Hungarian goulash is a traditional beef soup or stew cooked with lots of onions, Hungarian paprika, tomatoes, and sweet peppers.
This recipe will give you instructions on cooking this dish in 3 ways: on the stove, in a crockpot, and an Instant Pot. You will discover how easy it is to make this recipe using classic or modern methods.
Hungarian Goulash or gulyás
One of these awesome recipes that require slow cooking, this dish can be made on either stove, crockpot, or Instant Pot, depending on the time you have to spend in the kitchen.
This Hungarian Goulash is a hearty dish that works best for chilly days. It feeds a crowd, it is nutritious, and very easy to make.
Also a comforting meal, this dish makes the perfect dinner for your family. Contrary to popular belief here in the U.S., goulash is NOT made with ground beef or macaroni noodles!
That is called American goulash and has nothing to do with the Hungarian one!
A little bit about the Hungarian Cuisine:
Hungarian cuisine is full of hearty stews, savory goulashes and rich soups that are meals in themselves.
Those who used to cook in the American tradition will observe that Hungarian cuisine features more pork dishes than beef or veal. Yes, that might be a shock for many of you, but it is true.
Cows were raised more for dairy products than meat. This is natural in a country where grazing land is limited and raising hogs is popular.
Lard, too, is preferred over other animal or vegetable fats.
Meats are most frequently braised rather than broiled or roasted. Soups are almost always thickened with flour or a roux.
What truly defines Hungarian Cuisine is the skillful use of seasoning. Any Hungarian kitchen will contain a wide variety of spices.
Cinnamon, dill, poppy seeds, caraway seeds are frequently used. But the Hungarian national spice is, of course, paprika.
About Paprika in the Hungarian Cuisine:
Paprika is what makes Hungarian cooking totally unlike any other cuisine. Paprika adds flavor and color to a wide variety of Hungarian dishes.
It is available in three strengths: sweet(affiliate link), semisweet, and hot(affiliate link). If you are familiar with the Hungarian paprika, you probably already made up your mind about which strength you like best.
If not, try to experiment with different types in this goulash, based on your general taste. If you like the dish to be spicier, use hotter paprika. If you want it milder, then use sweet paprika instead.
Goulash outside of Hungary and my version of the recipe:
Over the centuries, the Hungarian goulash recipe was embraced all over Europe, and each country adopted a version that suited their taste.
There are many recipes out there, from the traditional Hungarian rich soup style goulash to goulash stew. Here are a few examples of how other countries make this recipe:
Austria– Vienna used to be the center of the Austro-Hungarian empire, therefore a special type of goulash was developed. Their recipe has no tomatoes, and no other vegetables besides onions are added to the dish.
Germany– this country makes goulash with beef(Rindergulasch), venison(Wildschweingulasch), pork (Schweinegulasch) or wild boar(Wildschweingulasch).
The sauce is made with red wine, and depending on the region of Germany, the dish is served with potatoes, rice, dumplings, or noodles.
Romania(Transylvania)– This is my version of goulash you will see described in this article.
Transylvania was for a long time part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the cuisine was heavily influenced by the Hungarian, German and Austrian cuisines.
Transylvania’s Hungarian goulash uses beef or pork and has no carrots, potatoes, or noodles. It is also a stew, not a soup. The vegetables or pasta are served as a side dish.
Serbia– their goulash version is almost the same as the Transylvanian one, more a stew than a soup.
Pork is very popular for the meat choice and the ratio between meat and onions is about 50-50%.
More spices are added, like chili pepper, cinnamon. Sometimes the tomato sauce is sweetened with sugar or even dark chocolate added at the very end.
There are also vegetables involved like bell peppers, tomatoes, and even mushrooms. Bacon also is added for extra flavor, and the dish is served most often over mashed potatoes or pasta.
As you can see, everybody makes it different, so the best way to go is to choose one version that makes more sense to you and go for it. No matter what you chose, the dish is delicious and worthy.
What kind of meat you will need to make Hungarian Goulash:
Beef shank- which is a cut of beef taken from the lower leg of the animal. This muscle is very used by the animal and it has a lot of connective tissue.
This connective tissue is broken down through slow cooking over low heat and results in moist, tender meat with rich flavor.
Chuck beef- it also has a lot of flavors. While not as tender as other beef cuts and can become rather tough if not cooked properly, this cut is perfect to be stewed, slow-cooked or braised to make it more tender.
