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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88 thoughts on “Rich and Hearty Hungarian Goulash”

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

  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?

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

    2. 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!!!

  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.

    1. Amazon carries a few Hungarian (and other) paprikas as well. Limited possibilities – but better than nothing for sure.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

      1. 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!!”

      2. 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.

  4. Already had the stew meat thawing when you posted the recipe I needed! Thank you for supper.

  5. I say throw it in the oven when everything’s back in the pool…225 for a few hours and that met is butter.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.


  8. 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.

  9. 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. 🙂

  10. 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.

    1. This was exactly the comment I was looking for! I have a crockpot and pressure cooker and was wondering about using it for this. This is perfect. Thank you. If you get this response (6 years later), do you know if this would fit in a 5 quart? Thanks again!

  11. 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…

    1. I thought Mark was joking when he said the thing about mince and macaroni… That’s so weird!

      1. 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

      2. 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?

      3. 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.

  12. 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!

    1. 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.

  13. 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:)

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

  18. This sounds awesome! I’m a huge fan of leftovers, so I can’t wait to make this!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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

    1. 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.)

  22. 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

    1. Yes – and thank the gods that I don’t have any nightshade sensitivities!

  23. 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’

    1. 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:-)

  24. 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)

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. Well, this is my first visit here and I am Hungarian! So with this post I think I am already sold!

  29. My best friend’s ex-wife was Hungarian. Her mother would make Goulash. This post kind of makes me sad they got divorced.

  30. All of my favorites… Grass Fed Beef, Butter, Paprika, onions, garlic, peppers, A.C.V., etc. This looks really good. Thanks for sharing!

  31. 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!

  32. 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.

  33. 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 :-))

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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)

  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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

  40. 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.

  41. 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 🙂

  42. 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.

  43. 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. 🙂

  44. 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

  45. 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!

  46. 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

  47. 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.

  48. 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!

  49. 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.

  50. Thank you so much for this recipe! I make it almost once a week!

  51. I have some chicken hearts, I wonder could I throw them in along with the diced beef or pork?

  52. This recipe is amazing. Cooked the goulash twice in a week and going to make it again. Thank you for the lovely recipe. The only thing I have changed is I have used more onions.