Since I was a kid I have loved beef stew. One type of stew that really stands out in my mind is Hungarian Goulash. I think I love it, but can’t say for sure, because I don’t know if I have ever had true Hungarian Goulash. Nevertheless, it is a dish I have made for years, despite never having been to Hungary. After looking at dozens of recipes and many tweaks I have hit on something that I personally find delicious. This might not be authentic, but Dave’s Hungarian Goulash Recipe is a big hit in our household!
My love of Hungarian Goulash started in all of place Florence, Italy in 1978. I ordered this on a menu one night (after many days of pasta and pizza) and have been dreaming about it ever since. All my attempts at cooking goulash have been an effort to replicate that dish I had in Italy.
When I went to Prague in the Czech Republic I was excited to find many goulash restaurants. However, I quickly learned that Czech goulash is its own separate beast. It was good and I have been working on my own separate version of Czech goulash. But for now, I am focused on the version I have always considered Hungarian Goulash.
Goulash, in my mind, is basically a beef stew seasoned primarily with paprika. My experimentation with a goulash recipe goes back at least 20 years. The Internet and its countless recipes have helped a great deal. I finally think I have it close to perfection. It tastes good which is the most important thing. Based on my research it may even be fairly authentic.
As mentioned I quickly realized there are all types of goulash. In our article on favorite cookbooks, Erin mentions David Rosengarten’s It’s All American Food. In this book he has a recipe he describes as “Hungarian” Beef Goulash. He notes that this is an American version that is very different from what you get in Hungary. His recipe had none of the potatoes, carrots and peppers I associate with the dish.
What I think finally brought my recipe over the top was when I found the Daring Gourmet website. This lady is from Germany and she has several types of goulash recipes. Her Traditional Hungarian Goulash recipe was eerily close to mine and inspired several tweaks. She also has a great history of the dish and visits to Budapest. See her version here.
Looking through the Daring Gourmet site I was impressed with some of her other recipes. In particular was her recipe for chorizo. I have my own recipe for chorizo, but I liked how she pointed out how store bought chorizo often has some gross offal ingredients. Also, she used lard to brown the beef. That freaks many people out but I like to use lard for dishes like carnitas and refried beans. I immediately adjusted my recipe accordingly.
Making goulash is about as simple (or difficult) as making any other stew. It is about chopping vegetables, cubing and browning beef and throwing it all together to cook. In terms of browning I have used a technique from Serious Eats where you brown the meat in steak size 1 pound chunks. Unlike Serious Eats, I coat the beef in flour. I have done that for years and David Rosengarten does it for his goulash.
Serious Eats has their own Hungarian Goulash recipe that is also a lot like mine in the core ingredients. However, they complicate matters with ingredients like soy sauce and fish sauce. They also use gelatin instead of flour. I would be in big trouble with the wife if she caught me doing that. One thing I may do next time is their suggestion of cooking in the oven versus my traditional stovetop cooking (more consistent temperature is their reason).
So while I feel there is no need to add extra spices or Umami bombs you do need to get quality paprika. The most important ingredient in Hungarian Goulash is paprika. I have learned the hard way NOT to use Spanish smoked paprika. (For a dish that uses smoked paprika see our Cuban Frita Burgers). You need Hungarian sweet paprika of high quality. The lady at Daring Gourmet orders paprika from Hungary but I noticed her source was no longer available. I like to get my paprika from either Penzey’s or Savory Spice. They have stores in San Diego but also you can order online.
Most recipes suggest topping the stew with sour cream. I can’t stand sour cream, so I leave that out. Traditionally we serve the goulash over egg noodles. This recipe easily makes enough for 8 servings. Actually, it tastes better the next day, so it is perfect for feeding a family of four twice.
Of course, I really want to make it to Hungary, so I can see how my dish compares to the real thing. Right now, I at least have something I know makes a delicious meal, that at least I call Hungarian Goulash. Finally, I should note, my family tends to like spicy food, so I add cayenne. This is totally optional, and I don’t think it is done over in Europe.
Dave's Hungarian Goulash
- 3 lbs chuck roast or other stew meat cut into 1 lb steaks
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 tablespoons butter or lard
- 2 onions one diced, one finely processed
- 4 carrots diced
- 5 cloves diced garlic
- 3 red/orange/yellow peppers diced
- 1/3 cup sweet Hungarian paprika
- 1-2 teaspoon cayenne optional
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 3 potatoes peeled and cubed
- 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes or two fresh tomatoes diced
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 bay leaves
Season beef with salt and pepper and coat with flour. Heat butter/lard in Dutch oven. Process one onion in food processor and add to Dutch Oven. Brown beef on all sides and set aside.
Add diced onion, garlic, peppers, paprika, cayenne and carrots and cook for about 8 minutes.
Add potatoes, chicken stock, wine, bay leaves, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cut beef into ½ inch cubes. Reduce heat and add to Dutch oven. Cover and simmer for an hour. Uncover and cook for another 45 minutes to hour until beef is tender.
Serve with egg noodles.