Preparation time: 2 hours,
Portions: 4-5

Hungarian goulash, a classic recipe with a special place in Hungarian traditional cuisine. Although this dish may firstly scare off due to its complexity, do not hesitate whether to bother at all, as its overall taste will certainly suit your taste buds. Try something new today with Hana’s Recipes!

Hungarian goulash

Hungarian goulash, also known as “gulyás” in Hungarian, has a rich history connected with traditional Hungarian culture and cuisine. Its origins travel back to the 9th century when Hungarian shepherds used to cook a simple, hearty stew over open fires while tending to their cattle on the plains known as the Puszta.

The word “gulyás” means “herdsman” or “cowboy” in Hungarian, reflecting the mentioned origins above. Classic Hungarian goulash is made of simple ingredients that were also available back in the 9th century on the plains: beef, onions, potatoes and paprika, accompanied with spices and other seasonings. All of the ingredients are cooked slowly in a cauldron over an open flame in order to let flavours combine together and create a nutritious and comforting meal at the end.

Over time, as culinary traditions evolved in Hungary and spread to neighbouring countries, so did goulash. Different regions came up with their own variations of the meal, incorporating local ingredients as well as general preferences. However, the original goulash version will always remain a symbol of the proud Hungarian identity.

What is important to keep in mind is that traditional Hungarian goulash varies from what is normally called “goulash” in other countries. We particularly speak about North America where goulash is sometimes made as a thick soup with ground meat and vegetables. In Hungary, goulash rather features tender pieces of beef simmered in a rich and flavourful broth, often served with a slice of bread or noodles.

Hungarian Goulash. Photo: Nela
Hungarian goulash. Photo: Nela

Ingredients for a fresh start

  • 800 g of front beef meat (eg. loin or neck),
  • 5 medium-sized onions (approx. 400 g),
  • 3 tablespoons of lard (a vegetable oil),
  • 4 medium-sized tomatoes / a can of sterilised peeled tomatoes,
  • 1 small tomato puree (approx. 3 tablespoons),
  • 1 fresh medium green pepper,
  • Hot pepper (depends on your preference),
  • Salt,
  • Ground black pepper,
  • Ground sweet and hot red pepper,
  • Cumin (crushed or ground)

Preparation of classic Hungarian goulash


Wash the beef meat, dry it properly with a paper towel and cut it into cubes. The size depends on you. Season the meat with spices and store it in cold. Then the meat happens to be much tastier.

Hungarian Goulash. Photo: Nela

2Clean and chop the onion. Don’t be afraid of the amount of onion, because it is actually the paprika and the onion that give the goulash an excellent flavour and thicken the sauce as well. Fry the onion in lard until it acquires a golden shade. Add ground sweet and hot red pepper, mix and add the seasoned meat. You may season the meat with more spices, if you like.

Hungarian Goulash. Photo: Nela

3Sauté the meat with chopped onions. Cover it with a lid and simmer for about 5 minutes, so that the meat releases its own juices. Then prepare the tomatoes. You can either choose sterilised or fresh peeled ones.

Hungarian Goulash. Photo: Nela

4When the beef releases its juices, add tomatoes and the tomato puree. Continue to stew the meat for 30 minutes, adding to it hot water as needed, so that it does not burn. Halve the pepper, remove the seeds, wash, cut into noodles and add to the meat. Simmer until the beef is tender. The stewing time will take about 1.5 to 2 hours.

Hungarian Goulash. Photo: Nela


Finally, season the original Hungarian goulash with salt or pepper for a better taste. Salt the beef at the very end. Add hot water or broth as needed (for dilution), depending on how thick you like goulash. Be careful not to overdo it with hot pepper.

Hungarian Goulash. Photo: Nela

Good job! Bon appetite and enjoy your Hungarian goulash!

Want to taste more famous soups from all corners of the world? Hanna’s Recipes has you covered! Try the traditional chicken soup from Eastern European regions or the original, yet still flavourful to all countries: tomato soup.

Similar videorecipe for the preparation of Hungarian goulash

FAQ 1: What gives Hungarian goulash its distinctive flavour?

Paprika is the key ingredient that gives Hungarian goulash its distinctive flavour and vibrant red colour. The use of paprika is essential in Hungarian cuisine and therefore, it should be no surprise why it appears in many typical Hungarian dishes.

FAQ 2: Can I make Hungarian goulash vegetarian or vegan?

Yes, it is possible to make a vegetarian or a vegan version of Hungarian goulash, mainly by substituting the beef meat with plant-based proteins such as mushrooms, tofu or seitan. Additionally, using the vegetable broth instead of the beef broth can enhance the flavour of the dish as well.


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