Goulash is a dish that has been eaten in Hungary since the 18th century. The recipe has many variations but generally consists of meat (usually beef) and onions stewed together with other vegetables. A spicy paprika powder gives it its characteristic flavor. Goulash is usually served as a soup or stew over dumplings called csipetke or bread dumplings called túrógombóc depending on regional preferences.
The ingredients are simple: beef, potatoes, carrots, green bell pepper, onion and tomato paste/puree for color and flavor; salt; black pepper; bay leaves; paprika powder (or sweet Hungarian paprika); and water to cover the meat.
Hungarian Goulash History
The Hungarian word “gulyás” has Arabic origins and means herdsman, referring to the fact that the dish was originally made by herders who could not return to their villages in time for Christmas Eve because they were too busy herding cattle.
According to popular folklore, when the cooks arrived home in time for Christmas Eve dinner with their families they were disappointed to find that the dish they had cooked for their family was gone- eaten by hungry herdsmen.
This is when Hungarian goulash was born, a dish that could be made in advance and kept warm on an open fire so the herdsmen would have food when they got home at night after driving cattle to different pastures.
Today, goulash is Hungary’s national dish. This recipe for Hungarian goulash captures the essence of this original dish, while adding modern twists to it. It combines all the best ingredients and spices and is seasoned with paprika to produce a flavorful meal that is so delicious you’ll want seconds!
Hungarian Goulash Ingredients
- 15 lbs [7kg] of chuck steak, cut into 1-inch [2.5cm] cubes
- 1 tsp [5ml] salt
- ¼ cup [60ml] cooking oil (for frying)
- 2 cans (14.5 oz [411g]) of diced tomatoes with juice reserved for later use
- 3 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 2 cups [500ml] water
- ½ tsp [2.5ml] black pepper
- 1 tbsp [15ml] paprika seasoning
- 2 small green bell peppers, finely chopped
- Optional: Serve Goulash with túrógombóc (bread dumplings) or csipetke (egg noodles)
Hungarian Goulash Recipe – Instructions:
- Heat oil in a large pan over high heat.
- Add the beef cubes, stirring often to brown all sides evenly, about 6 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon or tongs remove meat from the pan and place in a large heavy-bottomed pot.
- Saute vegetables in the pan for 15 minutes or until tender.
- Pour the canned tomatoes with juice into the vegetable mixture, stirring constantly to prevent sticking or burning on the bottom of the pan.
- Using a potato masher, mash half of the tomato/vegetable mixture to release juices and create a thick, smooth sauce.
- Add salt, black pepper, and sweet Hungarian paprika powder to the mixture and stir constantly for 5 minutes.
- Pour water into the mixture and bring it to a boil.
- Simmer on medium heat until meat is tender (about 1 hour).
- 10. Season with additional salt or sweet Hungarian paprika powder to taste.
- Ladle hot goulash soup into individual bowls and serve with túrógombóc (bread dumplings) or csipetke (egg noodle dumplings).
Tips for Successful Cooking
- The water amount in the recipe is only a guide for cooking purposes.
- Using too much liquid makes the goulash soup thin and dulls the flavor; using less liquid means you will get rich flavors with a thick, hearty texture.
- Egg noodles or bread dumplings are great with this dish but you can also enjoy it by itself.
- Goulash tastes best on the day it is prepared but you can rewarm it the next day, if necessary.
- Warm-up in a microwave oven or over medium heat on the stovetop until hot and steaming again.
- You can also freeze leftovers for up to 3 months, so make a big batch and enjoy this dish for a few months to come!
Regional Variations on Hungarian Goulash
Austrian goulash is made with pieces of veal neck, marjoram, and parsley root, whereas Croatian goulash usually has beef ribs in the mix instead of meat chunks.
Czech goulash is made with beef, onion, garlic, potatoes, spices, and flour. Many recipes for Slovak goulash call for adding mushrooms or chopped bacon into the mix. Slovenian goulash, however, is similar to Hungarian goulash but it only uses paprika as a seasoning agent.
Timeless Comfort Food
Hungarian goulash is a dish that has evolved over the years, but it always retains its roots in Hungary’s rich history. The story of how this national dish came to be is fascinating and we hope you enjoyed reading about the regional variations on Hungarian Goulash as well.