This traditional Hungarian goulash is a beef stew cooked with lots of onions, Hungarian paprika, tomatoes and sweet peppers. Very popular in Hungary but also in other parts of Eastern Europe, this stew can be served with bread, pasta, like spaetzle, boiled or roasted potatoes and pickles.
It 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, makes the perfect dinner for your family. And no, contrary to popular belief here in the U.S., goulash is NOT made with ground beef or (heaven forbid) 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 it is full of hearty stews, savory goulashes and rich soups that are meals in themselves. Those used to cook in the American tradition will observe that Hungarian cuisine features more pork dishes than beef of veal. Lard, too, is preferred over other animal or vegetable fats. This is natural in a country where grazing land is limited and raising hogs is popular.
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.
Paprika is what makes Hungarian cooking totally unlike any other cuisine. Paprika adds flavor and color to a wide variety of Hungarian dishes. Paprika is available in three strengths: sweet, semisweet and hot. 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 different types in this goulash, based on your general taste. If you would like the dish to be spicy, use a hotter paprika, if you want it mild, then use a milder one.
Hungarian cuisine provides great flexibility to the meals. People ate what was available in season, the time of day and what food happened to be on hand. Furthermore, what was served for dinner one day could be served(the leftovers)as lunch the next.
Another traditional way of serving stews and soups was the use of sour cream. A lack of refrigeration provided an overabundance of sour cream, therefore the sour cream was worked into any recipe possible, until finally one missed the taste if it were left out.
This Hungarian goulash should be served with sour cream for more authenticity, but of course, it is optional if you need to skip the dairy.
How to make the traditional Hungarian goulash:
Chop the meat into 1-inch pieces. I used beef but pork is perfectly acceptable. As I said before, the Hungarian cuisine uses more pork than beef anyway. In a big pot(you can use a Dutch oven), add vegetable oil or lard(the traditional way) and brown the meat.
Chop the onions and add them to the meat together with the garlic and the peppers.
Add the paprika, the ground caraway, bay leaves and salt.
Add the chopped tomatoes and the chicken stock or just water.
Cover the pot and let the stew simmer over low heat for 2 hours or until tender. Taste for seasoning.
That’s it! Serve it with a dollop of sour cream on top, for more authenticity and invite your friends to a bowl of this amazing Hungarian goulash!
- 3 pounds beef stew meat(or pork) cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4-5 medium onions diced
- 4-5 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons lard or 6 tablespoons vegetable oil (sunflower)
- 1 sweet yellow pepper (or bell pepper, wax or banana pepper) cut into small pieces
- ¼ cup sweet Hungarian paprika powder(or more according to your taste)
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 big fresh tomato chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground caraway seeds
- 1 cup chicken stock or water
- Salt to taste
- Optional: sour cream for serving
- 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.
- Add the Hungarian paprika, ground caraway, bay leaves and salt. Mix well.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and the chicken stock or water.
- Cover and cook over low heat for 2 hours or until tender.
- Re-taste for seasoning.
- Serve with potatoes, pasta or bread dipped in the sauce.
- Optional: Serve it with a dollop of sour cream on top.