Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
25 Feb

Rich and Hearty Hungarian Goulash

If you grew up eating goulash then it’s likely that you have a specific idea of what goulash is. For some it’s beef soup with carrots, parsnips and potatoes. For others it’s a thick stew without a vegetable to be found. If you were raised in certain parts of the US, goulash might even be ground beef with tomato sauce and macaroni noodles. This last version, which veers dangerously close to Hamburger Helper, is a far cry from traditional Hungarian goulash. Whether it’s served as a soup or stew, with vegetables or without, Hungarian goulash must involve one thing: chunks of beef simmered in a paprika-laced broth until the meat is so tender you’ll eat it with a spoon.

Simmering meat in a pot with a handful of other ingredients until it turns into a rich, thick, comforting meal isn’t a unique idea. The French have Boeuf Bourguignon. Texans have Texas Chili. What makes goulash different is paprika, and lots of it.

Paprika is made by grinding up various types of dried peppers. The type of pepper determines how sweet or spicy the paprika will be. If paprika has a bright red color it’s likely to be sweeter and milder. When the color starts leaning towards brown and orange hues, watch out. It’s going to be spicy. Hungarian Paprika, which is sold in sweet and spicy versions, tastes different than Spanish paprika (which is usually smoky) and regular generic paprika (which doesn’t have much flavor at all). If you can find Hungarian paprika, by all means use it for making goulash. It will give the dish a stronger flavor, one that is slightly sweet and pungent – a little bit like what the essence of a really flavorful red bell pepper tastes like. The mildest varieties of Hungarian paprika are often labeled as Különleges, Édesnemes, Csípmentes and Csemege. Things start getting spicy when you see Félédes, Rozsa or Eros on the label.

This goulash recipe also includes fresh bell peppers, tomato paste and vinegar for extra flavor, but a goulash purist will skip all three. If you take goulash very seriously, it’s all about the meat, onions and paprika. Like most hearty dishes that revolve around tender chunks of beef, goulash must be cooked slowly over the course of a few hours. If you really want to taste goulash at its finest, make a point of eating a bowl as leftovers the next day. The more time the ingredients spend together, the better they taste.

Servings: 6-8


  • 3 pounds boneless chuck cut into 1/2-inch cubes (pork or venison can also be used)
  • 1/4 cup fat (lard, tallow, olive oil or butter)
  • 2-3 white or yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Hungarian Sweet Paprika
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cups beef broth


In a heavy deep pot (like a Dutch oven) heat half of the fat over medium-high heat. Add the meat in three batches, removing each batch from the pot after it browns. The meat doesn’t need to be cooked all the way through, just browned on the outside.

Once the meat is out of the pot, add the rest of the fat followed by the onions and paprika. Stir the onions as they cook, for about five minutes.

Add garlic and caraway seeds. Add vinegar and tomato paste and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Add the meat back to the pot along with the salt and bell peppers.

Pour in the broth. The meat should be fully covered by liquid. If needed, add a cup or so of water. Bring to a gentle boil.

Simmer goulash, covered, stirring occasionally, for an hour and half, or slightly longer if meat isn’t tender enough. If you want very little broth, you can remove the lid halfway through the cooking time.

Serve alone in a bowl or over lightly sautéed, thinly sliced cabbage or cauliflower rice.

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Oh, Thank You! You have just made my weekend! I LOVE Hungarian food. Hungarian paprikas are staples in my kitchen.

    rarebird wrote on February 25th, 2012
  2. Sounds great! I love smoked paprika so much I buy it in 2 lb jars. For Xmas, I was given a t-shirt that says “If you don’t like paprika, stay out of my kitchen.” But who doesn’t like paprika?

    Harry Mossman wrote on February 25th, 2012
    • Oh, yes – but just see the look of surprise on some people’s faces when you present them with something more than generic bland paprika. I make a platter of deviled eggs with several paprikas – smoky, hot, and sweet – for gatherings.

      rarebird wrote on February 25th, 2012
      • Care to send some of those this way? That sounds yummy :) I’ll have to hunt down some good Hungarian Paprika and try this recipe.

        Alessandra wrote on February 25th, 2012
        • :-).

          rarebird wrote on February 25th, 2012
    • If I had only known it came it 2# jars. Know what I’ll be googling next. I buy a new jar as soon as the last one is opened. Yum!!!

      Sandra wrote on February 26th, 2012
    • Sweet story dude, can we hear another?

      Mark wrote on February 27th, 2013
  3. To make this even more fun, track down a bogrács (the men’s cooking kettle, used over an open fire in the field).

