How to Make Authentic Hungarian Goulash – Just Like in Budapest!

When we were traveling to Budapest, it became a mission as soon as we got off the plane – find the real thing. Find Hungarian Goulash (or, gulyas, as it’s called), and devour it.

Having grown up with parents that made meals for the family with great authenticity, a sort of Americanized goulash was a part of our family staple. It was delicious, and Tracy and I both loved our mothers’ own renditions of it as kids. We’ve tried to make it ourselves, but were really curious what goulash tastes like in the motherland, where it was made.

We were on the hunt for real, authentic Hungarian Goulash, and we found it. True to what you hear, it’s far different than any American recipes that attempt to replicate it. It’s much brighter, with paprika standing out in every bite, along with the richness of long-simmered beef, potatoes, and vegetables. In a word – it was delicious. In fact, it became an every day occurrence to seek out goulash wherever it was, try it, and compare it to where else we had it in the city.

After we came home, of course, we couldn’t just leave it behind! A few frustrated attempts later, without getting it just right, we finally found a recipe that works for us, and reminds us strongly of the goulash we had in Budapest. We hope you find it as relatively easy to make, and awesome as we found it!

Here’s the simple and easy recipe, made easy to print or save for your use!

Hungarian Goulash Soup

This recipe for Hungarian Goulash Soup or gulyas leves (GOO-yahsh LEH-vesh) is hearty enough to be eaten as a main course with rye bread. This soup benefits from a long, slow cook and is actually a goulash, which is a stew, to which more liquid has been added. Traditional gulyas leves is made with beef or veal.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 15 mins

Ingredients

2 medium onions (finely chopped)

    2 tablespoons bacon fat (or butter)

      3 pounds beef chuck roast (fat removed and cubed)

        2 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika

          4 carrots (peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds)

            2 parsley roots (peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds)

              1 small bunch parsley (tied with butcher's twine)

                Optional: 4 medium potatoes (peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces)

                  Optional: 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds

                    2 Hungarian wax peppers (or banana wax peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces)

                      Pinch hot Hungarian paprika

                        Salt to taste

                          Instructions

                          • In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, sauté the onions in the bacon fat or butter over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until translucent. This will take 10 to 15 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. Salt the onions lightly to help tenderize them. Add a small amount of water, if necessary, to keep them from sticking to the pan.
                          • Turn the heat to high and add the meat cubes and stir constantly for about 3 minutes or until the meat has been seared on all sides.
                          • Add water to cover by an inch and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the meat is almost tender, adding water, as necessary, to keep it above the level of the meat. This can take up to 2 hours.
                          • Add the sweet paprika, carrots, parsley roots, bunch of parsley, optional potatoes, optional caraway seeds, banana wax peppers, and hot paprika.
                          • Bring back to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender but not falling apart. Add additional water, if necessary, to keep a soup consistency. Add salt to taste.
                          • Serve over Hungarian csipetke or nokedli dumplings. You also might enjoy serving this filling soup with rye bread or potato bread.

                          Notes

                          Some prefer goulash to be thicker or thinner, depending on preference. To thicken your goulash, simply allow to simmer with the lid off for an extended amount of time (30 min+), but be careful to prevent burning. 

                          So what’s the key to making this recipe truly great? Time! Anything that has to reduce is going to just get better the longer you wait, and an authentic Hungarian Goulash recipe is no different. All those flavors have to meld – the carrots must soften, the potatoes have to cook, and it all becomes infused with paprika, fat, parsley root, and the other spices involved. 

                          The first mistake we made when we attempted to make this was really simple – we were hungry and didn’t wait long enough!

                          You really want your goulash to sit until the sauce thinly covers a spoon when dipped. Until then? You aren’t done!

                          Hungarian Goulash – very early in the reduction phase. Note how the potatoes are still firm.

                          Now, the easy part is the fact that, once you’ve prepped and have joined all the ingredients in the pot, you’re work is done other than not falling asleep.

                          Heat is the magic that will take care of anything, so let it happen. While the recipe calls for 2+ hours, 80% of this is drinking wine while you wait for your authentic goulash to finish!

                          That’s more like it!

                          Low impact, indeed!

                          Another important thing to note, as with all recipes, is that you’ll want to play with the amount of spices. We actually started with a much milder amount of paprika, but it just wasn’t authentic. It didn’t taste like Budapest. 

                          Additionally, some recipes call for tomatoes. We dumped it because, quite frankly, we never once had goulash in Budapest that involved any sort of tomatoes. If it’s your preference? By all means, but it didn’t match what our end goal was. 

                          A note on the side dish or accompaniments – goulash was almost always served with nokedli dumplings in Budapest. These are corn-based dumplings with a bread-like consistency that are really tasty. Not once was it served with any type of pasta, despite many recipes call for it.

                          Again, this is a matter of personal preference. You like pasta better than bread? Go for it! It’s delicious either way. 

                          We hope you enjoy your Hungarian Goulash when it’s done, and it either inspires you to travel to taste the real thing or makes you remember a time when perhaps you have! 

                          As they say in Hungary – Jó étvágyat!

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