Pork– If you choose to use pork instead, then any kind of pork meat is fine. I personally prefer the shoulder part because it has more connective tissue, therefore more flavorful.
However, I always look for cheaper parts of pork when I shop, so whatever is on sale and you can afford it, go for it. I would stay away from the very lean meat because it doesn’t have a lot of flavor.
How to make the Hungarian goulash:
A true Hungarian goulash should be something between soup and stew, more like a rich soup and never thickened with flour.
As my recipe is coming from Transylvania, it is more like a stew than a soup. I want to make sure that you don’t jump to tell me that this is not the real deal. I heard that before.
Chop the meat into 1-2 inches pieces. (Note: In Hungarian goulash, the meat chunks are usually smaller compared to other meat stews. )
Chop the onions and add them to the meat together with garlic and peppers.
As we live in the US, I had to use bell peppers. I like red and yellow and stayed away from the green ones, as the textures and flavors are very different from the Hungarian peppers.
Add the paprika(plenty of it), the ground caraway, bay leaves and salt.
Add the chopped tomatoes or the tomato sauce and the beef stock or just water.
Cover the pot and let the stew simmer over low heat for 2 hours or until tender, stirring once in a while and tasting for seasoning.
Can I make this recipe in the crock pot:
Of course! Follow the same recipe, but start by browning the meat in a pan, sauté the onion, garlic, and peppers, then transfer everything in the crockpot, add the rest of the ingredients, cover, and cook for 4 hours on “High” or 6 hours on “Low.”
Can I make this recipe using an Instant Pot:
Yes! See the instructions below or follow the instructions on your Instant Pot (affiliate link). For tender and juicy meat, I recommend cooking it for about 20 minutes per pound(you have 3 pounds of meat in this recipe) of high pressure (the manual setting), plus 15 minutes of natural release.
Can I freeze the Hungarian goulash:
Yes, you can absolutely freeze it!
Transfer the stew into a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. You can also transfer it into a single serving portion and freeze it.
It is best to defrost it overnight in the refrigerator before serving. Heat in microwave or stovetop for a few minutes and stir occasionally.
How to serve this Goulash:
Serve it with a dollop of sour cream on top for more authenticity, and invite your friends to a bowl of this amazing dish!
As a side dish, serve mashed, boiled, or roasted potatoes, pasta, or just some delicious artisanal bread or baguette to dip into the sauce.
A glass of your favorite wine would go perfectly with this dish!
Some other recipes to try:
- 3 pounds beef stew meat(or pork) cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons lard or 6 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
- 4 large onions diced
- 5 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 sweet bell pepper- Red or any other color(wax pepper or banana pepper are perfectly acceptable) seeds and ribs removed, then diced
- 4 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika powder
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 big fresh tomatoes chopped or 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
- 1 cup beef stock or water
- Salt to taste
- Optional: sour cream for serving
HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE ON THE STOVE:
- In a large pot, brown the meat in vegetable oil or pork lard over low heat, stirring frequently.
- Add the onions, garlic, and pepper and saute until translucent. The onions should be cut into very small pieces. This is essential in order to achieve the "stew consistency". Add a small amount of water or broth, if necessary, to keep the vegetables sticking to the pan.
- Add the Hungarian paprika, ground caraway, bay leaves and salt. Mix well.
- Add the chopped tomatoes or the tomato sauce. Also add the beef stock or water.
- Cover and cook over low heat for 2 hours or until tender.
- Re-taste for seasoning.
HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE IN AN INSTANT POT:
- Place lard or oil in the Instant Pot and press "Saute" button.
- Brown the meat stirring frequently.
- Add onions, garlic, peppers and continue stirring until onions are translucent.
- Add paprika, ground caraway, bay leaves, salt, tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes and the liquid.
- Cancel the "Saute", close the pot and set it on "Stew". (For tender and juicy meat, I recommend cooking it about 20 minutes per pound(you have 3 pounds of meat in this recipe) of high pressure (the manual setting), plus 15 minutes of natural release.
HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE IN THE CROCK POT:
Follow the same recipe, but start browning the meat in a pan, sauté the onion, garlic and peppers, then transfer everything in the crock pot, add the rest of the ingredients, cover and cook for 4 hours on “High” or 6 hours on “Low”.
Serve with boiled potatoes, pasta or bread dipped in the sauce.
Optional: Serve it with a dollop of sour cream on top.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 388Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 477mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 6gSugar: 10gProtein: 24g