Authentic Hungarian Goulash (gulyás) History, a Classic Recipe and much more
From the country's varied culinary repertoire Hungarian goulash is the most famous and often cooked dish outside the borders of Hungary, still many confusions and misconceptions surround its exact preparation method.
Even in Hungary every other housewife or chef has its 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.
Let me share some from the historical background of the Hungarian goulash together with my own recipe (that of course I call authentic) and some cooking tips.
What's Authentic Hungarian Goulash?
Authentic gulyás is a beef dish cooked with onions, Hungarian paprika powder, 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.
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A Classical Hungarian Goulash Recipe
Ingredients (for 4 persons)
- 600 g beef shin or shoulder, or any tender part of the beef cut into 2x2 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
- 2 fresh green peppers
- 2-3 medium potatoes, sliced
- 1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika powder
- 1 teaspoon ground caraway seed
- 1 bay leaf
- ground black pepper and salt according to taste
For csipetke (Pinched 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,
- 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.
- Heat up the oil or lard in a pot and braise the chopped onions in it until they get a nice golden brown colour.
- Sprinkle the braised onions with paprika powder while stirring them to prevent the paprika from burning.
- Add the beef cubes and and sauté them till they turn white and get a bit of brownish colour as well.
- 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 and ground black pepper, the bay leaf, pour water enough to cover the content of the pan and let it simmer on low heat for a while.
- 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 and the potatoes, the celery leaf and some more salt if necessary (vegetables tend to call for more salt). You'll probably have to add some more (2-3 cups) water too.
- When the vegetables and the meat are almost done add the tomato cubes 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.
- Bring the soup to the boil and add the csipetke dough, it needs about 5 minutes to get cooked.
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.
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Many gulyás variations have been created throughout the years and became popular in Hungarian gastronomy:
- 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 have the best ingredients at hand (most importantly prime quality beef) and the preparation method fitted very well to their work and lifestyle: they don’t have to stand by the side of the kettle and stir its content all the time, still they have 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.
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 and and 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.
Where to Eat Hungarian Goulash in Budapest?
Traditional Hungarian restaurants all have goulash on their menus. Browse our list of Hungarian Restaurants in Budapest.
A bowl of Hungarian goulash costs between 500 - 1 200 HUF, depending on the place. 1 200 HUF is too much for a bowl of soup and it's not necessarily tastier than a 600 HUF goulash.
Other recommended Budapest restaurants where you can have a bowl of steaming Hungarian goulash:
Address: Dohány utca 42-44. district VII.
During the Hungarian dinner with folk performance program organised every Friday at this elegant hotel restaurant you can try goulash made from Hungarian grey cattle along other tasty local fare:
- roasted goose leg,
- roasted duck liver,
- catfish paprikash,
- strudels, and
- Gundel pancakes.
Address: Pozsonyi utca 12., XIII. district, trams 4,6, Jászai Mari tér stop
Tel: (+36 1) 450 0829
A charming traditional restaurant with friendly service.
Address: Szófia utca 33., VI. district,
Tel: (+36 1) 321 1921
A very good and cheap traditional Hungarian restaurant
Address: Mosonyi utca 3., VIII. district
Tel: (+36 1) 333 3492
A a popular restaurant with Hungarian-Jewish cuisine near the Keleti Railway Station, a bit pricey though.