenly thick consistency, almost like a sauce.

In Hungary gulyás is eaten as a main dish. Noodle or pastry dishes, especially the ones made with cottage cheese (túrós csúsza, túrógombóc, strudel) go down well after the heavy soup.

A Classical Hungarian Goulash Recipe (also called Alföldi Gulyás)

Ingredients (for 4 persons)

  • 600 g beef shin or shoulder, or any tender part of the beef cut into 2 x 2 cm cubes
  • 2 tablespoons oil or lard
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 carrots, diced
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 1-2 celery leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 tbs. tomato paste
  • goulash in a blue flower decorated soup plate2 fresh green peppers
  • 2-3 medium potatoes, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika powder (sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ground black pepper and salt according to taste
  • water

Ingredients For Csipetke

 a woman pinching a piece of  dough into small partsPinched noodles added to goulash or bean soup in Hungary.

Csipetke comes from the word csípni, meaning pinch in English, referring to the way of making this noodle):

  • 1 small egg,
  • flour,
  • a pinch of salt,
  • cc. 1 teaspoon water

Goulash is hearty enough without csipetke, especially if you eat it with bread, so you can leave csipetke out.


1. Heat up the oil or lard in a pot and braise the chopped onions in it until they get a nice golden brown colour.

2. Add the beef cubes and and sauté them till they turn white and get a bit of brownish colour as well.

3. Sprinkle the braised onions and meat with paprika powder while stirring them to avoid getting the red spice burnt.

4. The meat will probably let out its own juice. Let the beef-cubes simmer in it while

  • adding the grated or crushed and chopped garlic (grated garlic has stronger flavour),
  • the ground caraway seeds,
  • some salt
  • ground black pepper,
  • the bay lea.

Pour enough water to cover the content of the pan and let it simmer on low heat for a while.

Add the Vegetables

5. When the meat is half-cooked (approx. in 1,5 hour, but it can take longer depending on the type and quality of the beef), add

  • the diced carrots,
  • parsnip,
  • the potatoes,
  • the celery leaf and
  • some more salt if necessary (vegetables tend to call for more salt).

You’ll probably have to pour some more (2-3 cups) water too.

6. When the vegetables and the meat are almost done add

  • the fresh tomato cubes or paste and
  • the sliced green peppers.

Let it cook on low heat for another few minutes. You can remove the lid of the pan if you want the soup to thicken.

7. Bring the soup to the boil and add the csipetke noodles.

It needs about 3-5 minutes to get cooked. Add some more water and salt if necessary.

How to Make the Csipetke:

  • Beat up a small egg
  • Add a pinch of salt and as much flour as you need to knead a stiff dough (you can add some water if necessary).
  • Flatten the dough between your palms (to about 1 cm thick) and pinch small, bean-sized pieces from it and add them to the boiling soup. They need about 5 minutes to get cooked.

a woman with short brown hair in a pink blouse stiring soup in a large potTIP: Learn how to make traditional Hungarian dishes like goulash in a modern cooking school in Budapest’s center.

The course is a fun way to learn more about local gastronomy from young, talented chefs. A visit to the famous Great Market Hall can also be included.

You can reserve your Hungarian Cooking Course online.

Goulash Variations

Many gulyás variations have been created throughout the years and became popular in Hungarian gastronomy:

  • Alföldi goulash is the name of the classic version I given the recipe above.
  • babgulyás is cooked with beans,
  • sauerkraut is added to the székelygulyás,
  • french beans to the palócgulyás etc.

A bit of Goulash History

This thick, hearty dish was (and still is) a very popular dish among herdsmen in Hungary. They made it in a cast-iron kettle hung above open fire, out in the fields.

Herdsman is gulyás in Hungarian, so that’s where the dish’s name comes from.

Herdsmen had the best ingredients at hand (most importantly prime quality beef) and the preparation method fitted very well to their work and lifestyle.

They didn’t have to stand by the side of the kettle and stir its content all the time, but still had a tasty and hot meal to fill up their stomach.

This peasant dish got on the noblemen’s and town folk’s table only towards the end of the 19th century,prompted by the raising national awareness throughout the country.

From the Fields to Restaurants

In the second half of the 1800s it became very important to protect treasures of Hungarian culture: the language and the gastronomical delights, as part of the movement to emphasize Hungary’s national identity and independence from the Austrian Habsburg dynasty’s rule.

Restaurants started to put goulash on their menus too.

By the second half of the 20th century, the soup became the number one dish of Hungary that every tourist coming to the country must try.

In English gulyás became goulash, and in some parts of the world stews and casseroles are called goulash too.



2 thoughts on “Hungarian gulyás or goulash, a 3.5★★★ traditional food

  1. Pingback: Budapest’s top DON’Ts of this magnificent 4★★★★ destination | Travel DON'ts and DOs

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