    Also, when cooking the onions it’s typical to cook them in the fat till they are soft, then remove the pot from heat and allow it to cool a bit before adding the paprika. This keeps it from becoming excessively bitter and developing off flavors.

    And if there isn’t a good spice market in your town, order from Penzey’s online. Quality paprika is well worth tracking down.

    P.J. wrote on February 25th, 2012
    • Amazon carries a few Hungarian (and other) paprikas as well. Limited possibilities – but better than nothing for sure.

      rarebird wrote on February 25th, 2012
    • Oh, and P.S. those are both good suggestions – the kettle/open fire (YUM!!!) and taking care with heating paprika. Heat can alter the flavor so that element does need to be taken into account.

      rarebird wrote on February 25th, 2012
    • My dad used to cook gulyás over an open fire all day long. We could barely wait to eat it!

      Another Hungarian tradition would be to take jowl bacon, put it on a wooden skewer and gently turn it over the fire. We would drip the fat onto bread which was loaded with peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic. Once the bacon was cooked, we’d slice it on the same veggie-loaded bread. Mmmm. It’s a great substitute for roasting marshmallows over a fire.

      Happycyclegirl wrote on February 28th, 2012
      • OMG….I grew up eating rye bread with red onions and drizzled bacon fat!! We did this at picnics. My parents were born in Hungary and I grew up in norther New Jersey, very ethnic, even the church service was totally in Hungarian. Many years ago, (I am 71 now). Just browsing for recipes and saw your note. Never heard anyone else ever talk about “bacon some’mores!!”

        ilona (barkocy) shorb wrote on January 11th, 2013
      • I am not sure how to spell it but what you describe is called shutney sullena.
        My grandfather loved this. I think it is the hungarian version of smores.

        john wrote on January 24th, 2013
  4. Already had the stew meat thawing when you posted the recipe I needed! Thank you for supper.

    Donna wrote on February 25th, 2012
  5. Can’t wait to try this!

    Michael wrote on February 25th, 2012
  6. ooooh man Mark this looks so frickin’ good. can’t wait to try this one!

    Burn wrote on February 25th, 2012
  7. I say throw it in the oven when everything’s back in the pool…225 for a few hours and that met is butter.

    Graham wrote on February 25th, 2012
    • Meat, I mean. Damn autocorrect…

      Graham wrote on February 25th, 2012
  8. I make goulash about 4x a months, enough to last for 3-4 days with left overs.
    I eat it over a bed of white rice, or kelp noodles (if I want a low carb day).

    Can also use pork, lamb, buffalo or elk meat.

    Arty wrote on February 25th, 2012
  9. I JUST made this for dinner two days ago! I am Czech so it’s one of our traditional dishes (and the husband loves it!). I also took the time to pick the meat out of the finished sauce and blend it with an immersion blender to get a nice, thick onion/red pepper sauce.


    Dana wrote on February 25th, 2012
  10. If you’re looking for a good hot paprika sauce/paste Eros Pista is very good. And spicy too. I usually add that to all my soups goulash or not. Being Hungarian I grew up with the stuff. My grandmother used to grow all the hot Hungarian peppers and dry them and the make her own csipos (hot) paprika.

    Leah wrote on February 25th, 2012
  11. This looks good! Jamie Oliver has a recipe for pork goulash that my wife and absolutely *LOVE*. Surprisingly, a very high percentage of his recipes are primal-friendly, especially when you just sub out his obsession with olive oil with more appropriate fats (bacon grease, coconut oil, etc.) when desired. I think he’s just a nudge away from being the first Primal celebrity chef. :)

    Kris wrote on February 25th, 2012
  12. If time is an issue, I use a pressure cooker to speed the process. Just follow the directions for stew, etc. Or the trusty crockpot.

    Gail wrote on February 25th, 2012
  13. Goulash used to be a favorite of mine! You hit it dead on Mark…

    “If you were raised in certain parts of the US, goulash might even be ground beef with tomato sauce and macaroni noodles.”

    That’s what I LOVED!

    Now I need to find me some hungarian paprika…

    Primal Toad wrote on February 25th, 2012
    • I thought Mark was joking when he said the thing about mince and macaroni… That’s so weird!

      SophieE wrote on February 25th, 2012
      • There are lots of recipes (casserole or goulash/stew type dishes) here in the US that use some sort of ground meat – usually beef – and macaroni. They also commonly use some sort of tomato sauce/paste.

