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. I made this for supper tonight and my 12-year old daughter said “Daddy, paleo food is yummy!” This one’s going in the KEEPER file for sure.

    The Reluctant Primalist wrote on February 28th, 2012
    • I should add it was served over thinly cut raw cabbage which both little girls scarfed down (one going back for seconds of cabbage). Big smiles all around.

      The Reluctant Primalist wrote on February 28th, 2012
  2. Finally a recipe from the New World for a Hungarian Goulash that actually describes a Hungarian Goulash!

    (I may not be exactly a Hungarian – I’m a Slovak – but I live literally on the Hungarian border and my ancestors lived with Hungarians in one country for some 900 years, so I have a pretty good sense what a true HU goulash should look like :-))

    Jan Rendek wrote on February 29th, 2012
  3. I was just at my mom’s house the other day trying to figure out how to convert some of my favorite childhood recipes: hungarian goolash being one of them! So thank you so much for this post I can’t wait to try it.

    Kate wrote on February 29th, 2012
  4. Thanks for the recipe! A few suggested mods:

    – The Caraway flavor was overmuch. Next time I’ll use 1/2 tsp.

    – I browned in large, not too hot stainless skillet with no added fat. By the last (3rd) batch, the entire skillet bottom was covered in an almost burnt, yummy caramel coating, which I then added bacon grease and onion/garlic to deglaze.

    – While the onions were cooking, I put the meat, homemade dark chicken stock with fat, paprika, caraway, vinegar and tomato paste into a 4qt. pressure cooker, bought to pressure and cooked for 25 minutes, turned off heat and let it de-pressurize slowly (about 40 minutes total.)

    – I then added the deglazed/sauteed onions/garlic to the pot (adding a little stock to the skillet to get the last bits) and simmered about 1/2 an hour.

    – Finally, I added orange/yellow/green bell peppers and let it very slowly simmer another 1/2 hour. I like texture and freshness to the bell peppers.

    – Salt/pepper as desired.

    This turned out great! Of course, even better the 2nd and 3rd day after.

    Next time I’ll use short ribs instead of chuck, and maybe add a 14-oz can of diced tomatoes.

    Homo Sapiens Wanna-Be wrote on February 29th, 2012
  5. This looks amazing, Mark. Thanks for the recipe!

    TokyoJarrett wrote on March 1st, 2012
  6. Delicious! I prepared a half batch on a Sunday in the crockpot, cooled down, then all went in ziplock bag and in fridge until Wednesday. On Wednesday, served this up in a bowl (more of like a soup) and we ate the entire batch. Loved it. (only had red bell pepper on hand, no green)

    Laura Jo wrote on March 1st, 2012
  7. Made this this week, was sooooo good. Very hearty and filling!!!

    Kris wrote on March 1st, 2012
  8. This is soooooo yummy! Really hit the spot.;D

    Melbee wrote on March 2nd, 2012
  9. I made this as is tonight. Very good flavor, really liked it. But I think next time, I’ll put the peppers in at the last minute – I like them a bit more solid. Or I’ll try other, sturdier veggies. Overall, loved it. Best of all, my boyfriend likes it! He’s hard to please, picky, and tends to whine a bit when I make an all paleo meal. He said “add this to your make again cookbook”. Thanks for the great recipe.

    Mandie wrote on March 3rd, 2012
  10. Thank you so much for sharing. I can’t wait to try this recipe. My Grandfather use to make Goulash.

    Dominic DiBernardo wrote on March 6th, 2012
  11. mmmm…. super tasty. I omitted the caraway seeds and doubled the tomato paste. I know, inauthentic of me to leave out the caraway, but I didn’t feel like buying one more ingredient :) I added a splash of red wine and used 7 teaspoons regular paprika, 2 teaspoons smoked. Anyway, loved it! Next time I’ll take a previous commenter’s suggestion and throw in a beef bone or two.

    Rebekah wrote on March 16th, 2012
    • Forgot to say that I browned the meat in bacon grease. ha.

