The Traditional Hungarian “Gulyás”

Zsófia Albert

Zsófia Albert

Zsófia Albert is the Contributing Editor at Global Storybook (Hungary).
You can read more about Zsófi here.
Zsófia Albert

If you would randomly ask 100 foreigners to tell you the first word coming to their mind when hearing the name of Hungary, I’m pretty sure gulyás (or goulash) would be among the top 3 associations.  So what is gulyás and why is it so well known?



Here in Hungary we love to eat.  We love heavy food, preferably with lot of meat, and we love three course lunches, those kind you eat and then can’t move the whole afternoon.  Gulyás is the first part of those menus, the soup, or more like something in between a soup and a stew.  I’ve never seen any country where people would love soup as much as Hungarians.  They mostly just skip it or eat a few spoons of spicy watery thing, but none of them is any close to the rich, thick, tasty ones we love here so much, especially on a cold autumn or winter day.

Gulyás is made of beef, vegetables, ground paprika and other spices.  It originates from a dish cooked by the cattlemen who tended their herds in the Great Hungarian Plain (or Alföld in Hungarian).  They often camped out with their cattle days away from populated areas, so their food had to be made from ingredients they could carry with themselves, and they had to cook it in heavy iron kettles over an open fire.  It’s a perfect example of how a few simple ingredients, cooked properly, can yield an incredible flavour.

You don’t necessarily have to travel to Hungary to taste gulyás, it’s quite easy to make in your own kitchen as well.  Many variations of recipes exist, and every cook makes it just a bit differently, but this time let me show you how I make it.


  • 0,6 kg beef or venison
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 big carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stick and leaves, all diced
  • 0,4 kg potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 0,5 tbsp chilli paprika
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sunflower oil (or pork fat)
  • sour cream and flat-leaf parsley to garnish

How to prepare:

1. Trim the meat and dice it into bite sized chunks.  Chop up the onions, carrots, potatoes, tomato, bell pepper and celery.

meat            vegetables

2. Heat a tablespoon of oil (or pork fat – that’s the traditional way!) in a large heavy-bottomed pan, add the onions and stir for a few minutes, until they’re beginning to brown.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the sweet and chilli paprika.  Important: if you do it while still on the fire, the paprika will fry and turn bitter!

onion and paprika

3. Add the beef and the crushed garlic, return to the heat and cook over a medium-high heat until the meat is no longer red.  The meat will release enough juices to keep the paprika from scorching.

adding meat

4. Add the salt, pepper, caraway seeds and the bay leaves.  Also add the tomato and bell pepper, and cook the whole thing for 30 minutes.

adding paprika

5. The vegetables come after: add the diced carrots, celery (and the leaves), potatoes and flat-leaf parsley to the mixture.  Add about 2 liters of water and bring it to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium and simmer about 50 more minutes.

adding vegetables

soup is ready

6. It’s ready to eat!  You’re going to love the gorgeous reddish-brown, flavourful broth.  Serve it hot with a spoon of sour cream and fresh crusty bread – in the traditional Hungarian way!


Jó étvágyat! / Bon appetite!

Share this:

Related Posts:

Leave a Comment