        My mother-in-law made a casserole dish called “Italian Deli

        rarebird wrote on February 25th, 2012
      • There are lots of recipes (casserole or goulash/stew type dishes) here in the US that use some sort of ground meat – usually beef – and macaroni. They also commonly use some sort of tomato sauce/paste.

        My mother-in-law made a casserole dish called “Italian Delight” – that is anything but Italian or delightful, IMO. Its a high carb, high fat concoction complete with canned corn and cheddar cheese.

        These dishes are generally considered “comfort food” here in the US. Makes me think of a feed lot – just fattening us all up for what?

        rarebird wrote on February 25th, 2012
      • It’s what we grew up with also. With 8 children, it was mom’s way to stretch the meal. It would gross me out now to eat it, especially warmed up with the mushy noodles. Comfort food now, warmed up avocado mixed with freshly made pico de gallo. Goulash will definitely be on the menu this week.

        Sandra wrote on February 26th, 2012
  14. This would work superbly in a slow cooker or very slow oven(200) for 6 or 7 hours also. Great to come home to after a day’s work. Just think of how the house will smell. Yum!

    Debra wrote on February 25th, 2012
    • I have had good success with crockpot goulash. Roast the onions at 375 for 45 min, then brown the meat and cook on low for 6-8 hrs. My recipe is basically the same as above, but with 6 large yellow onions (that nearly liquify by the end) and only 1 cup of broth.

      ajt wrote on February 25th, 2012
  15. I buy a lot of spices from this store:

    I have a bunch of the sweet paprika and I think I’m going to try and make this version of goulash soon!

    Elizabeth wrote on February 25th, 2012
  16. Ohhh my GOD!! I’m hungarian, and I just got shocked when I saw the titel!:D It’s just can’t be true:D a traditional hungarian dish on a website like this! I’m honored:)

    HunChick wrote on February 25th, 2012
  17. This sounded so good that I’m making it for dinner!

    Nick raub wrote on February 25th, 2012
  18. I pulled stew meat out of the freezer just before seeing this recipe in my Google Reader. Off to get some Hungarian paprika. Thanks, Mark. You rock!

    Marsha Stopa wrote on February 25th, 2012
  19. May make this. Though I’ll leave out the capsicum (bell peppers.) Also one of those tablespoons of paprika is going to be smoked. Yum.

    The best, most insanely primal hungarian food in my opinion is a giant veal knuckle roasted with garlic, salt, paprika and caraway seeds, served with cabbage. Vealgasm.

    SophieE wrote on February 25th, 2012
  20. Goulash is also a staple of mine, but I’d suggest dropping the carraway seeds, or grinding them before use. If you’ll leave them whole they’ll sprout within a day and your goulash will turn sour. Another good idea is dropping a few beef bones in there, especially if going the crock pot route.

    Yonatan wrote on February 25th, 2012
  21. Sexy! I love goulash! Nothing like a polystyrene bowl of the stuff from some central Europeans in a make-shift roadside cafe.

    This is just good eating!

    Paul Halliday wrote on February 25th, 2012
  22. This sounds awesome! I’m a huge fan of leftovers, so I can’t wait to make this!

    Deanna wrote on February 25th, 2012
  23. I know it is not traditional, but I love to use a beef tong for chile, goulash,even beef-stroganoff, because the texture is amazing.

    Galina L. wrote on February 25th, 2012
  24. DEFINITELY not my mama’s goulash (which was more the ground beef, tomatoes and elbow macaroni–and red beans!–type)–this looks luscious. I’ll have to find some of the mild Hungarian Paprika…we’ve got smoked, but my husband’s not crazy about it.

    Cathy Johnson (Kate) wrote on February 25th, 2012
  25. I love goulash! my mom makes this all the time in winter. It’s such a good meal because we can always free some for later use. And she always adds loads of different veggies to bulk up the meal

    Sarah wrote on February 25th, 2012
  26. Do you think I could make this with beef heart?

    Alex wrote on February 25th, 2012
    • Definitely, yes. I’m just not sure I would go more than 50% heart / 50% chuck, though.

      (I’ll support just about any way to incorporate offal into a dish.)

      Primal Texas wrote on February 27th, 2012
  27. Throw in fresh diced tomatoes and include the pepper, and you’re approaching a dish called Hungarian Papikas (pronounced PUP-ree-cash) and that works well with chicken, veal, or beef traditionally… Elk and buffalo are also fantastic but not traditional.