      Rebekah wrote on March 16th, 2012
  12. I love goulash. This recipe is similar to one that Alton Brown makes, and that I use: The nice thing about Alton’s is that the meat braises in the tomato/paprika mixture in the oven. The procedure is a little easier.

    getfitkate wrote on March 19th, 2012
  13. In the oven! Can’t wait for dinner. Thank you, as always. Your books and website provide constant inspiration and reinspiration! Really appreciate all of the work that you do and how generously you share. Best, Ann

    Ann Patterson wrote on March 26th, 2012
  14. I lived in Hungary for a while. My companion there was from the countryside and a very good cook.

    We added sour cream to everything. One of my favorites was stuffed peppers, using a Hungarian pepper that is similar, but larger, than an Anaheim pepper. Make it spicy, and then cut the spice with sour cream.

    Cory wrote on May 16th, 2012
  15. I need some primal recipes to can to replace some carbish ones in my pantry. This will be a great way to get those last few roasts from our steers out of the freezer and into convenient pint jars :)

    JBailey wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  16. Just made this tonight and it was great!
    didn’t have boneless chuck so i substituted some ground beef and ground turkey and it was delicious. Can’t wait to try it out with some chuck.

    coffee wrote on June 11th, 2012
  17. This is delicious! I make it with a chuck or shoulder roast that I cut into stew meat myself, so the prep gives me a little workout too. :)

    Don! wrote on June 30th, 2012
  18. I love goulash and was craving it so I hit the web in pursuit of a new recipe and found this one and it looked so good that I’m cooking up a batch right now…so far it smells WONDERFUL! I’ll report back and let cha know how it turns out…of course I know it’s going to be good already! Thanks for sharing this recipe. DJW

    DJWhite wrote on July 12th, 2012
  19. Please, if you call it gulyás, don´t put bell peppers, vinegar and tomato sauce in it :)

    kriso wrote on July 26th, 2012
  20. I made this tonight for my family and it was a hit! i followed the recipe exactly and I wouldn’t change anything. My family (who are only semi-primal) wanted a starch so I served it with potatoes, like a stew and they loved it. (I passed on the potatoes though)! Great recipe!

    ALM wrote on October 29th, 2012
  21. I eat my goulash with mustard, pickeles,paprika,mustard,onions,garlic and mayonese and of course a slice tomato and cucumbers, you relax and read the morning news after these meal

    Moses Kestenbaum ODA wrote on March 19th, 2013
  22. Excellent recipe. I’m Hungarian and the technique described here is great. Good point about the paprika. I get mine from traveling relatives who return from Hungary. You can’t just get supermarket paprika in N.A. – it completely and utterly alters the taste. I get big bags of paprika from Hungary and instead of 3 tablespoons for 3 pounds of meat, I’d use 5 or 6 for a deeper flavour. It’s such a mild condiment/spice [the sweet Edesnemes is standard] and loaded with vitamin C. You can get this stuff at Hungarian delis [or European ones] all over the US and here in Canada as well.

    The only thing I’d add to this recipe is red wine. That’s a staple. About a cup for a full and rich flavour, in place of one of the cups of stock. Big difference. And I’d add two or 3 more onions. Gulyas is a very forgiving food recipe – you can add or subtract as much as you prefer and the more onions the better. I’ve been making it now for 35 years and the family recipe I use is over 200 years old.

    martha wrote on May 10th, 2013
  23. All you people looking for to buy Hungarian products, and paprika
    the best place to buy it: it is good and cheep

    Tibor Sarkady

    Tibor Sarkady wrote on November 4th, 2013
  24. Penzey’s has the best sweet Hungarian paprika. It doesn’t leave your stew with that grainy texture some paprikas do. I would pay a little extra for that! Happy Cooking!

    Amanda C. wrote on November 12th, 2013
  25. my mom was born in Hungary and raised in Germany. When I was old enough to cook she taught me how to make Hungarian Goulash and I have been making it ever since. I love it. I am pretty much a goulash purist. For me its all about the onions, meat and paprika. My kids love it to but I am glad you posted this cause I didn’t know you could put bell peppers in it to. I’m gonna try the recipe you got here and see how it taste. thanks for giving me a new way to make goulash.

    beverly lasater wrote on December 4th, 2013
  26. Thank you so much for this recipe! I make it almost once a week!

    Jessica wrote on February 18th, 2014
  27. I have some chicken hearts, I wonder could I throw them in along with the diced beef or pork?

    Sky wrote on February 9th, 2015

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