You are here


Goulash is basically a soup, which is also often cooked in the form of a stew with beef, onion and ground paprika as its key ingredients along with vegetables and spices. The goulash recipe is also very popular in Slovakia, where the word “gulas” is used for the dish, which means “mishmash.” The authentic goulash recipe however, is that of Hungary, which is cooked with beef, tomatoes, green pepper and paprika powder as the main ingredients. The Hungarian version of goulash is somewhere between a soup and a stew, although, in the country it is considered more to be a soup than a stew and also, in the restaurant menus, the “soups” section enlists this delicacy. Ideally, the goulash should have a rich and evenly thick consistency, which should be comparable to that of a sauce. This dish is often at times, also known as Bográcsgulyás or Gulyásleves. Paprikás and Pörkölt and two other stews to have originated as the herdsmen recipes and along with goulash recipe, they happen to be the national dishes of Hungary.

History of Goulash Recipe

The name “goulash” has originated from the Hungarian word for herdsman or cattle stockman called “gulyas” and this dish is still popularly eaten as a hearty meal by the Hungarian herdsmen. Historically and traditionally, this dish is cooked as an outdoor dish, generally by the herdsmen in the fields, in a cast iron kettle which is hung and heated over open fire. Originally a dish of the peasants, the goulash made its way to the town folk’s and nobleman’s table only around the 19th century, when there was an upsurge of national awareness all across the country. In the later part of the 1800s, protecting and preserving the cultural heritage of Hungary became very important and with them, preserving and passing on the traditional delicacies of the country became important with equal value. This was during the independence movement of the nation from the rule of Austrian Habsburg dynasty when the countrymen joined in the freedom struggle and emphasized on the preservation of Hungary’s national identity through its various cultural facets, one of which was definitely the cuisine and the goulash recipe being an integral part of it. To join in the noble struggle, the restaurants also began to feature goulash in their menus and by the end of the 20th century; soup became the most sought after food in Hungary and must try for the tourists looking for authentic and traditional Hungarian dishes. As the gulyas became widely popular as goulash in English, some recipes of casseroles and stews were named after the dish in some parts of the western world.

Ingredients Used and Popular Methods of Preparation of Goulash Recipe

The basic rule of making goulash is to fry the onions in the fat until they turn golden brown. Once that happens, the frying pan with the onions is taken off the heat and the paprika powder is immediately sprinkled to this hot mixture and combined thoroughly. After that, the goulash recipe calls for adding the beef followed by a little stirring to coat the meat evenly. Next, the pan is put on the fire again and the cooking is continued. The last step ensures that the paprika is not burned and turns the soup bitter, which is why it is added only after taking the pan off direct heat. Typically, meat cuts like shin, shoulder or shank are used in the preparation of goulash as these collagen-rich muscles release gelatin during the cooking process, which lends a think texture to the soup. For the goulash recipe, the meat is pieced into chunks and seasoned with salt and after that, it is browned in the heat with onions and oil or lard. The water in the soup is added around the same time as the paprika and then, the mixture is simmered in heat. Towards the end of the cooking process, the goulash is spiced with caraway seeds, thyme, bay leaf, chili peppers and garlic. Some people who prefer the soup mild without spices, straight away add the vegetables which are commonly parsnip, carrot, celery, bell peppers and tomatoes.

Goulash Recipe- Serving Suggestions

The Hungarian goulash or gulyas is served as a main dish over buttered noodles. In other cases, the soup is followed by a noodle dish (traditionally csipetke) or pastry dishes, especially if they contain cottage cheese like strudel, túrógombóc and túrós csúsza, which are considered the best dishes to savor after a heavy soup.

Popular Variations in Goulash Recipe

While the traditional goulash recipe calls for beef as the main ingredient, there are variations found where the beef can be substituted with lamb, pork or veal. In some variations of goulash recipe, even noodles and potatoes are added, which is known as csipetke in Hungary. Some recipes even make use of wine vinegar or white wine in the recipe. The other popular Hungarian variations of goulash are –

  • Gulyás à la Szeged – Made with less potatoes, sauerkraut and sour cream.

  • Mock Gulyás – Also called Hamisgulyás, the meat in this recipe of goulash is substituted with beef bones.

  • Bean Gulyás – Instead of the caraway seeds and potatoes, kidney beans are used in this recipe of goulash.

  • Csángó Gulyás – Made with sauerkraut and rice.

  • Betyár Gulyás – Cooked with smoked beef or pork.

  • Likócsi Pork Gulyás – Cooked with thin vermicelli and pork and flavored with lemon juice.

  • Mutton Gulyás or Birkagulyás – Goulash prepared with mutton and red wine.

Goulash: Trivia

Székely gulyás is a thicker and a richer version of Goulash named after a famous Hungarian writer, journalist and archivist - József Székely.