    Be warned, if you’re sensitive to nightshades, few Hungarian dishes will be suitable for you. LOL

    Jenn wrote on February 26th, 2012
    • Yes – and thank the gods that I don’t have any nightshade sensitivities!

      rarebird wrote on February 26th, 2012
  28. Sorry that’s “Paprikas” with an “r”

    Jenn wrote on February 26th, 2012
  29. Some hungarian insight to this nice recipe:

    – we actually call this dish ‘pörkölt’
    – and gulyás is a soup made from leftover pörkölt + vegetables.

    – it is worth to try to make this recipe using other types of meat (we make it with pork, chicken, liver, other organ meats, etc.)
    – just don’t forget these: fat, lotsa onions and paprika..

    – and a last tip: if you made this recipe with chicken (drumsticks for example), at the end you can add cream, sour cream or some other liquid high fat dairy to make it even more tastier (and heavier). We call this one ‘paprikás’

    i wrote on February 26th, 2012
    • I second this…the recipe is for porkolt and doesent make it any less awesome…gulyas is something else though…it needs potatoes and a bogracs:-)

      Silviu wrote on February 27th, 2012
  30. Hey guys!
    “i” has right, originally the gulash in Hungary is a soup. In Slovakia, and Czech and even in Poland it’s a bit different kind o stuff (I love those dishes as well) In my family (I’m a hungarian who lived in London, recently in France) the receipt is about like that:
    onions+fat (pork fat preferable), fry for a while, pull down from the heat, add paprika stir, add the cubed beef, back on the heat, fry a bit, add water carrots, turnip, celery root…tomato(sauce)if you want.Cook it on a slow heat… Spices: black pepper, bayleaves, cumin, garlic. In my opinion it is quite important to choose the good quality vegetables, cause they work like spices as well, i mean they give more awesome taste to the dish.
    (of cours, it just an other variation)

    samuraikris wrote on February 26th, 2012
  31. This along with Richard Nikoley’s pork carnitas and sweet potato recipe are my lunch and dinner this next week. Making this for the folks tonight with fried cabbage. As soon as I said I was cooking this and said mashed cauliflower or fried cabbage they immediately said fried cabbage. I think I get the majority of my recipes from MDA and Free the Animal now. Thanks for posting.

    Todd Watson wrote on February 26th, 2012
  32. I made this for my family. They loved it and so did I. I gave them bread to mop up the juices as they are not Primal and I had mixed veg. I used smoked paprika and then finished with a little sour cream and a sprinkle of paprika. Delightful. Thanks for the idea Mark as I always find it difficult to cook something that we all can eat in our family.

    Charmaine wrote on February 27th, 2012
  33. delicious, :) It upgraded my dinner.

    Love low carb cooking, and this goulash recipe hit the spot.

    It’s vital to use only fresh meat! most frozen goulash has preservatives and phosphate added.

    Sagi wrote on February 27th, 2012
  34. Well, this is my first visit here and I am Hungarian! So with this post I think I am already sold!

    Monika wrote on February 27th, 2012
  35. My best friend’s ex-wife was Hungarian. Her mother would make Goulash. This post kind of makes me sad they got divorced.

    primalzen wrote on February 27th, 2012
  36. All of my favorites… Grass Fed Beef, Butter, Paprika, onions, garlic, peppers, A.C.V., etc. This looks really good. Thanks for sharing!

    TJ wrote on February 27th, 2012
  37. I made this today and it was so delicious! I took the time to brown the meat and onions before adding to the crockpot and heading off to work. The house smelled amazing when I got home. I served over mashed cauliflower and a side of collard greens. It was delicious and satisfying. Can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow!

    LauraPh wrote on February 27th, 2012
  38. I use Osso Bucco for my gulash, that includes the marrow bones, so I dont need stock, it kind a makes its own. I just use lard, onions, paprika some garlic and then 1-2 carrots, 1 parsnip, and some sweet potato (all grated) and salt to taste and a small handfull of white rice for thickenner which breaks down completely. THEN I add about 1.5 kg of home made sourkraut , generaly a mixture of white and red cabbage and I add 150gm of butter at the end. It takes me 5 days to get the cabage to kraut and then the cooking time is about 2 hours. You need a big pot and we literaly eat this for 2 days or even 3. So much easier to make one meal like this …… all my neighbours have commented on the smell some living a few houses down. Its amazing what happens when one uses grass feed beef and real sourkrout. This thing swims in fat, and still even with the rice has a small carb footprint per serving.

    Michal wrote on February 28th, 2012

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